A new teaching year is beginning for myself and my fellow members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Advanced Training Unit, with a handful of new courses to be presented and refreshers coming on a few more.
Each year, the Municipal Police Officer’s Education & Training Commission (MPOETC) develops four courses as mandated classroom training for all of Pennsylvania’s law enforcement officers.
In Philly, it is the ATU’s job to present those courses to the vast majority of the city’s 6,000+ officers, detectives and supervisors. The ATU also provides fee-based training to ‘outside’ jurisdictions such as the police from SEPTA, the university police at Temple and Penn, and a few other agencies and municipalities.
Each MPOETC course is presented as a half-day of training, making for two full state-mandated days in the classroom for each officer. Every single year, the 15 or so members of the ATU staff will provide instruction to roughly 25,000 attendees in a couple of thousand sessions.
However, for 2014, that number will expand, because every two years all officers are also required to receive recertification training in CPR and First Aid. The CPR training is a full day. The First Aid training is a half day, and the PPD always takes advantage of the other half day to present some type of additional training.
So in the 2014 teaching year, the ATU will be presenting four classroom days to each officer in the two days of MPOETC-mandated training, a day for CPR, and another day for the combined First Aid/departmental training. Factoring in only Philly cops, the ATU staff will provide classes to at least 42,000 attendees during the year.
The four MPOETC offerings this year are “Legal Updates“, “Invisible Wounds“, “Crimes Against the Elderly“, and “Social Media“, while the departmental bonus training to accompany First Aid will be a “Policy Updates” course.
A new version of “Legal Updates” is presented each and every year to all officers. The course highlights any major changes to existing laws, presents important new laws passed during the last year, and goes over the particular facts involved in specific case law from around the Commonwealth and the nation in the last year.
“Crimes Against the Elderly” is a course highlighting the problems being presented by transient criminal groups who run various scams and other crimes, frequently targeting more vulnerable elderly members of the community with their organized crime schemes. These include frauds involving home improvement, roofing, driveway resurfacing, and more.
“Invisible Wounds” is a course designed around the elements of ‘PTSD’, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As many of our officers learned during a recently-presented course on “Suicide Prevention“, PTSD is considered the primary cause of that particularly devastating issue. Officers should emerge with a better idea of not only the dangers to those in our profession, but also will learn some strategies to help them avoid, mitigate, and manage it’s effects.
“Social Media” is a course that will introduce the officers to various forms of social media and their importance in the world at large, while also discussing how it can be used as an investigative tool. There is discussion of the benefits, as well as the perils, of their individual on-duty use as sworn and salaried city employees, as well as their off-duty use of media and it’s relation to their employment responsibilities and expectations. There is also a presentation on the necessary growth of departmental/agency uses of social media.
The PPD has determined that a “Policy Updates” course would be beneficial, and this will be presented on the same day that First Aid training is provided. This course will be a review of the key points in a couple of dozen important internal policies, mostly Directives, which the department has updated over the last couple of years.
All of this training presents a challenge to the management and staff at the Advanced Training Unit, with a full schedule that will keep them busy for much of the year. Captain Hugh Lynch, who has been the on-site Commanding Officer at the unit for the last couple of years is being promoted by the PPD, so it will be a new challenge under a new Commanding Officer as well.
Also notably, this marks the last scheduled year in the careers of a pair of the units key personnel: Lieutenant Jim Gould and Lieutenant John Bradley. Each of these men plays an important role, but each is wrapping up his career with the PPD. Both are scheduled to retire at the very beginning of 2015, at the latest.
The staff at the Advanced Training Unit is fully invested in the education of Philadelphia’s police officers. This year’s schedule may be a challenge on the minds, the feet, and the vocal chords of that staff, but we realize that the benefits to the individual officers, the department as a whole, and subsequently to the community are great.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to begin reporting to Major League Baseball spring training camps in the next couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to borrow from our National Pastime for a relevant opening statement to our own teaching year: “Play ball!”