Late last month in this space, we asked three prominent law enforcement trainers to get their thoughts on the question of what trends and topics in the training realm might merit the attention of the training cadre that may—without careful examination and purposeful contemplation—be less than obvious.
Among those areas of interest was the need for greater attention paid to things like decision-making skills and tactical and psychological capabilities required for an officer to intervene with a colleague who is in danger of crossing policy boundaries. Another concept was recognition among agency leadership that training in and of itself should be valued as a component of recruiting and retention.
We asked a handful of vendors and manufacturers in the law enforcement training industry to weigh in with their thoughts on what police training organizations should focus on in 2022. Here are their perspectives. Add your own ideas in the comments area below.
Lon Bartel, Director of Training & Curriculum, VirTra
We are seeing a focus on external aspects for a training focus. The part that has been missing and needs to be a future focus is self-care and resiliency. Self-care means dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of working in LE that take a toll on an officer. Resiliency is all about grit, or the ability to overcome adversity. These things will lead to what VirTra refers to a "holistic officer."
As LEO instructors we're tasked with not only providing state mandated in-service, high-liability training, but training that goes beyond checking the "training box" for the year. It's so important to choose wisely, not only what is being taught, but how it is delivered.
Brian Gaynor, Director of Training, DART
Trainers should focus on methods of delivery. The best way of teaching a concept or skillset may not be through conventional methods. Challenge your students with something new—be creative. Think about what a student's optimal response should be. What does it look like when the student does well—or not so well? The optimal response should keep the officer alive, protect the public, promote good decision making, and reduce liability for the officer and the agency.
Jeffrey Carek, Training Content Specialist, Arotech Training & Simulation Division of MILO
Focus on competence and confidence of the individual officer.
Each officer arrives for training with a different level of skill and knowledge, yet we have a tendency to build training programs aimed at the middle or lowest common denominator. By building a scalable program, we can meet the trainee where they are and focus on each individual officer's strengths and weaknesses. Thus, allowing them to increase their competency level at a pace they can handle. By not having to compete with or be held back by more- and/or less-skilled officers, our trainees can become competent in applying the technique/information leading to a new level of confidence. We all know a confident officer has the ability to make all the difference on a scene.
I'm not advocating reducing or eliminating evaluation standards. Keeping in mind, training is the teaching and practice of skills and information, while evaluation tests the application of the skills/information.
Todd R. Brown, Vice President, Ti Training
As an interactive content producer and provider, it is interesting when we can notice trends among requests for scenarios. Whenever there is an overlap in requests for new scenarios, it is a clear indicator to us what instructors across the nation feel officers need more work on, more skill development in or simply more repetition with. These requests for interactive content can vary with threat assessments, new or evolving challenges, court rulings or specific issues an agency is facing.
Recently, there has been a trend in the requests for one type of interactive content more than any other—communication. As one instructor put it to me, he sees the need to train everyone—not just new officers—once again on how talk to people with an emphasis on respect, listening, and asking the right questions for a given situation. So we are developing branching scenarios to engage officers in conversations to see the effectiveness of their communication skills.
Curry Newton, Director of Law Enforcement Virtual Sales, InVeris Training Solutions
De-escalation is the hot topic that will continue into 2022, focusing on nontraditional training methods, adding the advantages of the digital age to their training arsenal.
With the advances in technology—specifically in the virtual reality arena—a department now has the ability to create multiple scenarios in minutes for officers to train on de-escalation techniques. Additionally the training officer can provide oversight and instruction of department policy and procedures without costly expense of role players and having to find places to set up scenario training.
The Virtual Reality world allows a trainer to move through their department's force continuum or escalate and de-escalate the scenario, depending on the trainee's actions. After-action reviews are available immediately to reinforce good skills and/or correct actions not in line with departments SOPs. Another advantage to using VR is the portability, this allows trainers to use multiple locations and set up is around 30 minutes.
Sergeant Doug Kazensky (ret.), Solutions Engineer, Vector Solutions
As calls for change continue, many state legislatures are passing laws to address how law enforcement officers respond to certain incidents. It’s vital that instructors and training managers ensure their members are receiving—and understanding—these new mandates to protect both employees and the department.
Legislative updates should be immediately analyzed, incorporated, and shared with employees to review and acknowledge. A learning management system (LMS) can simplify this process.
Departments conducting training on these mandates (and regular training programs) can maximize time by using an LMS to issue "pre-work" before practical training so that time spent in person can be used for decision-making and scenario-based training. Any and all training should then be thoroughly documented, demonstrating the department’s commitment to their employees and to meeting legislative requirements.
There are myriad matters into which a police training organization—or police leadership at any size agency in the country—can delve in an effort to increase officer safety and decrease the frequency of incidents which potentially widen the rift between the police and the public.
There is an equal number—or so it seems—of companies in the police training universe seeking solutions to support those efforts with innovative new technology.