Creating effective training plans and implementing them can take a lot of hard work. It’s not enough to understand what needs to be trained, and how to write a training outline. It takes understanding your audience, how best to instruct the needs of your agency to their needs as listeners, and to also train in a way that the information can be recalled after months of separation from the whiteboard. In this article, we’ll discuss a basic way to outline “refresher” training, one of the emergent trends in current agency training culture.
Refresher Training Defined
The definition of refresher training states that it’s instruction intended to remind people of previous training, and to update their skills and knowledge about the topic. The concept is reflective of time constraints, and acknowledges that the student has already received longer, formalized training on the topic and should know how to conduct the basic functions with minimal supervision or instruction. Refresher training is supposed to address those points which the student has weaker knowledge of, or has lost effectiveness with due to real-world rates of skill attrition.
But how do we define that attrition? How do we know what areas our personnel are weak on? How do we differentiate between what an individual officer is weak on, as oppose to the whole agency?
Evidence Management System Entries & Results
Our evidence management system should be able to answer all of this. It should be able to locate where officers have entered incorrect information. For one, no system should allow an inaccurate date or time. Once a date and time is entered for an item, it should line up with what’s on the package. But say for example, an officer enters a date and time that is acceptable for the system, but doesn’t match what’s on the package. Your system should allow to mark out that there is an entry error. If an officer enters an improper location for storage, your system should identify that as well. But maybe they picked a storage location that would be acceptable for the item, but is not where that item is stored. Again, your system should allow for you mark this as an error, and send it back to the officer for correction. These are small, clerical errors we’re discussing now, each agency should weigh if these are bona fide training issues, or if it’s simply a mistake. Productive officers work fast, and can make mistakes, while it’s worthwhile to point it out to them specifically, it may not be necessary to make it into a training block. You must decide. But what if an officer enters currency and upon examination, it is clear they entered the wrong amount? That may be an actual training point to cover. Any system should allow officers to enter the quantity of each denomination of currency that they have going into evidence. That system should do the math for them, which eliminates some of the possible entry errors that could occur. But, they could miscount quantities, and when it comes to currency, agencies get beat up over it too badly to not have a system that creates multiple check points along the way to ensure that an accurate count has occurred, and that every person through the lifecycle of the currency in the evidence room have verified that the amount entered is the amount stored, is the amount when the judge’s order comes down that allows for disposition.
When it comes to packaging, we must decide through physical inspection whether the item meets standards. And this is where most of our “training moments” with line personnel stem from. While entries and mistakes make up some of that training, more so than any other aspect of evidence entry, packaging will always lead the way.
Assuming we have done our research on the issues we’ve dealt with over a given period, when it comes to refresher training, we should be teaching in ratios of time. For every x minutes of packaging, we have x minutes of entry, x minutes of case study (examples), x minutes of evidence goals and accomplishments in review.
If we apply this to a period of instruction, say two hours, it may look like: 3 minutes packaging, 1 minute entry, 1.5 minutes examples, .5 goals and accomplishments, based on the review of our data in our system. This equals six minutes, which helps us arrive at our equation. Take 120 minutes, which represents our two-hour block, divide by six, which means we have the number 20. You then multiple that by each of the minutes assigned to each component of training we’ve outlined. Our totals should look like: 60 minutes of packaging, 20 minutes of entry, 30 minutes of examples, 10 minutes of goals and accomplishments. Once you arrive at these numbers, you can decide if you want to add or decrease time to either component. You may even look at the numbers, and based on what you know of your line personnel, not even need the whole two-hour block. And that might win you some friends!
Arriving at an appropriate formula for refresher training doesn’t have to be major headache. Using steps and research to arrive at your plan is a way to eliminate some of the long thought that can slow your progress. Letting agency data dictate your training is useful, and efficient. But, also having a grasp of the needs of your agency personnel is important, and when you incorporate both into the picture, you solve more problems than created.
Be safe out there!