As the public safety industry is rapidly changing, we must reimagine how we train our next generation of first responders. In this episode, Kim Turner, head of communications for San Bernardino County and owner of Kim Turner, LLC, discusses a different approach to public safety training and how holistic and organic learning environments may be the answer.
JW: Hi, and thanks for tuning into Public Safety Now on HxGN Radio. I’m your host, John Whitehead, vice president of sales for U.S. Public Safety at Hexagon’s Safety and Infrastructure division. This is an exciting podcast and conversation that we’re going to have today. We are going to be discussing training. I have Kim Turner with us, president of the Kim Turner, LLC. And I know that a lot of you out there in the public-safety world know Kim, have heard of Kim, and if you haven’t, you need to stop right now and go do a search for it. Kim provides just a wealth of information and background on training.
And I can tell you from my experience, I started in the dispatch center in 1995, and I walked into the room, lot of computers, lot of ringing going on, a little intimidating. It was six o’clock in the morning, and I sat down next to the person they told me I was going to be shadowing, and that person looked at me, and said, “You’ve got seven days to learn this because I’m heading off to the police academy.” And it was a “Oh, this is happening.” And that was the type of training that I started back in 1995. And over the course of trial and error and those early morning “what does this button do?” moments, figured things out, had a lot of help from great people that were on my crew.
But training has really become its own thing and has really taken it to the next level. And I’m excited to have Kim here to talk to us a little bit about that today and some great lessons that I think we’ll be able to take. Kim, welcome.
KT: Thank you, John. I appreciate being here today.
JW: It’s great having you! So, Kim, I always start this off. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us some of your background and kind of how you got to where you’re at today.
KT: You know, it’s interesting. I don’t know if my 911 story is much different than yours. I started at just a baby at 19, working my way through college, and I had absolutely no idea of the job that I applied for. And it was before there were formal training programs. I was bit by the bug, and I became a police officer after I successfully passed training and graduated from college. And I was a police officer for the city of Inglewood for quite a while. And I was an FTO, a detective, motor officer. And unfortunately, I sustained a career-ending injury. But the good news is that, as a detective, I worked all of my overtime in dispatch because dispatch was always short, never realizing that I would need that skill as a career. I worked at City of San Jose, which, as you know, is the 10th largest city in the United States, as a matter of fact, as a Hexagon customer, if my memory serves me correctly.
JW: That’s correct, yep.
KT: And I was very fortunate to promote there and spent almost eleven years. My dispatch career was in the city of San Jose, a lateral back to Southern California in 2012, and currently in the 911 communications administrator for the county of San Bernardino, which oversees two dispatch centers, has about 200 dispatchers in total. My career is complex, but, in that process, I was fortunate enough to actually be assigned to the training unit when I was at San Jose and have a completely different perspective, not just one-on-one training, but classroom training. And I can tell you that as a police officer, my training was completely different than as a dispatcher, going to classes.
And the very first and most obvious thing is that the opportunities for training were limited because of staffing. The second observation was that there weren’t a variety of courses. So, as a police officer, you have different paths that you could go down in your career, whether it’s traffic or special assignments or detectives. You have a myriad of assignments based on your talent and interest. And I don’t know if we necessarily successfully replicate that in dispatch. So that’s how training sort of came about for me. It was not a purposeful action. It was based out of a need and request for my ally partners and peers to provide more training. And that’s sort of how the company was born out of organic need, but a need for quality training and being able to blend my experience as an officer and dispatch to bridge the gap.
JW: It’s interesting that you say that because over the years, I think—and your example is a great one—dispatch was normally filled, or historically filled, with those that were in some type of emergency service that may have gotten injured on the job. You know, oh, you can’t ride the apparatus, or you can’t be a police officer while you’re injured. So why don’t you go sit in dispatch for a little while. And it’s interesting how this has grown over the years into its own vertical. And I’ll say it that way. I never mean that disrespectfully, but I think that over the years it has grown into that. And it’s amazing to me, the professional dispatchers that we have working in 911 today, that this is their career. It’s no longer the “I’m going to start here so I can use this as a stepping stone to become a firefighter or so I can get in with the sheriff’s department and become a become a deputy.” It really is, “This is what I’m going to school for. This is what I want to accomplish. And this is where I want to go.” I know through the APCO University, they’ve got that associates degree still in public safety communications. It is its own vertical. And I think you’ve touched on a few areas there. It does require skilled personnel to be able to handle the job from behind the headset, handle that appropriately, and be able to manage those incidents as they come in. I mean, it’s, you know, we say it here anecdotally, but it’s that first responder. And just like police officers, firefighters, and medics, the training aspect is so important on that side.
