I long ago ceased to be amazed at what police officers consider adequate training for the streets.
A recurrent theme among many is that a department should pay for accelerated courses of firearms and tactics instruction, and this should naturally be conducted on duty. The theory is, if the department does not see fit to provide such training well … to heck with it. The issue becomes dead, the skills remain at base level and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get by.
On the street, that means it will be only your existing skills and perhaps (if you’re fortunate enough) a partner’s skills … and little else. That’s it. Back-up is often too little, too late. Whatever abilities you bring to the table will be the determinate factor in whether you prevail or not, whether you make the right decisions or not, and whether you go home in one piece or not. This is the stark reality.
Most departments, whether due to budgetary constraints, manpower or simple lack of initiative, will not go beyond what is called for by mandated POST directives.
LAPD used to require officers to qualify once a month. Shotgun qualification was twice a year. Every six months, you had to take a physical fitness test to remain field certified. This all went away some time ago. Jack Webb is rolling over in his grave.
Other departments have experienced the same downgrading of required skill sets. This brings me to the following point. If you wish to prevail, if you wish to make the correct decisions, and if you don’t want to “cank” your career, you may have to make a personal investment in acquiring the necessary skills to do so.
Other professions require a personal investment of funds and time—and these are professions that do not require you to put your life on the line every day. Police officers will expend funds on many items that have nothing to do with their survival. I have no problem with this, as I’ve done it myself (surfboards, golf clubs, and Hendricks Gin), but I have sacrificed when I needed to, and that has made all the difference. It was well worth it.
I don’t bother arguing with officers anymore. If you want the training, it’s available. If you don’t—good luck.
Not too long ago, a group of officers watched the training we were conducting at ITTS. “That’s really cool. How can we get this training?” When I explained the rather simple process, the young officer’s reply was equally predictable. “You mean we have to pay? With our own money and on our own time? Screw that!”
This is the very kid I will be defending down the road at a cost that far exceeds that of training. He will be fighting for his job, his pension, his financial security, and probably his mental health. It’s his decision, not mine, and I sincerely hope the bad guys cut him some slack out there.
When I came onto the LAPD, it was not just a job—it was a career. You competed against several thousand for less than 100 openings a year. Quite a few of my classmates came onto SWAT along with me. (I think my Academy class set a record, as there were five of us.) We had all gone the extra distance to make it there. You simply did what you had to do.
Not long ago, an officer approached me. “I can’t hit the target at 15 yards consistently.”
“Okay. What do you want to do about it?”
“Can you work with me?”
“Sure. Come to a class.”
The response: “I’m not about to pay for it, and the department won’t pay for it either.”
I also had a firearms instructor approach me with the same problem. These days, I simply smile and stare and wait. I won’t see this kid again and I know that. I may read about him, I may hear about him, but he’ll be a “no show.”
There are a lot of these types out there. Many of you know them. Many of you work with them. Perhaps it’s the human condition. We seem to close the barn door well after the horses have vacated the premises, which isn’t so serious in some instances … but gunfights are rather unforgiving.
A departmental “Combat Qualification” means little in the grand scheme of things. It’s a prescribed, rehearsed and arbitrarily set formula for something that is totally unpredictable.
Bad guys generally do not examine shooting medals prior to closing the store down on you. They aren’t at all impressed with anything the department claims you are blessed with. You may be—but they aren’t. Whatever advanced abilities you bring to the table will probably have been developed on your own time and at your expense. Some of the very professional individuals out there can relate to this.
True professionalism means that you take your profession seriously and attain the highest standards possible. Weapons are not mere ornamentation. Having your badge inscribed on the slide and magazines means nothing if you can’t effectively employ them. These are tools that need to be worked at professional levels. Tactics fall along the same lines.
The streets are unforgiving. The bad guys are unforgiving. The courts are unforgiving. Departments can be unforgiving.
Your skills are all that stand between you and an unforgiving world. It’s up to you from here on out.