“Training is cancelled”

It is often very easy for someone who doesn’t care about or fully understand the liabilities and training maintenance issues associated with a K9 unit to arbitrarily cancel training or cut back the hours.  The “national standard” recommends that each K9 team conduct 16 hours of training minimally per month.

“It’s busy – we can’t afford to let the K9 team go train.”  If you’ve done any mathematical calculations on recent K9-related lawsuits compared to training hours, you will quickly realize you can’t afford NOT to let your K9 teams train regularly to potentially avoid trouble. And, many of these supervisors cancelling training do so without fear or thought given to the consequences should a bad incident occur and a claim or lawsuit follows – there is generally a lack of accountability. “It’s busy” is one of the classic (and least supportable) reasons used by many to avoid training or cancel it – and it’s clearly an invitation for trouble.

I understand that training may need to be cancelled on occasion.  When training is cancelled, and there is no rescheduling, a memorandum or some documentation should be required from the supervisor or administrator doing so and placed into a handler’s training file because “it’s busy” or other excuse simply may not be helpful down the road to explain the situation in front of a jury. 

If documentation to cancel is not required from a supervisor, I would be documenting it on my own starting with something like “On this date and time, Supervisor X notified me that he was cancelling my [regularly scheduled] maintenance K9 training…” with the reason provided why the training was cancelled and any other relevant circumstances – and this could also be documented within an email to the K9 supervisor or K9 Commander if another person is responsible for the cancellation.  If the K9 supervisor cancels training and does not allow for rescheduling, I recommend documentation as suggested on a training log or other suitable form so that it goes into the training file and will be discoverable later if needed. 

Every training day or time of regularly scheduled training should have an official training form or log that records the training that occurred or contains a notice within that form indicating training did not occur (or had limited hours than normally scheduled) so there are no “blanks” in your training files. The reasons you might not train; vacation, IOD, sick day, court, staffing issues, calls for service, etc.

Your training hours and required maintenance training schedule should be memorialized within your K9 policy or in the K9 Unit Operational Manual so that violations can be appropriately addressed if necessary.  As you well know or may have experienced, schedules or “required training” is more difficult to circumvent or cancel if written or mandated within a policy.

“Budget problems” used as a reason to cancel training?  Many years ago, Attorney Martin J. Mayer sent a client memo to police chiefs and sheriffs in California addressing the obligation to provide training to law enforcement officers even when there is a cut back to training funds;

“The duty to train officers is unaffected by reimbursement sources. The lack of funding from outside sources does not, in any way, relieve a department of its obligation to train its officers. The decision to eliminate training programs or reduce the amount of training, based upon the lack of reimbursement sources, would most likely be viewed, by a court, as deliberate indifference to the rights of others.”

If you’d like to do a little further research on your own about the topic, I recommend you review the following two cases minimally;  City of Canton v. Harris, 489 US 378 109 S. Ct. 1197, 103 L Ed 2d 412 (1989), and Campbell v. City of Springboro, Ohio, 788 F.Supp.2d 637 (2011), United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division.

There are legitimate reasons we are required to train regularly and performance can deteriorate and potentially suffer when it does not occur.  Failure to do so creates liability. When training is cancelled, the person doing so usually does not think ahead of potential consequences and does not envision themselves later on the witness stand trying to explain the reason training was cancelled and not rescheduled.  If that forecasting happened more often as part of the analysis prior to taking action, they would probably not cancel training (as often) and trouble could be avoided. 

Take care, be safe and try to work as a team to avoid cancelling training….

Bill Lewis II

This “reason” was originally shared on October 28, 2015.

“Trouble” isn’t always related to incidents or predicaments that directly result in lawsuits, claims or discipline. Often times, our actions or inactions that are missed, deliberately overlooked or downplayed may lead to nothing or can later lead to mistakes or bad incidents with minimal to serious repercussions.  A reason we get in trouble can be minor or simple at first glance – or even serious – but a combination of these factors can often have disastrous consequences.   

These “reasons” are provided periodically as a collection in-progress based on actual incidents and real attitudes as well as feedback received at HITS, the CNCA Training Institute, and the “Canine Liability 360” classes.  As Gordon Graham says, “We haven’t found new ways to get in trouble.” So, as the list progresses, you may or may not read something familiar to you that you have personally experienced or seen others encounter. If you encountered or heard about it, did you learn from it?