Maximize Your Training Time

How important is training to your agency? As first responders, we train all the time; Firearms qualifications; CPR recertification; De-escalation; Conducted electrical weapons and the list goes on. But with a myriad of new and recurrent training topics to cover, how do you ensure that your personnel are engaged and getting the most out of the training? Effective training should leave attendees feeling that it was relevant and worthwhile whether they are two months out of the police academy or two months shy of retirement?

Enthralling or Zombie Apocalypse?

Over the course of a career, officers will attend countless training classes. Some of the classes they will seek out and request to attend themselves, while others they will be “voluntold” to attend. Of the classes they do attend, some will be good, and others not so good. A few classes will be so enthralling that they will leave students wanting more information than the instructor could possibly deliver in the allotted time, while others will have them watching the clock begging for a fire alarm activation, zombie apocalypse or anything else that could free them from the classroom.

Depending on the venue and allotted time, some training sessions hurl information at students faster than most can process it. In the police academy, recruits often learn a topic just long enough to pass the exam and then purge the newly acquired knowledge to make room for the next wave of information. Upon graduating from the academy, the recruits are left with a vast pool of information to pull from when needed, but not necessarily a complete understanding of the subject matter. That understanding comes with time, experience and . . . more training.

Captivate the Audience

As an instructor, one of your primary focuses should be to provide captivating training that is pertinent, alluring and easy to follow. Students should feel compelled to approach you during breaks and after the conclusion of the training session to pick your brain for more information. Some aspects of training are inflexible.

Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy, or in a direction in which an unintentional discharge might cause injury or property damage.” That line has probably been read during firearms safety briefings since the dawn of modern police training and will likely continue to do so. Conversely, we typically don’t teach the Weaver Stance anymore because we have identified better shooting platforms, which are safer and provide more flexibility. This is a natural evolution of training. As we learn what works well and identify what could work better through real-life encounters, our tactics change. As our tactics change, so should our methods of instruction.

Cooperative Training

A municipal police agency in New Jersey recently held a series of Active Threat Awareness training sessions. For the first time ever, they trained cooperatively with EMS, fire department and public works. Why did they include all those agencies in our training sessions? Because if there is ever an active threat situation in that town, police, EMS, fire department and public works are going to respond to the incident.

Officers need to realize that the time to think about how they would respond during a situation shouldn’t be amid that situation. Part of the county Active Shooter/Active Threat response plan indicated that police officers would team up with EMS personnel and form a Rescue Task Force (RTF). The problem with that plan is most officers had never even heard of a Rescue Task Force. Since police and EMS had never trained together, neither agency had a real understanding of what the other would do (or not do) in a situation. Without training, how could anyone expect this concept to be successful if it had to be implemented?

Practical Training

The manner in which the active threat training was presented was inviting and practical. A delegate from each of the four agencies in attendance did a presentation detailing their responsibilities during an active threat situation. Even though public works was there in a supportive role and not directly responsible for locating/eliminating the threat or caring for the wounded, the training was so alluring that a few of their employees opted to stay and observe police and EMS train after their portion was complete. Officers spent several hours going over basic movements and communication. Each agency imparted knowledge of their functions and expectations during the sessions. This resulted in a plan that was sensible and could be easily implemented if necessary.

Now, officers know if they are assigned to a Rescue Task Force during an active threat incident, they are married to their EMS partners and will not leave them to handle other law enforcement functions. Also, by working together, personnel began establishing an esprit de corps that is rarely displayed across service lines.

Realistic Training

Scenario based training is often dreaded by participants. As a trainer, there is a constant struggle to develop realistic training that is easily adaptable to all participants regardless of their level of experience. The training and experience of a school resource officer might differ from that of a SWAT operator, but a good class will incorporate information and tactics that are pertinent to each and can be used effectively in their respective roles. Occasionally, trainers will stage scenarios that are either unwinnable or too far-fetched to be believable. If you don’t have a naval base in your jurisdiction, the likelihood of an aircraft carrier being taken over by terrorists and all the munitions on board being used against your officers is slim. So, using this type of scenario as part of your training can leave officers disinterested since it’s not something they may deem useful.

However, if you have an office building, hospital or shopping center in your town, then the possibility of somebody entering one of those facilities with the intent to inflict harm on multiple people is real. Training for that type of situation typically elicits a much better response from attendees since they can envision this scenario occurring. Manufacturing stress during the scenario can add to the realism and increase the impact of the training. This manufactured stress can be something as simple as having a role player shoot blanks from a starter pistol during the scenario. The physiological response you evoke i.e. increased heart rate, respiratory rate, tunnel vision among others may mimic the stress encountered during a real-life situation.

Methods Matter

On the firing range, try to get shooters out of qualification mode. Tell them that once qualifications are over, you are going to “train” rather than try to construct pretty targets they can brag about in the locker room. Range qualifications are a good measure of basic firearms proficiency, but too often officers get hung up on scores and groupings rather than the actual training.

By incorporating shooting while moving, target discrimination and other tactics that are not typically covered by the standard qualification course, we can better prepare officers to be both physically and mentally ready for a deadly force encounter. Indoctrinate in officers that getting multiple rounds on target in an area of the body likely to quickly incapacitate a lethal threat is more important than having a 15-round shot grouping tight enough to cover with a tennis ball. Officers need to shoot accurately with round accountability being a primary concern, but they should shoot like their life (or someone else’s life) depends on it.

Maximize Your Training Time

In these days of budgetary constraints, you should aim to maximize your training time. This can be accomplished by combining multiple training topics such as individual and group movements, room clearing and tourniquet application all in one session. This session can model a real-life situation since some or all of these skills might be needed during an actual incident. Be mindful that trying to incorporate too much training into one session can result in the attendees becoming overloaded or fatigued which would be counterproductive.

You owe it to your officers to cultivate their warrior mindset. By developing and delivering quality training, you can help instill the confidence, skill and proficiency they need to win the fight.

Jarrod Broadway has been a municipal police officer in New Jersey for 11 years.  He is currently assigned to the patrol division and conducts an extensive amount of training in the fields of Active Shooter response, firearms, De-escalation and Emergency Medical Aid.  He is also the county coordinator for the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program. Prior to becoming a police officer, Broadway was a Federal Air Marshal for 4 1/2 years. He has been a paramedic for 18 years and still works on the paramedic unit.  

Broadway is currently pursuing a bachelor of arts degree from Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey.  He recently founded a company, Vitality Sight, LLC which primarily focuses on providing Active Threat Awareness and other emergency preparedness training for private companies, schools and religious institutions.  

(Photos courtesy Jarrod Broadway)