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Training Staff for Real World Applications

February 23rd, 2010


Many years ago when I was in Army Basic Training,  a drill sergeant made a statement that has stayed with me for all these years. He said, “s—t heads, how you train is how you will fight.” With those inspiring words ingrained in my mind, I have always endeavored to design and deliver training that was as realistic and job related as possible. Today, more that ever, criminal justice training must be as close as possible to “real life” situations.  To achieve the realism necessary for effective training, it is crucial that the curricula be developed  incorporating all of the training methods and techniques that are applicable to the topics being taught. 

Training time is expensive and should not be wasted conducting training that has limited, if any, “real world” value or application. I used to go CRAZY when I would be asked to review a basic officer training curriculum and find time wasters such as the following:

  • Four hours of The History of the Organization  – Lecture and PowerPoint Presentation
  • Four hours of Personnel Orientation  – Lecture and PowerPoint Presentation
  • Six hours of Baton Training – Three hours of Lecture, PowerPoint Presentation and One hour of practical “hands-on” training.

When I find basic officer training filled with courses like those above, I make the following recommendations:

  1. One hour ONLY of the History of the Organization; by doing this, there is a gain of three training hours.
  2. One hour of Personnel Orientation that is presented via video presentation. This permits a gain of three hours.
  3. One and a half hours of Baton Training that covers the legal aspects and agency policies for the use of the baton. This permits additional time  for the recruits to physically handle the baton and practice the different types of strikes.

Another area where I find that there is a tremendous gap between the training and practical applications  is “real world” in emergency (crisis) training. Of course, the training will vary depending on the agency, location, equipment, and personnel. For instance, rural law enforcement will conduct different types of scenario-based training than that of a metropolitan police department. Similarly, small county jails will differ from large state penitentiaries.

Correctional agency training must be constructed around keeping the facilities secure, the care and custody of the offenders, and the gathering of intelligence. This I believe can be accomplished by training correctional staff to:

  1. Talk /communicate with inmates,
  2. Be observant and know what to look for (contraband/inmate gatherings/The mood of the unit – normal sights and sounds/abnormal sights and sounds.)
  3. Learn to observe inmate behavior ( and what that behavior may mean – planning a disturbance,a hit on an inmate, or suicide), etc.

I cannot stress enough the importance of “hands-on” and “real life” applications for all training. Training time is costly to every organization and, therefore, the training should be cost effective. I use this model to determine training needs and time allotments:

  1. High Priority for job application
  2. Priority for job application
  3. Low priority for job application
  4. No job application
  5. Waste of training time.

What worries me now, is that with the tight budgets, training department budgets will be cut which will negatively affect training and have long term negative implications. Training, in my opinion, is the backbone of any agency because it prepares new officers to enter the correctional work force with a basic understanding of how they should conduct themselves and what they should do. People have to be trained in the knowledge, skills, technical applications, and attitudes required to do these challenging and difficult jobs. Without affording people the opportunity to receive high quality and job related training, agencies, I believe, are programming people to fail and are opening themselves to liabilities both from the offenders, and/or staff, not to mention staff turnover.

When money gets tight, training departments revert back to the old training method – Lecture. While lecture has a place in staff training, too often it gets overused. There are very few training courses where lecture, in itself, can fulfill all of the training requirements. However, it is a proven fact that participants learn and retain more when they have a chance to “practice” what they learned. As an example, staff / offender communications can be taught by the lecture method, yet the participants could still practice the skills that they have learned by incorporating role play as a  training method.

Take the time to ensure that your training is job related to the level of the people taking the class and that they can use the training to refine and enhance their skills. It is an accepted fact that job related training helps to reduce staff turnover and leads to better staff job satisfaction.

For managers, superviors, staff and trainers training is a much your responsibility as it is the the training department!

As many of you know I have taken some time off from writing my blog. I thank the many people who emailed me to see if anything was wrong. Wm. Bill Sturgeon.


“OOPS”! The Blooper At the White House

November 30th, 2009

Today, the White House Secret Service Unit is trying to figure out where the system broke-down.

Here is the simple answer. The human element “goofed-up”.

Now, the questions are:
1. Did the human element “goof-up” because it is a systemic issue that the “beautiful people” are different from us “the normal people” ? Beautiful people do  not wait in line and go through the normal security scrutiny required to protect the President of the United States – the most powerful man in the world.

2. Do not tell the American people that the President was never in danger – we “the normal people” know better. Yes, many of us  “normal people” were born at night, but not last night. The President was in danger!

3. Yes, I still believe in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, but is this really the first time that someone has breached the inner security rings of the White House ? If these two “wing-nuts” were not publicity hounds, would we,” the normal people”, ever have found out about the breach? My experience and cynical beliefs lead me to believe that this is not the first time – but it must be the last time.


Lessons Learned from the Security Breach

1. Do not laugh at the misfortunes of others – double, triple check your own security – TODAY!

2. There is an old adage:  “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.  You need to  find the weak link(s) in your security operations and fix it. (If the truth be known, most of us know where our weak links are – fixing them may be the issue – politics, funding, staffing, etc .)

