Making Technology Pay Off

The right tools, attitude and time help officers maximize a technology's potential

Reduces officer/suspect injuries
TASER Electronic Control Devices (ECDs), involving high-voltage/low-current Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation capability when deployed, continue to be controversial as a means for controlling suspects, although studies have shown it to be relatively safe. Meanwhile, police departments are buying TASER ECDs in record numbers.

Proper TASER ECD training is crucial, and it's usually high-energy, fast-paced and intense. At Scottsdale, Arizona-based TASER International Inc., such training has become an art form. The company has an impressive train-the-trainer program at its gleaming, high-tech adorned, 100,000 square-foot academy. And the actual training? Well, it's hardly passive. Officers sent to the academy are taken through a grueling 2-day session of TASER principles and steps, jammed into a 277-slide PowerPoint presentation. The training is provided by what TASER International calls its "master instructors," each of whom is an active law enforcement professional, and who must be re-certified every two years. Following the classroom instruction, the real action begins. "When officers deploy our TASERs, they don't just shoot at a static target," explains Steve Tuttle, TASER International's vice president of communications, who was the company's original trainer. "We have them running up and down, being screamed at. They have to fire under stress during the actual practice of TASER deployment. Using dynamic training is the key to successful training," he adds.

Officers who complete their training at TASER International's academy typically hunger for more, notes Tuttle, who is not surprised. "The better trained you are, the better the results," he points out. "We're seeing reduction of both officer and suspect injuries, even in cases of officer-involved shootings."

Software eases workload, can be self-taught
Software has greatly advanced the work of law enforcement professionals, but how clear the basics are to learn and how fast officers can master them depends on the software, the training materials and the support provided. This is particularly important for software since software programs replace huge tasks having many functions that once were performed manually. A good example is the array of crash and crime scene diagramming programs now available. While many drawing software programs are billed as being "off-the-shelf" and easy to learn, they instead deliver limitations - cryptic Web site training tips on how to draw a floor plan, insufficient symbols libraries or a restricted amount of telephone support - and a lot of frustration for users.

The Crash Zone and Crime Zone diagramming programs offered by The CAD Zone Inc. of Beaverton, Oregon, are a few of the exceptions with respect to easy and accessible training. The CAD Zone offers: more than 50 training movies (including audio) within The Crash Zone to show how to create an entire drawing; an owner's manual that walks the user through the diagramming process using brief, simple language; online step-by-step tutorials that show how to draw crash scenes; and unlimited technical support over the phone by calling a toll-free number.

Self-taught training options like these are great for those officers who feel confident enough to teach themselves new technology or software. However, many officers prefer the comfort of a classroom where they can join their peers for structured, personal instruction.

David Shanes, who manages the traffic safety unit of the Whitemarsh (Pennsylvania) Police Department, sees benefits in both the self-taught and classroom training approaches. He has taught himself the Crash Zone program, which he largely attributes to the software's extensive HELP system, and also teaches the program to police departments throughout Pennsylvania's Montgomery County. Shanes feels the self-taught method works well when a software product has easy assistance functions built in.

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