Training is usually one of the first budgetary areas to be pillaged when fiscal spending tightens. Chief law enforcement administrators tend to move or “borrow” training dollars for other seemingly worthwhile projects, while sacrificing money allocated for professional development. Correspondingly, sworn officers and civilian personnel end up receiving even less in the training arena.
Unfortunately, civilian personnel usually feel the affects the most, since administrators—who have typically come up from the ranks at one time or another in their career climbing—have an inherent bias for the patrol officers. The issue then becomes one of how to offer affordable and effective training for employees in general without breaking the budget (both overtime and training) in the process?
“Civilian personnel” usually equates to the tele-communicator or emergency dispatcher that many departments employ in their communication centers. Being on the proverbial bottom of the “chain,” it is difficult to set and reach achievable objectives for this class of employee. Administrators owe their employees, let alone the citizens, a degree of professionalism and expertise on many levels.
As technology advances in communication centers, administrators need to ask if we are providing the tools to our personnel for continued success or are simply giving enough to maintain status quo until the next crisis or legal challenge intervenes and causes change.
Adults respond well to a “hands-on” approach to learning. Although the repetitive drilling of ideas and theory is important, the actual involvement of the adult while the concepts are being espoused will result in a better overall grasp. This is relevant to this discussion on two levels: administrators, obviously, desire effective results, but there need to be an immediate return as well.
One alternative is to become actively involved with governmentally funded training. Extra time is certainly a rare luxury for any law enforcement administrator, but assisting in oversight of local training offerings can insure that the best available instruction by professional instructors is available at a reasonable cost.
During these trying budgetary times, various states are cutting back financial allocations to local governments. Administrators can assure that training needs are being met through active involvement as an advisory resource. Remember, training should be focused on non-sworn personnel as well as sworn. Negligence claims can arise out of acts of omission on the part of a tele-communicator as well officers “under color of law.”
The next, and most influential factor for successful training, will be cost budgeted by the department. The typical line-item budget used by many police agencies tends to “lump” dollars into various categories in general terms. Although a department may show a budgeted amount in a training line-item, this money may not be earmarked for any specific training. This creates the temptation to “borrow” or reallocate this money in tough times prior to the end of the fiscal year. If at all possible, the money budgeted for training, should be used for just that. If the money wasn’t needed, then why was it allocated?
There may be training resources that can be discovered with just a little research. One underutilized training facility or organization is the Office of Emergency Management or Office of Emergency Government that most states have. State certified instructors teach the same courses as offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA). These types of training offerings are becoming increasingly available in the post 9-11 world.
Contact the state or county Emergency Services or Emergency Government Coordinator for more information on tuition-free classes. A diverse range of relevant training for law enforcement personnel may be available, including decision-making, communication, and leadership training.
Another possible resource includes continuing education programs at local or community colleges. There are usually business-type classes or computer enhancement skill courses that are relatively cost effective. The skills can be readily applied or easily adapted for law enforcement purposes.
Whatever administrators can do to encourage continued development of employees should be one of the primary goals of the department. By developing employees, tomorrow’s leaders are also developed. This is also the mark of good management.
Ed Nowicki, a nationally recognized use of force expert, is part-time police officer for the Twin Lakes (WI) Police Department. He is the executive director of ILEETA and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph M. Hallman is Deputy Chief of the Marengo, IL Police and a 16-year law enforcement veteran. He teaches at McHenry County College as an Adjunct Instructor in the Criminal Justice Services Department and may be reached at email@example.com.