Chapter 5. Basic Recruit Training
This chapter provides a comprehensive assessment of the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) recruit academy training as it relates to deadly force. We also review the overall administration and management structure of the PPD recruit academy. Topically, we targeted all coursework that covered the following areas:
• Defensive tactics
• Use of force
We completed numerous tasks in support of our training assessment. First, we conducted a detailed review of lesson plans for all relevant training modules. We also discussed academy training and the preparedness of new recruits in interviews with recruit graduates, line officers, supervisors, command staff, and community members.
To compare the training of PPD recruits to the training of other large agencies’ recruits, we use two of the most recent national surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice on the topic: the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s 2007 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) Survey  and the 2006 Census of Law Enforcement Training Academies (CLETA).  With these, we can compare the PPD with other agencies that have 1,000 or more sworn officers. Although the data available through these surveys are not exhaustive, they provide for several key comparisons.
Finally, we reviewed course evaluation forms from multiple academy classes. We reviewed 164 recruit class critiques from four academy classes. These evaluations were developed and distributed by the Firearms Training Unit (FTU) of the PPD and solicited feedback specific to those training activities. We also reviewed course evaluations from 24 recruit graduates, which were distributed at the end of the academy, and solicited feedback on the entire recruit experience.
The following sections provide an overview of the structure of the PPD academy and discuss relevant training modules, a police department peer comparison analysis, and a summary of recruit feedback. We conclude with a series of 11 findings and 16 recommendations.Management and administration
The PPD academy is a 32-week program that is designed to prepare recruits for their jobs as police officers. Approximately 400 recruits took part in the PPD academy in 2013. Recruits receive a total of 1,214 hours of training during academy. Of these hours, 777 are state-mandated requirements through the Municipal Police Officer Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) and 437 are additional hours mandated by the PPD. 
Recruit academy is delivered by two training units within the PPD. The department refers to the classroom portion of recruit training as “the academy,” although the academy trains inside and outside of the classroom setting. For example, the academy trains officers in emergency vehicle operations, among other non-classroom-based instruction. The FTU conducts the other portion of training, focusing on firearms. Approximately 90 percent of recruit training hours are conducted within the academy, whereas the remaining 10 percent are completed with the FTU. The sequence of courses throughout the academy generally flows from the instruction of foundational skills to more complex skills. However, this is not always the case; much of the schedule is determined by the availability of instructors and space, due to overlapping academy classes. It is not uncommon for there to be as many as three basic recruit classes at the academy, each in different phases. Given these constraints, the PPD does not have a standard sequence of coursework for its recruits. Instructor requirements
The PPD has 40 academy instructors and 36 firearms instructors. All instructors must meet the following basic MPOETC requirements: 
• Complete a commission-approved instructor development course, possess a teaching certificate issued by the Department of Education, or have full-time employment with academic rank at an accredited college or university.
• Have five years of police experience. Five years of experience can be supplanted by four years of experience and an associate’s degree or three years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.
To remain certified, all instructors, general and specialized, must meet one of the following criteria once every two years: 
• Instructor has taught in either basic training or a mandatory in-service course, certified by MPOETC, at least one time during the past two years.
• Instructor can provide documentation of qualifications in the main subject areas for which certification has been granted.
Special instructors must meet additional requirements. MPOETC lists first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), firearms, physical conditioning, application of force, and patrol vehicle operations as special courses of instruction.  In the PPD, two categories of “special instructors” are of interest in our assessment: defensive tactics instructors (DTI) and firearms instructors. DTIs are required to complete an instructor development course and training which demonstrates expertise as a defensive tactics instructor according to MPOETC.  Firearms instructors must possess a current police firearms instructor rating from one of the following entities: the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Smith and Wesson Academy, the Philadelphia Police Academy, or the U.S. Secret Service.  MPOETC also allows for other certifications upon approval by the commission.Peer comparisons
In table 9, we compare the management and administration of the PPD’s recruit academy with the academies of other agencies with 1,000 or more sworn officers. The PPD’s academy training practices are generally like those of other large agencies. In some instances, they exceed their peers. The total number of academy hours in the PPD significantly exceeds the number of hours reported by other large agencies. PPD instructors generally must meet a higher threshold of experience in order to be certified compared to the average of other large agencies. However, while most large agencies reportedly provide refresher training to their academy instructors, this is not the case in the PPD. PPD instructors tend to remain certified by remaining active instructors.68 Last, like most other large agencies, instructors are evaluated by supervisors and students but not peers.Table 9. PPD peer comparison on academy management and administrationAcademy training
We identified several courses completed at the PPD academy that are intended to prepare officers to make sound decisions regarding public encounters and use of force. In this section, we review courses related to the following topics: defensive tactics; de-escalation; use of force policy and law; and community policing.Defensive tactics training
Defensive tactics training plays an integral role in officer safety, preparing officers to physically defend themselves or take aggressive, resistive, and noncompliant suspects into custody while understanding the bounds in which they are permitted to use force. PPD academy staff describes their style of defensive tactics as a “mixed discipline.” 