KT: It really is. You know, it’s interesting that you speak about the first responder. One of the crucial things that we do that’s completely different is that, you know, all my friends and colleagues, not all but half, are still sworn. So, they’re instructors, and they teach for sworn officers, bridging that gap. A good example would be active-shooter training. Additionally, I guarantee that the majority of our agencies in the United States are actively training an active-shooter response. However, they are not including their dispatchers in that training. Well, how do we meet that need? Our classes are usually co-presented with a SWAT team leader or tactical expert in the field, along with a dispatcher so that we get on the same page. And it’s not about policy and procedure. It’s about what are the best practices, what are guys and gals in the field learning? What is the priority of information, because if it starts with us, the more information, credible information we can provide the field, the better the outcome in the field. So really where we focus is understanding that a dispatcher is absolutely a part of the team. So telecommunicators around the country are part of your team. If you train with them, it’s a muscle memory, they are able to perform better when it actually happens. And I know this is intuitive, but again, we restrict ourselves because maybe we have a staffing issue. But here’s my argument I make to my colleagues all the time. The bad guys don’t actually care if you’re staffed or not, so we have to train accordingly.
JW: But you’re right. I mean, in an active-shooter situation, and these unfortunately are happening more and more, as we all watch the news and kind of hear how this is happening. If all of a sudden you’re sitting there and you’re sitting there at the desk and that first phone call comes in, the information that that dispatcher can obtain is going to help the rest of the responders be able to get there and handle that incident a little quicker, maybe a little safer, and have further details. And I think your point is, and I think it’s absolutely necessary, is let’s all train this together. You know, I may not need to know exactly how the officers are going to make entry into the building, but I absolutely want to know what’s important to that officer, what type of information should I be able to ask, how should I handle the caller who might be, let’s say, in a classroom, hiding under a desk, and they’re talking to me and I’m that lifeline. And having that, and you called it muscle memory, is extremely important because I think that that sets up, I’ll say, for success as much as you can say, these calls can be successful. But I think that that it sets us up for successes prior to the units responding to the incident. I think it’s a great point, and it’s one that that I see the value in, for sure.
KT: So, you touched on something. Normally how we’re trained is that we have checklists. Dispatchers love checklists. And of course, I do, too. One of the things that we really focus on when we teach is that I think all of us, police officers and dispatchers and firefighters, do very well with the checklist, going from one to two to three. What we try to focus on is going from one to five to 10, back to two. So that critical thinking and decision-making component is very, very important, especially when the stakes are high. And that is something new and unique. And I know our dispatchers that we train have really responded to it. And I think that that’s what sets us apart in reinventing how dispatch training actually occurs.
JW: Yeah, I agree, because I think it’s easy to have, you know, a list, a checklist sitting there and go down that list. Right? I mean, I remember the first things that were always said, “Don’t hang up that phone until you know the address. Don’t hang up that phone until you get the caller’s name. Get the caller’s phone number.” I mean, those three things are just ingrained from day one. And that, to your point, becomes muscle memory. Very rarely does someone hang up the phone and say, oh, I forgot to get the address of the call. But there’s more to it than that. And sometimes going over to just a written checklist, understanding the reasoning behind why each one of those are important, I think is kind of to your point, the key to why training is so important and getting those dispatchers trained from day one.
KT: Yes, I agree.
JW: What are some biggest changes within training you’ve seen? You know, you’ve been doing this a while. So, we talked a little bit about it, where we almost kind of started with no training or just kind of throwing people on the microphone and letting them figure it out or having some experienced people in there telling them. What are some other big changes that you’ve seen over the years since you started your company?
