Know when to retrain?

Electronic learning tools make it easier for training managers

     How current are your officers with their preparedness learning, skills and certifications? A bit baffled? It's a tough but critical question, and one which probably would trigger a different answer from any of the thousands of police departments blanketing the United States. This is because training requirements vary widely from one state to the next, and so does the administration, tracking and documentation of this training.

     This article will examine the trends and challenges tied to skills assessment and records management of police personnel, and how present software offerings can help training administrators create, store, manage, share and deliver learning content with impressive results.

     Presently, the proliferation of Learning Management Software (LMS) products and the tightening of training standards at the state and local levels are converging. The software aims to address several trends, with the biggest being higher accountability for local police departments and academies to ensure personnel are consistently trained, tested and recertified.

     In response to the tougher training standards, law enforcement agencies are insisting upon technology that offers quicker data entry of training information into databases, steady notification of upcoming recertification expirations, more individualized training reports that can be generated instantly, and easier creation and tracking of personnel records that can be searched, updated and shared more efficiently.

     Most states in the United States have a peace officer standards and training agency, called a POST, that sets training and certification standards for law enforcement agencies. The POSTs require rigid adherence to certification and recertification, testing and tracking of officers' training, and must be provided with annual personnel records reports.

     Without automated tracking of a mid-sized or large police department's or academy's personnel records, the task of monitoring classes, tests, certifications and the battery of other requirements can quickly turn into a nightmare. What's more, when employee records must be sent to a state POST or comparable standards organization at the end of the year, many law enforcement agencies are confronted with scores of records missing crucial updates. This can lead to decertification of delinquent officers.

     Numerous software programs have emerged to help public safety agencies comply with recertification standards. These programs fall into specific categories: Small- to medium-scale public safety LMS, large-scale public safety LMS, niche-focused LMS and generic/commercial LMS.

Time and data entry savings
     The Reno (Nevada) Police Department acquired a generic LMS a few years ago. The software instantly had two strikes against it -- lacking key features critical for administering law enforcement personnel and, because the city purchased the software license, combining police records with those of all of the city's other departments. Recalls Susi Havens, administrator of the police department's training division: "It was a very difficult, labor-intensive process to find anything, to create reports, to enter information. Some things just absolutely couldn't be entered."

     Then in 2005, the Reno PD purchased the Skills Manager V.7x records management system from Portland, Oregon-based Crown Pointe Technologies. Crown Pointe, a provider of small- to medium-scale public safety LMS, specializes in software for public safety organizations, including state POSTs, large and small police agencies, police academies, corrections facilities and 911 call centers. Skills Manager is particularly well tailored for tracking law enforcement personnel's career development from date of hire to retirement. The software administers and documents employee records, certifications, general and firearms training, plus employment and education. Several integrated add-on modules also are available. These modules catalog firearms and equipment; manage images, documents and computer files linked to employee and course records, and test and score forms via automated scanning; and manage course registration and class scheduling.

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