Every trainer has the same problems. Not enough time, no money, inadequate space, few resources, bosses who sometimes don't listen, and officer trainees that don't appreciate the importance of what they're being offered.
I wish I had the answers for each of those. If I did, I'd be rich and sitting on a beach somewhere. I don't, and don't pretend to.
I do, however, have one suggestion that can relieve some of the strain: Combined Training.
Many departments have adopted different use-of-force implements and techniques. Each of those tools and techniques probably comes from a vendor or manufacturer that has published written recommendations regarding training frequency with their product. They're not all the same, but many are: one year. In other words, the official manufacturer's recommendation for training and retraining with their product is annually.
So you end up with a list of training that needs to be done. Couple that with some of the other requirements that others, and we ourselves, have placed upon us, and your list of required training can quickly grow to look like this:
- Driver training – every year or every two years
- Firearms training/qualification – 4 times a year
- Defensive tactics training – annually
- Aerosol weapon training – annually
- TASER training – annually
- Baton training – annually
- Handcuffing and weapon retention training – annually
- First Aid and CPR training – annually
- HazMat training – as required
- Bloodborne Pathogen training – as required
- Domestic Violence training – as required
That's just the "mandatory" stuff. How is a department supposed to get all of that done? The truth is that many don't. They get as much done as they can, and they keep their fingers crossed.
And in reality, there aren't that many lawsuits that hang on whether or not an officer was trained, or trained to a certain level. Oh, it comes up in a lot of cases, but the core issue is not usually derived from that.
But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be a problem. And keep in mind that this is not all about avoiding litigation. It's also about keeping our people safe, as well as our citizens. In other words, it's about doing the right thing. Our people need, deserve, and require the training we give them.
Another thing to consider is that, while many manufacturers will stipulate how much training has to be done during an officer's initial class, few require a specific amount–or specific content–for their annual (or whatever) retraining. Why, then, can't we combine different elements of the training that officers receive?
Next time you go to the firing range, take your inert aerosols and your TASERs along. Work elements into your firearms training wherein officers have to transition from a non-lethal weapon to their firearm, or vice-versa. Maybe while running, or taking cover.
Incorporate driver training with traffic stop training, arrest-handcuffing-searching training, etc. Think about using inert aerosols during these scenarios. Maybe you could even work some of your verbal/non-verbal communication training in there, as well.
You won't be able to combine it all, and you should probably brainstorm the design of these training scenarios with other instructors from your department or elsewhere, but any savings at all will be worth the effort.
Chances are that you'll find yourself moving to a more interactive model of role-play training as part of this developmental process. Certainly your people will get more from the training than if they were sitting in a classroom listening to you talk, or walking through static exercises on the mat.
Keep in mind, this is not to say that you can totally dump all of the training practices that you currently have now. Much of that is still necessary. But this is a start.