Historically, it has not been the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to find the resources needed to provide officers with the training they need on a continuing basis to do their jobs effectively. This has been the purview of the municipalities, who approve budgets to sustain their law enforcement agencies.
Today, city and county coffers are being stretched in ways we never anticipated. New areas of unexpected expenditures include additional social service, health, safety and human services for the homeless and illegal aliens; subsidies (including subsidized housing), increased costs in providing additional security and overtime for officers during public demonstrations; and the ever-growing municipal worker pension deficits.
Municipalities can only stretch funds so far, and taxpayers can only bear so much of the burden for the administration of cities and counties.
When budgets are finalized, usually the first to suffer is law enforcement training. Training is usually the last thing in any law enforcement agency’s budget. However, training is also the hub of the law enforcement wheel and the lack of officer training is always at the crux of any lawsuit against a municipality and its law enforcement agency. These federal and state torts can cost tens of millions of dollars annually. It’d the old adage; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The lack of or inadequate training makes officers less safe. It also makes the public less safe. When officers do not have good and frequent training on laws of arrest, search and seizure, departmental policies, tactics, and proficiency in the use of force and safety equipment such as chemical agents, tasers, impact weapons and firearms; lawsuits are inevitable.
In some cases, agencies can be put under federal consent decrees. In others, a city government will capitulate politically to agreeing to new policies or procedures that severely restrict how their officers can enforce laws, even beyond what the federal case laws provide. When officers are limited in their lawful crime mitigation strategies, crime can rise. When crime increases; safety decreases. Everyone suffers and additional and unnecessary costs are born by the municipality.
If agencies want to increase, instead of decreasing the training for their officers, they will need to get creative, proactive and think outside the box. When the training budget well is dry, agencies need to find new funding sources for training.
As a 45-year career successful business professional, might I suggest the business approach to training. Agencies and government in general are great at asking for money from the well; but terrible at making money. That’s never been their wheelhouse or skill set.
Although agencies don’t produce or sell a product, they do provide a service as many private businesses do. Look at agencies as “Criminal Justice” corporations. Safety and security of the public is their mission and product. Therefore, they need to look at ways to mitigate their physical and legal risks in order to keep their customers – the public – safe, secure and happy. This is accomplished by providing those customers with a safe and secure environment in which to live, play and work. Further, if their untrained and/or ill-equipped officers are placed needlessly at risk because they don’t have the education or skill sets necessary to protect themselves from harm, they become mission incapable and litigation magnets.
Agency administrators need to consider novel ways of paying for training without the trials, tribulations and red tape of asking for training money that meets the needs of their officers and customers.
Agencies also have to balance their department’s needs and manage their manpower resources. Small rural agencies have significant challenges taking their officers and detectives out of the field to send them away for training. The costs not only in manpower but travel and per diem to have officers receive training in other jurisdictions out of their region can be considerable. This often stymies training to the point where officers have to wait to receive critical skill set training.
Here are some business strategies that agencies can employ right now to create training revenue flows and save money on training.
Bring in private trainers – Seek trainers who have extensive training knowledge and background but may be recently retired and can do the job at a fraction of the cost.
Partner with recognized trainers – Develop a strategic partnership with experienced, well-known trainers and profit share by inviting outside agencies and sharing a percentage of the profits generated for training from the tuitions you charge.
Partner with other nearby agencies – Share the costs of training by combining several agencies for one training. This can often reduce your costs by 50-75%.
Partner with local businesses – Develop an agency sponsorship with your community’s businesses and private service organizations. Barter advertising placement and access to their services and products during your training seminars. It is to businesses benefit to support their local law enforcement. Donations by businesses are a great possibility.
Offer firearms manufacturers an opportunity to help with funding range development; vehicle manufacturers with funding emergency vehicle operation courses and training; software companies to assist in funding electronic technology-related training.
On-line distance learning – Let’s face it. The future of law enforcement training is distance learning and on-line training. Consider a new on-line option for many courses, including specialized, updated courses in such areas as law, forensics, investigations, report writing, courtroom testimony and risk management/liability.
On-line distance learning platforms have many benefits usually at a fraction of the “physical” costs of normal training venues. Officers can take the course at their leisure, with no days out of the field. There are no travel, per diem expenses, or personal risks for your personnel. On-line courses can also provide the same level of education, training, experience and certifications that “physical” classroom training away from the office can.
For many rural agencies, going to community colleges far from their agency to receive basic training is inconvenient, time-consuming and costly. This type of training is always on the schedule of the college and never user-friendly for officers to schedule. Instead of taking recruits, officers and detectives out of the field to get trained at a community college, go on-line for your training needs. Distance learning platforms are open 24/7 for your training needs.
With certain on-line training platforms, the agency becomes a member of the education, training and certification site. This allows officers to obtain their required certified training as needed. On more advanced distance learning platforms, each officer’s progress is recorded on their personal education portal. A permanent record exists of their training and all progress can be tracked at any time by the agency’s administration. The additional record keeping function also protects the agency during the discovery process involved in civil litigation and is a free service.
For officers who would choose to expand their education beyond that provided by their department for career advancement, many additional classes and special certification programs can be taken at their own personal expense, but at the agency’s discounted rate.
One such company just opened for business. ETCforensic® (ETCforensic.com) is an online education, training and certification company, providing basic and advanced training online for law enforcement and forensic investigators. Additionally, ETCforensic® provides education and training for private companies, schools, attorneys and social service agencies can provide on-line courses in School Safety, Response to Active Shooter and a myriad of other topics on the employee or civilian student’s own time schedule.
At ETCforensic®, law enforcement agencies can purchase a yearly membership for their entire agency, allowing officers to engage in the training and certification modules at a time and place of their convenience. Officers can receive the training and certifications they need at a fraction of the cost of physical venue training. So what’s not to like about on-line, distance learning training?
Good training is the key to officer and public safety. It is the responsibility of agencies and municipalities to provide such training. When your budget is reduced to where you are concerned that you are not meeting your training needs, think outside the box.
Agencies should proactively take steps that can positively address this problem, rather than sitting back and waiting for training dollars that may never come. Thinking outside to consider new revenue flows, or on-line training alternatives is a positive step for your agency, your officers and the public; while reducing unnecessary costs of lawsuits that drain the city coffers and your training budget.
Linda Martinelli, is a 40-year business professional, CEO of Proforma Graphic Printsource and a member of the elite Inc-5,000 fastest growing businesses in America.