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Command presence in training: The indispensable role of senior officers at the police academy

Is there a task more vital than our most experienced officers, regardless of rank, mingling with our recruits to share decades of knowledge and lessons learned?


The idea of segregating our most seasoned officers, rich in practical experience and wisdom, from recruits merely due to their rank is perplexing.

Photo/Kory Flowers

By Captain Kory Flowers

We just completed another successful 80 hours of handgun training with our police academy cadets, both in the classroom and at the range. The two-week training regimen included numerous qualification rounds, malfunction drills, low-light shooting, tactical movement training and stress inoculation techniques.

This time, we transformed 27 young, impressionable and energetic individuals from, at best, novice shooters into proficient handlers of their firearms due to the tireless dedication of our expert instructor cadre. I had the opportunity to work closely with several recruits, patiently helping them to develop the particularities of handgun work that are necessary to be a competent street cop. In so doing we built relationships, forged memories, and shared challenges and successes.

While our department is a large one, with over 600 sworn officers, our firearms instructors are scattered all over the agency, and serve in various roles including detectives, crash reconstructionists, patrol sergeants, SWAT operators and even a few command staff officers like myself. During the time-intensive academy training periods, we take an all-hands-on-deck approach as we volunteer our time and alter our schedules to help build our future officers.

Command staff as pillars of training

I currently command a patrol division of eight squads made up of 75 officers, manage the division’s finances, oversee correction actions for our officers, provide coaching and leadership to our sergeants, deploy our proactive resources based on the needs of the district, and supervise our vehicle fleet. I attend community meetings some evenings, and sometimes work evening hours to support my officers. My phone rings frequently in the evenings and over weekends due to various challenges occurring in the district. My professional responsibilities and obligations are significant. Yet I still train at every police academy. I always have and always will, yet not everyone shares my perspective.

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The author is pictured with recruits at the police academy.

Photo/Kory Flowers

Occasionally, within various circles, I have heard of command-level officers criticizing other command staff officers who spend some of their valuable time training new recruits, as if that work is somehow beneath them. For reasons that I do not understand, these leaders convey the misguided viewpoint that once a police trainer achieves a certain rank, they should no longer invest in our future officers. Despite extensive contemplation, I have yet to identify a valid, logical reason why command officers should abstain from participating in academy-level training.

Is there a task more vital than our most experienced officers, regardless of rank, mingling with our newest recruits to share decades of knowledge and lessons learned? How else can novice cadets, eager for insights, acquire the best practical policing knowledge if not from those seasoned in the field? The idea of segregating our most seasoned officers, rich in practical experience and wisdom, from recruits merely due to their rank is perplexing. I steadfastly maintain that such a mindset is illogical. It seems counterproductive to withhold such invaluable resources from those just beginning their journey in law enforcement.

The tactical advantage of experienced instruction

Training young recruits not only benefits them but also enhances my capabilities as an officer, a phenomenon true for anyone teaching their expertise.

Instructing at the academy, where I must articulate and demonstrate tactical handgun techniques, serves a dual purpose. It educates the recruits while simultaneously refining my skills, ensuring I remain adept and pertinent in my field. Furthermore, demonstrating proper techniques earns me leadership capital and credibility among the recruits.

This experience allows me to transcend the boundaries of rank, positioning me as a leader who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk.

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Captain Anthony Price is pictured training with recruits.

Photo/Kory Flowers

Building trust and credibility

The relationships formed during training are equally crucial. It’s common to see cadets drawn to a SWAT officer firearms instructor, who patiently imparts his knowledge and assists them in developing proper handgun techniques. These cadets eagerly absorb this guidance, many aspiring to mirror their instructor’s proficiency. Similarly, others seek mentorship from our patrol sergeant firearms instructors, inspired by the prospect of leading a squad themselves one day.

Moreover, after completing their academy and field training phases, many cadets express a desire to join my team in our district, a preference directly attributable to the time I spent with them on the range, diligently working to refine their skills into those of exemplary officers. They recognize me, understand my dedication to their success, and trust me, thanks to the personal investment of my time and effort.

In contrast, other commanders might remain mere names to them, lacking the same personal connection.

Challenging traditions

Police work is inherently gritty, demanding both physically and mentally. It’s characterized by sweat, toughness and the minutiae of everyday challenges. We dedicate ourselves to serving our community, responding to emergencies, navigating chaos and managing hazardous situations. Through these experiences, we accumulate a wealth of practical knowledge essential for effective policing. The critical conduit for passing this wisdom to the next generation is through training.

As commanders, we must acknowledge that among the many demands on our time and energy, few tasks are as vital, fulfilling, and essential as training the future cadre of officers.

Policing is fundamentally a blue-collar profession, grounded in the realities of frontline service. Holding a position of command and wearing a white uniform and tie should not detach us from this truth.

About the author

Kory Flowers is a 24-year veteran Captain with the Greensboro Police Department. Captain Flowers trains law enforcement officers nationwide on various subversive criminal groups, leadership, tactical communication, and has written articles and conducted interviews and podcasts for publications including Police Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and National Public Radio. He is a frequent guest on the Street Cop Podcast, and guest television host on On Patrol Live.