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Friday, May 29, 2015

Public Safety Training: “Are We Training or Testing?”

Excelsior Fire District TSO observing extrication training
It seems straightforward. Are we training or testing? That question needs to be answered before every public safety training session. And if the answer is “testing,” the instructor and the Training Safety Officer (TSO) need to assess if they believe that the class has been trained to the point that they can safely be tested.

Too often we have seen where a training session drifted “off script” or turned into a testing session—and some of the officers and firefighters were in over their heads. When this happens, there is a very high risk for injury.

I don’t mean to overstate the obvious, but public safety work is dangerous, and mastery of the public safety skill set is vital to both the public’s safety and the responders’ safety. Going into burning structures, taking violent people into custody, and extricating and caring for the injured on highways is high risk—and both training and testing are integral to the mastery of these unique skill sets. Most responders do not naturally have these skills, and for many the learning curve is steep but attainable.

Shakopee Police firearms instructor
coaching and instructing
It is common for training sessions to involve a mixture of training and testing—and with that comes the need for the instructor, TSO, role players, and class to know exactly when they are training and when they are testing. They must know when they are coaching vs. observing/evaluating, and always know when the actions need to be stopped or corrected immediately.

The TSO program continues to improve as the training safety officers develop a better understanding of how these injuries occur and how best to utilize the control that exists in the training setting. Make the “training or testing” discussion part of your next training planning.

Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) AWARD

The League’s TSO program was recently selected as the first-place winner in the Outstanding Achievement for the Intergovernmental Risk Pool Program category.

Bles Dones, manager of membership at PRIMA, said that the TSO Program “shows excellence, relevance, and a display of a results-oriented program, keys to a successful organization’s risk management program, and one that can benefit the public sector risk management profession.”

Congratulations to all of you who have helped to develop this program!


                                      Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: More on Training Safety—“Call Them Coaches”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Four Hard Truths

The director of the FBI, James Comey, presented an insightful address at Georgetown University in February. The focus was on the relationship between law enforcement and the diverse communities they serve and protect.

Here are a few quotes from his speech: “Serious debates are taking place about how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve, about the appropriate use of force, and about real and perceived biases, both within and outside of law enforcement.” He went on to say, “Those conversations—as bumpy and uncomfortable as they can be—help us understand different perspectives and how to better serve our communities.”

Director Comey then spoke of what he called “some of my own hard truths.” He said, “First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo—a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.

“A second hard truth: much research points to the widespread existence of unconscious bias.” Discussing this further, he said: “Racial bias isn’t epidemic in law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.”

The director’s third hard truth was that “something happens to people in law enforcement.” Many of us develop different levels of cynicism that we work hard to resist because they can lead to lazy mental shortcuts. “For example, criminal suspects routinely lie about their guilt, and nearly everyone we charge is guilty. That makes it easy for some folks in law enforcement to assume that everyone is lying and that no suspect—regardless of their race—could be innocent. Easy but wrong.”

Comey talked about why officers would focus on a group of young black man on one side of the street and not a group of white men on the other side of the street, when both were doing the same thing. He asked whether officers, judges, and juries are racist and responded he doesn’t think so.

“The truth is that what really needs fixing are the disproportionate challenges faced by young men of color.” In his fourth hard truth, Director Comey spoke of “so many boys and young men growing up in environments lacking role models, adequate education, and decent employment. They lack all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted.”

I found the director’s comments astute and candid. Below is a link to a transcript of his speech, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I also welcome your thoughts, comments, and continued discussion:

Up Next: Public Safety Training—"Are We Training or Testing?"

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.