PPD recruits complete 60 hours of defensive tactics during academy—far more than the 36 hours mandated by the state.  The training is a combination of PPD-designed coursework and MPOETC designed coursework. The department strives to have a 5-to-1 instructor/student ratio during defensive tactics instruction; during our observation, the ratio was roughly 6 to 1. Each instruction block focuses on techniques that are designed to be simple, practical, and effective. The stated objectives of basic defensive tactics training are to instill confidence in the officers and train them in self-protection, control tactics, and avoiding pitfalls.  According to the department’s defensive tactics training guide, recruits are taught the basics about “personal weapons,” meaning their hands, heads, knees, feet, and elbows. 
Defensive tactics is mostly hands-on but also includes an eight-hour course, titled Use of Force in Law Enforcement. The course covers use of force legal issues and the use of force continuum. Class instruction focuses on the various situations in which force might be used, the consequences of using force, and the parameters for using force. Topics include the following: 
• Differences between deadly and nondeadly force
• Consequences of unlawful use of force
• Situations and justifications in which a police officer may be called upon to use force
• Major ethical issues
• Lawful use of force
• Constitutional basis of rules regulating the use of force to effect an arrest
• Definitions of terms “bodily injury,” “serious bodily injury,” “deadly force,” “use of a dangerous weapon,” and “armed with a dangerous weapon”
The course presents relevant case law, most prominently Graham v. Connor, Tennessee v. Garner, Brower v. Inyo County, and Jones v. Chieffo. In addition, Pennsylvania state code is presented as a legal framework for understanding when officers can and cannot use force. Recruits are taught that the following elements are to be considered in their force decision calculus: ability, opportunity, imminent danger, and options. The lesson plan presents a “Confrontational Force Continuum,” along with a visual graphic that aligns suspect actions with the officer’s response. Recruits are instructed that as officers they must escalate accordingly and de-escalate when the suspect ceases resistance.
Last, two case studies are provided in the course workbook. Recruits break into small groups to read and discuss the cases. Notably, both case studies are justifiable deadly force incidents.
At the completion of defensive tactics training, recruits are tested on a total of 24 defensive tactics. They must demonstrate proficiency in 18 in order to pass with a score of 75 percent. Recruits are tested on the topics of chokes, throws, take-downs, kicks, exertion and control, stances, baton strikes, weapon retention, armed defense, and falls. Peer comparisons
Table 10 presents a comparison of the PPD academy’s defensive tactics training with that of other large agencies. Although PPD recruits complete more hours of defensive tactics than what is mandated by the state, the allotment of hours is still fewer than the average of other large agencies. The PPD trains similar tactics with a few exceptions. For instance, the vast majority of large agencies include “speed-cuffing” techniques and “ground fighting” as part of their defensive tactics training, whereas the PPD does not. Conversely, most large agencies do not train recruits in the use of neck restraints, whereas the PPD does.Table 10. PPD peer comparison on academy defensive tactics trainingDe-escalation training
We identified several courses conducted at the academy that, in part or in whole, instruct officers in the use of de-escalation. Although not all of the courses are devoted entirely to de-escalation, they each contribute to the building of skills and knowledge recruits need in order to become proficient in basic de-escalation tactics.Coursework
The PPD academy course titled Police Communications: Defusing and De-Escalation Techniques focuses on de-escalation tactics.  This course was originally delivered to officers as part of their in-service requirements in 2011; soon after, the PPD added it to the academy curriculum as an eight-hour course. It covers essential topics in de-escalation, such as the importance of verbal communication, barriers to communication, how to identify and respond to different emotional states and personality types, nonverbal and para-verbal communications, signs of aggression, and specific de-escalation techniques. Specific de-escalation techniques include simple listening, active listening, acknowledgment, agreeing with valid points, allowing for silence, and validating the agitated person’s feelings. The course also presents the crisis development model of de-escalation, which aligns specific subject behaviors with specific officer actions. The use of force continuum is presented and described in detail, while noting that “the officer must realize that the use of force continuum is fluid in nature; it is not a static checklist. As fast as the officer’s actions can increase in direct relation to the subject’s actions, it can and should also decrease according to the response and control of the subject and situation.”  The lesson plan also notes the important fact that nonphysical interactions account for 97 percent of an officer’s time and function. Several other factors that account for the totality of the circumstances are offered for consideration in the officer’s force decision calculus, including age, sex, skill level, and number of officers or subjects present. 
In addition to the communications-focused de-escalation course, recruits also complete an eight-hour course entitled Mental Health First Aid. The course is designed to make recruits aware of mental health issues in their community and with some members of the public they encounter. The course covers specific topics such as signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety; understanding psychosis; and understanding substance abuse.  PPD staff has likened this course to a condensed crisis intervention training course. 
Recruits also receive 23 hours of training on crisis management, which covers a wide range of police activities, including behavior management, dispute resolution, conflict management, recognition of special needs, and suicide barricade and hostage situations. This course focuses on tactical responses to crisis situations and PPD directive 136 on severely mentally disabled persons. 
