Is the Minimum Acceptable?

submitted by contributing author, I Alítheia

California POST standards for law enforcement website provides a list of what is the MINIMUM for refresher training required for officers. Let’s just look at the Continuing Professional Training Requirements for perishable skills.  (I know there are other requirements, lets just look at these three for now.)  12 hours over two years that’s all that’s needed, four hours broken out over three subjects; 1. Arrest and Control, 2. Driver Training/Awareness or Driving Simulator, 3. Tactical Firearms or Force Options Simulator for the total of 12 hours of perishable skills training.

These three categories are probably the highest liability issues in law enforcement.  Each day we see on the news where a police officer has been involved in one, more or all of the categories above.  Each day we see officers tried in the court of public opinion for being involved in one of the above categories for following their training or lack there of.  Maybe those other officer’s agencies are not unlike the Sheriff’s Office where the minimum is the Blue Ribbon standard.  Oh, I digress on the Blue Ribbon comment as we have already seen how that ill conceived plan has been returned to the drawing board for a second attempt. Why is it that Santa Clara always seems to have a half baked approached to dealing with issues and have to go back and fix what they have put in place?  Like what was reported on NBC about the Jails going back to an independent entity (just about the minute forty mark), after what’s appearing to be a failed experiment of returning the Jails to the Sheriff, who had no plan on how to run the jails only how to cut services.

Let’s get back on topic.  Why is it that the sheriff has all of the necessary resources to exceed the CA POST minimums, but only trains to the minimum? Oh, wait and from what we hear each election, the Sheriff sits on the CA POST Commission.  Wouldn’t you agree if you are the head of an organization and have the resources to exceed the minimum standards as set forth by a commission you sit on that you’d do all you could to exceed those standards and raise the bar for others to follow? Not in our sheriff’s tenure as the head of the organization.  Let’s face the facts the Sheriff runs her own training academy that at the beginning was one of the top academies, but once the shiny new toy got old has dropped in overall standings of Police Academies in the state. The Sheriff has a training facility that has the resources for the CA POST required minimum; Arrest and Control, Force Options and Pursuit Driving.  Sheriff when have you ever shown off these capabilities to the media?  Let’s be open and transparent, let’s follow the example of LAPD.

Let’s break this down, four hours for Arrest and Control, that means that each two years the officer is given one four hour block on arrest and control techniques.  That is the minimum requirement as set forth by CA POST and accepted by the Sheriff’s Office as the standard.  A minimum requirement is just that minimum, when you only train to the minimum the organization will never excel beyond the minimum.  Mediocrity is the norm and is what is expected and accepted at the Sheriff’s Office.  Show me one mentor ship program at the sheriff Office.  As I’ve been told the last time the Leadership class was held deputies were ordered to attend due to lack of enrollment.  Why would deputies not take a class to further their careers?  Could it have been the instructors who were teaching the course and those deputies knew the instructors backgrounds and felt the “qualifications” were laughable.  Sorry back to the topic at hand.  

Let’s take this one step further it’s my understanding that the Sheriff’s Office has a dedicated training program for arrest control and force option simulator.  Let me explain what a force option simulator is; in essence its a walk in video game.  I’m not trying to minimize the training, just the opposite as a matter of fact. The system is a high tech system, which can be formatted to react to how the officer is responding to the scenario being presented.  This type of situational training is needed for our deputies as it presents scenarios that can not be duplicated on a range or in a classroom.  This training helps condition the deputies to react appropriately to the threat presented.  This training can help deputies to de-escalate encounters and react accordingly.  Once again LAPD has taken the minimum and created a whole new approach and a 40 hour training program.

But the Sheriff’s Office status quo remains only FOUR hours every two years.  Can four hours of training really equate to a well qualified decision process?  Oh, there’s more, that four hours of training is not for each individual, that’s for an entire group of people.  I’m being told that the deputies are all present and each watch the scenario and how the deputy is reacting to the scenario, but those watching are just that watching not doing.  Now there’s value in watching as it allows those not doing to view and consider how they would react, thus preparing themselves mentally to respond and each do get a turn.

