For this issue of PERF’s Daily COVID-19 Report, we interviewed police leaders in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and New Orleans about how they have modified their training programs during the time of COVID-19 and demonstrations.


Key Takeaways

-- Agencies have prioritized recruit training over in-service training, in order to maintain staffing levels.

-- Some agencies that PERF interviewed have maintained all recruit training in-person, while others have switched to online versions of classroom instruction.

-- To ensure that police can provide regulatory authorities with assurances of honest test-taking, recruits in some agencies use their cell phones to provide video feeds of themselves taking tests

-- Agencies that PERF interviewed reported relatively few cases of recruits contracting the COVID virus. Strategies such as weekly COVID testing and outdoor classes have helped to keep infections down.

-- The wave of protests and demonstrations impacted training operations. In some agencies, sworn officers in training academies were needed to help respond to demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

-- Academies are working to stay connected with recruits and to address any concerns about “defunding police” or other issuesPolice agencies want to avoid situations in which recruits drop out because of misunderstandings, or complete training but leave policing after a short time.


Gary Cordner, Academic Director, Baltimore Police Department:

To Meet a Testing Requirement, Officers Complete Tests While on Video 

Currently we have resumed doing face-to-face training. We stopped doing face-to-face training in mid-March when the virus first arrived. At that point, we stopped our in-service training altogether. We paused our recruit training very briefly, just for about a day and a half, until we were able to start up a remote version, primarily by using Zoom.

That was quite a change for Maryland. Prior to the pandemic, Maryland had not permitted any recruit training on mandatory topics to be conducted in any manner other than face-to-face. But the training commission quickly realized it was an emergency situation, and gave us approval as long as we could meet their conditions.

The conditions were that we document that every recruit was actually attending the training, and that the recruits were the ones taking the test, and they weren’t using anything that would give them an unfair advantage.

Everybody had a computer and a department-issued smart phone, so they take the test on PowerDMS on their laptop, and they place their department-issued phone over their shoulder, so we can watch them take the test.

We had three classes in progress when we switched to Zoom in March. We’ve started a couple more classes since then. After a week of face-to-face training, they go to Zoom. After they’ve gone through all the classroom instruction, we bring them back to complete their skills training, scenarios, and anything else we can’t do remotely.

So more or less, we haven’t missed a beat with our recruit training. Topics aren’t in the sequence that we would prefer to teach them, and we haven’t been able to integrate content with skills and scenarios the way we would normally want to. So that’s not to our complete satisfaction, but we’ve been able to keep plugging along.

We resumed in-service training about a month ago. We’re now in catch-up mode, because Maryland has not relaxed its annual in-service training requirement of a minimum of 18 hours.

The protests affected us at the academy in a big way for about two weeks. During that time, all the sworn staff in the academy, which includes most of our instructors, were deployed for protest duty. We were stretched to find appropriate instructors and had to switch around topics according to instructor availability. Our academy staff who were deployed on the protest line distinguished themselves in how they engaged with the public night after night. 


Commander Ruby Flores, Los Angeles Police Department:

We Have Kept All Recruit Training In-Person

We had some challenges and made some modifications early on. We suspended in-service training but not recruit training. At any given time, we have about 255 recruits in the academy. We hire every month, so we have 6 classes of 40-50 recruits per class.

The first thing we did was contact our state Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) and asked their advice about all our “what if” scenarios, such as what we do if recruits test positive and miss instruction time. There really wasn’t anything in place, because COVID was such a unique situation. We continued moving forward while keeping POST in the loop.

Everything has remained in-person.  We don’t do any Zoom training. The only time we looked to doing things online is when recruits were sent home due to COVID exposure. While they quarantined, they were expected to keep up on some of the lesson plans and training, depending on their level of health. Thankfully, almost all the recruits who have tested positive have been asymptomatic and have been able to come back after their quarantine period.

In March we had an outbreak, with eight recruits in the same class testing positive. They’ve all since come back, and that has really been the extent of it. We’ve had 14 total positive cases since March.

