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Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Train in the Rain

Forget about canceling training because of weather. Get out there in the real stuff.

November 19, 2007  |  by Steve Ashley - Also by this author

Cops hate to get wet, or cold, or dirty, or…well, you get the idea. However, we all know that we will. The nature of the job requires that we get out there in the worst weather and some of the worst conditions possible. During those times when the citizenry are warm and snug in their beds, we have to put on boots and long johns and head out into it. That's OK. It's part of what we signed up for, part of the cost of doing business.

But we don't have to like it. And we certainly don't want to do it any more than necessary, right?

So, sometimes when we have certain "support" activities that need to be done, we take pleasure in making ourselves a little more comfortable while doing them. Sometimes this takes the form of going without a hat or a tie, or maybe switching to fatigues instead of a class "A" uniform for some dusty detail.

And, sometimes, we decide to cancel things that aren't absolutely necessary when the weather's bad. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes training.

Here's the thing…training is not a "non-essential" activity. Although it's often the first thing to go when budgets are cut or the schedule is light, we can't afford to ignore the necessity of training. A departmental mindset that allows for canceling training on inclement weather days, or putting training off "until we can afford it," is a mindset that is ripe for disaster.

Why would anybody in their right mind go out in the rain, or sleet, or snow, just to practice shooting…or driving? You already know the answer: because those are the conditions we encounter when we work, and we better train in realistic conditions if we expect any value from our training at all. Aside from the logic of this, the courts have made it clear time and time again that officers need to be trained in job-related, realistic conditions.

But that's a negative motivator. The positive aspect of this type of training is that officers already have to deal with a lot of issues and problems on a daily basis. Weather and other environmental conditions are severe distractions when you're trying to perform your job safely. If you haven't practiced and trained in less than ideal conditions, those environmental factors can prove deadly.

Think about driving on a clear day—then think about driving on wet roads, at night. Think about firearms practice on a warm summer afternoon, then think about the same practice on a cold winter night, with gloves on (or with semi-frozen fingers). Think about the training you've had, and ask yourself if you've been trained in job-related conditions.

The idea of job-related training goes well beyond this weather-based stuff. Do you train in low light? What about in residential areas, or in businesses? Do you go to the range in jeans and a t-shirt, or do you wear your uniform, including your body armor? When at the firing range, do you practice tactical movement, utilizing proper cover, or do you just stand there and shoot at a target? If you're training with your backup gun, do you draw and "re-holster" it the same way you would on the street, from the same carry location? What about your off-duty weapon?

We can keep going. During DT classes, do you get training with RedMan or other similar gear, or are your baton strikes "simulated"? Do you actually put handcuffs on your training partner (complete with double-locking), or do you just simulate the cuffing or the double-lock stage? Do you engage in full simulations, including verbal exchanges?

Have you taken an actual dynamic hit of OC while someone tries to take your training firearm, or did you take a "wipe" exposure (or none at all)? Have you taken a TASER "ride," or just watched it on video?

Here are some things I've seen happen in 22 years of training experience. You make your own list:

  • Officers refusing to train because it was raining or snowing
  • Bosses cancelling training for the same reason
  • Officers showing up at the range to "qualify" with their off-duty gun, but drawing it from their duty rig (two-inch revolver balanced in the top of a duty holster)
  • Training canceled because "it was getting late"
  • Officers complaining that they didn't want to get dirty, or sweaty, or tired, during training
  • Bosses unwilling to discipline officers for failure to show up at training
  • Departments sending cars to training without emergency equipment, and on really bald tires
  • Departments sending officers that normally work nights to daytime training
  • Departments refusing to train at night
  • Certain officers not being required to meet qualification standards
  • Grievances against having to get sprayed, or against a TASER "ride"
  • Officers refusing to drive 15 minutes to off-site training, unless they're paid overtime

 And the list goes on.

Here's the thing. It's easy to not train, or to not train fully or properly. First of all, it doesn't cost anything in the short term. If we don't train, we save money. Period. Secondly, if we don't train, then we have more time for "real police work." That's where some departments' analysis stops.

But we are creating a potentially volatile situation, fraught with risk. Failing to train—and train properly—puts our people at great risk, and subjects our communities to a much higher risk of litigation. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a conscious decision to not train in areas that have an obvious potential to create a constitutional injury amounts to deliberate indifference, and is therefore a constitutional violation.

The responsibility to train, and to make that training job-related, does not stop with the administration of your department. It is the responsibility of every officer to soak up every drop of training they can. If your department doesn't make it available, seek it out yourself (expenses are probably tax-deductable).

We each have an obligation to ourselves, our families, and our partners to be as well prepared as possible for the challenges we face. The more real the training is, the more we learn.

Stay safe, and wear your vest!

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

copper116 @ 1/4/2008 12:44 PM

I agree totally. When training is in the planning stage, I've been told NOT to hold it outdoors in inclement weather...because the officers may get sick. I'd much rather catch a cold than catch a bullet and die of lead poisoning.
We will train; and put the postman motto to shame because we will be out there.

gstephens @ 1/6/2008 2:08 AM

I agree 100 percent. The military trains and fights in all types of weather. The war doesn't stop because the sand is blowing or the rivers are rising.

entryman22 @ 1/22/2008 1:54 PM

Whoorah gstephens, I have always trained the way that I play. I showed up to the range one time with my full mountain bike patrol uniform on and was laughed at. My response was, "how many times have you qualified with your bike gloves on" and let me tell you, it is different. I am at our gun club twice a week, no matter what the conditions are because the conditions out those days are more than likely going to be the conditions for that night when I am on shift. I start my 4 day work week at the range and end it at the range. 50 rounds a day so it stays as cheap as I can keep it. No qual course though; lots of moving, prone shooting, transitions, and re-load drills, you know, the stuff you are going to need in the field and if that means I am prone shooting in a puddle, than so be it. It means that I am physically preparing myself for the moment of truth. Even if you do it just once, lay down in a big puddle at the range and experience what it is like to have freezing cold water fill your pants from 15 yards while trying to pick up a bead on the target, it is something else. My philosophy is that if you put yourself in these situations before hand, these little elements will not be a surprise for you when you need your skills and your life is on the line. One other form of training that I do all of the time is crisis rehearsal. Some of you know what I am talking about, hopefully more of you than less of you. For those who do not know, crisis rehearsal is when you play out scenario's in your head and imagine how they would turn out and how you would react to them should you find yourself in that same situation. It is a phenomenal tool and it is free.
Be safe and Godspeed.

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