Let’s not forget that the deputies do actually go to the range to “qualify” twice a year.  From what I hear they shoot less than fifty times to qualify.  That’s 100 shots in a year.  (I’m not counting the cadets just graduating the academy.  That’s where the muscle memory is beginning to be imprinted.)  All the studies I’m aware of have muscle memory becoming autonomous somewhere around 10,000 repetitions.  That would require a deputy to work at the department for how many years to get those repetitions?  We’ve all heard the axiom, “perfect practice makes perfect,” but when your dealing with “Ready?  Aim. Fire!” I’m not seeing perfect practice, but a turnstile training program.  Once again the minimum.  I don’t want to minimize the range staff as they are doing what they can with what they are given.  Sheriff, do I need to remind you that OIS’s are something highly litigated?  I’m thinking that force options simulator is a good thing if used.

Arrest and Control; from what I’ve been told the Sheriff’s facility has a large mat room for actually doing hands on training.  Oh need I forget to mention that the Arrest and Control includes the use of impact weapons,  Yes, that includes night sticks, expandable batons. Really?  Are you kidding me?  Deputies only get four hours of training every TWO years, 24 months, 730 days or 17,500 hours.  Four hours to retain perishable information and training?  This in the face of the litigious society we live in and the DEMAND for better trained police officers.  The Sheriff feels this is sufficient training for the deputies patrolling the county.  But again only four hours of training every two years.  Four hours of training for a perishable skill that the deputies use on a daily basis.  Why is there not a dedicated staff to provide this training?  Let’s look at the possibilities of a deputy being able to schedule a training session at this facility.  Come to the facility go through some hands on training and then run through a scenario or two.  Maybe thirty minutes of their day every couple of months.  From what I’ve  been told, nope costs too much to train deputies just cheaper to pay the law suit for training  failures.

Driver Training Awareness; this same facility has several acres of space dedicated to a vehicle operations course.  Yet, the training is again once every two years.  I realize a majority of deputies the patrol cars are their offices and they are always driving, normal operating speeds are much different than pursuit speeds.  Why then when you have the facilities to have top notch training the minimum is the standard?  I’ve been told the usual answer has been “That’s how its always been done.”  So I ask if that’s the case why aren’t the deputies still on horse back?  Times change and so does training and requirements.

That was just the enforcement side of the street.  Let’s not forget the jails.  What’s their standards of training?  What’s their annual requirements?  I went looking for just that.  The Sheriff does not list out the requirements for training or annual refreshers for the Correction side of the street, but again the Sheriff does not list out the requirements for Enforcement either.  Yet, I could find the entire Operations Manual for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  I did get a little lost in perusing though the information. I’d like to point out this manual is out there for the world to see how the state system is run, but Santa Clara County policy is locked away in a vault, probably being guarded by Shirakawa’s old body guard. I’ve got to take a side street for just a moment, especially since this blog is all about training.  I know it’s been asked repeatedly, but I’ll ask again, what specific training did this correctional deputy receive to carry a concealed weapon and provide dignitary protection to now-convicted, former Board of Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.?  I’ll bet you won’t find the answer in his STC training files.

Ok back on topic — CDCR Policy Manual.  Funny, thing is the State dictates the use of less lethal weapons in the policy when confronting emotionally disturbed individuals try looking at 51020.14.2 Use of Less Lethal Weapons for Inmates with Mental Health Issues.  Side tracked again, this is about training (or lack of at the Sheriff’s Office)  CDCR lists out their training requirements, to include annual training take a look at section 32010.8.1 Annual Peace Officer Training.  52 hours of annual training, 40 of which is formal classroom and an additional 12 of OJT.  CDCR also has a manager that develops a “formal training plan.”  Oh that’s right for all the lip service the Sheriff has given on making the Correctional deputies peace officers, she hasn’t.  Well than maybe PCAU can start with the CDCR Policy, oh wait that’s right the Sheriff did away with the Professional Compliance and Audit Unit.  So who exactly is keeping track of the training in Corrections? And what annual training do they receive? Where can we find those STC records? Moving on.

