Training and Practice:  Why Bother?

by Sgt. Michael Wear, PCI #516/EMSCI #059
Metropolitan Police
Washington DC

Why is it important to be proficient in firearms, report writing, defensive tactics, case law, scene control, vehicle skills, or bike riding?  Apparently, the reason is not truly clear to all concerned (the public safety personnel, the client and the department); if it were, continuous/in-service training or re-qualification would not be resisted, and everyone would always show up for training.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I take my own time to read current case law? Or do I just wait for roll call training?
  • Do I dry fire, ever? Or do I just wait for re-qualification?
  • Do I practice line of travel in a turn on my way to and from work every day? Or do I think that I am a great driver who doesn’t need any practice?
  • Do I ride off-road while wearing my ballistic vest or with panniers?  Or do I just ride “civilian-style” in the latest cool stuff?

You won’t be graded on your answers, but hopefully these questions made you think a minute.  “Re-certification”, “re-qualification” and “in-service training” all have different meanings and goals.  We in public safety are familiar with the terms, but more than likely we each have our own interpretation of the meaning of each. 

They can be defined as follows:

Re-certification: The requirement that a previously certified person complete the same or an updated certification process in order demonstrate that he or she continues to meet set standards, and to maintain current certification. 

Re-qualification: The requirement that a person who previously met certain qualifications demonstrates that he or she still possesses the skills and/or qualities required to perform the job.  Inability to do so typically results in additional training and practice or removal from the job.

In-Service:  Job-related training provided by an employer to a current employee, during paid working hours. Such training is designed to keep the employee’s skills and knowledge sharp and current.  Employers and standard-setting bodies often mandate a certain number of in-service hours; failure to complete those hours may result in suspension or dismissal.  This type of training usually builds on existing skills and knowledge. 

These are not absolute definitions, but they should gain the attention of public safety members and, in the context of bikes, highlight a common thread – the perishable nature of bike-riding skills.  Departments are quick to lock down standards of training in areas like firearms, starting an IV line, or drawing blood, but many take riding a bike less seriously.

To establish a realistic training requirement, ask yourself a few more questions.

  • What do we, as public safety cyclists, need?
  • What does our department need?
  • What do we need, and what are we likely to be given, in on-duty time to conduct the training?

So, what type of additional training should you and your department conduct?  The answer lies in the above questions, at least when it comes to on-duty training.  If you answered “yes” to the first of each pair of questions in the first set, you already understand the importance of training, even if you have to do it on your own.  Off-duty training is your personal decision and a way to set your own priorities. 

But if you are among those who rely on your department to provide the training and the skills necessary to do the jobs properly and to standard, you’d better hope that the person out there setting the standard knows what you need.  Some skills require a pass or fail action and others the ability to explore and develop the skill.  Establishing an improper criteria may ultimately hasten the demise of your bike program, while the opposite might spell success.  When developing your training, keep your goals in mind.

If you have read this far, you have the desire to seek out new and helpful information and to discover how to satisfy your training needs and those of your department.  There are many ways to do it; I don’t know who said, “it is a way, not the way,” but I believe this is the greatest statement from a teacher to his or her students.

(c) 2004 IPMBA.  This article appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of IPMBA News

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