A Steady Diet Of Roll Call Training

December 2, 2007 – 13:57 pm

Roll CallYears ago when I was a fairly new officer, one of my sergeants had a great idea – he wanted to start doing roll call training. Actually, he was really only responsible for resurrecting the idea. The practice of conducting mini-training sessions during roll call had come and gone in our agency on several occasions, as I am sure it has in many others. Although I think most road supervisors understand the value of imparting these little “nuggets” of knowledge on their charges, it does require some pre-planning and sometimes the job can even get in the way. When the calls are backed up on Friday or Saturday night, it can be really difficult to hold the power shift people in the squad room for an additional ten minute training session.

These may be some of the reasons that roll call training tends to happen in fits and starts in most agencies. I think some supervisors treat roll call training like a crash diet. Have you ever noticed that people that are on a diet do really well for a while, but if they have one bad day, they tend to just give up and stop dieting altogether. It never occurs to them that one moment of weakness will not trash weeks of dieting. The same is true for roll call training. Supervisor must accept the fact that the job will occasionally interfere with your roll call training program but tomorrow is another day. Don’t just give up on the program, simply begin anew tomorrow.

Although there may be some challenges associated with an ongoing roll call training program, I think most of us will agree that the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. So lets take a look at some strategies for starting an maintaining a long term roll call training program.

Do It First

If you are the shift supervisor in charge of conducting roll call, you probably devote some time each day to organizing the information that you plan to present during roll call to make sure you don’t leave out anything. Get in the habit of preparing an outline of your presentation agenda. Don’t get real sexy, just use Word’s outline function to prepare your agenda each day. Make sure that the first item on your agenda is roll call training. When you start roll call with your training program, you have the officers’ undivided attention. As you get closer to the end of roll call, the officers tend to get distracted by the tasks associated with the start of the shift. Even if you don’t place roll call training at the top of your agenda, make sure that it is “scheduled.” If you only do roll call training “if there is time”, your program is destined for failure.

Prepare A Lesson Plan

Anytime that you conduct a training program, there should be a written record of the material that was covered. It doesn’t have to be as in-depth as the format that is used at the academy but it should include an outline of the key points. The outline will be helpful for accreditation purposes, personnel issues or even in court so make sure you save a copy of your lesson plan along with your daily roll call agenda.

What Topics Should Be Covered

If you are having trouble deciding what topics to cover during roll call training, a good place to go for ideas is your annual performance evaluation form. What criteria is used to evaluate the officers’ performance each year? What topics would help them to improve their performance is the rated areas?

You should also keep abreast of current events in the news and use them as a springboard for training sessions. For instance, recently there have been several stories in the media about the use of stun equipment. This might be a good time to review your agency’s policy governing this issue. Even if your agency doesn’t issue stun equipment, take the opportunity to review your policy on the use of other intermediate weapons such as OC spray, expandable batons or less than lethal impact munitions.

Call In Some Markers

Tap into the expertise of your local criminal justice community for training topics. For instance, you may have someone in your agency that has a reputation for effective enforcement of DUI or narcotics violations. Ask them to do a training session or a series of sessions for your officers. Most of these folks are proud of their expertise and they will be flattered that you asked them to share their knowledge.

My sergeant brought in a state trooper to discuss vehicle registration offenses. That night, I stopped a vehicle for an expired temporary license plate and I ended up charging the lady with three other vehicle registration offenses as a direct result of the knowledge I had gained during the trooper’s 15 minute presentation.

Many social services agencies or special interest groups like MADD or SADD will jump at the chance to talk with officers about their programs. All you have to do is make the request and schedule the time. Remember to ask them to provide you with a written overview of their presentation so that you can file it with your agenda.

Teaching Is Learning

According to Glasser’s Leaning Scale, we learn 70% of what we discuss with others and 95% of what we teach to others. With this in mind, you may want to try a round robin approach to role call training with your officers.

Assign each officer a date to conduct a roll call training course of his choice. This practice will involve the officers in their training, give the supervisor a break from his course development responsibilities and increase the learning level of the instructing officer. The supervisor should have a back up lesson available so that he can cover the training session in the event that an officer is absent on his assigned date due to illness or some other issue.

Fix Agency Problems

A good place to get fodder for roll call training is your policy manual. However, unless you want incite to a mass revolt, don’t just sit and read the policy. Hopefully, your officers are capable of reading the policy on their own. Instead, ask someone from your agency who has a thorough knowledge of the policy to explain its history and the reasons for the policy then discuss the it with the officers. Discussions of this type help officers to understand the “why” of the policy instead of just the “what.” A focus group discussion of this nature can also benefit the policy developers since a thorough review of the policy will often identify outdated points that are in need of revision.  A thorough review of existing policies may also preclude the need for new policies. When officers understand the “why” of a policy, they are better able to apply the spirit of the policy to wider range of situation thus eliminating the need for additional written guidance.

Don’t try to cram an entire policy into one session. If you are reviewing an extensive or critical topic like your agency’s use of force policy, do a series of sessions over several shifts.

Personal Benefit For Officers

Consider conducting training on issues that will personally benefit the officers and their families. Review agency benefit programs such deferred compensation, health care, retirement and employee assistance. A class on line of duty death benefits, accompanied by a resource handout for their spouses, would be a comfort to the officers and an invaluable resource for their families.

There Will Be A Quiz

That’s right – it’s a good practice to test your officers’ understanding of the material that you covered during roll call training for a couple of reasons. First, the officers tend to pay a little closer attention when they know they are going to be tested on the material. Second, the purpose of taking the time and effort to conduct roll call training is to impart knowledge to the officers. How will you know if you were successful if you don’t conduct some type of assessment.

I am not talking about administering an annual 100 question comprehensive exam. All you need to do is administer a 10 to 20 question multiple choice quiz that covers the high points of the training from the past month. In addition to testing the officers’ understanding and retention of material that was covered, it reenforces the important training criteria.

Of course testing carries an obligation to conduct remedial instruction for officers that haven’t grasp the important points of the training but that can take the form of a short verbal refresher coupled with a notation on the quiz sheet.

Use Your Imagination

Don’t be afraid to experiment with roll call training topics. You should understand that you are not going to hit a home run with every training course and some officers are going to complain about any additional training requirement. However, if you believe that your job as a supervisor is to empower your officers to do their job – there is no better tool that you can provide than knowledge.

Speak Up!

If you found the information in this article useful (or not), click on the “Comment” link below and share your opinion.

  1. 3 Responses to “A Steady Diet Of Roll Call Training”

  2. I did a roll call training for Waynesboro PD last month about the dangerous dog laws and the liability issues that this has opened up. I thought it went well but never thought about testing. You really think that should be included huh? I gave them a cheat sheet.

    By Charlotte Robinson on Dec 2, 2007

  3. I am a civilian employee required to take this training. I do see the benefits since we work with the officers. It may be a good idea for civilian personnel to attend roll call at times to go complement what we’re leaning here.

    By Andrecia Vespa on Feb 25, 2015

  4. I made it a point to provide at least two roll call training sessions per month. This allowed me enough time to make “cheat sheet flyers” for the topics covered and provide an interesting subject matter that could be covered without losing anyone’s attention. I kept a binder of each roll call flyer for tracking purposes, which also allowed other supervisors to make copies and conduct training on the same subject.

    By Melinda Wra on Apr 2, 2015

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