Saturday, November 3, 2012

Train with a Purpose

Remember the scene in the Karate Kid (the original one, not the new one with the little kid), where Daniel-San gets all fired up at Mr. Miyagi because he wanted to learn karate, but Mr. Miyagi kept having him do chores around the house instead? Daniel-San would eventually learn that the chores had been teaching him all the techniques he needed to have a good foundation of karate. Imagine how much better he could've been if he trusted Mr. Miyagi instead of complaining like a little baby the whole time. If he had given 100% of his effort to doing the fence painting and car waxing techniques perfect the entire time, because he trusted Mr. Miyagi, imagine how much more disciplined and expert he could've been with his techniques. Maybe he would have won the last fight without breaking his stupid leg!

In the police academy, you will find yourself in Daniel-San's shoes often. Your RTO's have an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to pass on to you. The amount of training that they pass down to you really depends on how quickly you grasp what you've already been taught. Your attitude toward your training is huge in determining how quickly you progress in your training.

I gave every academy class I had the assignment to learn their department policies for use of force and firearms. It was required of them to have a good working knowledge of the policies and memorize some of the most important parts. One of the classes really seemed to be putting up a fight with this assignment and failed the written test on the subject multiple times. I was going blue in the face expressing the importance of learning these policies, but wasn't getting a change in performance from the recruits. One day, a former recruit who was on training stopped by and we allowed the class some face time with him to ask academy related questions. After they talked for a while, that former recruit came back to talk to me and says, "One of the recruits asked me if they really needed to memorize their use of force policy." The former recruit told the new group of recruits how often his training officers had been quizzing him on his policies and the tests he had to take where he had to handwrite the policies. He expressed to them how glad he was that he had been made to know those policies so well in the academy. The scores on the next policy test were much higher and the entire class had passed within the next week.

What was the difference? Attitude toward the training. A lot of past officers and deputies do a great disservice to recruits entering the academy today. They give advice like, "Just fly under the radar," or "It's just a game you need to get through." The problem with this advice is that the academy is a different animal than when they went through, and the more veteran the officer, the farther they are from the realities of today's academy. In many cases, it WAS a game for those old timers and the measure of success was how well you were able to get through an academy without drawing attention to yourself. The RTO's don't give assignments "just to screw with" the recruits anymore. They take pride in producing quality recruits and it makes it that much more difficult when the recruits do the minimum or don't buy into the training program. In the case of the recruits and the policies, the recruits didn't place purpose or importance on learning their policies. They didn't understand the importance of learning them even with their RTO's telling them over and over again. Once they saw exactly how it would benefit them after hearing a recent recruit tell them, all of the sudden they could learn it with ease.

Successful recruits don't resist and push back when they are given assignments by their RTO's, and the most successful recruits go beyond that and are able to see the purposes behind the training assignments. The difference is attitude. You don't have control over what assignments you are given. You don't have control over the consequences as a result of your performance in the academy. You do have control over your attitude toward the training.

The citizens of the jurisdiction where you might someday work are counting on you becoming the best peace officer you can be. Your partners are counting on you being the best partner you can become to protect their lives and share in the work load. Your family and loved ones are counting on you training hard so you can increase the chances of you coming home to them after every shift. Your family is also counting on you doing your best so you can keep your job and support them. People wash out of FTO all the time, and none of them thought it would happen to them.

On the other hand, the burglar is counting on you slacking off during your crimes in progress class. The suspect who wants to kill you is counting on you not working on your defensive tactics outside of your academy class. The drug dealer is counting on you not paying attention in search and seizure so you can't get into his pockets.

Know that there is a purpose to everything you are being assigned in the academy. I'm not saying there might not be an RTO out there who is abusing his or her position and is having their class do things with no training value, but that is a rare situation and they probably won't be in that position very long. The RTO's don't always have time to stop and explain the purpose behind every single thing they have you do. And if a recruit has to be compelled in everything they do or they require everything be explained to them before doing it, they do not belong in this profession.

At our academy, the recruits are required to carry around a water bottle in their support hand everywhere they go. They are required to keep it filled with water and to drink that water. If they are seen holding it in their strong hand, there are consequences. They know they aren't supposed to carry stuff in their strong hand, but the water bottle exercise seems like a nuisance to many of them. They don't realize that as they avoid discipline every day by keeping their strong hand free, they are building muscle memory and becoming disciplined. Eventually they feel uncomfortable with anything in their strong hand without giving it a conscious thought. So while law enforcement officers know that it isn't the end of the world to hold something in your strong hand, it is important that we be conscious of the fact that our strong (gun) hand is occupied so we can unoccupy it or have a plan in case we need to use it quickly. Later in the academy, the recruits are keeping their strong hands free without giving it a thought. They practiced it until they forgot about it.

Train with a purpose! Trust your academy staff and have a good attitude toward the training. Remember who is depending on you to do well and who is depending on you to just get by. Decide now which group you are loyal to and work accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. My husband is five weeks into his first Police Academy, and when I showed him your posts, he immediately relaxed a bit. I think he thought he was the only recruit to have ever felt the way he felt! So I wanted to encourage you to keep writing because it's not going unnoticed.