Last, PPD academy recruits receive 24 hours of training on human relations. This coursework is designed to train recruits in perceptions of human behavior,  communications,  cultural diversity,  and ethnic intimidation and bias crimes. Scenarios
Course materials for the training modules listed above allow for substantial recruit participation and discussion, primarily through videos. Although videos can bring classroom concepts to life and facilitate class discussion, it is also important that instructors engage students in class exercises and scenario-based training. By “scenario-based training,” we mean instances where the students can practically exercise de-escalation skills in a realistic setting. Class size and length are typically limiting factors in the use of practical scenarios. As a result, some students have limited participation. 
The PPD addresses the issue of recruit participation in scenario-based training in numerous ways. Instructors will informally identify recruits who have had limited exposure to practical scenario-based training and select them when the opportunity arises. In addition, the PPD has begun incorporating de-escalation training into a vehicle investigation scenario. During the academy’s standard course on patrol procedures, each recruit is now required to participate in a vehicle investigation scenario twice—once as a contact officer and once as a cover officer—thereby being exposed to the range of roles and responsibilities in approaching motor vehicle stops. When recruits are not participating, they are observing. Although the scenario is not explicitly a “de-escalation” scenario, it offers recruits the opportunity to exercise a host of skills required to conduct a safe and effective vehicle investigation, including verbal de-escalation involving an agitated person. PPD academy training staff has developed the scenario in a way that it can “branch off” into various outcomes. 
Recruits are evaluated on a standardized set of metrics. The metrics include radio communications, approach, environmental awareness, defusing/de-escalating techniques, communications with partner, and use of patrol vehicle positioning techniques.  Each metric is scored on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest level of performance and 5 being the highest.  After each team completes the exercise, academy staff debriefs the entire platoon on the team’s performance based on the evaluation criteria. Peer comparisons
We compare the PPD to other large agencies on three metrics from the CLETA survey that relate to de-escalation (see table 11): the existence of a diversity course, the number of conflict mediation hours, and the use of verbal tactic scenarios. Like all other large agencies, the PPD offers a course on diversity. The PPD also includes verbal tactic scenarios in its academy. To estimate the PPD’s hours in “conflict mediation,” we count all hours in two courses, Police communications: defusing and de-escalation techniques and Crisis management. Together, these two courses present 31 hours of training in what we can broadly consider “conflict mediation.” This puts the PPD far ahead of other large agencies, which, on average, provide 15.9 hours of training on the topic.Table 11. PPD peer comparison on academy de-escalation trainingCommunity oriented policing training
The PPD academy includes an introductory course entitled Police, Public, and C.O.P. Course materials do not indicate the duration of this course, but interview participants generally believed that it was from six to eight hours. Although other courses incorporate elements of community policing to varying degrees, this is the only course that is devoted to the concept.
In 2013, the PPD conducted an organizational audit on community oriented policing practices through the Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool (CP-SAT), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).90 An independent contractor surveyed 593 PPD stakeholders, including line officers, first-line supervisors, command staff, civilian staff, and community partners, on the department’s commitment to community partnerships, problem solving, and organizational transformation.  Specifically, two survey items related to training. We provide the summary responses in table 12 below. Responses were answered on a scale of 1 to 5 (1=not at all; 2=a little; 3=somewhat; 4=a lot; and 5=to a great extent). The responses to training-specific questions indicate that survey respondents, on average, believe the PPD trains officers between “somewhat” and “a little” on problem solving and community partnerships. Notably, these questions do not refer directly to the recruit academy. Questions posed to command staff on recruit training indicate that recruits may be trained even less on important community oriented policing skills such as problem solving and developing partnerships.Table 12. PPD CP-SAT training scores  Peer comparisons
Like all large agency academies, the PPD has a community policing course; however, it commits significantly fewer hours to community policing than other agency academies do. The average duration of community policing training for large agencies is 17 hours, whereas the PPD’s course is just eight hours.Table 13. PPD peer comparison academy community policing trainingRecruit perspectives
In this section, we review feedback on PPD academy coursework from recruits using evaluation forms developed and distributed by the academy. The academy evaluation form included the following five areas, and included space for the recruits to comment on each:
1. Was there enough time in each individual class to teach the subject?
2. Did you like the way the program was conducted and organized?
3. Were the objectives and purpose of the program achieved?
4. If any area(s) of instruction did not provide you with adequate information to the point where you do not feel prepared for your first assignment, please explain.
5. Last, in our continuing effort to provide the most professional training possible, please take the time to reflect on the entire training program.
We reviewed the evaluation forms and coded all responses into the following categories:
• More training desired
Strengths were indicated in all responses in which recruits stated that a particular aspect of training was the most beneficial. Weaknesses were indicated in all responses in which recruits responded in the negative to any of the survey items. “More training desired” was indicated in all responses in which recruits stated they wanted more of some aspect of training. In sum, our analysis of the survey responses found that they could all be put into one of three categories: what recruits liked, what they did not like, and what they wanted more of.
