What Is a Trainer?

Of course we could patrol and investigate, and supervise and manage without trainers. But could we do it well, and properly? In many cases, no, we could not.

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Every member of your department is important to its success, and to the fulfillment of your mission. The patrol officers and the investigators are the ones who get the job done, and the administrators structure the workplace so that all of you have a suitable environment for doing your jobs. Of course, the middle-level supervisors are the conduit between management and workers, conveying the administrative message down to the street, and providing the means for feedback to get to the bosses. Everybody has a job to do, and most do it well.

But—and it's an important but—none of it would be possible without the trainer.

That's probably an overstatement. Of course we could patrol and investigate, and supervise and manage without trainers. But could we do it well, and properly? In many cases, no, we could not.

The trainer takes information from management and puts it into a context that officers will be able to use successfully. The trainer works with officers, absorbing their input and observing their work, and creating a means by which existing protocols can be adjusted so that everything works more smoothly, and officer safety is enhanced.

The trainer is also the "idea person" in the department, continually researching and learning, seeking out new information that officers need, and figuring out how to get it to them in a timely and cost efficient manner. In many respects, most members of the department have a little bit of "trainer" in them. They all share information with each other, and learn from each other.

But the officers who are designated as trainers—be they firearms instructors, driving instructors, FTOs, or any one of a dozen other disciplines—are the ones who have a specific responsibility to garner and convey information effectively. That is a huge responsibility, and not just anyone can do it.

Trainers need to be sharp, eloquent, thoughtful, curious, firm, fair, interesting, honest, and thorough. They need to always be curious about the nature of the profession. They should never feel satisfied that they know all they need to know. If a trainer develops a mindset that he has "completed" his training, he has reached a point where he is no longer providing maximum benefit to fellow officers.

Trainers must constantly seek to learn more about what they, and we, do. Frequent attendance at seminars, constant reading of professional books and periodicals, ongoing discussions with other trainers and experts, and membership in professional organizations are just some of the things that professional trainers must do to stay current.

Aside from "keeping up," trainers are the researchers and information developers of the law enforcement profession. As such, trainers should write articles and books, where new ideas are offered for the benefit of the police community. In doing so, trainers have an absolute obligation to make certain that information they pass on is accurate and complete. If they offer opinions, trainers must identify them as such, rather than as established fact.

Trainers also have an obligation to critically examine information that they are given, ever vigilant for wrong content, and guarding against allowing mistaken information to "leak" into their own lesson plans and training materials. Trainers are the keepers of the knowledge, the librarians of the profession.

Trainers must not be apologists for bad police work, but neither should they be harsh critics of their fellow officers' attempts at excellence. In order to grow and advance, sometimes we will stumble. Trainers should lead the way, not stand aside and unfairly critique honest efforts to excel.

Finally, trainers must jealously guard the health and safety of those they train, and of the citizens they serve. Great care must be taken to manage risk, both in training and in the daily operations of our agencies. When someone is hurt, or when someone is sued, trainers must seek out the causes of such negative outcomes, and strive to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences.

The goal of the trainer is safety for officers and citizens, and efficient, effective service to the community.

About the Author
Ashley 1 Headshot
Law Enforcement Trainer
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