Managing a Training Unit

By Nowicki, Ed | Law & Order, November 2008 | Go to article overview

Managing a Training Unit


Nowicki, Ed, Law & Order


"He gets into too much trouble when dealing with the public, so let's make him the training officer, where he can't do any harm." Unfortunately in the past, all too many law enforcement administrators allowed statements similar to that echo across the nation. Then law enforcement training got a strong message from the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of Canton v. Harris (1989) that adequate law enforcement training is not to be ignored.

In Canton v. Harris, the court wrote, "A municipality may, in certain circumstances, be held liable under 1983 for constitutional violations resulting from its failure to train its employees... The inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for 1983 liability only where the failure to train in a relevant respect amounts to deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons with whom the police come into contact."

Law enforcement training was forced to change through this clear "you can't ignore training" message issued by the courts, rather than from policing within law enforcement. That 1989 case was a strong wake-up call for any agency that did not believe that law enforcement training was important. A tolerable inconvenience was suddenly turned into a valuable resource. Any agency administrator who doesn't realize the importance of training had better think again.

Every agency should have a person responsible for managing that unit. Titles can be anything from academy director and training coordinator to training officer and chief training officer or any rank with the word "training" in front of it, such as training sergeant and training lieutenant. But titles aren't as important as selecting the right candidate.

Who is the "right candidate" to head a training unit? The position should be desirable one, rather than punitive one. Selecting the best person suited for the job is most beneficial to the agency. Education and seniority may be factors but not the only factors used in the selection process.

Typical candidates should have excellent interpersonal communications skills and the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships both within the agency and, when needed, outside the agency. They need a proven ability to write and speak concisely, clearly and effectively. They should have the ability to prepare reports and conduct presentations, if required, on training topics where they have the requisite expertise. Agencies may want to expand this requirement to include budget setting and management, and testing and evaluating equipment, new technology and new training programs.

Conducting proper law enforcement training is imperative whether the agency has five officers or 5,000 officers. Documented training includes areas such as goals and objectives; lesson plans; copies of handouts; test documents and scores; reviews of tests; attendance; instructor competency; safety rules and procedures (if applicable); A/V material used; test failure policy; remedial training; certification and recertification records; and other criteria that an agency deems appropriate.

There is specific software available that can greatly assist with the keeping of training records. A program called "CopTrak" can assist with training records management. The CopTrak program allows each law enforcement agency to identify key training activities, associate training activities to different personnel, track those activities and identify training needs.

This program can be used to manage high-liability, perish- able skills, although it is flexible enough to manage all of a department's training. CopTrak was developed specifically for the needs of law enforcement, yet its inherent flexibility makes it well suited for any organization with training management needs.

It is crucial that any training conducted must not conflict with any laws, ordinances, or agency rules, regulations, policies, procedures or agency customs. …

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