The academy survey accounted for 23 academy recruits. From these recruits, we identified 36 positive comments about some aspect of training they perceived to be exceptionally beneficial. Table 14 lists all areas of training that received more than one mention. We found that, among these recruits, training in the use of radios was the most frequently cited beneficial area, followed by firearms training, and scenarios.Table 14. Academy strengths identified by recruits
Recruits frequently stated they wanted more training in the same areas they found most beneficial. Table 15 lists all of the areas of training in which more than one recruit commented that more instruction was needed. The most frequently cited areas of training were radio training, scenarios, and car stops.Table 15. More training desired by recruits
There were just three aspects of training that recruits stated were weaknesses—i.e., that they felt negatively impacted their academy experience. Those were inconsistent or contradictory instruction, too much downtime, and the sequence of training (see table 16).Table 16. Academy weaknesses identified by recruitsFirearms training
All recruits are required to complete numerous firearms training modules. Although some of the training takes place in a classroom setting, the vast majority of recruit training at the range uses hands-on exercises. All recruits are required to complete the MPOETC basic handgun qualification course in order to be certified officers. In addition to MPOETC, the department has added several tactical shooting drills that exceed the requirements of MPOETC. Academy recruit training also includes a “simunition” (nonlethal training ammunition)  drill, which is not a part of MPOETC requirements. In total, there are approximately 50 exercises that cover various firearms tactics, including reloading, cover and concealment, stoppages and malfunctions, survival shooting, perimeter and containment, nighttime shooting, defensive weapons shooting, engaging multiple threats, barricade shooting, and judgmental shooting.Basic firearms training
The basic firearms course is the recruit’s introduction to his or her service weapon. It covers the essentials of firearms safety, on-duty and off-duty carry, home safety, reloading, shooting fundamentals, a series of action drills, and a qualification course.  In all, it provides 80 hours of training, including about 35 range exercises. Among the range exercises are a basic warm-up, weak hand shooting, reactive target shooting, room entry, and a running-man target (i.e., the recruit is firing while in motion). Recruits also get a refresher on PPD directives 10 and 22 on use of force. Basic firearms training concludes with a 50-round downrange course. Recruits are required to score 75 to pass and be certified by MPOETC. Tactical and judgmental firearms course
The PPD supplements the MPOETC-required firearms training with tactical and judgmental shooting courses. These courses cover advanced firearms tactics such as engagement of multiple threats, defensive weapons techniques, threat assessment, sympathetic fire, and moving targets.  In total, there are 11 exercises. In addition to shooting at metal plate targets, recruits complete a number of scenarios on the firearm training simulator (FATS) machine, a computer-simulated training program. With the FATS machine, recruits engage in a video scenario projected onto a screen or wall. They use plastic “drone” firearms and make “shoot/don’t shoot” decisions based on threat perception and the training they’ve received up to that point.Reality-based training
The department has also developed a reality-based training module using simunitions. The simulated weapons discharge small pellets, which require students to wear protective clothing and gear to protect themselves. In the latest academy, all recruits completed a reality-based training module. The purpose of the training is to “give students an understanding of the effects of high stress” and “improve decisionmaking ability under stressful conditions.”  The department’s lesson plan includes all of the necessary safety precautions. However, scenarios are generally developed on an ad hoc basis and not documented. Peer comparisons
Table 17 compares academy training conducted by the PPD’s FTU with the corresponding training at other large agencies. The PPD’s FTU devotes about the same number of hours to basic firearms skills as the other large agencies do. Also like other large agencies, PPD firearms training includes nighttime/reduced-light training, reality-based scenarios, and the use of simunitions. The PPD does not have any reality-based training related to the use of force continuum or, more broadly, use of force decision making. Based on our interviews with training staff and recruits, we do believe that the PPD’s reality-based training scenario trains officers in threat perception. The PPD does not train recruits in the use of electronic control weapons (ECW) (referred to as “conducted-energy devices” in the CLETA survey) or any less-lethal firearms (e.g., bean-bag shotguns).Table 17. PPD - peer comparison academy firearms trainingRecruit perspectives
In this section, we review feedback on PPD academy coursework from recruits using evaluation forms developed and distributed by the FTU. The FTU evaluation form includes a checklist of 10 items and asks recruits to comment if they have selected “No” on any item:
1. Were all classroom instructors well prepared?
2. Was the course material explained thoroughly?
3. Was time allotted in the classroom to answer any questions?
4. Were the topics covered in class applied by the line instructors?
5. Were the line instructors professional when making corrections on the line?
6. Were any problems experienced during shooting addressed and corrected by the line instructor?
7. Did the line instructors contradict the classroom instruction? 
8. Was the program presented in an organized manner?
9. Was care and cleaning of the pistol explained thoroughly?
10. Were handouts distributed to the class?
In addition, the FTU evaluation form includes two open-ended questions:
1. What was the most beneficial part of the program?
2. What part, if any, of the program would you change? How would you change it?
The final entry is as follows:
3. Additional comments you would like to make.
Like the academy survey described in this chapter, we reviewed the FTU evaluation forms and coded all responses into the following categories:
• More training desired
The FTU survey accounted for 164 recruits from classes within the past two years. The most frequently cited “strengths” were the simunitions course, followed by scenarios, then basic firearms training. Table 18 shows a complete list of strengths identified by recruits.Table 18. FTU strengths identified by recruits
Areas of the FTU that recruits most often stated they wanted more of were the simunitions course, followed by scenario training, and the amount of time at the shooting range. Table 19 shows a complete list of these training areas.Table 19. FTU more training desired by recruits
Aspects of training that recruits believed were not beneficial or detracted from their learning experience at the FTU included too much downtime, the sequence of training, dated classroom materials, and inconsistent or contradictory instruction. Table 20 provides a complete list of FTU weaknesses as identified by recruits.Table 20. FTU weaknesses identified by recruitsFindings and recommendationsFinding 11
PPD recruit training is not conducted in a systematic and modular fashion. As a result, some recruit classes receive firearms training close to the end of the academy while others receive it early on.
