§ 13.03. Adequate Training for Agency Employees

All agency employees should receive adequate, relevant, timely, continuing, and effective training and evaluation, both before and during service, to provide and maintain the knowledge and skills necessary for engaging in sound policing.


a. Training. Training is critical to ensuring that policing achieves its aims, comports with these Principles, and protects officer and public safety and well-being. In addition, training is indispensable to enabling officers and other agency employees to live up to the dictates of the law and agency policy and the expectations of the community. Training bolsters understanding of the directives with which officers and employees must comply and the values to which a department is committed. It also develops the knowledge and skills needed to satisfy those directives. Thus, agency employees and officers should receive training both before and during service that is adequate and specific to: the legal environment; agency policy and values; and the duties they are expected to perform. Such training should be reinforced with supervision and other systems of accountability described in these Principles.

b. Adequate training. Although state laws and administrative regulations set minimum training standards—and federal law creates civil liability for agency-training failures that cause constitutional violations—these standards alone do not provide an appropriate baseline for training. Accordingly, agencies should not treat compliance with state law or the absence of liability under civil-rights laws as an indication that their training is adequate.

For instance, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, individuals who suffer injury as a result of an agency’s failure to train officers adequately may be awarded relief only when the failure to train causes a constitutional violation and reflects “deliberate indifference” to constitutional rights. Quite obviously, inadequate training of policing agency employees may result in innumerable harms, even if it does meet those standards. Inadequate training also can reduce officer effectiveness substantially, increase the risk of harm to officers, violate state law or agency rules, and decrease trust in law enforcement—all without causing a constitutional violation. Moreover, because the liability standard for failure-to-train claims under § 1983 is difficult to satisfy, constitutional standards for adequate training are not well-developed. Thus, while proper training may reduce agency liability both by preventing legal violations and by minimizing § 1983 claims for failure to train adequately, the adequacy of training should be measured by what is needed to ensure sound policing rather than by the dictates of law.

Similarly, while state laws often provide broad minimum-training standards, they do not require training specific to agency policy and values. An officer could receive training that the state views as adequate without understanding or being prepared to implement agency policies that govern his or her conduct. Thus, the training required by this Section exceeds in quantity and scope that demanded by existing law.

c. Relevance. Training is “relevant” if it reflects the core values and policies of the agency, provides the full range of skills and knowledge for the tasks the individual is likely to be expected to perform, and is tailored to the environment in which the individual operates. Thus, agencies should provide training that expressly states and promotes the positive values of the agency, such as training that encourages officers to prioritize human life or to intervene to prevent misconduct by other officers. They should also monitor and correct training that is inconsistent with agency standards and values. For instance, state and regional academies may train officers in tactics, such as precision-immobilization-technique maneuvers for vehicle pursuits, even if they are forbidden by agency policy. Agencies also should update training and provide supplementary training to reflect changes in agency policy or law. Supervisors and officers with special assignments should receive additional training for the added responsibilities and tasks their positions demand.

d. Timeliness. Training is “timely” if it is provided both before service begins and regularly during service. It should be repeated as necessary to reinforce its content and reflect changes in law, policy, technology, and technique. Training should continue throughout an individual’s career. No individual should be permitted to exercise policing powers unless that individual has initially met and continues to meet minimum training standards consistent with his or her position and responsibilities.

e. Effectiveness. Training is “effective” if it produces desirable police practices and attitudes. Both training content and training methods should reflect available research about how to achieve intended outcomes. To maximize its likely effectiveness, training should be correlated closely to the challenges of policing. It should reflect contemporary knowledge of adult learning and effective pedagogical techniques and should go beyond the classroom. For example, use-of-force training should include reality-based simulations, and procedural-justice training should include interactive role-play training. Legal training should include the application of legal standards to fact scenarios officers are likely to face. In addition, all training should be provided in a competent, professional, impartial, and ethical manner, by highly qualified trainers, utilizing a carefully prepared curriculum.

f. Testing and evaluation. Ensuring effective training requires assessing whether individuals learn what is intended and engage subsequently in conduct consistent with that training. Agencies therefore should aim to evaluate on an ongoing basis the effectiveness of the training that they provide, including by collaborating with independent researchers. See § 14.11 (research principle). In addition, any training assessment should be tailored to the form of training. Thus, for instance, agencies should engage in periodic assessments of the training provided by field-training officers and supervisors in order to ensure that such training is achieving its desired ends.

g. Necessity. Knowledge and skills are “necessary” for policing duties within the meaning of this Section if they enable officers to achieve their duties effectively, safely, and in a manner consistent with the principles of sound policing. Thus, training should be designed to give individuals the capacity: (1) to engage in daily activities such as patrolling, making arrests, engaging in conflict resolution, and assisting members of the public; (2) to protect themselves in the line of duty; and (3) to police in a manner that minimizes harm, facilitates transparency and accountability, adheres to the written policies and values of the agency, and is consistent with the principles of procedural justice.