3. When it comes to security there are no “beautiful people”  or sacred cows – NO EXCEPTIONS TO The RULES!

Summary for Today

Check and test your security operations daily or more often if needed.  Do not assume anything and do not take anything for granted.

If you wish to comment on this blog entry, leave your  comment on the blog site and I will get back to you. Now I am going to sit by the fire and wait for Santa to come down the chimney – perhaps I should put out the fire first.






President Declares the H1N1 Flu a National Emergency

October 24th, 2009

On Saturday, October 24, 2009, President Obama declared that the H1N1 Flu is a National Emergency. It appears that the H1N1 flu is  spreading faster than anticipateded and projected. I wrote about the H1n1 Flu in a blog titled  [H1N1 Virus (Pandemic) Planning: Play-It-Safe-“Over-Plan”]. When I wrote this article, [September 17, 2009] we were led to believe by the Center for Disease Control and others than they had everything under control and not to worry. They said that there would be an ample supply of vaccines available.  Well, I guess those planners did not  “Over-Plan”, and now the spread of the H1N1 Flu has surpassed the planners’ expectations and estimates and the entire nation is playing catch-up. Read more…

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H1N1 Virus (Pandemic) Planning: Play It Safe-Over-Plan

September 17th, 2009

H1N1 Virus (Pandemic) Planning: Play It Safe-Over-Plan

Wm. Bill McNeice Sturgeon

There has been a great deal written about the H1N1 virus (aka Swine Flu). There are articles spanning the medical gamut from who should be immunized to when schools should be closed. Everything that I have read has beeninsightful and useful. I will incorporate much of the  information that gleaned from my research into this article. This article is being written as a WARNING for correctional facilities and/or places where people live in close contact with each other (juvenile facilities, college dormitories.) H1N1 virus may, like the Y2K alarm, turn out to be a big bust, or it may turn out to be the most significant medical event in recent memory. It is better to be prepared than to be caught unprepared. Read more…

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A Famous Irish-American Died Last Week

September 4th, 2009

James Patrick Noonan was the father of Joe Noonan. Joe and his wife, Laura, started

A Famous Irish-American Died Last Week by Wm Bill McNeice Sturgeon

Last week a famous Irish-American man died after living a long and fruitful life. Although his family, friends and acquaintances knew that death was inevitable because of his long battle with cancer – now it had arrived. Read more…


From Gitmo To A Place Near YOU!: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

August 25th, 2009

It appears that the “powers-to-be” cannot find countries (allies) who are willing to take the remainder of the terrorist/prisoners currently being held at the Military Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. So, they, the “powers-to-be”, are looking at prisons here in the Continental United States (CONUS) where they can incarcerate these troublesome terrorist/prisoners.  Read more…

Gitmo Terrorist / Prisoners to a Place Near You , ,

Is the Chino (CA) Riot a Precursor of What is to Come

August 17th, 2009

As I am writing this article, the smoke is still rising from the Chino Prison in California. I have for the past few years been concerned that correctional systems could be destined to have a repeat of the riots of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s – Attica, Santa Fe, etc.

Read more…

Escapes from a facility, Major Disturbance / Riots, security, Security Operations ,

Why are There so Many Escapes – Lately

August 4th, 2009

Why are There so Many Escapes – Lately?

By Wm. Bill Sturgeon

The other day I read about another escape from a correctional facility. In the past, an escape could be a career ending experience for a chief correctional administrator. After many years in the field of corrections, I have reviewed many escapes and for the most part there are some basic similarities in every escape. While they all do not have to happen for escapes to take place, in today’s article we will look at some of these similaries. 

Read more…

Escapes from a facility, security, Security Operations

Back to Basics – Part 2 – Extended Loss of Power

July 20th, 2009

“When the lights went out in …” It is a very real possibility that there could be a future emergency where power is lost for a prolonged period of time. If memory serves me correctly, the last time agencies/companies gave serious consideration to the potential loss of power for an extended period of time was Y2K.

Many agencies/companies prepared to react to an extended loss of power by insuring that they had extra fuel for their emergency generators. While this was a positive step for agencies/companies, it was only one of many other steps that needed to be put into place to insure operations, should there be an extended loss of power. Read more…

Extended Loss of Power, security, Security Operations, Uncategorized ,

“E” Plans Part IIa Perimeter

July 15th, 2009

There are a variety of ways to review Emergency/Contingency Plans. I like the approach where I employ the matrix that was mentioned in Part I of this series. This helps to insure that every facet of the Plan(s) has been examined. (Also from the matrix, numerous checklists, drills, and scenerios can be developed for those who want to have a paper trail.) The most important element for any Emergency/Contingency Plan, in my opinion, is that it should be Operational and Functional. When an Emergency hits is NOT the time to realize that your Emergency/Contingency Plans are flawed. Read more…