The sequence of courses throughout the academy should generally flow from the instruction of foundational skills to more complex skills. However, that is not always the case in the PPD, because much of the schedule is determined by the availability of instructors and space due to overlapping academy classes. There may be as many as three basic recruit classes at the academy in different phases of their instructional progress. Given these constraints, the PPD does not have a standard sequence of coursework for their recruits.
On occasion, recruits are training in more advanced topics much too long after or occasionally prior to completing the necessary basic coursework. This appears to be most problematic in two areas: car stops and firearms. Recruits wanted car-stop scenarios to be conducted soon after classroom instruction on car stops.  One of the graduating classes had a six-month lapse between classroom instruction and the scenario. Another recruit graduate commented on receiving this training in reverse order.
Similarly, firearms training may be completed towards the beginning, middle, or end of the academy depending on each class schedule. Some recruit graduates and officers commented that they would have benefited from completing some classroom-based courses, such as use of force law and policy, prior to training with the firearms training unit. Recruits also believed it was problematic that they were not permitted to use the range facilities on their own free time while they were still recruits, even with proper supervision. This could be particularly problematic for recruits who have never handled a firearm before.
Our review of feedback forms from recruits found that the sequence of training was among the areas most frequently cited as needing improvement. It was the second most frequently cited weakness we identified in FTU evaluations and the third most frequently cited weakness in general academy evaluations.Recommendation 11.1
The PPD should revise the sequencing of its academy curriculum so that recruits are continually building on previously learned skills.
Academy training should build skill levels gradually and logically during the academy and reinforce the lessons taught throughout. The most advanced training should be conducted shortly before graduation and the subsequent patrol assignment. The sequence of training at the recruit academy should be restructured in a way that allows recruits to build their knowledge, skills, and abilities in a logical and progressive order. Coursework should also be grouped into modules. Where appropriate, there should be scenario-based training at the end of each module designed to test the knowledge and skills learned in that module and any preceding modules. For example, modules could be structured as follows:
• Introduction to learning. This module sets the stage for all the training that follows. It includes low-level legal aspects, simple crime scene work, customer service, first aid, community issues, and other introductory classes. The goal of this module is to expose recruits to the job and start to build the foundation for the more difficult aspects.
• Nonemergency response. This module includes low-stress materials such as specific legal instruction and crime investigation while beginning patrol-related activities such as street orientation and report writing.
• Patrol activities. This module is designed to include the more specialized aspects of the job and is the longest instructional module.
• Emergency response. This module introduces the higher-stress activities.
• Criminal investigations. This module is focused on the more advanced investigative tools and techniques that a patrol officer must know.
• Academy transition. This module prepares recruits to continue their learning into the field with a field training program.
Academy transition. This module prepares recruits to continue their learning into the field with a field training program.Recommendation 11.2
Skills that require continual training and refinement, such as firearms, defensive tactics, communications, and driving, should be staggered throughout the length of the academy.
As it stands now, firearms training is conducted in its entirety in an 80-hour block of instruction. Recruits leave what they consider to be “the academy” and become immersed in what is essentially a firearms boot camp at the FTU. Instead, the PPD should stagger their firearms training throughout the academy and design its timing to coincide with the appropriate modules described above. The instruction should begin with basic skills and culminate with decision making and tactical shooting. The same approach should be applied to defensive tactics instruction and driving.Finding 12
PPD training staff members are required to complete instructor training just one time during their careers, in accordance with minimum MPOETC standards.
In the course of our assessment, we learned that most PPD training staff maintains their instructor certification by continuing to teach. This is the bare minimum required by MPOETC standards.Recommendation 12
The PPD should establish a minimum continuing education requirement for all training staff to remain certified by the PPD.
To ensure that training staff are educated in current training practices, the PPD should set a standard requirement for training staff to complete instructor development training at least once every four years. The training requirement should comprise a mix of instructor development and subject matter areas relevant to their training responsibilities.Finding 13
On occasion, PPD training staff provides inconsistent or contradictory instruction to recruits.
Several interview participants commented that there was inconsistent instruction during recruit academy.  Our review of class evaluations also found that inconsistency in instruction was one of the most frequently cited issues. The inconsistencies were described as being within firearms instruction, between firearms instruction and the academy, and within the academy. The area most often cited by academy recruits as needing improvement was consistency of instruction across training staff. Whether perception or reality, tone or substance, this issue is problematic for recruits, who are learning law enforcement concepts and practices for the first time.Recommendation 13
The PPD should create formal, ongoing collaboration between the FTU and the academy.
