Not long ago a police officer’s equipment simply consisted of a revolver, stick, and a set of handcuffs--mostly because these items were familiar to officers, readily available and could be mastered with little training. Although these items are still police inventory mainstays, equipment has become more sophisticated and complex and often requires formal training before use. There was a period when law enforcement attempted to make equipment “cop-proof”, often using a light or a sound as an indicator. For example, a green light on a breathalyzer machine indicated that the analysis was complete. Modern day equipment is now too complex for these types of simple solutions.
Basic training, even on police equipment that seems relatively “easy to use”, is necessary for efficient equipment use and maintenance. For instance, basic training on a radio sounds simple until one examines the zones, channels, and linking capabilities of a modern-day police radio. A rifle with an optic is of little value if the operator doesn’t know how to adjust the optic properly or change the battery.
Improper, incomplete or non-existent training also has the potential to impact judicial proceedings. Officers rely on the use of doppler radar to enforce speed limits. If an officer can’t explain the calibration of the doppler unit, or how he/she confirmed the unit was operating properly when measuring the speed of a target vehicle, a court is very likely to rule the officer was not able to properly operate the unit and dismiss the violation. Inadequate training on police equipment quickly becomes much more worrisome than losing a speeding summons in court. Lack of effective training on a piece of use-of-force equipment, such as a firearm, can result in catastrophic results for a suspect, the officer, or the department. An officer not effectively trained on a patrol rifle risks the chance of a tragic event occurring through an unintentional discharge or an injured officer. The likelihood of the lack of training on a piece of equipment affecting an event dramatically increases when the officer’s sympathetic nervous system is driven by a high stress environment such as a use of force event.
Police training often falls short of effective because it isn’t reality- based. Marksmanship principles that are taught at a range-- such as sight picture and trigger control-- are important basics but are only a part of comprehensive police firearms training. Police involved shootings do not occur in a controlled environment like a training range, so marksmanship principles taught in a vacuum are not-- in themselves-- effective. A more comprehensive approach is running simulation training after officers receive training on individual pieces of equipment. This allows officers to compile their knowledge on various pieces of equipment and apply it in a reality-based simulation.
Law Enforcement enjoys equipment options that are affordable and useful in helping police departments perform their mission. Each piece of equipment must be properly accounted for and maintained so that it is available and useable during both normal and emergency operations, and officers must have the appropriate training to use the equipment as effectively as possible. Excellent equipment is only as available and useable as the department’s ability to put it in the hands of an appropriately trained user.