Have you ever attended a police driving school and driven an old, outdated beat up former police cruiser the school provided?
If so, you may be at a greater risk for developing “training scars.”
Imagine you showed up for firearms training at the range. Your firearm instructor hands you an old double action revolver with a six round cylinder chambered in .38 special. You are told from now on you will be qualifying with this gun instead of your primary duty weapon you carry every shift. The reason why is because your agency just bought new Glock 17s and they don’t want to get them all beat up from training. It is explained that these pistols are expensive and they need to last a long time.
A firearm instructor would NEVER have you qualify with old six shooter and then carry your Glock 17 because they know how important it is to train with the gun you carry. So why is it we train with outdated cars all the time when it comes to police training?
Here is the point. Each vehicle drives differently. If your squad car at work is a Chevy Impala, you should drive the same Chevy Impala at driving school. If your squad car is a Ford Interceptor Sedan, you should drive your Ford Interceptor Sedan at training. Even if the driving school has the same model and year as your squad, I guarantee it will drive slightly different than your squad car. Moreover, the equipment (radio, computer, etc.) will likely not be positioned in the same spot. Just like not every Glock shoots the exact same even if they are the same model. So not every car drives the same.
If that doesn’t convince you, here are two more reasons why you should not use the driving school’s squad cars for training.
- Vehicle related deaths are the number one killer of law enforcement.
We should not add to police deaths by being unconsciously incompetent by failing to have reality based training. What If you get stuck training with the driving school’s squad and discover you can take a curve in their squad at 50MPH just fine. Unfortunately, you might not be able to make the same curve at 50MPH with your squad car because it is a sports utility vehicle. When we are in a police pursuit we need our basic driving skills instinctive without much conscious thought so we can focus on what is important in the pursuit. This will only happen with realistic training. As the Greek Archilochus said in the mid-600s BC, “We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
- Officers are in prison for not driving safely while going lights and sirens to emergencies.
Many law enforcement officers fail to realize they are NOT exempt from civil and criminal consequences when driving. Meaning, if you are driving lights and siren to an emergency, but injure or kill someone on the way and you did not drive with “due regard” you could have very serious consequences. You did not become a police officer to go to prison as a cop. Make sure the training you get is not going to increase your chances of going to said prison. I can’t think of a worse place than prison for a cop who was only trying to do their job, but made a mistake driving.
Here is the deal. We don’t know what we don’t know, but unfortunately, what we don’t know can hurt us or even kill us or others.
If you are a driving school or law enforcement administrator, will you seriously consider having officers use their own squad car for training? With the exception of PIT/TVI training, this might be a question worth considering.
Matthew Loeslie is the Criminal Justice Program Director at a State University. Prior to the University, Matthew was responsible for Law Enforcement Training at a Community and Technical College where he coordinated and instructed law enforcement classes throughout the Midwest. Furthermore, Matthew has experience working in law enforcement. In addition, Matthew helped launch the law enforcement training program at the MERIT Center in Marshall, MN. Matthew enjoys spending time with his family, reading, shooting and motorcycle rides.