“Clean, clean windows.” Walt Disney
During my time in the Army, the most dreaded phrases to come out of my platoon leader’s mouth included the acronym PMCS. When any of us heard that phrase we knew that tedious and, in least our mind, useless work was about to commence. My “favorite” included drawing my assigned weapon from the armory and thoroughly “cleaning” it prior to an exercise. It should be noted that I cleaned that exact same weapon prior to turning it in the last time it was used. It hadn’t moved from the rack since that time but somehow, I needed to clean it again.
It is disheartening to listen to same agencies boast and promote the tremendous “strides” forward that have been undertaken. Too often, these strides refer to new buildings, improved software, additional personnel, or the most up-to-date equipment. Don’t get me wrong, we need to be constantly improving in these areas as well. But, the knowledge, skills, and abilities of our people are where the greatest advances should be seen.
Training in many agencies is concentrated in a one week block called “mandatory training.” In some departments the training is longer and in some it is shorter. Usually, the block consists of a variety of topics – from use of force to community policing. All valuable topics to be sure. But is training on them one time a year really going to make a difference? Science tells us that the answer is an emphatic “no.”
There is a large body of research that has revealed how training must be conducted in order for it to be effective. Effective training is challenging. It’s multi-disciplinary (interleaving). And it’s ongoing.
Most agencies own a vehicle. In order for the vehicle to continue performing as it was designed, it must be filled with gas, the oil changed, and attention paid to the dashboard warning lights (yes, the lights do mean something). If the first 2 tasks are not done on a regular basis the car stops running. No matter how pretty the vehicle looks, it has little value if it doesn’t run.
No matter how sharp our people look, they can suffer a “breakdown” – an improper response, uncertainty of authority, the list goes on and on. Failure to take measures to prevent breakdown can lead to disastrous results. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even this year – but they will happen. It is inevitable. The only details to be determined are the exact time, how tragic the event is, and how bad the fallout becomes. Effectively designed ongoing training is the best preventative maintenance an agency can undertake to minimize breakdowns and mitigate negative results. Even the sharpest, most professional officers need this. In the words of Walt Disney, in order to maintain the highest of standards and results we need to “Clean, clean windows.”