Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by the respected police trainer, Sam Barber, a retired sergeant from the Los Angeles Police Department. His presentation was on the essential core values of good instructors. One point in particular was directed to every law enforcement officer, not just instructors. The message was that to make a difference, we must give something back to the profession.
Within each of us there is a wealth of knowledge and experience. And much of what we know has been passed down to us from many teachers and counselors. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to help others by sharing our expertise.
When teaching Field Training Officer (FTO) certification or Instructor Training programs, I challenge each of the prospective trainers to give something back. But that's their job. The question is, have we all been giving back like we should?
We all have a special group of men and women in our past that helped make us into what we are today. Maybe it's your first-grade teacher. Maybe it's your favorite coach, the one who taught you something about yourself and made you go that extra mile. Drill sergeants, FTOs, Academy instructors, all have shaped your lives and made you better police officers.
There's an educational theory that we are successful not because we did it on our own but that others influenced our outcome through mentoring, teaching, or helping. We are all products of these special people who made the difference in our lives. Now, what are we doing for our younger officers and deputies who are coming along?
Do not think that the responsibility for training young or inexperienced officers lies only with the Academy instructors or your agency's FTO. It is the responsibility of every officer and deputy to make a difference. Everyone has a stake in it.
I would like for every one of the readers of POLICE to accept the new demands placed on law enforcement and respond to this challenge. Do you recall those moments in training where you had conversations at breaks or over lunch with other officers and you picked up a special point or two? Since this does not occur in the classroom, some call this the "academy experience."
My reason for this editorial is that the face of law enforcement is changing fast, at almost break-neck speed. Law enforcement officers now have more demands placed on them than ever before. We must help train and prepare each other; and there isn't a big enough academy to do this. The streets are our learning labs. Every one of us has a role in our profession's future. We must make a difference in everything we do.
A good place to start is safety. I am saddened when I hear of officers losing their lives or being injured during training or on the job. Each of us should act as a safety officer and take it seriously. Do not compromise on your safety. Train hard, train smart, but train safe.
Don't let your training or work habits become sloppy. It has been said that practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Insist that your fellow officers wear their ballistic armor on duty and in training. When you return from training, share your new tips with your watch. Read a good article in Police magazine; bring it to roll call and share it with your fellow officers.
Finally, when was the last time that an instructor, FTO, or your partner told you something and it made a difference? Did you thank them or give them feedback? If you don't tell them that this point made a difference, then why should they tell it to someone else?
Giving the knowledge gained from hard lessons learned to those beginning their career is one of your duties as a law enforcement officer. Each and every one of us has a major role in the future of law enforcement. We will all be better for it.
Bill Harvey is the new chief of the Lebanon (Pa.) Police Department, a veteran field training officer, and a longtime Police Advisory Board member.