KT: The formalisation of training programs is the biggest we’ve seen in terms of the industry. Having certified communications training officer programs, which is awesome, and having best practices, and agencies really taking it seriously, and training their trainers. One of the success stories that we have, all dispatchers in America are very talented, high-functioning folks, and putting them to work in terms of their input in the training program, having them help establish practices and best practices and rating standards, has been very crucial to success. Also, one of the things I know that we focused on is actually transitioning our trainers to teachers. And there’s a difference between training someone and teaching someone. And I can tell you, it wasn’t just me alone. I have very hard working, intelligent people that have really focused on that concept. And I’m one of the few agencies that can tell you that our success rate is over 90 percent for new hires and being successful in the training program. And that’s by raising standards. That’s by having input of trainers. They have buy-in. It’s their program. My role is to transition them from trainers to teachers. And it changes your culture. It changes the climate. It changes everything about your center. And that success is in the data. So, starting at 40 percent, which is industry average, to over the last four years, we’re at 93.5 percent today.
JW: That’s interesting. From trainers to teachers. It’s a concept that I’m not sure a lot of us think about. I mean, anyone can grab a training set of guidelines and walk people through it. But to really be able to sit down and teach someone, this is a skill and this is not—I’m going to call it what it is—this is not an easy skill. I see a lot. I watch on social media and I always enjoy some of the posts. You know, I’m a brand-new dispatcher starting today. Does anybody have any tips? And I always laugh at that because it’s like, oh, my gosh, I so remember that first day or that first week, month, whatever it was. So there’s a part of me that feels sorry for him. But you’re right. If they walk in and all of a sudden there is a, I’m going to say a teacher sitting there, it gives them that sense of relief. Second thing I think is it gives them that personal touch to understand that there’s someone there that’s got their back. They’re not just going through a checklist of here, let me train you how to do this. Do one, two, three, four, five. Okay, why don’t you know that? I mean, it’s more than that. And it’s that personal touch I think that good teachers can bring to it. And that’s what I think what you’re trying to say there.
KT: That’s exactly right. So, if I peel back the layers and peel the onion here, as an FTO, as a field training officer, that training occurred within, what is there, twelve inches that separates you from your partner and your car. And that training occurs within that bubble of the patrol unit. There is a significant difference when you’re on a dispatch floor because now your training is out in the open. Your training is for everyone to see, to listen to, to comment on, to criticise, or to reinforce. It is a completely different experience, especially as an adult, having adult learning. Being cognisant of the physical constrictions that we have in dispatch, it makes sense that we now want to not just train, but to teach and that everyone on your team understands what you’re trying to achieve and they can positively reinforce the lessons. It really makes a huge difference. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also incorporating adult learning theory, adult learning concepts and explaining to and teaching your team so they understand the purpose behind their actions. And I think what happens in many cases, if you go off to a 40-hour CTO course, you have an introduction to adult learning. But once you come back to your agency, there’s no reinforcement. So we kind of flounder unless maybe we have that background or an education to adult education. So that’s where we try to fill in the gap a little bit with a 16-hour course to reinforce.
One of the things in our class that we teach in our—we have an advanced training officer class. One of the things we teach is, how do you teach people how to study? So, we assume that people, adults, know how to study. That’s a dangerous assumption.
JW: Yeah. Yep, you’re absolutely right, because I think a lot of us as adults, we’ve been out of school for a while. I know myself, recently I’ve gone back to school, and the first semester was just that. It was getting myself back into that, how do I make time, how do I prioritise? And at the simplest level, how do I study? And it’s getting back into that zone. Because you’re right. As adults, we have everything else going on in our life. We may have a household that we’re running. There could be a spouse, kids, whatever the situation is outside of the comm center, when you walk in there, having those basic skills or being able to teach those skills is imperative.
