Consider having instructors attend manufacturer certification courses to improve their overall knowledge of the equipment. (Photo JP Molnar)
Instructors must carefully consider their audience's role and plan training that applies to it. (Photo courtesy Fairfax County Police Department)
FEATURED IN TRAINING
Training occupies a unique niche in most professions, including law enforcement. And although it seems everyone agrees that training is important, it's always the first thing an agency puts on the back burner for other priorities, especially if the needed training curriculum hasn't been created. This might be OK in other fields, but training simply can't be ignored in law enforcement.
Law enforcement trainers, especially EVOC instructors, are all too familiar with the U.S. Supreme Court case of Canton v. Harris (489 US 378 ), which essentially decided that government agencies can be held liable for failing to provide their employees with adequate training in areas integral to the scope of their duties. The buzz word here is adequate because its meaning can take on many interpretations, depending on who the reader is. Adequate training can also be simplistic or complex, depending on the scope of what is being taught. Example: Delivering a four-hour classroom session on sexual harassment can be logistically easier than delivering 40 hours of firearms or EVOC training. Complex or not, the training requirement is still important, and the courts don't really care what the excuses are for not getting it done.
So what do EVOC and other trainers do if their agencies are faced with developing a comprehensive training program and have nothing to work with? This month, I discuss training programs in general, how to develop topics of instruction and lesson plan titles through needs assessment, craft an instructional goal that meets the needs of a target audience and the importance of the learning environment.
I'm constantly amazed by how many agencies don't have structured training development processes in place. They know what they want to accomplish, but don't know how to get there. Although this column normally deals with topics related to driver training, the structure presented here can be applied to any training program. This guide will help you develop the basic structure of a training program and uses EVOC as an example.
It's very important to decide beforehand if the training program you develop will be submitted to an outside certification or accreditation agency, such as POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training), or if it's going to be an internal program. Obtaining accreditation from an outside organization has its positives and negatives. On the plus side: Your agency's program can meet POST (or another accrediting organization's) requirements for a critical subject. An approved program can also be taught to other agencies to meet the accreditation training requirements or obtain reimbursement funding for training. Accreditation can also help add legitimacy to the program because it is a third-party certification process.
On the minus side: Your agency's program can be subjected to the approval of the accrediting organization, and the approval process can be lengthy, which delays training. Finally, your particular training need may not be something that needs to be certified or accredited.
Not achieving accreditation does not mean that your training program has less merit or validity, as long as you construct a measured, validated, repeatable program with integrated assessment processes conducted by instructors who are subject matter experts in their field. Example: When I was teaching EVOC at the Western Nevada State Peace Officer Academy, the academy purchased a SKIDCAR system. I went through an intensive instructor-certification process through SKIDCAR and became a factory-certified instructor. A SKIDCAR lesson plan was developed and implemented by the academy with no need for outside accreditation because the program didn't replace or conflict with required EVOC training for state peace officer certification.
So before you start on your needs assessment, decide if you want to conform to an existing criterion to receive accreditation or certification from a recognized outside organization or if you want to develop the program on your own to meet your unique needs.
The first step in designing an appropriate training program is to conduct a needs assessment. This step identifies the learning problem (opportunity). Example: Let's say your agency recently decided to incorporate full-size, four-wheel-drive (4WD) SUVs into its patrol fleet. The learning opportunity: Officers need to be trained on how to operate full-size, 4WD vehicles in the patrol environment.
After the issue is identified, the next step is to perform a gap analysis, which means you look at what training needs to be done in comparison to what is already being done. In this example, there is nothing already being done because these vehicles are new to the agency.
The next step is to decide what training should be available. A 4WD EVOC course should be available to teach patrol officers how to properly drive the new vehicles. The complexity of what should be available can vary, depending on why the agency bought the SUVs. Was it because officers needed more space to carry gear? Was it because officers find themselves driving in inclement weather for most of the year? Was it because officers are going off-road regularly? These are the types of questions that must be considered, and the answers will help shape your instruction topic.
In our example, the topic is emergency vehicle operations. Because that's more general in scope, instructors have to develop a specific lesson plan title, such as "Operating 4WD SUVs in Patrol Environments." After the topic is identified, your next step is to develop an instructional goal.