How to sharpen your skills and further your career while at home

We’re all spending more time at home because of COVID-19 – here’s how to put some of that time to use for your career


We’re all spending more time at home during our off hours because of COVID-19. And with closures of gyms and other training facilities, you may be having trouble keeping your skills sharp in the way you usually do. But there are many ways to maintain your training while stuck at home or use a part of your quarantine downtime to take your career to the next level.

Here are five tips from Police1 columnists on how to put some of your home time to use for your career.

1. GET CREATIVE WITH FIREARMS TRAINING

If you want to be a great leader, read great books. (Photo/Pixabay)
If you want to be a great leader, read great books. (Photo/Pixabay)

Does your department use simulated ammunition systems for training? If so, why not ask if you can bring a training kit and some ammo home? Depending on your department, this might mean a slide and barrel kit, a replacement bolt for your patrol rifle or an entire dedicated firearm. Low velocity man-marking rounds can be used to shoot short range targets.

If you’re an instructor, this could give you a chance to develop additional courses of fire or scenarios based on current events. If you have friendly neighbors, you might be able to use your backyard but there is no reason you cannot set up in your garage or a spare bedroom against a piece of plywood.

Ron LaPedis is a firearms trainer and business continuity and security expert.

2. BECOME A BOOK WORM

These books should be mandatory reading for every police officer:

On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

It provides a foundation of understanding of what you need to prepare for the inevitable conflicts you will face as an officer.

Deadly Force Encounters by Dr. Alexis Artwohl and Loren Christensen

Recently rewritten and doubled in size, the book focuses on understanding what happens to you before, during and after a use of deadly force. Dr. Artwohl, who has treated many officers after their use of deadly force, is considered one of the foremost experts on the subject.

Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne, Jason Riley and Shawn Coyne

Learn to look for those indicators that occur before a situation goes bad. It will improve your observational powers and give you the tools to better respond to and later document the reasons for the law enforcement actions you take.

Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect by Jack Colwell and Charles Huth

The title says it all.

Armor Your Self: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement by John Marx

One of the most comprehensive books on self-care available for law enforcement. It covers the topics of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Whether you are a new officer, in the middle of your career or even retired it is a great source of information and guidance.

Use of Force Investigations: A Manual for Law Enforcement by Kevin Davis

This book is for officers at all levels. If you are a patrol officer, it will provide you with critical information about how to articulate and document a use of force. If you are a use of force trainer, it will provide you with additional tools you can use. If you are a supervisor, it will give you insights into how to better understand and investigate use of force situations. If you are an administrator overseeing training or decision-making on use of force incidents, this book is mandatory reading in order for you to better understand all the components – legal, physiological and psychological – that go into making an informed decision.

Duane Wolfe is an instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical and Community College and a former Minnesota police officer.

Read, read, read...

Letters after or before your name can further your career, but leadership principles that impact the lives of your subordinates and students are found in great books. If you want to be a great leader, read great books. Read with an attitude, asking, "How can I use this information to improve myself and better my officers?"

Here are a few recommendations:

  • About Face - Colonel David Hackworth
  • Integrity - Dr. Henry Cloud
  • The Power of Moments - Chip Heath
  • Call Sign Chaos - General Jim Mattis
  • Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement - Kevin Gilmartin
  • The Gift of Fear - Gavin De Becker
  • The Dichotomy of Leadership - Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Sergeant Christopher Littrell has been a law enforcement officer in Washington State for 14 years and previously served in the United States Air Force.

Reread tactical training books such as “Officer Down Code Three,” “Street Survival II,” or The Tactical Edge. There are many books out there, and reading them, you might discover a safety tip or survival idea you might have missed before.

Marty Katz is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement certified instructor and retired sergeant.

3. PRACTICE AND REFINE YOUR TEACHING SKILLS

As a trainer, it is imperative to use this unique circumstance as an opportunity for growth through daily progress. Now is the time to review your lesson plans for clarity and improvement. Record your presentations and then play them back and analyze yourself with a critical eye. On a basic level, find ways to teach your family some of the skills you’ve developed over the years. Not only will this be of great value to them, but it will help keep your skills sharp. In addition to enhancing your presentation and delivery skills during this period, now is an ideal time to work on your own skill development. Trainers sometimes get so deeply involved in teaching that they sacrifice some of their own training and skill development time. Use modern technology to connect with your students. Digital videos, written training tips and advice, and webinars are more valuable than ever before. Check in on others, hone and develop your skills, and when this is over, come back better than you were before. Train hard and be safe!

Tyson Kilbey is a lieutenant, firearms instructor and law enforcement trainer.

  • Do not be romantic about how training used to be and sit idly by as the world changes.
  • Use technology to increase the range of your target student.
  • Teleconferencing calls, emails and text messages are a great way to connect with former students and customers to let them know you are still out there. 
  • Do not wait for things to be “like they used to be.” We must embrace the new reality if we want to stay relevant.  

Jerrod Hardy is a former SWAT team member, field training officer, school resource officer, lead defensive tactics instructor and training academy coordinator. He currently works as a law enforcement trainer.

4. STUDY UP FOR YOUR NEXT PROMOTION

To get ready for that next promotion, ask for the study materials and start reading. Many colleges offer online criminal justice classes, and some are extending discounts during the lockdown. Police1 emails contain several education offers. And check out the Khan Academy for some free education for you and your family.

Ron LaPedis is a firearms trainer and business continuity and security expert.

5. DON’T GIVE UP YOUR WORKOUTS

Prioritize fitness with daily workouts of running, home workouts, and strength and conditioning through bodyweight exercises like planks, push-ups, sit-ups, and air squats. Incrementally improve your diet so that any unhealthy eating habits can be improved.

Tyson Kilbey is a lieutenant, firearms instructor and law enforcement trainer.

How are you maintaining your skills and training while at home during COVID-19? Share in the comments below.

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