Overcoming Obstacles to In-Service Training

Training should not be an obstacle course – but it often is. All of us have dealt with hidden obstacles and costs when planning and delivering training. But how do we overcome them? Here are some solutions from LE supervisors, managers, and leaders.

The Hidden Costs of Training

Over the last few months, we developed and shared our In-service Training Concerns and Solutions Survey to study how much it really costs to provide training, identify the various hidden costs (human and financial), and share ways of reducing or overcoming these obstacles.

Even though we have a short survey, there is a lot of data. In this post, I want to share with you some of our initial findings.

An Ongoing Endeavor

This effort is ongoing. We are still asking people to complete the survey and will report on this data as we collect it.  If you haven’t taken the survey and you are a current/former LE leader, manager, or supervisor, please take it now. We want to hear from you!

We would appreciate your insight. This is an excellent way for us to learn from one another. If you want to know more about the survey, take a look at the original survey questions. If you want to get updates on the results of this survey, please join our mailing list, and we will get you updates as we can. As a member of our mailing list, you will get some free resources on threat assessment.  

Background, Training Mandates, & Needs

Figure 1: Respondents Organizational Size (N=45)

So far, we have 45 respondents in the sample – a mix of current and former leaders and managers from organizations varying in size from less than 50 to more than 200 officers (See Figure 1).  

The respondents report a mix of training requirements, but around 80% reported having to conduct more than 16 hours of in-service training annually. Training requirements were reported on a range of topics, the most frequently reported were - use of force (71.11%), marksmanship (75.56%), criminal procedures (66.67%) and defensive tactics (55.56%). None of these are really surprising.

Respondents reported that their organizations trained MORE than what was required. For example, 55.6% of respondents reported a 25+ hour requirement and 73.3% of respondents reported providing more than 25 hours of training. This finding is obviously good news.

Not surprisingly, we also found a an interest for training on topics independent of mandates – specifically, respondents reported a need for training in stress management (52.3%), report writing (52.3%), interviewing (47.7%), and leadership (45.5%). The only subject that was generally mandated, and respondents wanted more of was training to work with emotionally disturbed persons (EDP) – a complicated topic. Of the respondents, 54.55% indicated they wanted more EDP training.

Obstacles & Hidden Costs

Police Leader / Dept. Less than 50 Sworn : “[The] Police Academy [is] state run [and] now charging for housing trainees. Police Academy is [also] now going to a "commuter" model resulting in municipal vehicle assignment and paid travel time. Unfunded state mandates in training are consistently occurring, and rapidly changing societal demands that POs be trained for every single emergent situation makes our training reactionary (LGBTQ, bias, EDP, CIT) and costly as we have to pay outside vendors.”

Respondents identified a variety of hidden costs and obstacles to training. One of our respondents (a LE leader of an organization with less than 50 sworn) nicely summed up some of the difficulties faced by law enforcement today.

The most widely reported hidden costs were travel costs associated with training (55.6%), shift coverage for those being trained (33.3%), and equipment (13.3%).

One conclusion that I draw from these reported obstacles is burden shifting. As larger entities (states, counties, etc.) try to reduce their own costs, they shift more costs to the individual agencies. Making it more expensive for each organization trying to get training.

Solutions

We all face different constraints when developing, planning, and delivering training. But some solutions might be useful to all of us. Our respondents identified a range of potential solutions:

  • 17.8% mentioned online training to reduce costs;

  • 8.9% indicated that hosting training to get free seats from vendors could reduce costs;

  • 11.1 % referenced pursuing more grants to get training;

  • 11.1% supported the idea of conducting more in-house training (to cover mandates and keep travel costs down); and

  • 11.1% stated that cost sharing between local agencies was a way to reduce training obstacles.

These are all great approaches to reducing training costs. You can take a look at the individual responses for ways to overcome the hidden costs of training here.

Police Supervisor/Manager – Less than 50 Sworn “…online training is an asset, it eliminates over time officers can do training individually while working their tours and can stop and respond to calls as needed without losing time in completing the course and return to where they left off.

One of the respondents, a police supervisor/manager from a 200+ sworn department, neatly summed up the benefits of online training.

 If you are interested in learning more about the financial benefits of online versus instructor-led training, check out our online v. instructor-led cost calculator.

How to Learn More

A few quick caveats, this survey is also anonymous and we are not tracking repeat surveys or locations. For those into research design, surveys, and representative sampling – this is a non-generalizable convenience sample, with all the limitations associated with this approach.

There is a lot of good information here. Respondents report are a number of viable options for reducing training costs - which might be useful to you. If you would like to get updates on the survey results as we update and get deeper into the data, please sign up for our mailing list.

Nathan Meehan Ph.D.