You know, you talked a lot about the about the team aspect. And I remember how important the crew was. I mentioned it a little a little bit ago. But the other thing I like about this is that you’re not just giving a training officer the skills to be a teacher, but as they share those skills, the rest of the team also kind of steps into that teaching role. And the importance of that and the importance of bonding with that team is one that I felt was just imperative to the success. I saw dispatchers come in the door and for whatever reason, whether they didn’t have it social, the social skills, or maybe they just had some kind of, I’ll say chip on their shoulder. But they didn’t bond with the team. You know, those people didn’t seem to last long. It was those that were able to understand that, yeah, you’re all by yourself when you’re on that headset, and you’re the one talking to that person hiding under the desk. But you’ve also got people around you that can assist you. So, when you enter the incident, for example, if there’s some key piece of information, I remember that someone would slide over and they’d write on a piece of paper and they put it in front of me. And man, that quick little teaching moment there allowed me to, you know, ascertain some more information from that caller. It really is a team aspect when you come down to it.
KT: Yes, it is. We’re a small army, you know, and there’s no better feeling in the world when everyone is working toward the singular, the single mission. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling in dispatch, when we’re all operating on the same page, and we try to replicate that on a routine event. Sometimes I think we get a little lost with that. But if you circle back and remind, hey, we’re all fighting for the same thing. We’re all focusing on the same mission. It’s an incredible—it’s a game changer.
JW: It really is. And having that, like I said, having that team approach, and I like that, that army view of it. We’re really all in this together. And whether you’re a call taker, a police dispatcher, a firefighter, E.M.S., or supervisor, everybody’s got a role to play on most of the calls that come in here.
So Kim, what are some skills? A lot of agencies—well, let’s say all agencies have a training officer. They all seem to—someone promotes to that level, or maybe they draw the short straw and they get that position, whatever the case may be, but everyone seems to have a training officer whenever I’m out and about. What are some skills, though, that you look for that you might be able to share in instead of just having a training officer that can go through the checklist but become more of a teacher? What are some skill sets that we should be looking for?
KT: So, this may seem a little funny, but one of the very first things that we need to do is actually teach our trainers how to observe behavior and document that behavior. And the example I always give is that as a communications training officer, it was very easy for me to document performance. And, you know, I had peers that struggled, and it took a long time for me to kind of figure that out. It’s like, I’m not smarter than the average bear until I realise, well, gosh, I had a whole decade in a career as a police officer. And what do police officers do? Observe behavior and document behavior. So that’s part of the transition is to teach people that skill so they’re more comfortable in their documentation of their trainee’s performance.
The other part is really defining what that role is. Teaching is very stressful. I mean, it’s stressful for the trainee and it’s stressful for the trainer. Having clear delineations of your role and what you’re trying to accomplish and also having fluidity in your training program. For example, you have to have standards and what are the expectations for someone to be able to perform certain things. But there still has to be flexibility because we can’t control the calls that we receive. So, you may not actually have—I’m just picking a random call—you may not have a burglary in progress by your second phase of training. So, it’s okay, right? It’s okay. Are you demonstrating the critical skills necessary to be successful if you receive that call?
Also, I believe our trainers need much more time and opportunity to develop their critical decision-making skills. We all do them, but maybe we don’t necessarily understand how we reach conclusions. It’s our experience that 99.999 percent of the time we’re correct. We’re right. We’ve problem solved. We’ve analysed the limited data that we’ve received, and we’ve reached a logical conclusion. But being able to teach someone new that process.
JW: Yeah, it’s interesting. You mentioned it a little bit ago. It’s not the type of thing that you can script. And what I mean by that is you’ve got dispatchers that may be on the job eight hours and they get their first shooting-in-progress call. And then you’ve got other dispatchers that may be there three months before they even get that type of call. And so there’s no way of saying, all right, let’s start off with the easy calls first and let’s kind of baby step you into this world. It truly is a situation where, and this is where, when you said stressful for the teachers and the trainers, I agree, because you’re there as their backup. You’re there to support them and you don’t know what that next call is going to bring. And that to me is always the excitement and why I enjoy the dispatch side of it, because it’s always something new.
