4 Ways to Integrate Policy into Police Training

So you’ve done it. Months of work—researching laws and regulations, reviewing policies, obtaining input from subject matter experts—has finally paid off. You’re proud of your agency’s new policy manual—as you should be. But too many agencies make a critical mistake after releasing new or updated policies: They forget about training on these policies.

Most law enforcement agencies require officers to acknowledge the policy manual when they join the organization or when the manual is revised. But let’s be realistic: There’s no way any officer can absorb hundreds of pages of policy language in a short time and remember it in the months and years to come.

Risk management expert Gordon Graham notes that “the best policies in law enforcement are of no value if they are not fully understood by every employee in your organization.” Recognizing this, Graham created daily training programs for the California Highway Patrol and other public safety agencies. “Every day must be a training day,” Graham says. “And police training must be focused, not random. You must train every day on the ‘core critical tasks’ specific to each and every job description in your department.”

Graham’s vision for daily policy training is built into Lexipol’s policy management and training service. Customers receive Daily Training Bulletins focused on a specific aspect of policy. Officers can complete the scenario-based training in just a few minutes, and agencies can track completion, send reminders if officers fall behind, and generate reports to demonstrate the topics and frequency of training.

Here’s a look at how four agencies are using daily training to enhance policy compliance.

Tie Policy Training to Employee Evaluations

Before becoming a Lexipol customer, the Carson City (NV) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) lacked a comprehensive policy training program. “We would bring up Gordon Graham’s Today’s Tip in briefing,” says Chief Deputy Ray Saylo. “Other than that, it was whatever state law required policy-wise—use of force, firearms, etc.” (The complete archives of Today’s Tip are available on the Lexipol website here.)

But agency administrators had identified policy training as a high priority, so the agency was looking for a solution. “We hit our policies very strong,” Saylo says. “I’ve worked for five sheriffs, and this particular administration is more concerned about policy than any of the others I’ve worked for.”

After implementing Lexipol’s Nevada Law Enforcement Policy Manual, the CCSO started issuing 15 Daily Training Bulletins to its officers each month. Saylo also creates a monthly policy briefing on critical topics, and policy is integrated into all in-service trainings.

But the agency went a step further. To receive an “excellent” rating on their annual evaluations, CCSO officers must be up-to-date on completing their policy training. Saylo notes there has not been much pushback, mainly because the training is easily accessible through Lexipol’s mobile app. “Everyone enjoys the DTBs,” he says. “And the mobile app is great. They can bring up the policy on their handheld device, and answer the question right there.”

Use Training to Enhance Safety and Avoid Litigation

Helping officers be safe is a central focus of police training. While tactics often take precedence in the safety discussion, policy is important, too. “Obviously a more thorough knowledge of the policy manual keeps the officers safer,” says Midland (MI) Police Department Chief Clifford Block.

Midland issues Daily Training Bulletins to all its officers. “The DTBs make training on policy so simple,” Block says. “They give the officers an opportunity to review the policies using real-life scenarios, and we can easily track completion.”

Frequent policy training not only enhances policy compliance and therefore safety—it also provides a strong defense in litigation. “The Daily Training Bulletins focus on those items we’re most likely to get sued for, those high-liability policies such as use of force or pursuit,” says Kankakee (IL) Police Department Chief Robin Passwater. “If officers are training on these topics every month, they know what the policy is.”

Regardless of the training solution you’re using, it’s essential to be able to track officer completion and generate reports to show what topics were covered and when. Such records can be invaluable—Chief Passwater says his department used policy training completion records to demonstrate that an officer had received training on pursuits multiple times in the six months prior to an incident, which made the difference in a potential lawsuit. “The DTBs give you something every month that helps reduce liability issues,” he says.

Chief Block agrees: “The Daily Training Bulletins are huge in helping us avoid litigation.”

Integrate Policy into Roll Call Training

Roll call training is the perfect time to focus on a specific policy or, even better, one small part of the policy. As a result, some Lexipol customers use the Daily Training Bulletins during roll call.

“Being a small department, we don’t have briefing,” says Basalt (CO) Police Department Chief Greg Knott. “So the Daily Training Bulletins provide a way for the officers, sergeants and me to discuss training topics. They stimulate our discussion, and we’re constantly evaluating ourselves through the DTBs.”

The Simi Valley (CA) Police Department primarily uses the Daily Training Bulletins as roll call training material. “We use a 4/10 patrol schedule, so an assigned sergeant in the patrol unit picks a dozen DTBs—three topics per week for the four weeks to be used in the following month,” says Deputy Chief John McGinty. “The sergeant pulls them into a PDF and we review them in each briefing and document who was present. It can be challenging for the supervisor to come up with relevant topics for roll call training, but having the DTBs gives us a pool of topics to choose from.”

Use Policy Training to Fulfill POST Requirements

There’s no shortage of training mandates for law enforcement agencies; as you struggle to fill state, local and federal requirements, training on your own policies can fall by the wayside. But some agencies have had success using policy training to fill POST training requirements.

Hiawatha (KS) Police Department Chief John Defore takes advantage of the fact that the Kansas state certification board approves Lexipol’s Daily Training Bulletins for credit toward the annual 40-hour mandate. “From the beginning, our officers liked the DTBs because they felt that it gave them a better understanding of what is expected of them as officers,” Defore says. “And our city attorney feels that the DTBs offer a safety net for the officers and the department.”

Chief Deputy Kevin Burton of the Weber County (UT) Sheriff’s Office agrees. “We use the Daily Training Bulletins to account for a number of in-service training hours required by Utah POST,” he says. “They are an easy and efficient way to expose employees to a variety of policies. Just as important, the daily training has helped us to keep all of our staff up to date on current case law and critical policies—and to do so in the most convenient and cost-effective way possible.”

State regulations differ, but it’s worth looking into whether your policy training program is eligible for POST credit.

Training Makes Policy Come to Life

Policy training will perhaps never compete with tactics training, but it doesn’t have to be painful and boring, either. By focusing on specific aspects of policy illustrated through real-world scenarios, you can capture officers’ interest and help them learn your policies. The departments profiled here have shared four ways they’re using policy training to enhance compliance and get the most out of their training dollar. What are you doing to ensure your officers know, understand and can apply your policies?

Shannon Pieper

SHANNON PIEPER is senior director of Marketing Content for Lexipol and former editorial director for PennWell Public Safety, publisher of FireRescue magazine and Law Officer magazine.

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