Even with today's shrinking law enforcement budgets, agencies and you can still train realistically, regularly and effectively. You just have to innovate.
I've had the great fortune of having a good number of officers who were involved in a shooting or violent encounter say that their training saved their lives. This is both a testament that they, a) listened, and b) expended the effort. It has really brought home to me as a trainer the axiom that, "You will do on the street as you've trained to do" or as veteran trainer Paul Whitesell has said, "Every drill a bloodless battle, every battle a bloody drill."
And yet, with the current budget crunch oftentimes the first things cut or reduced are training programs. How can an agency still train effectively when ammunition budgets are slashed? How can you train at home to compensate for reduced agency training? It can be done and here's how...
Less time but more frequently
There's a couple of old rules that apply here:
Skill competency or getting good at motor skills such as: handcuffing, swinging a baton or the pistol draw from the holster, take time and repetition to master. Frequently agencies look at this time investment as a four or eight hour day. Such need not be the case. Meaningful training can be done in 15 minutes or less--post-roll call.
Demonstrations of technique can be done via videotape or by a supervisor or instructor on the shift, followed by bag drills done by the officers. For instance, if the training is on the use of the tactical baton, an agency can record an instructor demonstrating a forward fluid shockwave strike and forward/backhand cutting strikes. Proper form is shown on the tape and then bag drills are practiced by the student for ten repetitions at a time.
Three different baton skills can be covered in a few minutes. Handgun retention using plastic non-gun trainers, empty-hand control techniques and many more important skills can be practiced in this fashion. Post-roll call or during-the-shift training programs such as this allow more repetitions and do not require official in-service training days.
The law of diminishing returns simply states that the further you get from a training event, the more your skills deteriorate. With this in mind, an agency is better training more frequently with eight of these one-hour blocks than a dedicated eight-hour defensive tactics in-service training day.
Ammunition costs have risen dramatically due to the increased cost of raw materials and high demand. But meaningful firearms training need not be live fire. Dry firing, following the repetition rule we mentioned earlier, allows officers to work with their equipment and develop sound habits in the safety of the station. As long as: there is a strict adherence to safety and no live rounds are allowed into the training room; weapons are double and triple checked; muzzles are pointed at safe backstops e.g. a brick wall, dry firing can be an intensely meaningful training event.
A proper combat draw stroke can be demonstrated, broken down into a four count and then repeated, by the numbers, with the instructor counting it out. The next progression is slow for form, with officers drawing their pistols smoothly after the instructor calls out, "Threat," or "Gun!" After officers have achieved a smooth draw, a shot timer can be used with generous times for the draw to start, gradually reducing the interval as the session proceeds. Movement can and should be incorporated in the draw (interfering with the suspect's OODA Loop--Observe, Orient, Decide and Act). Inert training ammunition can be used (once again following safety protocols) to practice reloads, one handed manipulations, malfunction clearance, etc.
Green gas airsoft
Airsoft is an inexpensive training tool that can allow force-on-force or realistic training for little cost. Green gas airsoft pistols costs around $150 or less each. The gas (propane) drives the .20 gram BBs out at around 400 fps. Hop-up technology puts a backspin on the BB, making these training tools highly accurate. The BBs themselves cost fractions of a penny. Force-on-force training can be accomplished with minimal face, head and throat protection as well as sweatshirts and gloves. Only eye protection would be necessary for some excellent training which could be conducted at a city owned garage with paper shoot/don't shoot targets taped onto makeshift backstops (boxes filled with old clothing). Up the ante by turning out the lights and making officers clear the structure in low light with their flashlights.
Training on your own
If your agency can no longer afford to send officers out to training programs or has reduced in-service training, you must not neglect your own training. With the purchase of a heavy bag hung from the rafters of your basement or garage, you can perfect those empty hand and baton skills that are so important on the street.
You can further your own firearms training by conducting dry-fire training at home (following all the safety rules of course--you don't want to shoot your 52 inch plasma TV). Practice drawing your pistol in a variety of positions, including on your belly, back, one-handed, weak hand only. Turn out the garage or basement lights and work hard at learning to coordinate pistol and flashlight.
Airsoft pistols, green gas and BBs are inexpensive enough to allow you to train at home using these excellent tools. Once again make sure you wear safety glasses to protect you from bounce back.
There are some excellent training tapes currently available at a decent price. For a small investment, trainers from Blackwater Training Center, Sig Sauer Academy, BLACKHAWK! featuring Todd Jarrett, Ron Avery and others can come into your living room via your DVD player, and provide state-of-the-art training.
Training tapes are an excellent way to learn new tactics and techniques as well as motivate you to engage in physical skill training. Yes, attending the aforementioned training programs and schools is the way to go, but it would cost thousands in travel and tuition. Although you really must travel to Blackwater in North Carolina to experience their amazing world-class training facilities as well as their top-notch instruction, this is true for all the other listed instructors or academies and many more out there. Training tapes can give you an exposure to an academy's or trainer's programs so you can be more discriminating in courses you attend and if you practice, better prepared for the hands-on to come.
Training is the lifeblood of a police agency and your individual method to drastically increase the likelihood of making it home at the end of the shift. Sadly, training budgets oftentimes get slashed when budgets are cut. Both agencies and individual officers can still conduct realistic and relevant training in these uncertain economic times by focusing on simple ways and means to prepare to win.