I always joked and said it’s like picking up a new book every time the phone rings. And it was a whole new story. And it was a whole new set of plots and another plot twist and all the different things that this new story brings to it, in my opinion, made that exciting. But from a trainer point of view, it absolutely can be stressful because you don’t know what they’re going to be getting into. You have to be, I’ll say, on point the entire time to be prepared to react, to assist, and to teach that person during those incidents.
KT: It’s exactly right.
JW: We talked a little bit about the teacher side of it and the trainer side of it and what you do there to kind of prep people to go back to their agencies. So, what do you think agencies can do? You know, we’ve got a multitude of ways that people bring dispatchers into their comm center. Some of them do just a standard interview process, where they put an ad out, people reply, and they bring them in for interviews, and they try to do their best gut check to hire that person. We’ve got other states that mandates that they go through a formal training process before they’re even considered to step foot in a dispatch center. But somewhere in there, what type of person do you think gets the best results from the trainings? When these teachers are giving it out, is there a certain person we should be looking for?
KT: That’s a great question. Here’s where we get into the type A, type B conversation. We all hire, I’m hoping we’re hiring type Bs. People may be shocked when I say that, but type Bs are folks who will be more acclimated, I think, to the group. I think our job changes our personalities. But with that being said, there’re different, there’re a variety of ways in which you can, okay, I’m going to say something that I know will be controversial, but I think it used to be said. I don’t think the issue is our hiring process. I think the issue is our training process. And what I mean by that is that in my experience, especially in California, I cannot speak for the other 49 states. I’m familiar with the processes that we have here. The hiring standard is very robust. And for most agencies, we have the exact same hiring process as police officers, except for the physical agility. So, if we have a candidate that has passed our initial training interviews, background process, then that candidate is pretty well suited to be successful. Where we fail them is our training program. And I know a lot of people will ruffle feathers. They’ll say, that’s not true. Well, if it weren’t true, I wouldn’t be able to point to data that shows that to be true.
And in the police academy, generally, there’s only one mission statement, and that mission statement is to prepare the trainee to be successful in a field training program. Well, there’s a couple problems here. Our initial academies for dispatch centers don’t do that. They don’t prepare trainees to be successful in a communications training program. That’s point number one. Point number two, how have we supported our training officers? Have we? Is the training mandatory before you actually train? The answer is no. So, what we have is this… we have a system that has not been legitimised and we have expectations that are not correct. We expect for our trainers to perform at a level we expect our trainees to perform at a level because we have standards in our department, but we have not prepared anyone involved to be successful. That’s my opinion. I think the hiring process is just fine. It’s our training programs that need help.
JW: So that’s a really interesting comment. And I know you said that that could ruffle some feathers. And I find that interesting, because what I’m hearing there is, I mean, as you well know, there always seems to be a shortage of viable candidates. You know, I’ve got agencies that are running 15 to 20 percent of their total staff. There are empty slots. They’re looking for that right candidate. I always hear, and it’s been the same the throughout the years, oh, I’ve got five open slots. And last time I went out and checked, I only had 10 people apply for those slots, and none of them were qualified. I couldn’t get anybody in the door. It’s interesting when you say that, that if you’re grabbing candidates in—and again, let’s assume that they have some basic skills that pass the basics—what I’m hearing you say is we need to be focusing not so much on the hiring practices. We need to be focusing more on how we’re training personnel to be successful once they get in the door.
KT: That’s exactly right. And if you’ve been around me for 15 minutes or longer, you probably hear me say if it was rocket science, we’d all be rocket scientists. And the job is exceptionally difficult. I do not want anyone to think that I think it’s easy. It’s not. Dispatch is the hardest job you’ll ever learn, but the easiest to do once you learn it. It’s very complex. It requires significantly developed analytical and critical decision-making skills, and on top of that, emotional intelligence. Yes. Does it take a special person? I would say so, but I don’t think it’s such a minute number that we cannot refine those skills, because that’s what happens with all of us. We start as a blank slate and the skills are refined and we identify the potential for people to be successful through our hiring practices, you see. I truly and affirmatively believe that our processes of hiring are on point.
