“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Somewhat of a ramble on this one, but I hope it makes sense to people.

Like most other areas my department is facing a financial crunch right now. Fortunately, we haven't hit the possibility of layoffs or anything yet; but things like new hires, travel, new equipment and training have all taken a hit. The particular discussion tonight is just part of my budget/training rant - which goes back all the way to the Clinton administration for my experience & history of things...

Anyway, as many of you know, between the military actions of the past 7 years & the fact China and India are buying up tons of raw materials, the price and availability of ammunition has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. This has not only affected civilian purchases but police agencies as well - several times recently we have faced shortfalls in our availability of ammo for training, and delays in ordering new supplies. Add that to increased costs & reduced budgets, and obviously you develop a problem. And, despite what some people think, police officers don't get unlimited free ammo & time to practice with from their departments. Heck, my agency is considered pretty generous around here, giving officers 100 rounds every month to use during a free training day.

So recently we got the news that as opposed to our previous two qualification shoots every year for officers, we are going down to just the state-mandated once a year that everyone is required to re qualify. The other time is going to be spent on active shooter training using airsoft pellet weapons.

I have a couple of things that bother me about all of this.

Number one - this now means that officers are only required to fire their weapons one day a year - as long as they meet the minimum scores, nothing else is needed. Given that the averages for experienced officers in gunfights is already about 10-20% of rounds hitting, this to my mind is not a good mindset to start building in people. Shooting for the minimums, and only doing it once a year, is not conducive to building competent, tactically proficient police officers.

Sure, the chance for people to practice will still be there - but I've been doing this job for a while, and cops are like everyone else & the vast majority aren't going to do anything more than what is required to get by. About ninety percent of the folks who take advantage of those practice times now are those who are already decent shooters & like doing it - the people with problems are rarely the ones who show up.

Second - while I see the addition of force-on-force active shooter training as a good thing, and a chance for some of those "non-tactical" officers to build new skills, it is a SUPPLEMENT to, not a replacement for actual trigger time. Just the same as flying a jet simulator is a great way to add to the skills of a pilot, it never replaces stick time in the air. Unfortunately though, as I said, I've seen this before when budgets start to slide & the mindset quickly follows. It doesn't take too long before the administrators start thinking that this sort of training is safer & cheaper than shooting at all... or for other types of training to be cut back in similar ways since we can just do it on a tabletop walk through... Which combines with the training budget cuts in general - one of the easiest things for the administrators to justify, since it's almost always "what if" money. They certainly don't want to cancel funeral escorts or shut down the police athletic league or anything like that - that is visible to the taxpayer & voter, and tends to generate complaints... But sending two guys off to a week long school that MAY someday be "useful" in the eyes of the staff - that is easy to cancel. So, as of very recently, we have been told there is no more money for training for at least a year that involves sending anyone outside of the department... Then we run into a lack of trained people to deal with these issues when they do happen. Or an agency scared to do things like use a SWAT team when called for, because Catch-22 - they haven't been trained enough.

Which then starts the same trickle into new and replacement equipment. Again, we have already seen cuts in areas such as new TASER cartridges for proficiency training, new cars as they wear out and such. Just like the 90's military I see a lot of agencies down the road facing the issue of working with old weapons and gear far beyond their intended lifespan. Things like ballistic vests wear out - but again, it's an "acceptable risk" until someone you care about gets killed because it didn't work as intended...

Going back to the original point that started all this... I'm also concerned that we are going to see a serious drop in weapons safety among our officers. We are cutting their practice time in half, and replacing it with what many are going to view as "goofing off" and playing with toy guns against each other. So, instead of reinforcing the fact that shooting and guns are serious, deadly business we are just going to build more chances in for people to be dumb, violate one of the four rules, and a tragedy to happen. Which then (seeing any patterns here?) gives the administrators a reason to cut back even more on shooting, training and other "dangerous" activities - because someone might get hurt.

I have a lot more thoughts on this, but I can tell it is already a random, wandering collection of words... I am curious as to if any other agencies are experiencing similar cuts or changes in their training programs. I'll see what I can add when my brain makes more sense of everything.


randompawses said...

Hmm. I'm wondering if there might be a way to develop a program where individuals or businesses could "sponsor" range days and help pay for the ammo? (Preferably without having to go through the city council or whoever to get permission to accept the cash/ammo every damned time.)

I grew up around law enforcement, so I'm a proponent of the Good Guys having more firepower available than do the Bad Guys. And quite frankly, I'd feel a whole lot better knowing my local police force isn't going to find themselves essentially pointing empty weapons at targets and yelling Bang! Bang!. If that would mean kicking in with a donation to the local constabulary, participating in a fundraiser, or getting the state to put a donation line on the income tax form (like some states have for wildlife conservation or whatever), then so be it.

Training with either airsoft or paintball gun-substitutes could probably be a lot of fun as a team-building or strategy-developing exercise, but for weapons training? NO.

Jon said...

As you well know, I'm not in law enforcement.

However - I have similar concerns in my own job (They don't end in someone getting shot at usually - but good training pays its own dividends if you let it). We used to take almost a month to train a new tech. We now do it in a week. (barely) And we expect them to rely on a knowledge database that is notorious for not bringing up the right answer unless you KNOW what you're looking for.

The end result? Our Client has gotten royally pissed off recently. The result? LOTS AND LOTS of OT by good techs and senior members to try to shore up our numbers. I often wonder if we'd not 'saved' so much money on training, if we'd be in this pickle. OT time for senior techs and other members isn't cheap, after all. And some of us are picking up a LOT. (like me)

What it comes down to is the six Ps. Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. While cut training time will look good on the balance sheet *NOW* The increased costs you will suffer down the road will offset the initial savings, and possibly cause a loss all their own.

But book keepers don't look at things like people on the line. Be they Cops, Techs, Cooks or the like. They look at the immediate bottom line, and forget to account for the future.

Captain Tightpants said...

Randompawses - lovely idea, but I have no idea how it would fly around here... I know a lot of citizens would agree with you if they realized the truth of things - which is, of course, why administrators always make sure things look better!

Jon - exactly, the same thing I was alluding to that the military faced in the 70's, then in the 90's - standards and training dropped & then when you need people it costs more to catch everything up.

Then like you said they have to rely on those who go the extra mile & already know the job to carry the others along.

Berserk said...

I figure that the less you pay for training, the more you will pay in settlements. Fortunately, my administration (so far) signs on to that philosophy. It's a shame that there are so many departments that don't.

Officer "Smith" said...

We have been experiencing the ammo shortage for a year or so now. It has not affected the amount of our training to any great extent so far, but it has put a crimp in the quality of our training.

We now fire fewer rounds per training session, but we are still required to attend the same number of sessions per year. We are, fortunately, not discouraged from attending more than the required number of sessions.

I suppose my situation is a little better than yours, as we still get training at least three times a year, even though we fire half as many rounds at each session.

The economy sucks.