Connie L. Patrick, Director, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
he horrific events of 9/11 ushered in tremendous change for the public safety community. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2003 to coordinate and unify homeland security efforts, law enforcement was recognized as a vital component in the United States’ comprehensive strategy to confront threats. Since 1970, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) has provided basic and advanced training to federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement officers. With decades of experience meeting the needs of multiple law enforcement communities, FLETC was poised to embrace a broadened mission as part of DHS. The post-9/11 landscape is more complex than ever before, and we knew we had to evolve to provide the very best preparation against a new kind of enemy in a rapidly changing world.
The United States’ invigorated focus on fighting terrorism around the globe and in our own backyard created a demand for law enforcement training beyond what the FLETC had ever experienced. Since 2001,
- our federal partner agencies have grown from 76 to 91;
- our footprints in the state, local, and international law enforcement communities have expanded substantially; and
- our annual student throughput has nearly tripled to more than 70,000 students. This year, we reached our 1 millionth student trained.
But the statistics tell a small part of the story.
The transition to DHS occasioned a refocusing of many FLETC training programs and the creation of new ones to meet emerging needs, such as antiterrorism and counterterrorism, officers flying armed, intelligence awareness, and critical infrastructure protection. The rapid advancement of technology and the borderless nature of many crimes highlighted a need for enhanced training in technical areas like computer forensics, cyberinvestigations, and financial fraud. The recognition that terrorism can occur anywhere and anytime led to a rural training initiative that ensures that officers who are working in the most remote areas have access to critical training. As the law enforcement landscape becomes increasingly complex, we remain vigilant of emerging training needs, with recent program development in areas such as human trafficking, drug-endangered children, and countering violent extremism.
The FLETC mission purposefully includes all those who protect the U.S. homeland and the criticality of interoperability has become paramount in the post-9/11 law enforcement profession. Consequently, FLETC has further integrated our state, local, tribal, and international partners into our training activities. By working cooperatively with entities like the DHS Office for State and Local Law Enforcement and IACP, FLETC reaches an audience of thousands of state and local officers each year, providing training in topics including
- intelligence-led policing,
- suspicious activity reporting,
- disaster mitigation, and
- domestic violence in tribal communities.
As we face new threats and globalized criminal activity, we have expanded our worldwide reach through participation in the International Law Enforcement Academies in Hungary, Thailand, Botswana, and El Salvador, and through engagement with groups such as INTERPOL’S International Group of Expert Police Trainers and the DHS Office of International Affairs.
The growing complexity of the law enforcement environment has highlighted the importance of proactively identifying new technologies to enhance training. During the past decade, we have integrated advanced simulators into firearms, driver, maritime, and interview training, providing students with realistic training scenarios. For example, FLETC students now have access to the Avatar-Based Interview Simulator, which permits free-flowing conversation utilizing speech recognition and a virtual avatar to create an interactive training experience. We have adopted an after-action review system for use in situational training complexes, providing instructors and students with an unparalleled ability to record and review student performance during high-stress situations and complex tactical training. These and other innovations are needed to connect with new generations of students, who always have known a world where technology is omnipresent. FLETC looks very different than it did only 10 years ago as we aim to ensure our students are more prepared than ever before.
As criminal and terrorist threats evolve, law enforcement trainers must remain at the forefront of research to ensure our programs remain on the cutting edge. In partnership with academic, private, international, and military organizations, FLETC has participated in a wide range of research projects over the past decade concerning topics such as cognitive interviewing, cyberforensics, simulations, crime scene investigations, and the relationship between high-stress training scenarios and officer preparedness. Another recent FLETC study demonstrates great promise in the use of laser-adapted firearms in conjunction with live-fire weapons in basic marksmanship instruction. We look forward to using research like this to continue enhancing our training.
As we have evolved in concert with post-9/11 demands, we recognize the critical role stateof-the-art facilities play in providing realistic training. In 2004, FLETC began constructing our Counterterrorism Operations Training Facility, whose “classrooms” consist of a hotel, a tactical area, and a courtroom and detention center. These classrooms enable students to participate in realistic scenarios concerning topics such as active shooter, room-clearing exercises, prisoner intake, and courtroom procedures. In 2008, we opened our Technical Operations Training Facility, where trainees work with sophisticated surveillance, tracking, and photography equipment. This past year, we dedicated our Intermodal Training Facility, a unique venue that includes a subway system; a train station; an international airport; and a bus terminal complete with ticket counters, a food court, and waiting areas, where frontline law enforcement personnel experience scenariobased training to better deter and combat threats across major transportation modes.
As we look to the future, we are constructing a more than 35-acre Urban/Suburban Training Facility, featuring places officers commonly encounter, such a café, a pawn shop, a police station, a tavern, a storage facility, a mobile home park, apartments, medical facilities, and government offices.
All of us remember where we were on 9/11, and few of us will ever be quite the same. Likewise, the law enforcement profession has changed forever and continues to grow in complexity. As trainers, it is our mission and passion to provide our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to prevent and combat criminal and terrorist activity. FLETC remains committed to constantly looking ahead to ensure readiness for those who risk their lives to protect our communities. ♦
Please cite as:
Connie L. Patrick, "Training to Ensure Law Enforcement Readiness," From the Director, The Police Chief 79 (October 2012): 16.