I will say something, though, that again, will be controversial. When I applied to be a police officer, the only requirements were that I was 21 years old, that I could pass a background investigation, which encompasses—it’s standardized, right? I was physically fit so I could pass the police academy. And I had a legal right to work in the United States, and that you had a high school diploma or G.E.D. I think most people would say, what? That’s all that’s required to be a police officer? The answer is yes. Look at the requirements for people to be a dispatcher. So, my question is why? Why are there so many requirements on top of those basic requirements I just gave to be a dispatcher? And the only conclusion I can reach is because our training programs are not where they need to be. If I could take someone who’s 21, and they have to have pretty much no experience, and I could teach them to be a police officer. And they actually carry a weapon. And that training program’s actually shorter. Then, you see the fail is not in the candidate. The fail is not in the process. The fail is in our training.
JW: You’ve got me thinking back. You’ve got me thinking about how many times as a shift supervisor, if I was training a person on my crew, how many candidates came through that we actually said, no, they just can’t cut it. They’re not making the grade. And some of the things that I’m thinking back on are the times whenever a really tough call came in, and instead of working through it, we pushed the person away and said, just listen in, and took over the call, for example, or did what we felt at the time was necessary to handle that incident. And what you’re teaching me today is it really is understanding how to teach that person through those moments and not just taking over the call, if you will. Not just pushing them aside. Because to your point, I agree. I think this is a very difficult career to get established in and to do. But once you get over the hurdle of learning it, and maybe it’s muscle memory, maybe it’s just a confidence level, but yeah, I went to work every day enjoying what I did. And I didn’t feel that it was strenuous, if you will, right? Yeah, it had its stressful moments, but I knew what I had to do. I knew how to handle the callers that were going to be coming in. And I felt that nothing could hit me; 99 percent of the time, nothing was going to hit me that I couldn’t handle. And that kind of confidence you can start seeing across the room. As agencies train their people and the people get acclimated to that job, you can just see it as they walk in. It’s the ones that are sitting there, multi-tasking and doing two or three different things because they’re confident. They’re not worried about that next call.
So, while you say it’s controversial, I definitely think it’s some food for thought. And I think it’s something that shows that we’ve got to be able to put the time and the effort onto the training side, getting our trainers and people to where they can train effectively to assist us of getting over this hurdle of always having open positions because we can’t find the right the right person.
So, I was going to ask you, is there anything, and I think you just answered it, though, is there anything that you would change about the way agencies are training their personnel?
KT: It’s just that. I would really focus on training my trainers. And I want to give a really real-world example for those that are listening, so it doesn’t just sound like I’m pontificating on theories. So, here’s a real-world example of what I’m speaking to. If you are a training coordinator or a trainer and you are receiving evaluations or writing evaluations and you say things like, the trainee is unable to talk and type at the same time. So that’s something that you read all the time. Here’s what I want to tell the world. It’s impossible to talk and type at the same time. So here’s what you need to teach the person, because this is what you do, you just don’t realise it, once you’re really highly competent, is that if you teach them to actually sort of talk what they say back, so if a unit gives me traffic and I’m behind, you speak that back to them and you type it. That’s how your brain works. So that is significant. That’s huge. As soon as you teach someone that, they’re like, oh, my gosh, I got it. So that is an example of understanding how we learn and how our brain processes.
Another example is if you have someone who cannot apply type codes, so this is something we see all the time. Maybe someone gets 100 percent on a written test and they know all the definitions of the penal code, but when they receive a call, they’re unable to make the decision as to what the right code is. And often trainers are so frustrated. They’re like, I don’t understand. How do you get 100 percent on a test, but you can’t apply it? So, here’s where we make the transition to being a teacher and understanding how adults learn. Here’s a huge golden nugget I want to give everyone. If you have someone who has that problem, then it’s not a problem, because you just solved it. What you’re going to do is print out their CAD event from the day before. It has to be their event, okay? And then you’re going to put them in the field, on a ride along, with the CAD event, because now you have to work with patrol to understand what you’re doing, and you’re going to have an officer take them to each of those calls, to those locations. So now we’re creating relationship. That’s how we learn. We learn because there’s a relationship, right? So, if I took a robbery at a 7-Eleven, now I go by the 7-Eleven. I see it. If you’re a tactile learner, get out of the car. Kind of take a look around. It creates relationship. It’s no longer rote memorisation. They’ve just learned what a robbery is.