The PPD should form a training working group, comprising training staff, street-level supervisors, field training officers, and command staff that meets quarterly to discuss use of force tactics, policy, and recruit development. This working group would help training staff identify common misperceptions among recruits and identify linkages in their curriculum and potential problem areas. It would allow for collaborative curriculum development between the two units, which would be particularly helpful for scenario-based training modules. In addition, it would facilitate proactive communications between the field and the academy and help identify any gaps that may exist when recruits transition to their patrol assignments.Finding 14
PPD officers are dissatisfied with academy defensive tactics training.
In our conversations with recruit graduates, patrol officers, and sergeants, we found that disappointment with the current state of defensive tactics (DT) instruction was nearly universal. First and foremost, our interview participants were dismayed by the lack of routine refresher training in defensive tactics. (We discuss defensive tactics in-service training in detail in the in-service chapter, chapter 6.)
Interview participants generally thought that the defensive tactics training offered at the academy focused too much on legal liability and not enough on teaching practical and realistic methods for surviving a physical encounter. They did not believe that DT sufficiently prepared them for a physical encounter. Rather, DT partners were told to be compliant, which did not give recruits experience in handling a resistive subject. In general, interview participants wanted more realistic defensive tactics training, with less choreographed maneuvers.Recommendation 14.1
The PPD should review and update its defensive tactics manual at least once every two years, taking into account PPD officer experiences and emerging best practices from the field.
At least once every two years, the PPD should review and revise its defensive tactics training. As part of its review, the department should conduct research into defensive tactics employed by other major city police departments, emergent and best practices, and advances in defensive tactics training programs across the country. The review should also include use of force reports, officer assault reports, feedback from academy graduates and officers in the field, and line-of-duty injury and fatality reports.103 The review should examine each defensive tactic trained in the academy and consider updating, improving, or removing tactics that are found to be outdated. Considering the PPD is in the minority of large departments that train on the use of neck restraint maneuvers, and that officers do not regularly train on such tactics after the academy, special attention should be given to this particular tactic.Recommendation 14.2
Ground fighting should be a part of the PPD’s defensive tactics training.
A 2006 census of law enforcement academies showed that the vast majority of other large municipal agencies included ground-fighting as part of their defensive tactics training.104 The PPD academy is not among those that do so. The PPD academy should update its curriculum to include ground fighting, because many physical altercations will necessitate this skill. Doing so will help address recruits’ concerns about the relevance of defensive tactics training and better prepare them for physical altercations in the field.Recommendation 14.3
The PPD should discontinue training on the use of neck restraints and eliminate its use from the field except in exigent circumstances when life or grave bodily harm are at risk.
The 2006 census of law enforcement academies showed that the majority of other large municipal agencies no longer train in the use of neck restraints.105 Yet the PPD still does; and the danger of training recruits in the use of this tactic is magnified by the fact that the PPD does not have an in-service defensive tactics training program.Finding 15
For some PPD recruits, de-escalation training has amounted to little more than lectures and observations.
The PPD officers we spoke with mostly recognized and appreciated the value of de-escalation training and practice in the field. Many wanted more of it. Recruit graduates wanted more scenarios and less observation. For example, although many of the scenarios involve student participation, not all students participate due to time restrictions, class size, or unwillingness of some recruits to volunteer. Scenarios were frequently cited as the most beneficial training, and academy and FTU evaluations indicated that recruits wanted more of them.
Notably, as of 2014, the academy began incorporating de-escalation training into a new vehicle investigation scenario. Each recruit participates in the scenario twice, once as a contact officer and once as a cover officer; thus, they are exposed to various roles and experiences in approaching a vehicle investigation. When recruits are not participating, they are observing. Although the scenario is not explicitly a “de-escalation” scenario, it offers recruits the opportunity to exercise several skills required to conduct a safe and effective vehicle investigation, including verbal de-escalation involving an agitated person. Recommendation 15.1
The PPD should revamp its academy de-escalation training, ensuring that recruits receive more hours of scenario training, which allows each recruit to exercise and be evaluated on verbal de-escalation skills.
Lecturing on the importance of de-escalation is not enough. Recruits should be given the opportunity to practice those skills. The PPD should ensure that every recruit participates in at least three scenarios that enable them to exercise and be evaluated on verbal de-escalation skills. In 2014, the PPD academy staff developed vehicle investigation scenario is a good example of how de-escalation can be incorporated into scenario training and combined with other learning goals.Recommendation 15.2
The PPD de-escalation training should be expanded to include a discussion of tactical de-escalation.
Traditionally, de-escalation is discussed in terms of verbal persuasion tactics to use with subjects who are in an agitated state due to, say, a limited mental capacity, the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a temporary emotional crisis. Another way for the officer to slow down the action is to create distance (if possible), set a perimeter, request additional resources (e.g., less-lethal weapon, supervisor, crisis intervention team), and continually reassess whether they need to be in that situation (i.e., whether there is any threat and whether any laws have been broken). These actions can reduce the likelihood that officers will place themselves in a position of peril and therefore use deadly force unnecessarily. The PPD should include these methods in their lectures, discussions, and scenario training related to de-escalation.Finding 16
Academy recruits are not trained to use ECWs.
