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On January 15, 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was able to land his Airbus A320 in Manhattan’s Hudson River due to his experience and training. This was a case where the human factor allowed Sullenberger to safely land his plane. Sullenberger had 121 seconds to use his knowledge skill and expertise to land that Airbus 320. “Captain Cool,” as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appropriately dubbed him, was even named an honorary police officer in his home town of Danville, California. During the pre-game ceremonies at Super Bowl XLIII, Sullenberger was given a standing ovation by the packed audience.

Sullenberger received extensive training on flight simulators that allowed him to understand action and reaction. He honed his airline pilot emergency skills on a training simulator. Could he have landed that plane successfully if he had no simulator experience? Perhaps, but the alternative could have been tragic, very tragic. The Airbus A320 is just an airplane. It is the human being, the pilot, who determines if it is “good’ or “bad.”

Now, in the days of a suffering economy, LE training will also suffer. It seems like the abstract items always take the biggest hit in a down economy. That abstract is training! You can’t touch training, feel or see it, but training is the key, not equipment. Somehow the powers to be just don’t get it. That new pistol means nothing unless officers are trained how to use it, when to use it, how to made reasonable decisions, and how to articulate its use.  This is all done through training.

You can hold that new pistol, use that new mobile computer and drive that new patrol car. These are concrete items. Anyone can clearly see that these items exist. Now ask yourself, “How good are these items to someone that doesn’t know how to use them?” They are, from a practical perspective, virtually worthless!

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are already being seriously impacted, this includes laying off administrative and support personnel. Budgets are slashed, and training dollars will receive the equivalent of a fatal wound. The only direct pressure that can work is if citizens let the various elected officials know that they value professionally trained officers, not marginally trained officers. After all, people get the type of government that they deserve: nothing more and nothing less.

Training determines how equipment should properly be used, from vehicles to firearms. Training should, if anything, expand. Tough economic times will mean more crime, and less well trained officers who are better equipped, through training, on how to deal with that crime. Want to know how important training is when it comes to human life? Just ask any of the 155 Americans that were on Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009.

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