Use-of-force training, for example, should be designed not only to enable officers to use force lawfully and effectively, but also to enable officers to avoid using force, and to use the minimum force necessary to achieve the intended objective. See § 7.03. Similarly, agencies should provide training on working with juveniles and other special populations—including people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, people suffering from addiction, people who are homeless, people who are disabled, people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and people with limited English language skills­—because doing so is important to protecting public safety, protecting the officers themselves, and minimizing harm to special populations. See § 11.05 (on addressing the needs of vulnerable populations). Thus, training officers on interpersonal and communication skills, bias awareness, crisis intervention, trauma and victim services, mental-health issues, languages and cultural responsiveness, and interacting with special populations is necessary to prepare officers for their work.

h. Agency and state roles. Across the United States, preservice police training is provided variously by state or regional academies, institutions of higher education, law-enforcement agencies, or a combination of those actors. States should play an active role in supporting agency training efforts as well as setting minimum standards for preservice and in-service training. However, state standards cannot ensure that local officers receive all of the training they need. First, state training standards necessarily are minimum standards. As such, they are unlikely to provide the content or frequency of training necessary to enable officers to reach the level of performance to which they and their agencies should aspire. Moreover, as noted above, state training standards cannot suffice to provide training that is tailored to local variations in populations, conditions, law, values and expectations, policy, duties, and organization. Additional training of officers therefore should be provided by the agencies for which they work in order to meet the standards articulated in this Chapter.

Agencies may provide the necessary supplemental training through a range of training activities, provided in-house, by state-approved training providers, and by external public and private providers. However, agencies should only offer training—whether by internal or external providers—that is fully consistent with their values and policies. Agencies cannot provide this additional, high-quality training if they are not given the resources to do so. Jurisdictions therefore should devote the resources necessary to allow agencies to provide effective, specific training, and should consider means of reducing the cost of training by coordinating training with other jurisdictions, where appropriate.

Training provided by law-enforcement agencies for their officers, including field training and in-service training, should reinforce and be consistent with law, with written rules governing officer conduct, and with preservice training, except when changes or local variations in law, policy, or circumstances require deviating from that training. Thus, agencies should carefully supervise and monitor agency culture and training for consistency with training standards, law, and policy. Historically, officers often received field training and informal guidance that undermined the lessons and messages of formal, preservice training and the written policies of the agency, and that encouraged officers to follow informal norms rather than academy training. Such inconsistency undermines internal accountability and erodes the trust of communities in agencies and officers in their leadership. When agencies use regional, state, or federal training resources and facilities, they must be especially careful to screen the training to ensure that it is consistent with current agency policies and practices. In some cases, inconsistencies between the training program and local policies will make even otherwise high-quality training inappropriate for officers in a particular jurisdiction.

Reporters’ Notes

1. Generally. Training is critical to sound policing. Only with effective training can officers follow the law and live up to the values and expectations of their communities and agencies. Presently, however, officer training is inadequate in the scope, quality, and frequency necessary to achieve its goals.

2. Relevance and necessity. All officers receive training, both before they start service and during service. Although the required amount of training on each subject varies by state and agency, all preservice (recruit) training programs provide operations training with lessons on matters such as report writing, patrol procedures, criminal and traffic investigations, vehicle operations, first aid, defensive tactics, firearms skills, the use of force (including weapon retention, verbal command presence, and ground fighting), and criminal and constitutional law. Most officers also receive operations instruction on arrest-control tactics, when to use force, communications, professionalism, and stress prevention. In addition to operations instruction, almost all officers receive some training on community-policing subjects and other special topics, including interacting with vulnerable populations. Brian A. Reaves, Bureau of Just. Stat., State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies 6-7 (2006); Ark. Code Ann. § 12-9-113 (2009) (domestic violence); Ark. Code Ann. § 12-9-116 (2011) (persons with disabilities); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-31-313 (2017) (exploitation of elders); Minn. Stat. § 626.8455 (2013) (community policing).

