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!