A Law Enforcement Perspective ~ Training & Continuing Education

For this post, I’m sharing the words of Officer Greg Ellifritz (with his permission): Tactical Training Officer for Upper Arlington Police Department (OH) and owner of Active Response Training.

Officer Ellifritz recently penned a piece on his Facebook account about the importance of continuing education (from a Law Enforcement perspective) and ongoing, non-stop training ~ over and above what your employer provides (if any) ~ and that it may need to be done at your own expense.  He touches on some other points relevant to LE, but the major take-home is the importance of training and continuing education.

As many of my followers know, I am passionate about my continuing education and spend hundreds of hours a year on it (I normally don’t count the hours spent taking independent / home study courses and other bits and bobbles of lectures, symposiums, Dialogues, etc.).

Currently, I’m writing this post in my dorm room at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland where, this morning, I begin a 2-week long, 80-hour course as part of the Emergency Management Professional Program Basic Academy, which will put me up to 299.5-hours of training on the year ~ and 31 December is still a long ways away.

I CANNOT express my feelings on this strongly enough: #NeverStopLearning !

Officer Ellifritz’s original post can be found HERE and immediately below the break following this paragraph – please give him a “Like” and let him know if you found it valuable.  (To reiterate: I am posting this here with his permission and appreciation of the feedback.)

A long rant full of advice for my cop friends….

OK, after seeing Facebook and the media going crazy all day about the two most recent police-involved shootings, I have a little bit of advice for my police friends. For what it’s worth, I’ve been a cop for 21 years and a police trainer since 1997. I have more than 75 instructor certifications in police subject areas and 4,000 hours of documented training, mostly in police use of force subjects. I spent 13 years of my career doing nothing but teaching use of force to cops as a full time job. I might know a little more than the talking head you are seeing on TV.

My cop readers need to focus on two issues:

1) Ensuring the validity of the initial transaction- The first thing that comes up in any police shooting investigation or any lawsuit filed against the cops is “Why did the cops contact the person they shot.” If the reason for the contact is bogus, then everything that transpires later is viewed with suspicion.

The media works this angle to the cop’s detriment. They blame the shooting on the reason for the stop, not what the suspect did afterwards. Right now we are hearing every media outlet talk about the man in Minnesota who was shot “for having a broken tail light.” That’s not why he was shot, but it doesn’t matter in the court of public opinion.

Your contact with any citizen in an enforcement capacity needs to be rock-solid. Not only rock-solid in a legal sense, but rock-solid in the court of public opinion.

Look at the Minnesota shooting. The reason for contact (broken tail light) is valid legally, but what does the public think about cops pulling people over for bullshit like that? They don’t like it. Following the logic, they will like it even less when someone gets shot as a result of a bullshit stop.

I know what the cop was doing, he was likely hunting for criminals with warrants. I see it pretty regularly. Cops pull over crappy cars for equipment violations, hunting for an arrest. Poor people who can’t afford to fix busted tail lights often can’t afford to pay their tickets, their child support, or their court fees. Their driver’s licenses are often suspended and they regularly have warrants. Sometimes their passengers are in the same situation.

So, aggressive cop looking to arrest “bad guys” pulls over a beater car and runs everyone inside for warrants. About 1/4 of the time he gets lucky and gets an arrest. Every once in awhile, bad shit happens and the cop ends up in the national media spotlight.

STOP HASSLING PEOPLE! The fact that some dude has a suspended license or hasn’t paid a speeding ticket is not negatively affecting the safety of the community you patrol. I know you want to do good things and make lots of arrests, but every stop you make has the potential to go REALLY bad. Don’t stop people for bogus violations. Don’t hunt minor scofflaws. The public doesn’t respect you for doing so and occasionally you will get thrown under the bus when you screw something up, or your stop ends up in a shooting that you didn’t intend.

Put yourself in the position of the Minnesota officer. Would you have made that traffic stop if you had known it would turn out like it did? My guess is the answer is “no”. Think about that the next time you feel like making a stop for a cracked windshield or some other inconsequential violation.

2) You need more and better training. I don’t know a single department in the country that gives its officers all the training they need. Initial recruit training in most states is abysmal. In Ohio, barbers get three times more training than cops get before being licensed. In-service training is even worse. I know some departments that provide NO in service training other than watching a couple videos a year.

If you are scared of legally armed citizens with CCW permits and you freak out because someone has a gun, you simply aren’t confident in your own abilities. That’s a huge problem. When you aren’t skilled and confident, you get scared and you over react. Freaked out cops don’t make good decisions. When cops don’t make good decisions, they end up on the national news.

Your department won’t give you the training you need. You have two options. You can seek out the training on your own or you can hope you never get into a bad spot where your lack of skills gets you killed or put in jail.

There has never been a greater variety of top notch weapons and martial arts training available for cops and private citizens. You need to start taking classes. You will be amazed at what you don’t know. I was already a state-certified police firearms instructor before I took my first professional shooting class. I learned more in that first day of professional gun training than I did in the two-week police “instructor” school.

If you haven’t done any training outside the academy or your agency’s in-service classes, quite honestly your skills are likely to be subpar. You don’t know what you are doing. You are prone to being killed or doing something stupid that will get you fired or jailed.

Even though I’ve been teaching gun skills professionally for almost my entire career, I still take other folks’ training to keep my skills sharp. This year, I will take two weekend-long professional shooting classes and at least one three-day seminar that focuses on other issues like knife fighting, legal updates, empty hand skills and the like. And I pay for those classes (and travel costs and ammo) out of my own pocket. I shoot my guns at least weekly and pay for 5,000-10,000 rounds of practice ammo out of my own pocket every year. If you aren’t doing something similar, you are not ready to fight real bad guys on the street. And you know what? Dealing with a person who has a gun doesn’t freak me out. I know I’m better than he is.

The same is true with police defensive tactics training. If your only training is from the academy, you don’t know how to fight. You owe it to yourself to get at least a year or two of quality training (at least 2x a week) at an outside martial arts studio that focuses on a realistic fighting art. And it better be a fighting art where you regularly train against other people who are trying to punch, kick, or choke you. Doing fancy katas in your dojo’s mirror isn’t adequate. Look at wrestling, Judo, Jujitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, or Krav Maga.

It doesn’t have to be a lifetime passion. You just need to do the work necessary to beat most criminals. You’ll be amazed at how differently you look at situations on the street when you know how to fight. Your confidence will be a game changer and the criminals won’t even try you.

OR, of course, you can ignore my advice, roll the dice and hope nothing bad happens. I wish you luck if you choose that route. It hasn’t worked out so well for some other folks lately.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you for your time. If you are a cop, I hope it prompts some positive change.

As always, the views I express here are the rambling thoughts of a single curmudgeonly police trainer. They do not reflect the views of my fellow officers, supervisors, or agency.


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