“But Police and Military are trained to…”

Many people that both support and attack the Military and Law Enforcement Officers take GREAT steps in assuming that they are “trained” for a large number of issues. “Training” in government jobs is one of the most subjective terms I have ever heard. Let’s talk about the MANY many problems with this quote. A long article today with no pictures. Woop woop, hope you like it 😉

Law Enforcement Training:

First off, let me walk you through going from a civilian to getting hired as a local LEO. Disclaimer: Every single police department and LE agency and police academy is different in this country. That being said…

The order of the hiring process is not standardized in this country or even within several states but some of the steps are:

Oral Board Interview: A panel from two to maybe 8-ish people will sit in a room and you will walk in and answer semi-standardized questions for usually less than an hour and that department based on this (and a few of the other steps) will decide if they want to start a 20-30 year relationship with you. Does this raise any alarms with you yet? Imagine if the process for marrying someone was based upon a one-hour one-sided interview… Hmmm…

Background Investigation: Like I say with all military and LEO personnel “They are people too”. Someone who works 9-5(ish) has a stack of paperwork that is mind numbingly boring. They have to get through this paperwork concerning the lives and careers of hopeful candidates who they may have never met and have no vested interest in. Their job is NOT to help highly promising and highly qualified candidates get through selection. Their job is to ensure only a few things: that the candidate is not wanted for murder anywhere, that none of their references say that the candidate is fucking crazy, and that the candidate didn’t lie on his application. There is a little bit more, but that’s basically it. And if they can’t reach your references when they call than your packet goes to the bottom of the pile and they move on. If you have done something in your life that they discover and it is not illegal and maybe not even immoral or if you have made certain mistakes but not others than you may be blindly disqualified. Which also makes me ask “Community Policing”? So your investigator may never see you and may know nothing about you but he’s another level of a “filter” designed NOT to protect and serve the public but to protect and serve the bureaucracy with which he is a part of.

Physical Fitness Test: You are told ahead of time what this test will consist of. (Usually nothing to do with the job). Also, usually not difficult. Still people show up unprepared. There is usually only ONE metric taken from this test, or maybe two. Usually there is a time recorded for your test, and sometimes, if even counted at all above the minimum requirement, your sit ups and push ups may be recorded. This is also a tiny and mostly meaningless piece of info that the bureaucracy will use to determine your position within the group of candidates.

Psychological Evaluation: I have been through a few and I have heard several stories from people all around the country on this one. They can range from a 30 minute enjoyable chat about the weather to an hour long twilight zone where the shrink calls your mother a whore. I can off no advice here except be yourself and relax. I guess this shrink somehow is supposed to, in one hour (sound familiar?) tell your hiring agency that  you are not suicidal or homicidal and that you are worth hiring. So maybe he’s some kind of fucking future seer? This is another filter you must pass through.

Lie Detector: Whether it is hooked up to a toaster machine, or speaking into a microphone for a VSA Voice Stress Analysis test, it’s all the same thing. Fucking useless. In this hour long test (humorous right?) they will try to find a reason to disqualify you. ANOTHER filter you must pass through, and another “useless” filter at that.

Police Academy

Like I said, every academy is different in every state and sometimes they differ for each county and city too. Let me give you an example of the “minimum requirement”.

My certificate at the end of the academy said “770 hours of training completed” blah blah blah. We never fought anybody, we never had a uniform inspection, we did “optional” physical fitness, we never got punished with pushups, it was basically 770 hours of lectures with a very few small interactive bullshit events mixed in. For all intents and purposes let’s say it was 770 hours of PowerPoints.

Agency Training

In the state that I work in almost every department takes you from the police academy and when you show up on your first day of work, or soon there after, you start your “Agency Specific Training”. Kinda makes you wonder what the point of the police academy was huh? Yeah, me too. This training is usually more interactive than the police academy. Now some departments actually do a really bang up job (in a good way) with this training, but they are few and far between, and even if they do a great job the problem is that you only do this once.

In Agency Specifics I can tell you a “minimum requirement” story or two that will support the fact that “But police are trained to…” doesn’t have any weight. There is a very high ranking instructor at my LE agency that works in the training division. He was hired at a high rank for that specific job. After a long 20+ year career in Law Enforcement in another state he came here to teach. Picture an old grey haired tall sun worn smoking chimney. That’s him. A good ol’ boy.

It’s time to brief the recruit class for “Defensive Tactics” now. Our same Good Ol’ Boy walks in and says “I’ve never met any of you all but I can tell you this. None of you knows how to fight worth a shit.” Well, ummmmm, while you may be right, you also may be wrong. And I for one have been fighting for over a decade and saying stupid shit (assuming….right?) like that kind of tips your hand at your intelligence level, or AT LEAST your arrogance level. Guess what our defensive tactics training consisted of… Take a pause and guess how we were taught to fight. Got an idea?

-Practice swinging a fake blue baton at a bag at ankle height because our policy only allows calf strikes to the lower leg with our expandable baton.