What I just gave the world is a million dollars, right? That’s how you become successful.
JW: I love that because I don’t think that’s something that’s being done on a routine basis. I know some agencies that do ride alongs, and they’ll have their personnel go out. But man, I think you’re right because, you know, for those that have been listening, they know my background a little bit. I was a volunteer firefighter. And it was very interesting. While I was a police dispatcher, I was never a police officer. So, there was always this detachment of, in my mind’s eye, I was trying to figure out how they’re handling this, what information would they want to know? And what was their kind of state of mind, if you will, as they were handling that incident? And when I’d get a fire call and as a fire dispatcher, I knew that. I knew and I felt exactly what they were going to. And there was that peace and that calm. So, again, these aren’t, back to your statement, this isn’t rocket science, right? I don’t want to have to teach someone some, you know, quantitative analysis type of formula to where they’re going to be able to do this. It really is going down to some of the inherent traits that we all learn with and just understanding by experiencing and putting some hands on and giving them the ability to be able to do that. And I think that I could say this. I know that there’s an investment with that. Whether it is time or money, there’s an investment in doing that. And I see that paying off in the long term because I give that person that training, and they don’t have to go out there. They don’t have to sit down behind their headset and pretend. They actually understand and they know. And to your point, they can visualise that 7-Eleven and know how to take that incident better.
KT: Truly true. And the proof is in the data. And being successful in transitioning to teachers is worth its weight in gold. Even if it takes an extra four weeks for someone to be signed up or whatever the case may be, it’s absolutely worth it because you’ve retained an excellent dispatcher.
JW: Yeah, absolutely. So Kim, as we kind of wrap up here over the next five minutes or so, it’s thekimturner.com is your website. A couple of questions, really more about the business and not on the actual strategy, but agencies are calling you to come in and do training, is that correct?
KT: That’s right, yeah.
JW: So how often are they asking you for customised training? Is every person, or I’m sorry, every agency calling you and saying, “This is the way we do things. Here’s our policies or procedures, and I need you to customise it to our agency”? Or is there a standard that you provide? Give me a little background on that and what your company provides.
KT: Yes. Thanks for the question, John. So, there are myriad courses that are universal concepts, right, that we teach, whether it’s active shooter or interpersonal skills or advanced training officer. But we also do team buildings and also consultations for training manuals, policy manuals. And really, that’s the advantage because everyone on the team still works on the job, whether they’re a police officer or whether they’re a dispatcher. So, as you know, we’re going through a revolution in 911 with technology and with 911. And it’s really important for us to be in the business to actually understand and feel and comprehend the frustrations, the challenges, so that we speak from a place of not only authority, but empathy. I get it. I’m dealing with the same challenges as well. So, whether it’s consultation in, hey, can you help us with our hiring practices or with our training practices? Can you train my team? Absolutely. And it’s not an off-the-shelf approach. It is very, very customised. And what I mean by that is that we actually visit. We have to understand your culture. We have to understand your operational efficiencies, if you are efficient, in order to work with you to develop a program that will work. Every dispatch center has its own personality. And you absolutely cannot, in my humble opinion, have an off-the-shelf approach, because it may not work because of your culture.
The other part of that is like, you know, classroom training. That’s requested all the time. And there have been courses that I have developed. My true talent is actually curriculum development. So, I have agencies that will say, you know, we’re having problem x. So, I’m fortunate enough to have the skill set to create content specific to that agency or that issue.
JW: Nice. No, that’s good to hear because I think that there’s a lot of what I’ll say off-the-shelf available, and those types of things sometimes miss the mark because they’re not customised. But from what I’m hearing you say, you guys actually come out prior to the training, attempt to understand the agency, what their flow is, how they work, and kind of get in tune with that agency before supplying the actual training then to them.
