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Training, Tactics, Procedures & Equipment

Written by Scott Oldham

The military and law enforcement worlds are full of acronyms. It seems that we can not get away from them and, in some cases, seem to create as much confusion as they seek to alleviate.

Everything from the easy-to-understand and well-used acronyms such as DUI (driving under the influence), SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), EDP (emotionally disturbed person) to the less-used and more specialized version such as NFDD (noise, flash diversion device) are part of the everyday lingo of most police officers.

One acronym that is not in the normal lexicon of most officers but should be understood by every supervisor is TTP (training, tactics and procedures) with one addition, making it TTPE (training, tactics, procedures and equipment).

As supervisors, the TTPE acronym will help evaluate exactly how prepared you and your officers are to do “the job” when lives are on the line. As a supervisor, it is imperative that you be familiar enough with each of these categories to at least know what you don’t know so that you can seek more information on the subject.

First, training. It is critical that you seek to never place your officers in a position where they will be required to exceed their capabilities just to survive. You will need to have an understanding of what they, as a group, are capable of performing and know when a situation has reached the point where you will need to call for assistance from special units.

You will need to be acutely aware of what kind of and how much training your people have and of who in your squad is lacking in the necessary training.

For patrol officers, this training can be extremely varied. The various skills they may be called upon to exercise each day will sometimes seem daunting. Making sure a continuing and proactive training regimen exists for your officers is a crucial part of your supervisory duties. Officers should routinely practice skills that may not be part of the normal day-to-day activities of your department but are extremely critical none the less.

Felony traffic and pedestrian stops, hazardous material handling and high-risk building searches may not be part of what you as a shift do each day, but they are tasks that must be accomplished without fail each time that you are called upon to execute them.

Second, tactics. Be sure you are very familiar with the tactics that are common practice within your agency. Some, such as pedestrian stops, are pretty much standard within the industry. However, others are deeply rooted within agency policy. Particularly the newest and (unfortunately) the most experienced officers will need to be watched in regards to the tactics they choose to employ.

The new officers need to be watched because they are unsure of exactly what is required of them, or they may become confused as to which tactic is best employed in a given situation. The more experienced officers may attempt to cut corners as a result of apathy.

Mandate that your officers follow only established, well-proven tactics. When a new tactic is brought on line, make sure it has been well vetted in the training arena before its introduction to the agency. Tactics and techniques are an ever-evolving science that should be based upon the training and experience of those attempting to employ them.

Not every tactic is suitable for every group of officers. Just because a four-man SWAT element can make something work does not mean that it is suitable for employment by a similar number of patrol officers. Do not fall into the trap of believing that “if it works for them, it will work for us.”

Third, procedures. The veritable soul mate to tactics, procedures are set down within each agency so there is a standard set of rules, a set way of doing things for all to understand. Procedures allow for a commonality in the approach to problems that are encountered during an officer’s tour of duty each day. Law enforcement is a team sport. As such, there has to be a set play book from which to operate.

By your very nature as a supervisor, it is a requirement that you are fully conversant in the procedures that your agency mandates, and it is your job to be sure that those are followed. It is also incumbent upon you to evaluate what policies are working and which are not. It is your duty to forward the failing ones through the chain of command for correction along with an explanation of why the policy is not applicable in a given situation.

Fourth, equipment. The word added to the military standard “TTP” acronym is “equipment.” For one person to be completely skilled with every piece of equipment use by the law enforcement profession is clearly an impossibility. However, it is possible for supervisors to learn the basics of most of the gear in use while at the same time thoroughly learning the ins and outs of mission-critical equipment.

For most general-issue equipment, the agency will determine exactly what is purchased. “Low bid” will most usually be the order of the day, and standardization on one or two examples of a particular piece of kit will be normal. It will behoove you to learn what often goes wrong with general-issue items and learn how to fix it in the field if possible. That skill may mean the difference between keeping a unit in service or losing it for the rest of the shift.

Personal items such as holsters, flashlights and back-up guns are the subject of much debate. As many opinions exist for this equipment as there are officers. As a supervisor, you should learn the top companies in each field that you have as options. While you need not be an expert, you should learn which pieces of gear work and which pieces are likely to fall flat in a crunch.

Only some companies exemplify the standards of excellence that should be universal among those that support the law enforcement community. These companies stand out as exceptional examples of what we would all hope we are dealing with when lives are on the line. Learn these companies so when your officers approach you for advice, you can point them in the right direction with confidence.

As a supervisor, it is easy to get carried away in the minutia of day-to-day policing and to forget items that are truly crucial. By using the TTPE acronym, you should be re-evaluating these categories constantly so that standards can be upheld and improvements can be realistically evaluated to be certain that they do indeed provide for an improvement over the base.

Such a constant and ongoing evaluation of your training, tactics, procedures and equipment will provide for the most all-encompassing and realistic view of what you and your officers are capable of achieving and what needs to be improved.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2009

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