One of the most significant and obvious errors I’ve seen in my police career, as both a trainer and court expert, is the omission of agency policy in both the lesson plans and course content when instructors present classes to their officers. This is especially important when agency trainers are presenting refresher courses in use of force topics, such as Taser deployment and police pursuits.
As most Electronic Control Weapon (ECW) instructors know, there have been some changes in recent years in Taser International’s suggested target zones. Also, there have been a couple of court cases out west involving the use of ECWs that some trainers feel limits when ECWs should be used. If your agency has amended its policy regarding the use of ECWs, it is incumbent to include not only any new policy statements in your lesson plan, but also a discussion on the policy change or amendment.
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Likewise, with pursuits, if your department has recently changed from a discretionary pursuit policy to a restrictive or prohibitive policy, it’s incumbent that you actually include a copy of that new policy in your lesson plans when you bring your troops out to the drive track to indoctrinate them to the new Ford Interceptors or Chevy Caprice PPVs you’ve just added to the fleet.
In fact, even if there haven’t been any policy changes within your department over the past year; it still isn’t a bad idea to include copies of all written agency policies whenever you conduct an agency in-service. In fact, let’s take it a step further. Whenever you conduct any force training, include a copy of Graham v. Connor and/or Tennessee v. Garner in the student package along with the agency policy. Similarly, even though Scott v. Harris is more than six years old, it’s still worthwhile to staple a copy of that case onto your lesson plan on police pursuits along with your agency’s policy on PIT, roadblocks, caravanning and/or the number (or kind) of vehicles permitted in the pursuit.
Lastly, make it a habit to document on the lesson plan cover sheet whatever resources you use (i.e., authoritative reference articles, agency policy, case law, etc.) and maintain a hard copy (or flash drive) in your files in the event your agency computers are reformatted or upgraded between in-service classes.
Dave Grossi is a retired Lieutenant from New York. Dave has served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics investigator, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant. Dave is an expert in nearly every force discipline and has testified as an expert witness in use of force cases in the United States and abroad.