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Every day is a training day: Daily policy training in public safety

Regular training helps agencies ensure their personnel are not only compliant but also prepared to handle the complexities of their roles

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In public safety, knowing and understanding agency policies is critical. But how can agency leaders ensure their personnel are up to date and proficient in the policies their departments have adopted? This question was the central theme of the recent webinar, “Every Day Is a Training Day — The Value of Daily Training on Policy,” featuring Chief (Ret.) Mike Ranalli and Battalion Chief (Ret.) Bruce Bjorge. Here are a few key takeaways from this insightful session.

The importance of daily policy training

Ranalli kicked things off by highlighting the historical gaps in policy training within law enforcement. Traditionally, in most (if not all) public safety agencies, departmental policies were almost an afterthought — something to have (maybe) but not often looked at. Policy training was sporadic and often insufficient, leaving officers to figure things out in the moment.

But that was then, this is now, and a “shoot from the hip” approach no longer works today. Ranalli emphasized that understanding policy isn’t just about compliance; it’s also about ensuring personnel can make informed, correct decisions in real-time situations.

Ranalli cited an example from his own experience, in which officers were unsure how to handle a call involving a service animal — a service horse, actually. The very next day, a Daily Training Bulletin (DTB) on the subject was introduced, explaining exactly how the officer should’ve dealt with the service animal situation. The incident showcased the very real, very immediate relevance of regular, focused policy training.

The role of daily training bulletins (DTBs)

One of the main reasons departments train on policy is liability; if a foreseeable incident occurs and the responders weren’t trained on how to respond, this opens the agency up to both criticism and lawsuits based on Monell v. Department of Social Services (436 US 658 (1978)) or Canton v. Harris (489 U.S. 378 (1989)). The even more important reason for policy training, according to Ranalli, is because “we want our people to know what they’re supposed to do.”

As Bjorge pointed out, it’s not just about “checking a box.” It’s about being prepared for just about any situation.

A cornerstone of Lexipol’s approach to continuous training, DTBs are designed to provide brief, scenario-based training sessions that keep personnel engaged and informed. Ranalli and Bjorge explained that DTBs are designed to be several steps above rote memorization of policy manual language. Rather, they foster a deeper understanding of the underlying principles and expected actions in various circumstances.

By incorporating real-world scenarios, DTBs help bridge the gap between policy knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge. This method ensures first responders of all stripes are not just aware of policies but can also follow them effectively under pressure.

High-risk, low-frequency events

Bjorge brought attention to the critical nature of training for high-risk, low-frequency events. These are scenarios that rarely occur but can create significant consequences when they do — especially if handled poorly by those who respond. Examples include active shooter situations or complex fire rescues. Regular training on these scenarios ensures that when they do arise, personnel can respond swiftly and correctly, minimizing risk and potential harm.

Bjorge also touched on the cultural aspects of policy training. In many public safety agencies, policies are often referenced only during hiring, promotion or disciplinary actions. This kind of sporadic engagement is just not good enough. Instead, regular training embeds these policies into daily operations, making them second nature.

Another key concept discussed was the military principle of “commander’s intent,” which involves providing clear guidance on what needs to be achieved and allowing subordinates and units to act and adapt independently when unforeseen circumstances arise. In public safety, personnel often work on their own in dynamic field environments. By regularly training on policy, your team members will internalize the core objectives (your “intent” as a leader) as well as the expectations of their agency.

When they take policy training to heart, your personnel will be able to make informed decisions that conform with the broader mission and values of your organization.

Making policy training engaging

One of the challenges highlighted in the webinar was the inherent “uncoolness” of policy training compared to tactical or field training. However, Ranalli and Bjorge stressed the importance of making policy training engaging and relevant. By using virtual or interactive platforms and incorporating real-world scenarios, agencies can make this essential training more appealing and effective.

The webinar underscored how every day truly is a training day in the world of public safety. By leveraging tools like DTBs and focusing on continuous, scenario-based training, agencies can ensure their personnel are not only compliant but also prepared to handle the complexities of their roles. Regular policy training fosters a culture of readiness and informed decision-making, ultimately enhancing the safety and effectiveness of public safety operations. In sum, public safety leaders need to keep the following in mind:

  • If you’re a Lexipol customer, be sure to use the DTBs.
  • If you’re not a Lexipol customer, the DTBs are a great reason to become one!
  • Either way, policy training is key to risk management in your organization.
  • “I didn’t know” is not an effective defense in any venue.
  • How do you know your personnel know and understand your policy?

Lexipol’s Content Development staff consists of current and former public safety professionals including lawyers and others who have served as chief, deputy chief, captain, lieutenant, sergeant, officer, deputy, jail manager, PREA auditor, prosecutor, agency counsel, civil litigator, writer, subject matter expert instructor within public safety agencies, as well as college and university adjunct professor. Learn more about Lexipol’s public safety solutions.