FSI on Police Training

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The Force Science Institutes’ new review of police training addresses issues already well known in LE training circles, but apparently not yet within the halls of Police Academies or Executive Offices. Sometimes it takes a project such as this – and lawsuits citing this research that will inevitably follow – to make change:

Part I

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“Unfortunately, this research informs us that officers might not be as well prepared as they need to be as was previously thought.”

Part II

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“A high school football player who trains and plays a twelve-week schedule for one season (no pre-season training) would train approximately two hours per day for four days.  They would play an hour and half game on day five.  This totals nine and a half hours per week, or approximately 114 hours for one season.  That includes a full trial of their skills in all-out competition at least once per week.  It would likely be considered unfair to place them in a football game, or something similar, with an unknown opponent who doesn’t have to follow any rules on an irregular or unknown field with no referee. In the law enforcement profession, it is a good thing we hire good people, because no professional tries so hard and does so much with so little!”

Part III


Dedicated Trainers

Despite how some of this information may sound, FS found many positive aspects in academy training. Common themes emerged in all three countries and in all the academies studied.  It was evident the instructors were skilled, talented, accomplished, and committed professionals. They were challenged to provide the best instruction possible, to everyone, given the range of attitudinal and psychomotor abilities that are present in every academy class. They bore the burden of knowing the limitations on their instruction-time, funding, equipment, and limitations in facilities. In summary, academy staff are under tremendous pressure to accomplish the stated “learning objectives,” but the limitations of time, personnel, and resources available, often defy the reality of being able to successfully teach them.  It would be valuable to see the results these trainers could deliver given more time, resources, and the use of instructional techniques, based on modern, scientific foundations for learning.”

IHW – I have a quibble with this comment. First and foremost, for a trainer to be “dedicated” they must be committed to their own skill development in a valid and provable medium. This simply is not the case with many law enforcement instructors. Most go through a state program, receiving titles to include “Master Instructor,” with no background in martial or combative arts outside in-service DT training (that is, a few hours a year at best, the same few hours the student officers are training). Maybe they have attended specialized DT Instructor training (so, another week or two a year), and perhaps an additional instructor class that certifies them to teach after a thirty to forty hour program of instruction.

That means that one can be a “Defensive Tactics Master Instructor” with what amounts to several weeks worth of training in a year, and a yearly week long re-certification class. Thus with no background in the subject matter whatsoever, one can become, say, a “Ground Survival Instructor” after  a forty hour class.

And we call this “dedicated.” These are (supposedly) “instructor” and even “master” level tacticians we should be talking about.

This is not to cast aspersions on the good intentions of many police instructors – though a few simply like being the center of attention and an opportunity to stand up in front of the class, many do want to  better themselves and make their peers safer.

But that comes from doing work, not punching a card. Being an expert requires years of ongoing commitment and time dedicated to being better at a craft – not a few hours a month and a week or two a year. In my experience with law enforcement instruction, very few instructors do much if any meaningful learning outside the state mandated and department offered programs of instruction. They’d rather spend their off time playing soccer or golf. A major issue in the lack of confidence from rank and file officers in the defensive tactics they are taught is that many instructors don’t know what they are doing, some embarrassingly so, and the students politely go through a few repetitions of poorly demonstrated, unworkable techniques all the while hoping the class gets out early. This is a key area not addressed in this FSI research, for obvious reasons, of course. Too many feelings might be bruised.


There is much more to police work: tactics, law, liability, communication and threat assessment skills, and weapons capability, which it looks like FS will be getting into as well.

Can we hope for change? For meaningful transformation in how training is conceived, delivered, and applied in the field, over simply changing policies and adopting slogans and buzz words?

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