As of 2006, roughly half (51 percent) of police agencies with 1,000 or more sworn officers trained their academy recruits in the use of ECWs.  The PPD has not implemented such a practice. However, many recruit graduates and officers we spoke with stated they wanted more less-lethal force options. This was particularly pronounced in conversations with recruit graduates, who nearly unanimously expressed their desire to complete crisis intervention training (CIT) in order to obtain an ECW.Recommendation 16
ECW certification should be incorporated into the PPD’s basic recruit academy.
As stated in finding 9 of this report, ECWs have the potential to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings (OIS) in the PPD. However, the increased distribution of these weapons must be handled with caution. Academy recruits should receive ECW training that focuses on how and when to use the weapons safely and within policy. The training should also comprehensively cover the impact and proper use of the weapon on persons in mental crises. Recruits should be trained and tested on the department’s ECW policy through both classroom lecture and scenario-based training. All recruits should demonstrate their proficiency, both physical and mental, in using the tool. Training should cover force transition from both a policy standpoint (i.e., when it is within policy to use the tool) and a technical standpoint (i.e., how to physically maneuver the weapon and transition to a lower or higher level of force when needed).Finding 17
Incidents involving discourtesy, use of force, and allegations of bias by PPD officers leave segments of the community feeling disenfranchised and distrustful of the police department.
Community members we spoke with in Philadelphia had polarized views on the state of community relations with the PPD. Some community members had very positive relationships with the department and believed that the PPD was generally responsive to their concerns. On the other end of the spectrum, some community members believed that the PPD was a closed organization that failed to address a host of issues ranging from discourtesy to use of force incidents. Most police departments have their share of supporters and detractors, each group driven by their experiences with the department. We did not survey the Philadelphia community, so we do not present this finding as a barometer of overall community support or approval of the PPD. However, it is clear from our outreach that some segments of the community have had very negative interactions with the department. These interactions have caused significant strife and distrust. The PPD can implement some reforms in its academy curriculum to better prepare recruits to work in these communities and develop productive partnerships.
Our analysis shows that the suspects in officer-involved shootings were overwhelmingly Black. That same pattern was apparent in unarmed persons shot by the PPD. Our analysis also shows that threat perception failures (TPF) occur with suspects of all races. Black suspects have had the highest TPF rate (8.8 percent), more than twice the rate of White suspects (3.1 percent). It is clear that the Black community is disproportionately impacted by extreme violence involving the police. The department must remain cognizant of this fact and improve academy training to better prepare officers for policing in a multicultural society.Recommendation 17.1
The PPD’s academy should significantly increase the scope and duration of its training on core and advanced community oriented policing concepts.
For community oriented policing to function as a core organizational philosophy, all members of the PPD, including recruits, must be familiar with and trained on the principles of community oriented policing, as well as what we consider emerging and advanced topics. The PPD’s academy does not include a strong community oriented policing component, committing just eight hours of training on the topic per recruit class. By comparison, recruits in other large agencies receive, on average, 17 hours of training on the topic.  The PPD should update its community oriented policing curriculum to include the following key elements:
• Unconscious bias and law enforcement, which helps officers recognize and override unconscious biases related to crime, threat perception, and race.  Training recruits in this concept can play a large role in how they interact with community members. The academy should set aside approximately six hours for this training. 
• Procedural justice, which demonstrates that the fairness of police-public interactions impacts perceptions of police legitimacy  and, by extension, community partnerships.
• Importance of problem-solving and building partnerships, with specific examples of community partnerships already present in Philadelphia. PPD recruits should learn that police and the public have a shared responsibility for public safety and problem-solving approaches that involve the community are mutually beneficial. 
• Cultural immersion that allows recruits to learn about the community they are charged with protecting and serving. The PPD should implement a program in which recruits spend substantial time in the community, interviewing members of the community and participating in community activities, with a focus on cultural understanding and relativity. At the end of the week, recruits return to the academy and present what they have learned to their classmates. The department should consider reaching out beyond its normal networks to gain recruits the exposure they need to understand the community they serve in their social and historical context. The Austin (Texas) Police Department’s community immersion program is a good example of such a program. Recommendation 17.2
The PPD should develop and implement an action plan in response to the organizational assessment on community oriented policing policies and practices throughout the department.
Community oriented policing is an evolving concept and all police departments must keep up with changing cultural norms and community expectations in order to stay current in their policies and practices. The community policing survey completed at the behest of the PPD identified a number of weaknesses in the department’s policies and training related to the principles of community oriented policing. The department should identify all areas in which the department needs improvement, review its current policies and practices related to each area of community policing principles, and identify practices within the agency and from other agencies that could address those gaps.Finding 18
Academy instruction materials on the use of force policy and use of force continuum are inconsistent.
