Trainers: Evolve or Devolve

A seasoned officer can tell in the first thirty seconds whether the trainer is credible or not.

Training - we most often survive the street because of it. Granted, there are times when divine intervention or luck plays a role in getting us through a critical incident. But to the extent that we can, we dramatically increase our chances of going home at night when we participate in regular training. The way you train is the way you fight, no getting around that axiom. When things go south in a heartbeat there’s no time to think. That’s why training is integral to our survival. The training dynamic can be broken down into two simple components: trainers and trainees. Let’s first look at trainers.

I’ve been a trainer for thirty years. I consider the position to be an honor and an extension of my regular duties. It’s something I choose to do for two reasons. One, I become a better cop because I constantly review the latest tactics and techniques, and two, my colleagues become more professional due to the training I deliver. Training should be a win-win situation; both components, trainer and trainee benefit from the session. The trainer hones his instructor skills as he prepares for and then shares his information, while the trainees benefit from the trainer’s expertise in his chosen field. Time constraints and budget considerations being what they are in these tough economic times, it’s imperative that the allotted training time not be wasted. That’s why as a trainer you play a pivotal role in your department or agency’s training program.

Having been on each side of the training fence, I’ve experienced both ends of the trainer spectrum. On one end are trainers who are constantly on top of their game. Right from the start, they grab hold of their audience with a great opening line or demo. Perhaps they show a snippet of a video that puts the trainees in the right frame of mind. Or maybe they tell a poignant story, one that relates to the topic they’re about to address. Once they’ve captured the students’ attention they never let go. Good trainers engage their class by getting their students involved in discussions, answering questions, demos and breakout sessions. An experienced trainer knows that standing in front of a class for forty-five minutes, doing nothing but talking or reading Powerpoint slides is not only a waste of time, but an insult to all attendees. The caring, well-informed trainer swings for the fences each time he steps up to the plate.

On the other end of that spectrum is the trainer who never quite lives up to expectations. More often than not, the lackluster trainer chose to become an instructor for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps the instructor class was in a desirable location, or maybe the one or two week in-service got this officer off midnights for a while. I’ve heard a couple of cases where two officers teamed up and attended the instructor training so they could be together. You provide the rest of the scenario.

Regardless of the reason, if it wasn’t because the officer wanted to become a subject matter expert and help his fellow officers work better, easier, quicker and more professionally, then that instructor slot(s) was wasted. Case in point: I know of officers who attend in-service training, whether it’s an instructor course or not, who upon completing the training never share that information with their colleagues. I don’t know what’s worse, the guy who attends an instructor course and never puts on any training, or the one who attends the course and then botches the delivery when he tries to train his fellow officers. Either case is a lose-lose situation for the department and the officers.

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