How to revamp your training unit

When I took command of my agency’s training unit in 2009, we were doing great work in the cognitive areas, but I felt that in the skills areas we could use some work — there was a widening gap between our classroom-based instruction (which was great) and our live-fire firearms and defensive tactics training.

With about decade of SWAT experience, I was particularly keen to incorporate tactics into our training programs. 

I began to hatch a plan to get everyone else on board.

Recruit the Best of the Best
I recruited one of the best firearms instructors I know to come to the unit. He agreed to come over and our chief assigned him to me.

I next set out to recruit the best DT officer I knew. He was all too eager to come over, and the chief again agreed. I have to give credit to my chief for allowing me to build the unit with the very best assets we had available. This new DT instructor replaced a member of the unit who was reassigned to another area of the agency. 

My agency has a three-man training unit and around 20 Instructors assigned to the various units. I coordinate all of the “cerebral” topics as I enjoy them as much as the tactical stuff. The chief Defensive Tactics Instructor coordinates with other DTIs to get that topic covered, and the Chief Firearms Instructor coordinates with the other FIs to cover those skills.

Define Real Success (and Failure)
We three “permanent residents” of the training unit began to revamp the in-service classes, placing a heavy emphasis on skills-based training. We require every officer in the agency to qualify with their weapons once a year. We were spending a lot of time on the range just getting officers qualified. We began a three-year program to stop that issue.

We began to tell all of our officers during firearms in-service that the day was fast approaching where no time would be spent on the range “warming up” and that they would be required to show up and qualify immediately. We then advised them that we would hold monthly open range days so that they could practice. 

Several officers took us seriously, and availed themselves to the open range days. 

Many did not. 

Grab Some Pine, Meat
In the second year, we put our plan into action in earnest. At the firearms in-service, those who didn’t qualify received the remedial training that my agency policy dictates — then, after they still failed to qualify they were removed from duty and placed in an administrative status until they could attend additional training and successfully qualify. 

This got some heads turning. 

Now halfway through our third year, we’ve seen no one required to be removed from duty. Everyone is qualifying. This has allowed us to do some great things.

Every agency has a bullet budget; the number of rounds required to conduct qualifications — and hopefully, training. My agency requires more than 23,000 rounds just to qualify the agency. That’s assuming there are no problems. When we reduced the number of officers who had shooting issues, we increased the number of bullets we had available to conduct training. 

What did we do with all that available ammo? That’s precisely what I’ve written about here.

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