-Completely slow speed consensual weapon retention. “Grab the gun from your partner, no this way, no not that way. Ok, now do the technique”. We did not learn how to ACTUALLY disarm a weapon from someone. Wha- what… what??? Wouldn’t that maybe be something to learn? “This is how you take a weapon from someone. Good. NOW this is how you prevent it.” Nnnnnnnnop! We just went “Grab his gun, no, with the other hand. Ok, now prevent the person from taking it.”.   ALSO NO-FUCKING-BODY brought up the fact that “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t get into that close of a range to a suspect where they could GRAB OUR FUCKING GUN!!!” There are techniques to prevent that, but that thought wasn’t even breathed upon.

-We did lots of pushups and situps. Well. Lots is also a subjective term.

-We moved at the rate of the slowest student. Sounds very government-like doesn’t it? 🙂

There’s more, but this is not a book. It’s a long article but let’s hit another fun block. In one block of training titled “Pursuit Policy” guess what we did not do. Take a few seconds and think about what might occur if you were new as a police officer and you were to be trained for pursuits, or at least the policy concerning pursuits. What might take place, go ahead and guess to your self. ….

Well we never left the classroom and got behind the wheel of a car. We never talked about tactics of high speed driving. We didn’t even watch videos of officers in our department performing pursuits, which are recorded by our helicopter and available for training. We didn’t even watch YOUTUBE videos of pursuits. So for today’s training our Good Ol’ Boy who was soaking up his post retirement paycheck tells us stories of his glory days of him being a “bad ass” and pursuing people for 100+ miles for running a stop sign. He tells us about people crashing and him getting out on foot to go serve justice and handcuff the bad guys. We are approaching the end of our 4 hour block of “Pursuit Policy” training which included only war stories from another jurisdiction that has different policies than we do, and Good Ol’ Boy says

Well, we can’t do any of that here. And we don’t have time to get into our pursuit policy. I mean ::holds up paper copy of our pursuit policy:: …I mean I haaaave the policy right here but we just don’t have the time to get into it. Ok, well, class dismissed“. -high ranking LEO.

…there is now a check in the box that me and my coworkers have been “trained” on our pursuit policy.

Annual Training

At my Law Enforcement agency we have to attend training once a year, usually for about a week, or 4-5 days of training. When they play your training week they do not evaluate you before hand and help you improve you deficiencies. The have either a State mandated list of what you SHALL be trained on, or a departmental list of what your Sheriff or Chief or City Council requires of your officers. My agency is also “Accredited”. I have asked MANY people in my admin staff and my command what exactly that means. A large majority of the answers were while looking at me like I had a dick growing out of my head “It means that our accreditation is current! Duh!” Wait. WHAT? That’s what it means? Well, thank fucking God for that huh? A very few slightly more intelligent people in my agency told me something similar to “…it has to do with funding and lawsuits and if we operate based on ‘best practices’ than we are better protected in court and things like that”. Ok. NOW we’re on to something. At least it’s a real answer. But, we now base our street survival yearly updated training on things like keeping up our accreditation. This will sound familiar to you military folks, but the title of the training “survival” has nothing to do with the content of the course i.e. PowerPoints.

 Military

Let’s skip right over boot camp. You maybe start to become slightly familiar with a rifle, and you do a lot of running, marching, and pushups. Moving on.

MOS training (Job School)

Funny thing about military M.O.S.’s. They can train you to do tank driving and then station you somewhere and put you in charge of maintenance for on base housing, changing lightbulbs. OR vice versa. Yes. Believe it or not.

I learned a VERY specific job skill after boot camp and then spent the next 5 years of active duty doing absolutely nothing related to my job. I did get RE-trained for my new job after my MOS training, which also…. had gaping holes. Another example of this training issue?

I was stationed at a unit involved with Counter-Drug operations. I went on two separate deployments and had already put my bare hands on a few dozen metric tons of cocaine (ask me why the military is involved in this, I thought I had an idea, but now…no clue). After my missions and my drug busts I was sent home early from my second deployment to ……… toooo…… ATTEND FUCKING BASIC COUNTER DRUG SCHOOL!!! …AFTER my first two deployments. Instructor: “Hey, I know you’ve already been on deployments and had drug busts, but you’ll have to attend the 3-week course and play the head-games. I know…I know… it doesn’t make sense, but we’ve got to document that you have attended training”. #bureaucracy

“But everyone in the military is trained to combat shoot”

Hmmmm. Well. At my HIGH SPEED counter drug unit I had an E-7 as one of my supervisors. He was “operational” just like me. Kinda like me. He wore the same gear, had the same qualifications on paper, and went on missions with me as my “supervisor”. He was the one that quote unquote “Made Decisions” during operations. Kinda. I have personally witnessed him, during every fucking range qualification day, attempt to shoot the BASIC military pistol and rifle and shotgun course and fail multiple times until he was the last one on the line, trying again to meet the basic qualification. Is this really the type of person you want to come to your rescue when you are the one in a hostage situation? Hm. I don’t. Well…WHY do people like this survive in the bureaucracy? One reason is:

The Iron Law of Bureaucracy

“In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”

– Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

This is so succently stated that I’ll just leave it at that.