Now I’ve been told the Sheriff’s Office does get California State Funding for both Correction and Enforcement.  I’ve pretty much beat up the Enforcement side, so I’ve been looking into the Correction side. The Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) Policy manual revised June 10, 2015 does outline the voluntary program, which allows participating agencies subvention (a grant of money, especially from a government) funding through the Standards and Training for Corrections (STC) program.  What’s this you ask?  Yes, the jails are subsidized by the state for training not unlike the reimbursement from CA POST for enforcement training.  Oh, but wait there’s more.  Now since the Sheriff also runs her own academy I’m hearing she also receives credits (money) for each student “enrolled” through the college process.  So looks to me like a double dip into the state coffers for money.  Oh there I go again looking beyond what I really wanted to cover.

Back to the BSCC, from what I can tell by reading through the document the program is voluntary and the state can not force an agency to follow the recommendations.  The state in its wisdom has attached a dollar sign to the compliance and we know how our Sheriff loves the dollar sign, especially on the income column of the ledger not so on the expenditure side.  How much has the Sheriff received for the training and what training has the Sheriff submitted as completed?  Does the BSCC have these records and can they be gotten through an FOI request?  Since the State is giving the county money I’m guessing the records are public record and available for disclosure.  Hey maybe we can finally learn who has been trained on the FN303.  Or maybe how much the Sheriff has received through the colleges for the “students” she has at the academy?  Or where and how is this money being spent?  I digress yet again.

So what is the STC mandated training for jails?  From what I’ve found in the document; 24 hours annually for Correctional Deputies.  The document shows, “Annual training content is not prescribed by STC. It can be specialized or refresher training that develops or enhances job related skills. Flexibility is permitted in course content and method of instruction in order to meet changing conditions and local needs.”  What I’m learning the STC training is not followed and the Correctional deputies are lacking in the perishable skills training just like Enforcement.  At least the Corrections deputies are getting 24 hours annually compared to the 12 hours Enforcement receives every two years.  Oh wait just a moment?  24 hours of STC training annually for Corrections deputies, show us the training records!  From what I’ve heard the training is nothing more than Correctional deputies sitting at their assignment and getting a gold star for showing-up.  NO sheriff just coming into work is not OJT.  OJT is training that is received while on the job and enhances or improves those skills needed to do the job.  But, I’m sure with the focus on the jails and the Blue Ribbon Commission looking into the training those records are being (re)created as I draft this blog.  Hey Blue Ribbon Commission ask for a copy from the state as well as the sheriff and compare the two.  Who knows what you may find.  Oh, back to training compliance from what I’ve been told that was the job of PCAU.  Oh yes poor PCAU, gone the way of the Dodo.

Sheriff please come clean and put everything on the table.  Give the Blue Ribbon Commission all the training records.  Show how this office is “Nationally Recognized” and I don’t mean for the failings as reported on USA Today. Tell us who has been trained in what.  How the Sheriff’s Office is a leader in something.  I challenge the Blue Ribbon Commission to interview officers as to their annual training, AOT or specialty training.  I hear the ERT (Emergency Response Team) only gets OJT.  I challenge the Blue Ribbon Commission to bring in each of the ERT members and interview them as to their tactical training and high risk cell extraction training or use of less lethal options.  Why won’t you send those individuals to training outside the department?  I’ve heard rumor that ERT does not even have up to date safety equipment.  Is it true they are still using old hand me down football helmets and arms guards from the 1970’s?  Let’s not forget those officers who have been trained in CIT.  How often do they get updated training?  Is really just once?  Initial training and no follow-up.  I’m sensing a theme throughout the Sheriff’s Office.  I could go on and on.

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One thought on “Is the Minimum Acceptable?

  1. I retired in 2012, and alot of the STC training being given was at least 8 hours of video that was watched on duty, taking away from staffing

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