The responsibilities and duties of police officers are so varied that there may not always seem to be enough time to train every relevant skill. As a leader within your department, it's up to you to resolve this tricky situation and ensure the members of the force are adequately prepared for their dangerous and critical roles.
One essential skill is vehicle handling. Officers spend so much time in cars and other vehicles that being safe behind the wheel, even when the situation turns intense, can save lives. Finding time to refresh and improve officers' driving skills is an essential consideration for police chiefs.
A safety-first culture
When it comes to protecting the community, police officers must first safeguard their own lives. Police Chief contributor Kirk McLean of the Prince George's County, Maryland, police department recently made this point, explaining that departments can't afford to let their vehicle training efforts lapse. McLean described a program his own department is trying out which is designed to employ incentives and peer reinforcement to keep every employee safe.
The Prince George's County Police Department uses state-mandated training sessions combined with additional safe driving instruction to give officers all the knowledge they need to make the right decisions on the road. The training is for both sworn members of the force and civilian employees, with everyone getting a chance to give feedback.
Beyond the training, incentives and meetings, the program also includes everyday reinforcement of its safety message, according to McLean. This includes signage noting how many preventable accidents have occurred, as well as reminders from ranking officers that everyone should be maintaining excellent driving safety.
Technology reinforces the message
While vehicle handling has been an important part of police work for as long as officers have driven, recent years have brought tech upgrades to help departments stay on track. Indiana news station Fox 59 recently highlighted efforts by the Johnson County Sheriff's Department to train officers via computer simulator. This allows pupils to face intense and realistic driving situations without the danger or wear and tear that come with training in an actual vehicle.
The department has saved money by opting for the simulator instead of using a physical obstacle course, putting in the state's required hours and learning how to deal with situations such as dangerous weather and unaware civilian drivers. The county's other public safety agencies are also trying the simulator, showing that virtual programs are a possible point of cooperation across department lines as well as a way to save municipal funds.
Unconventional and essential methods
Of course, driving isn't the only vital skill related to vehicle use in law enforcement. Arkansas news station KARZ recently spotlighted vehicle ambush training, which is designed to help police officers survive encounters with armed suspects. Here the object is to use the car as a barrier between themselves and danger.
The news source noted that detective Angela Everett may have survived a recent encounter during an attempted robbery because of her awareness training. If officers know how to cope with the visibility and space limitations of being in a vehicle, they'll be better equipped to make it through these tense situations.
Setting the schedule
Getting every state-required and agency vehicle aptitude training into officers' schedules can be a challenge. Thankfully, with the right workforce automation software, agencies can ensure that every course is accounted for and that no shift becomes understaffed due to officers attending training. What's more, training results can be logged and automatically sent to state and local authorities. Using this type of technology, agencyies are better able to implement the necessities of public safety training and avoid the time consuming complexities.