In our review of academy training materials, we observed that the use of force policy and use of force continuum were represented in various formats. For example, the continuum concept and visual aid presented in the department’s use of force in law enforcement academy class is markedly different from the force decision model that appears in the PPD’s policies. With the new use of force decision chart developed in 2014 for directives 10 and 22, these training materials need to be updated.Recommendation 18
The PPD should conduct a complete audit of its use of force policy and legal instruction conducted throughout the academy and ensure that messaging is clear, consistent, and understandable.
All training materials that include use of force language and illustrations should be 100 percent consistent with current policies. The PPD should audit all training materials, including defensive tactics handouts, MPOETC materials, the constitutional law course, the use of force in law enforcement course, and training specifically on the department’s use of force directives to ensure they are communicating the same message with respect to use of force and the use of force decision chart.Finding 19
The majority of academy instruction and scenario-based training sessions related to use of force end with the officer having to use force.
The PPD academy presents too few “winnable” scenarios and case studies in which a recruit can peacefully resolve a situation by using proper verbal skills. Recruits often stated that the scenarios presented to them were invariably “no-win” situations.  Instructors stated they wanted to expose the trainees to the “worst case scenarios.”  Although recruits strongly favor scenario-based training, they didn’t believe the academy’s scenarios were realistic, because the recruit would always lose. The recruits are right in believing that their low success rate in scenarios is improbable. National estimates consistently show that only about 1.5 percent of police encounters involve use of force. Recommendation 19
The PPD should review all of its use of force course material, including lesson plans, case studies, and scenarios and ensure that they demonstrate the opportunity for a peaceful resolution.
Recruits must be trained on situations that turn confrontational and violent despite their best efforts. However, PPD academy instructors must balance this training objective with the reality that relatively few public encounters require some level of force. The PPD should review each lesson plan, case study, and scenario presented at the academy and ensure that, in addition to training officers on when it is appropriate to use force, it demonstrates how such encounters can be resolved peacefully when applicable. Scenario-based training should also afford recruits the opportunity to “win” a scenario, dependent on their performance. When a recruit is tentative, uses poor tactics, or communicates poorly, the scenario degenerates into a problem. Conversely, when a recruit is performing well, they are “rewarded” with a positive outcome. A good example can be found in the academy’s current practice with their vehicle investigation scenario, in which training staff has developed a scenario that can “branch off” in various directions, depending on how well the recruit performs. Finding 20
There is a strong desire for more reality-based training throughout the department.
The greatest measures of actual performance in a training environment can come from reality-based and scenario training modules. It is widely recognized that reality-based training is the best proxy for real-life critical incidents.  To the extent that training replicates real life, it is replicating the recruits’ physiological responses to the event.  Therefore, recruit performance in these scenarios is the closest the department can come to observing and evaluating performance in real time and in a controlled environment.
The department has increased the amount of reality-based training it offers. This improvement in training has been welcomed by all. In our conversations with PPD personnel, the desire for more reality-based training was expressed nearly universally, from the commissioner down to recruit graduates. Referring to “scenarios,” “reality-based training,” and “simunitions,” recent feedback from recruits made clear that they wanted more of this training.
Our analysis shows that 15 percent (n=59) of subjects involved in OIS incidents were confirmed as unarmed. Over half (n=29) of these suspects were involved in TPFs, meaning that officers mistook the subjects’ movement or an item other than a weapon as being life-threatening. The remaining cases involved physical altercations in which the offender reached for the officer’s service weapon. Reality-based training can help recruits hone their decision-making and threat perception skills before hitting the streets.Recommendation 20
The PPD should increase the amount of reality-based training offered to academy recruits.
At present, recruits complete two scenarios that involve recruit participation, actors, equipment (e.g., simulation service weapons, radios, etc.), and evaluations by a trainer. We classify these scenarios as “reality-based training.” We do not classify ad hoc or spontaneous exercises in the classroom as reality- based training. The PPD should increase the number of reality-based training modules to at least 10 throughout the academy. Not all modules should focus on use of force. The PPD should incorporate other important concepts such as procedural justice, de-escalation, crime scene investigation, and officer communication and coordination into reality-based training. The focus of reality-based training should be decision making in public encounters, not necessarily applying deadly force.Finding 21
PPD training scenarios are not developed with a consistent method or evaluation process.
Whereas some scenarios are well developed with specified learning objectives and evaluation criteria, others such as the newly developed simunitions training are less so. We noted two key issues over the course of our assessment:
• Design and evaluation. According to the FTU, no method or lesson plan has been developed for simunitions drills; nor is there a formal evaluation process. These are essential components to a fully functioning training program. 
• Information sharing. Training staff do not receive information (e.g., data or analysis) from other parts of the organization to aid in the development of scenarios. Yet such a practice could help make scenarios relevant to the situations that PPD officers are encountering on the street.Recommendation 21
PPD scenarios should be developed in a formal fashion and include learning objectives and evaluation criteria.
Scenarios should be developed and implemented in a consistent fashion across the academy. The academy and the FTU should lead a working group of trainers, street supervisors, and analysts to identify trends in street encounters and develop training scenarios that reflect those trends. Each scenario should have a defined set of learning objectives and evaluation criteria.