Know when to retrain?

Electronic learning tools make it easier for training managers

     The training academy eventually purchased the Acadis Readiness Suite from Bloomington, Indiana-based ENVISAGE Technologies. Another type of large-scale public safety LMS, the suite's automated scheduling module balances available instructors and optimizes scheduling of training resources, replacing several Microsoft Access databases that had been created.

     Like Crown Pointe Technologies' Skills Manager program, the Acadis modules are designed specifically for law enforcement training. ENVISAGE so far has sold mainly to federal agencies and POST academies, whereas Skills Manager is used more by police departments and POSTs. The ODPSST uses Acadis for registration to maintain personnel records and housing assignments at the academy's 175-room dormitory, or "hotel" as Lowry describes it, which houses 350 students.

     Lowry explains that it's equally critical that the academy can build "what-if" scheduling scenarios with the Acadis scheduling module. "If we add a course to our curriculum, we want to model it to see if it affects our instructor population," Lowry describes. "Did we have the resources to add this course, and what did it cost?"

Generic software applications
     The A-TrainES from Attend Software in Rocklin, California, represents the generic/commercial LMS category of software offerings. It can be used by several industries, including law enforcement. The A-TrainES database is able to organize, control access and deliver content from any number of content servers regardless of their location. While A-TrainES offers functions similar to software designed exclusively for law enforcement, some extensive customizing may be required.

     Attend explains that the software can keep training "hidden" from selected learners, make other training accessible to everyone or report on all training. It can automate class reminders, post-training evaluations and assessments, outstanding requirements, and expiring certifications. These capabilities can be found in the other software categories, though with stronger public safety emphasis and features.

Thwarting litigation
     A chief reason more law enforcement agencies are turning to learning software that closely matches their training needs is the ever looming threat of litigation against a police officer and his department. The potential litigation usually stems from use-of-force incidents. While POST organizations can remove certifications of police officers, it is up to individual police agencies to prevent this from happening by requiring that standards and certifications are always met.

     "The fear is we're not going to be able to defend that what we do is the right thing," says Carl Bart, facilities manager for the Maryland Public Safety Education and Training Center.

     By automating the administration and records management of each officer's career development, any aspect of training from weapons/equipment management to testing and scoring to course registration and record inquiry can be closely tracked and instantly referenced.

     Bart cites a case in point for how vital law enforcement learning software can be in potentially litigious situations. About five years ago, a shooting incident occurred at a Maryland Transportation Authority Police tollbooth. Training personnel had left for the day, so the chief asked his major about the training status of a dozen officers involved. Since the department had been using Crown Pointe's Skills Manager software, the major was able to generate training records and firearms scores built with the software for all the officers in the shootout within 10 minutes of the chief's request.

     "He (the chief) knew when they were last qualified, what weapons they carried and weapons approved for use by serial number," Bart recalls. "Within an hour of the shooting, the chief held a news conference. When he was asked about the shooting, he could confirm the officers were all qualified. He responded so quickly and with such detail that the press knew it was a dead end to explore that issue any further."

Web-based programs gain momentum
     As more law enforcement agencies adopt some kind of software to monitor personnel certifications, another trend will soon follow: the emergence of Web-based records management systems. Most vendors, including those discussed in this article, already provide Web-based access with their software to some degree.

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