Training v Testing

With the HUGE bureaucracy that I worked for it became easier to pass people on tests than it was to fail them and either re-train them, or relocate them including punishment or firing. To fire someone for anything short of murder or GROSS negligence you require several steps in documentation and counseling and training before it is even POSSIBLE to consider processing someone for a discharge or a firing.

Not to mention, let’s go back to the shooting range. Annual qualification courses for firearms are NOT training. They do NOT train or help you to become MORE proficient with shooting. They are a test. It is not ANNUAL TRAINING (even though that may be the title) it is in reality annual TESTING. “We do not have enough rounds to shoot people through twice, so we also don’t have enough rounds to warm up”. So no warm up. Very little opportunity to TRULY diagnose problems. Not enough time or money or ammo to send people to the range several times back to back to become familiar or comfortable. Which leaves the scarce resource (it all comes back to economics) for testing only. Of which, due to the effort required to fail someone and document it and the social stigma of possibly having to tell someone higher ranking than you that they have failed and to ask for or start an investigation on a higher ranking officer, or a friend, it is a very difficult step to take

which in turn promotes a very sad environment of “Learned Helplessness”.

A condition where doing the right thing is harder than just turning a blind eye. Or where you realize that your EFFORT to do the right thing actually makes your life WORSE. This is absolutely RAMPANT in the military and in law enforcement.

“Qualification is not Proficiency”

I had a military officer, an O-6, visit my Counter Drug unit. Two fun facts. FIRST was that he had no clue what we did for a living and he was only a few steps up in my unit commander’s chain of command. TWO is that his whole purpose of his very expensive vacati- I mean “trip” around the country visiting “his” units was this quote “Qualification does NOT equal Proficiency. Just beacause you are qualified does not mean you should stop training”. This guy is really going places. Kinda…

“Sir, will you be giving our unit more funding for training?”

“Uhhh. No. But… blah blah blah”

“Sir, what is your plan to help get us more seats at Close Quarters Combat school, we’ve had trouble getting operators sent to that school, and, as you know, we can’t deploy until we’ve attended that school”

“Well, I can’t really do that because of funding… etc”

“Sir, will you at least be granting our unit more rounds of ammo each year? I know that has been holding us back at the range and every range day we run out of ammo for testing and have none left for training”

“Well the ammo limits are set by…” get the picture? This is your military America. Let’s close it out with the absolute worst of it…

PowerPoints, Policy, and CYA

As we kind of briefed you before, in the eyes of the courts and the public and the command staff, the people at your agency that ARE the bureaucracy, if it is documented that you have been “trained” than you have been trained.

  • PowerPoints

They may or may not have source documents contained. They are the WORST most boring form of teaching. There is NO room for asking questions. The person “Teaching” often is only clicking through slides and doesn’t necessarily need to know dick about any of the content.

  • Policy

There is NO fucking way, impossible, that any fucking human being in the military or in law enforcement can POSSIBLY memorize every single law and policy that they are supposed to enforce and comply with. NO fucking way.

  • CYA

What does that mean for the workers in the bureaucracy? It means that your command has dumped a load of shit in your lap and with it comes the liability monkey on your back. If you make a mistake, or if you think you have done the right thing but someone got offended, your command now has THOUSANDS of pieces of policy to run against your actions and declare that you have violated one of them and therefore are subject to administrative actions. You demand that you don’t remember the policy and that you were never trained? Oh. Great.

In my LE Agency  I have literally clicked through 70 page policy documents, while on shift, while trying not to get ambushed in my cruiser, in between and spanning several calls for service, and at the end of that I have to click a button, after seeing this info for the first time, that says

“I ________ having read the above information, understand and am now responsible for the information contained within. Digitally sign and input your password below”.

In Conclusion…Finally

THIS is how your military and your Law Enforcement agencies are trained. Some, very few, of the units and the personnel that are operators in this country are actually very highly trained but even they do not rely on training solely from the government. We are not all incompetent but even the best of us are up against immeasurable odds when it comes to the task we are expected to do and the knowledge of our policies and laws that is expected of us to comply with and enforce.

One of the biggest benchmark moments of my career was when I was after active duty having a hard time as a patrol officer at my LE agency. I was on scene and asked Three different people who were all one, two, and three steps above me in my chain of command respectively, what I should do on a call for service that I was dealing with. They were ALL very experienced. All three of them replied to me with “I don’t know”.

It was uplifting and unsettling at the same time. First, I thought to myself “Well, than I’m perfectly in line to have a successful career in Law Enforcement… not knowing shit, just like everybody else”. Then I thought “A career where nobody knows what the fuck is going on? Do I really belong here?” Time will tell.

If you wanted tons of information, you got it today. Thanks for checking us out.

As always, go kick today in the dick, have fun, stay safe, be smart, and stay legal.

-RW