Training: The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly

Yes, your agency should train you well; but if they don't ...

By Charles E. Humes Jr.   |   Sep 9, 2016

[Publisher’s Note: Congrats to our good friend Sgt. Charles E. Humes Jr. (ret.), who was recently awarded the Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office! This was originally published in July 2010 by and is reprinted here by permission of the author.]

So how’s your training?

When you learn that you’ve been assigned to attend departmental training, do you look forward to the experience? Or do you loathe the thought of “having to go”? Do you define the word training as a fun and entertaining learning experience? Or is it usually monotonous, time wasting, and/or belittling?

If training is a pleasure, you should feel blessed. Departments that have great training—there’s a lot of them out there—usually have higher moral, fewer complaints, and a reputation of professionalism. But if you answered negatively, then you’re probably very frustrated and likely in a state of conscious incompetence regarding how much fun and entertainment quality training can be.

You’re also not alone.

In my travels across the country, both while attending seminars and teaching them, I’ve talked with officers who are so dissatisfied with the departmental “training” they receive that they absolutely hate the word. My firearms mentor, Dave Spaulding, explained one potential factor that can create situations like this: “A number of folks take jobs in training only because they want a days with weekends/holidays off schedule, and they could care less about training! Officers (in a quest for the schedule) sometimes take training jobs ‘just for a change in pace,’ and some of these couldn’t teach a monkey to eat a banana.”

Training on the Job
Even great trainers often have a thankless job dealing with immature in-service students. You’ll always find a few officers in any department who dislike training since they already know everything anyway.

But it’s not a normal situation when the vast majority of officers at a given department have a venomous, negative perspective on training. This should be a red flag for administrators to seriously think about completely flushing out their training headquarters, then rebuilding their training paradigm from the ground up.

In some cases—and I pray this number is minuscule—administrators have no interest in providing their officers with quality training. Another trainer once told me of a “meeting of the minds” that he was assigned to attend several years back.

This meeting was also attended by a large number of high-ranking police officials from area agencies. When training came up on the agenda, one of the chiefs in attendance had the basic belief and attitude that training was pretty much unnecessary, and he didn’t want to provide it anyways. He also had no problem in telling the group that it was cheaper for him to bury an officer than to fight a lawsuit if an officer won a deadly confrontation.

Could such an attitude be for real? Due to the story’s ironclad source, I have not even the slightest suspicion that this did not occur. While I believe that most police administrators would find this logic as repulsive as you do, be aware that this type of mindset can and does exist.

Conscious Incompetence
Some officers truly are in a state of conscious incompetence when it comes to quality training. You’ve heard others talk about it and read articles about it. Still, if you’ve never been personally exposed to great training, it remains as a bit of a mystery. You would have to live under a rock to have not heard of the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar that travels the country. Many officers, me included, pick up the expenses to attend this seminar whenever they can. After I first attended in 1987, I knew that it was arguably the best investment of time and money I’d ever made at the time.

Yet I’ve seen officers adopt the attitude that: “If the department won’t pay for it, I’m not going.” This is stated as if this stubbornness will affect the department or administration somehow, but not the individual officer saying it. It doesn’t work that way. The night that you find yourself fighting for your life in a dark warehouse on a B-&-E alarm, your department administration will be at home, in bed. If you’re killed or crippled, who’s going to take care of your family?

The training you attend is for the benefit of YOU. It’s so you can continue to enjoy life, provide for your family, and live long enough to become a real burden to your state’s pension system.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “there’s got to be a better way,” there probably is. But you’re going to have to accept the responsibility for your personal safety and find the great training that’s available.

Where do you start? The previously mentioned Calibre Press Street Survival seminar is a must-attend. Are you unhappy with your proficiency level in firearms skills? There are traveling, live-fire firearms instructors that do an incredible job. I’ve personally attended Dave Spaulding’s Handgun Combatives course and learned more in those three days than I did in the previous two decades of carrying a gun for a living. While I haven’t attended them, John Farnam and Massad Ayoob’s classes have flawless reputations.

The list of training options goes on and on. If there’s a skill, you can find quality training for it—if you dig deep enough. There may even be lesser known, but equally talented, trainers in your own area. Don’t allow yourself to go through your career with an I-hate-training attitude. That’s not healthy, and it will only hurt you in the long run. Seek out and attend as much quality training as you possibly can: The life it saves may be your own.