KT: Well, that’s for team building. But if it’s for a course, that might not necessarily be what we do. But if it’s for team building or training specific to that agency. So, if someone reaches out and says, “I need help with my program,” that’s when we go out and really become immersed in the culture of the agency. But if it’s a course that is generic—generic is the wrong word—but if there is a course that they want that doesn’t necessarily apply just for their agency or maybe for a region or something like that, then we would come in and do the course.
JW: I got it. So that makes sense. So, it’s a little bit of depending on the circumstances and what exactly the agency’s asking for is kind of how you guys roll that out and decide how best to proceed forward. No, very interesting. That’s a great service that you guys are able to provide.
So Kim, the last question I’d have for you is, let’s try to see how your crystal ball is working. You know, looking ahead, to your point, there’s a lot of new technologies out there. There’s a lot of ways that people can be engaged. I know you and I, you’ve actually assisted me on a topic about computer-based training versus standard traditional classroom type of training. So, we’ve talked about that a lot in the past. How do you think the training, though, is going to change as we roll into this next decade? Are there any trends or anything that you’re seeing on the horizon that’s going to make us do training a little bit differently?
KT: Yes. Well, so looking in my crystal ball and looking at the full integration of NG 911, at some point it will meet FirstNet and apps and how we’re actually receiving and delivering information. I think that we will have a three-pronged approach. We’ll have, obviously, our traditional classroom training, or one-on-one training and online. But I think it won’t just be the online training that we’re used to. I think it will be interactive and it will be shorter. So instead of eight hours, you might have small blocks or bursts of training that build on it, because you have to leverage the technology that you’re using to actually do the training.
And as an example, I know this sounds silly, but it’s really true. One of the things I’ve tried to do is transition from in-person meetings to actually leveraging different apps with video because video is right around the corner for dispatch. We have to understand that. We also have to understand the need to train our folks on the technology. So, if you walk into your center and there’s a new technology that you haven’t been trained on and you’re expected to just watch a video and be able to do it, that’s not okay. And so I think that there’s a role here for trainers and training companies and vendors to all sort of meet in the middle so that we’re preparing our end user to be proficient, to leverage the technologies available for the only mission we have, which is public safety.
JW: I like how you said it’s going to be this three-pronged approach, right? It’s not saying let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater. I mean, there are still going to be traditional classroom trainings that are relevant. There’s going to be online-training capabilities, computer-based training capabilities, that are relevant. I will focus in on one area, though, that you talked about being shorter. And I know as an adult learner there is a lot of research and a lot of studies that say that we handle things in bite-sized chunks. I always give this example. I’ve got friends that are electricians. They’re in that trade. And they went to school, they did their time. Then they became an apprentice, then they became a journeyman. And they learn that trade over time. However, when my wife asked me to change the outlet in my kitchen because it had gone bad, I opened up YouTube and within a two-minute video I was able to see how exactly to change out an outlet. And I say that kind of tongue in cheek because it’s such a simple thing, but it really could be complex. I mean, people have wired outlets wrong and burned down their house. So, let’s don’t pretend that there’s not a little bit of risk there. But my point to that story is, is that we’re really in an age where I think the technology is something that we can embrace and it’s something that if I’m sitting there at two or three o’clock in the morning and I’m like, man, what happens if…. Having a short little snippet, having something that I can just go back and refresh, something that’s available and quick without going to a 40-hour class, I think that that’s going to be a key. And I think that you touched on that. Having these shorter online trainings available kind of gives us that YouTube experience, if you will. I can quickly become just enough of a professional on that one topic, if I get it in a bite-sized chunk and just kind of follow the bouncing ball.
KT: Yeah, I agree, 100 percent. We’re on the same page.
JW: Yeah, I think it’s a great topic. It is something you guys are doing great work with. So, a big thank you to Kim Turner today for joining us. I’ll say it once again. Her website is thekimturner.com. If you have not gone out there and checked it out, it’s a great website, a lot of information, a lot of details about some of the services and training that are offered there.
To hear additional episodes or learn more about our podcast, visit us at hxgnspotlight.com. And thanks for tuning in.