Touch Up Your Training: Preparing the Officers of the Future

Feb. 21, 2024
Yesterday's lessons won't prepare the officers of the future.

With totally good intentions, many trainers attempt to train today’s students with the same methodologies and topics that they were trained. Personally, I feel that their plan is flawed on many fronts. There is no way you can prepare today’s students to face the future with the same approaches that we were trained in. We must prepare them to face a world that we never dreamed of or faced. So, where to begin…

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Dust off every presentation

This is more than just eye appeal but common sense. Yes, you must perform due diligence to ensure current and correct content. Training can be a noun or a verb. Make sure you put the “action verb” into your training unit. All courses need to be evaluated and updated for accuracy on several fronts. Start with reviewing any updates with personnel and internal policies for accuracy. These are especially important with new officer training; they have to learn to be a cop but also an employee. How many times has a new unit been created or the name of a unit changed? Criminal investigations are the biggest name changers or reassigned tasks for officers. Make sure you have the right unit doing their correct mission. Make sure all state and local laws are current with your lesson plans. Additionally, ensure that whichever type of accreditation you subscribe to is updated with any changes. This sounds like a paperwork nightmare but if you do this as things occur rather than waiting, it is manageable.

Your presentations, please review them for ‘eye appeal’. Whatever program you are using has new templates with layout and eye appealing colors schemes. If this is a standard black & white template that has been used for years, the students will recall this rerun and tune it out. New layout will key them to pay attention.

Review presentation for statistical data changes. There are several lesson plans that have the past year’s crime rates; make sure you update it to the correct year. Remember also that you will have that one student in the back with a cell phone and Google. If you drop some data that is old, they will correct you. Check your math as well. Yogi Berra, major league baseball Hall of Famer, once said: “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” Check your graphs and double-check the math or percentages. Avoid embarrassment at the podium.


Every state is different and has their own system of countable training hours. Maintaining every officer’s certification is paramount here, but there are other considerations. Some states have “mandatory” courses that are annual requirements. The embarrassment of a legal challenge in civil court of an arrest made by an “uncertified” officer can be detrimental. Some states will not count full training hours at conferences and seminars; partial hours, if any. This can be problematic in the hunt for minimum hours. Additionally, you may need to assist certain staff members who have additional certifications—accident reconstruction, drone pilot licenses, forensic certifications, etc. Do not forget to track your internal trainers’ certifications, they may need to re-certify with a defensive tactics system, firearms instructor certifications and more. As much as chasing after every employee seems to be yet another organizational headache, it is worth the effort to avoid the issues that could be created.

New instructors

First and foremost, be a mentor to them and not a monster. Every one of us has been a FNG (Fabulous New Guy/Girl), invest time with them. One area is to adjust them to all your classroom technology. A new instructor fumbling with the audio/visual before a class affects their creditability. Start them off with a shot of confidence.

You could have a new one that is suffering from the “I syndrome.” This is the instructor whose first 20 minutes of the lecture is a recap of their adventures and exploits. In their mind they may feel that they are the greatest instructor east of the Mississippi, but do not waste valuable training time with Resume 101. To cure this, you go in and introduce them. I have even started their slide program with a caveat. “I know you will love this presentation so much, let’s get right to it.” I fluff their ego, but it gets them into the substance of the presentation.

If you have new instructors, bring them in for a practice session before you or other trusted instructors. Their timing for transition and coordinated slides is one thing. Timing is critical, too fast, or too slow, work on their pace. Also, have some real questions to throw at them to prepare for the class. You know they will get some, so allow them to practice their responses now. Avoid any embarrassments to enhance their performance.


Whoever uses the term “mandatory training” immediately turns everyone off. Avoid the easy way out with drab emails. You know, the ones with the day, time, and topic matter. Usual directions, show up 15 minutes early and so forth. Yes, it is to the point. Yes, these are adults and know they must go, but spice it up a little. Send out an informational flyer with the topics and talking points on the subject matter this year. Pique their interest to attend! How about visiting the precincts to “sell” training this year. When the trainers go out to meet with the officers, they can answer questions or calm any uncertainties. Cops have a fear of failure in the eyes of their peers. Should one feel that this year’s training will overwhelm them, talk with them, and allay their fears.

Watch the Clock

Time management is key in training. You do not have students but for so many contact hours. Therefore, maximize your classroom and training time. Wasting precious time can hamper the presentation. Now, an instructor has run through the material like an auctioneer to cover the topic. Try to avoid gaps, late start-ups and be punctual. If your staff are on time, it sends the message of punctuality.

Have fun!

In larger departments, it is not uncommon for officers to reacquaint with each other. Classmates went to different precincts or shifts and become unconnected. Often, training and court are the only times they might happen upon each other. I used to allow a longer break time on the first break for this reason. It is social, but can be meaningful to them. Training directors do not have to be “cruise directors,” but they need to be mindful of the human experience. Little things can make a huge difference in how training is received. Happy students will perform better and should have higher retention of topic matter. Why? They are not counting the clock or plotting your demise.

About the Author

William L. “Bill” Harvey is a U.S. Army Military Police Corps veteran. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC). Harvey served in leadership positions including chief during a career that spanned over 40 years.

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