As a newly elected Board member, I would like to begin my first article by thanking all of you for putting me here. I promise to work hard for you throughout my term and fight for what is right and just. I will always be straight with you. I have no agenda other than truth, justice and integrity. There is no need for further introduction since my candidate statement can be found in the October 2019 Star & Shield, so let’s get down to business.
Over the last two decades, society has placed countless additional job duties and expectations upon peace officers, but the education and training required to master those skills have not been equivalent to the demands. Since the U.S. Congress designated 9-1-1 the official national emergency number in 1999, the basic law enforcement mission of protecting life, protecting property and maintaining order has continued to expand. The perception is that peace officers are trained to handle anything they are faced with. The reality is that the training we receive to prepare us for all of these responsibilities has not grown proportionately with the societal expectations.
The Department is state-mandated to provide our members with 24 hours of continued professional training (CPT) every two-year cycle. If you are assigned to patrol, 14 of those hours must be perishable skills program (PSP) training (firearms, arrest and control, EVOC, communication). The Department does its best to meet POST mandates, but these are only the basic minimum requirements to maintain POST certification. It is not enough. The basic CPT program does not address the multitude of additional expectations the community demands of us.
In law enforcement today, a peace officer is expected to be a crimefighter, but also a mental health expert, child abuse expert, marriage counselor, suicide and crisis intervention counselor, first aid/CPR/tourniquet/AED/Narcan expert, homelessness expert, terrorism expert, child counselor, constitutional legal scholar, public information officer, social worker, victim rights advocate, racecar driver, equality expert, mass shooting expert, top athlete, scientist, civil disobedience expert, firefighter/hazmat expert, tactical genius, peer support and wellness expert, guardian, warrior and, most importantly … a split-second decision-maker who always gets it right!
A problem exists in providing today’s peace officers with the amount of relevant quality training we deserve. As someone who has dedicated a large part of his life to training and educating others, I have long worked to meet those challenges. Negative influences on training throughout the ages have been budget cuts, contract minute compliance, staffing levels, less than competent training staffs, lazy supervisors and non-servant leader executives who did not value training. At one time or another in our careers, we have all worked for those who thought watching a grainy video and signing a roster was training. Most recently, our Department has been hit with even more budgetary cuts — this time it appears the budget was weaponized against our Sheriff by the Board of Supervisors. These are our issues to face; how do we find solutions?
Well, the first part of the answer lies in personal accountability. As Jocko Willink noted in Extreme Ownership, “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” That means the first step to solving this issue is for all of us to own it. Personally, I’ve never been satisfied with receiving the bare minimum that the organization provided me, especially not when it came to training, experience or equipment. If I were, I guess I’d still be carrying around that cheap plastic flashlight they issued me in 1991. As is the case with many of us, much of our training throughout the years has been attended on our own time and at our own expense. I’ve always believed it was an investment in myself, as well as an investment in my ability to serve others.
There may be some reading this who say, “What? Pay for my own training? Attend it on my own time? That’s BS!” Well, partners, I can assure you that there is no MPP section that states all training and education you should attend will be provided on-duty and free of charge. It’s not that way in the private sector, it’s not that way in the nonprofit sector and it’s not that way in government service. Continuing education is a personal responsibility. For those reading this who have already accepted personal responsibility for ensuring they receive the training they require to be their best, thank you. The next step is to ensure we are sharing our knowledge in 360 degrees with our subordinates, peers and bosses.
Sergeants are the key! There are approximately 1,300 LASD sergeant positions, which is a 1:7 sworn personnel span of control. If each sergeant invests the time to train, educate, coach and mentor at least seven deputy personnel, the overall level of proficiency for the entire organization will rise. Train and educate yourself, then train and educate others. Find creative ways to accomplish this, such as power briefings, in-the-field briefings and one-on-one training; be innovative. When relevant, include non-sworn personnel. Remember, deputies work for sergeants (not lieutenants and captains). Training and educating deputies is a key function of being a sergeant and a crucial part of the job description. For clarity, training is knowledge of how to do something. Education is knowledge that is conceptual, theoretical and/or strategic in nature. Shooting a firearm accurately is a psychomotor skill that requires training; when to shoot a firearm is cognitive decision making that requires education.
The Training Bureau has many incredible staff members throughout the different units whose level of expertise is hard to match. But these units simply do not possess the staffing levels required to train an organization of our size in more than just the basic CPT/PSP areas, so until they do, we need to pitch in and help — which brings us to the next solution.
PPOA will be providing top-tier training throughout 2020, not to absolve the Department of its state mandates, but to supplement what our members have access to. I was honored to serve on the Unit 612 negotiations team for our 2018–2021 contract, and training was a topic of discussion at the bargaining table. As a result of these negotiations between PPOA and the County, an agreement was reached for the County to set aside a one-time $150,000 grant to increase training and education of LASD and LADA sergeants and lieutenants.
As chairman of the Training Committee, my first official act is to ask you all to guide us in our direction and share your ideas for training. In the very near future, you will receive a short online survey from me. Please take a few minutes to fill it out and help shape the future of the PPOA training program. The sky is the limit; there is no idea that is too far out of the box. We want your creativity in how to address the current needs of our members. We belong to a great organization with a long legacy of excellence. It is our duty to continue that tradition and leave things better than when we got here. We owe it to our community, our people and ourselves.