Identifying the specific competencies and performance objectives addressed, will help defeat any allegation that your training was not good preparation for the actual work of an officer.
Specific Training Content
Your documentation must also lay out exactly what the training consisted of--topics covered, time devoted to each topic, and methodology used. It's not enough to point to the topic outline in the instructor manual, as one of my former training colleagues did when asked for a lesson plan. Even if your instructor manual includes lesson plans, it's rare for an actual class to follow them exactly. Class size and skill level always dictate adjustments.
The best way to accomplish this documentation is to keep a class log. A log can be as simple as a spiral notebook in which you jot down each day's training topics, time allotment, and teaching strategies, or as elaborate as a three-ring binder filled with detailed class record sheets, showing day, date, time, attendance, curriculum specifics, and comments on student performance.
Just as a patrol officer's incident report should help refresh recollection about a particular call, a class log can help you remember what happened on a particular training day. If you can do that, then you are well prepared to rebut an attorney's assertion that his client was never trained in a particular aspect of police work. The only trick is to make sure you fill out the log at the end of every class session. Do not defer it to the end of the week and then try to go back and remember what you did and how much time you spent.
In addition to comments made on your class log sheets, you need to document how each student performed in any written or practical testing. Documenting written test performance is easy--just keep a copy of the test and record student scores. Depending on agency policy, you may also be required to keep each student's exams or answer sheets for some period of time.
Documenting practical performance is a little more challenging, but even more important--we all know that "book smart" and "street smart" are not the same thing. To begin with, you must have a detailed description of exactly what the test required students to do. For a firearms class, the description might be something such as this: "While wearing full military-style uniform, including the duty belt and service weapon, draw and fire two rounds in a maximum of 2.5 seconds at a Smith & Wesson silhouette ("light bulb") target posted at 7.5 yards. Both rounds must hit in the yellow portion of the target to count. Repeat for a total of ten rounds. Minimum of 80% accuracy within time limits to pass." Note that this description includes the following items:
- Physical setup
- Required equipment
- Detailed description of the skill to be performed
- Criteria for passing the test
Developing these descriptions ahead of time will not only make it easier for you to document performance, it will also make it easier on your students, because they will know exactly what they are expected to do.
The most challenging kind of practical test--and the most difficult to document well--is simulation training. Simulations, by definition, are not static tests of particular skills in isolation. Instead, they involve multiple skills in dynamic and evolving contexts. The secret is to spend time up front, identifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be tested, and developing a score sheet for scenario leaders to use in evaluating performance. Because simulations involve multiple skills, it's important to agree ahead of time how these should be weighted. Some skills or decisions may be deemed critical skills, while other may be desirable, but not critical. For example, neglecting to search an arrested person might trigger an automatic failure, while improper (but secure) handcuffing technique might only call for a point deduction.