IPMBA News

Getting Back to Basics: In-Service Training

by Mike Goetz, PCI #063T/EMSCI #003
Seattle Police Department

In-service training for bicycles should be as common as other in-service training, like firearms training, Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, legal updates, and defensive tactics.  Yet many public safety bike units have no regularly scheduled training to ensure that riders maintain their skills.
It can be argued that each time you ride on duty, you are practicing the basics of the riding skills you’ve already learned. But is that enough?  Not really. 

Periodic in-service training helps riders maintain the level of competence necessary to ensure a strong and effective bike unit.  It will also help keep lesser-used skills sharp, and help satisfy liability issues.

Why is continuous training important? 

Liability – You are liable for everything you do in the performance of your official duties. Your agency is liable for everything you do within the scope of your duties.  If you are given an assignment for which you are not properly trained, the department is liable. Creating an in-service training program is like taking out an insurance policy for yourself and your department.

Skill Maintenance – There is truth in the saying “use it or lose it.”  Remember, muscle memory requires the same action to be performed three to five thousand times to be automatic. In order to develop the ability to concentrate on the threats and opportunities in the landscape while your body handles the bike nearly unconsciously, you need to practice your learned skills on a daily basis.

Skill Evaluation - Periodic skills evaluations are important in all aspects of public safety training.  A high percentage of injuries to public safety riders result from doing something incorrectly or lacking the necessary skill level to be effective.  If riders’ performance is evaluated on a regular basis, corrections can be made and skills improved before an accident occurs.

Skill Development – Every public safety cyclist can improve his or her skill level.  Everyone should strive to be just a little better; that can only be achieved through continual practice. This can mean improving existing skills or it can mean learning something new.  It can also mean an opportunity to put various skills together or training that allows the rider to experience something in a controlled environment (mock scenes) rather than on duty for the first time.

Designing a training program
To create a periodic in-service regimen, pick a set of basic standards for your riders that reflect their job responsibilities on the bike. Formalize them with a written lesson plan(s) and use them as a benchmark.  You want to ensure that all riders can meet or exceed these standards by developing your riders, not lowering your standards.

Periodic training can be built into each work day or week, or whenever is most appropriate and effective for the unit.  If possible, take advantage of departmental training days to incorporate bike work into the schedule. Contact neighboring agencies to include their riders into your sessions or vice-versa.

Finding topics for your in-service training is no harder than scanning the IPMBA conference manual.  There are at least twenty different in-service training topics discussed in detail. This is also a selling point you can use with your administrators when seeking approval to attend all the national conferences. The training you bring back from a conference is extremely valuable to your in-service efforts.

Don’t overlook community resources.  Often, local cycling groups, bike shops, hospitals and universities, and specialized equipment manufacturers can offer valuable training opportunities in areas such as fitness, nutrition, maintenance and repair.

It is very important to have credible people teaching your in-service training.  IPMBA resources can be found in most areas of the country.  Tap them to help you provide high-quality training.  Use the online IPMBA Instructor search at http://www.ipmba.org to locate instructors; even if you do not need a full-fledged certification course, you can still contact them for training ideas and assistance – that’s why they’re there.

If your department relies on you to facilitate and/or teach the in-service training and you are not a certified IPMBA Instructor, you or another member of your unit should seriously consider becoming one – for reasons of effectiveness, safety, and liability.  The IPMBA Instructor Certification course is the benchmark training that has created the strongest, most skilled cadre of public safety cycling instructors in the world.  Courses are offered 3-5 times per year around the country, including during the annual IPMBA Conference.  

Train hard, train smart, train often…and have fun! 

©2004 IPMBA.  This article first appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of IPMBA News.

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