Despite this array of subject matters, many officers do not receive the kind, amount, or quality of training necessary to enable them to do their jobs safely, effectively, and consistently with the principles of sound policing. See, e.g., Police Exec. Rsch. F., Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force 4 (2015) (“[T]he training currently provided to new recruits and experienced officers in most departments in inadequate.”). For example, many officers are unprepared to address the distinctive populations with whom they interact frequently or to avoid using unnecessary coercion in addressing public safety challenges. They often receive too little training in subjects such as conflict management—in light of how frequently they are called upon to exercise such skills in practice—or training that is too infrequent to adequately address changing agency policies and legal standards. Not surprisingly, many serious problems in policing today, including patterns of illegal stops, searches, arrests, and uses of force, have been attributed to training failures. See, e.g., Civ. Rts. Div., U.S. Dep’t of Just., Investigation of the Newark Police Department 44-45 (2014); Letter from Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Att’y Gen., U.S. Dep’t of Just., to Tomas P. Regalado, Mayor, City of Miami & Chief Manuel Orosa, City of Miami Police Dep’t 6 (July 9, 2013) (regarding investigation of Miami Police Department); see also Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing 51-59 (2015); Civ. Rts. Div., U.S. Dep’t of Just., Investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department 130-133 (2016) (citing a lack of training as a contributor to constitutional violations). Thus, many call for expanding officer training to add or increase training on subjects important to contemporary policing, such as: racial bias; interactions with special populations; the disease of addiction; active bystandership/peer intervention; problem-solving; crime prevention; stress management and self-regulation; de-escalation and avoiding the use of force; interpersonal and communication skills; report writing and recordkeeping; departmental values, policies, and philosophy; community engagement and relations; procedural justice and impartial policing; and alternatives to arrests and summonses. See, e.g., PERF, supra, at 4 (describing as inadequate training on de-escalation and avoiding the use of force and strategies for dealing with the mentally ill and other special populations); U.S. Conf. of Mayors, Report on Police Reform and Racial Justice 18 (2020) (discussing importance of training officers on peer intervention/active bystandership); President’s Task Force, supra, at 51-59 (recommending—or describing witnesses advocating—training on additional subject matters). As this Section suggests, the full training that police receive should be reevaluated regularly—in terms of subject matter, quantity, timing, and method of delivery—and adjusted to reflect changes in the tasks officers are expected to perform, and to respond to changes in the legal, policy, cultural, social, or technological environments in which they operate. The International Association for Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training recommends in its Model Minimum Standard 3.2.2 that training “be based on a valid and reliable job task analysis which is updated at least every five years.” Int’l Ass’n of Dirs. of L. Enf’t Standards & Training, Model Minimum Standards § 3.2.2, https://www.iadlest.org/‌Portals/‌0/IADLEST%20‌Model%20Minimum%20Standards%20document_1.pdf (last visited March 14, 2021). Such assessment must include the training provided to supervisors, who are critical to sound policing, and yet frequently do not receive training sufficiently tailored for their duties. PERF, Training, supra, at 4. Although it is not sustainable to respond to every new or newly heightened concern in policing by adding training, and doing so can be counterproductive if it leads to cynicism or skews the balance of the training officers receive, adjusting training appropriately is essential to promoting sound policing and engendering public trust in police.

3. Effectiveness. Although most standards for police training focus on the subject matter and quantity of training, officer training also should be consistent with contemporary research regarding police training and pedagogy. The empirical evidence on what kinds of police training are effective in changing officer practices is exceptionally limited. Nevertheless, many experts believe that to be effective, officer training should: be consistent with adult theories of learning; include realistic, scenario-based training; and integrate teaching core skills and knowledge throughout the training curriculum. See, e.g., President’s Task Force, supra, at 52-53, 60; PERF, Training, supra, at 4; United States v. City of Seattle (W.D. Wash. 2014), C12-1282JLR, Memorandum Regarding Instructional System Design Model for Comprehensive Use of Force Training, https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2014/10/23/spd_docket144.pdf.

4. Timeliness. As Comment a indicates, training should be provided before service begins and continue regularly during service. Although most officers are fully trained and certified before they begin their duties, some states presently permit officers to work without or before they fully satisfy preservice- or recruit-training requirements for sworn officers. See, e.g., 132-00-13 Ark. Code R. § 003 (2013) (allowing individuals to serve as officers up to 12 months without formal training); 250 Ind. Admin. Code 2-2-1 (2017) (allowing officers to serve for a year prior to basic training). Other states permit individuals to serve as reserve deputies, conservators of the peace, or other positions in which they have some of the core powers of sworn officers, such as the arrest power, but do not receive the training or certification required for most officers. Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1734 (1997), Okla Stat. tit. 19, § 547 (2017). These practices are flatly inconsistent with this Section. Allowing untrained individuals to perform core policing tasks endangers them and the public. Although it may be helpful for an agency to provide for reserve deputies or other positions that can assist law-enforcement agencies, no individual should exercise the core functions of an officer unless he or she is trained, qualified, and certified to do so.

5. Liability for training inadequacy. Although agencies that fail to train officers adequately can be subject to civil liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, constitutional law, as it is presently interpreted, does not ensure that officers receive adequate training. In City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that municipalities may be held liable for failing to train employees when the inadequate training causes a constitutional injury and amounts to “a policy for which the city is responsible.” Id. at 389. This can happen only if “in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the city can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.” Id.at 390. Courts have also held that supervisors may be liable for inadequate training, but only when their own acts or omissions with respect to training result in constitutional violations, and when they demonstrate callous or reckless indifference with respect to the failure to train. See, e.g., Febus-Rodriguez v. Betancourt-Lebron, 14 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 1994); see also Elkins v. District of Columbia, 690 F.3d 554, 566 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (“Supervisory liability under Section 1983 is triggered only when a supervisor fails to provide more stringent training in the wake of a history of past transgressions by the agency or provides training ‘so clearly deficient that some deprivation of rights will inevitably result absent additional instruction.’” (citations omitted)). As these examples suggest, present doctrine does not attempt to measure whether officers receive training adequate to prepare them for their responsibility, and agencies should not use legal liability as the primary standard by which they measure appropriate training.

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