I think one of the best things we did early on was implement a COVID testing system. All our recruits and instructors are tested every week. Daily temperature checks are also part of our protocol.

Masks are mandatory. That wasn’t an issue for the recruits, but it was at first for the instructors. It’s difficult and cumbersome to talk for hours with a mask on. But people have gotten accustomed to it, so now if you’re not wearing a mask, everyone looks at you like you’re crazy.

We moved a lot of our classes outside when possible. Arrest and control and other small group exercises have been moved outside, while keeping physical distancing in mind. That seemed to help tremendously. We’re going on three weeks in a row where we’ve tested 255 recruits and instructors and haven’t had any recruits test positive.


Commander Ralph Ennis, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department:

We Use a Smartphone App that Tracks Physical Activity for Workouts

We never paused recruit training. The city has Microsoft Teams, which we use as our platform to communicate with all the recruits. We did use Zoom during testing. When we tested, we had them take the test on their computer and log onto Zoom on their phones, so the instructors could see them taking the tests.

We paused in-service training, and we recently restarted our “tactical village” training with just five groups of five per day. We created distance learning modules for all our other classes to meet our required 40 hours of in-service training.

We had two instructors test positive, as well as five recruits in two different classes. When they showed symptoms, we pulled them out of class. In most cases they were still able to learn using distance learning.

We have a very large cadet program, made up of 18- to 25-year-olds who we’re sending to college. Most of our positives have been traced back to younger officers and cadets.

When we bring people in for subjects like defensive tactics, use of firearms, and use of force, we open up big classrooms to allow for social distancing. We also split classes into morning and evening shifts, so we never had more than two classes in the building at any one time.

For physical training, we use Zoom and Teams. Our civilian physical training instructors come up with a weekly plan for recruits and lead workouts over Zoom.

We use the app that comes on Android phones to track physical activity, like how long the recruit runs. It’s been pretty effective. 


Captain Hans Ganthier, New Orleans Police Department:

We’re Taking Care to Address Recruits’ Concerns about Policing

We continued our recruit training, and it never stopped being in-person. We did split our classes into two squads with 10-11 recruits. That meant we were basically teaching each recruit class twice a day, so it made for long days for our instructors.

We did have an outbreak in our junior class, with 3-4 people showing symptoms. We recommended that our Superintendent suspend that class, which he did for two weeks. Our director of academics, Dr. Deirdre Magee, was able to keep track of that class through email and Webex to keep them engaged. Our main concern was losing those recruits.

Rather than take it for granted that recruits will come back every day, we’ve been giving them daily briefs to let them know what’s going on with COVID and national discussions about defunding the police. We haven’t seen too many calls to defund the police in New Orleans, but it’s something that our recruits see on TV every day. So we discuss it every day, let them get their feelings out, and answer their questions. We don’t want to train someone for 6-7 months and have them leave shortly after they graduate. We have to make sure that we’re engaged with them about how they’re feeling about the profession that they’re joining. Even after the pandemic ends, we’ll try to do a better job of engaging our recruits about their concerns.

We suspended our in-service training for over two months. We used that time to develop online courses on Constitutional policing, bias-free policing, and our EPIC program.

Right now we’re developing two training plans. One is based on the premise that COVID will still be an issue in 2021, and the other is for if it’s not. We hope to have a new learning management system that will allow us to break out into small groups virtually, with instructors facilitating. 


Dr. Deirdre Magee, Dean of Academics, New Orleans Police Department:

Our Recruits Seemed Very Happy that We Didn’t Have to Shut Down

The city of New Orleans was hit by a ransomware cyberattack on December 13, 2019. Because of that, the city’s IT department will not allow us to use Zoom on city computers, because they felt it might be an open gateway, so we have to use Webex.

When we were initially impacted by COVID, our junior class was suspended for two weeks while the senior class immediately went into squads and kept their schedule. When the junior class was at home, I did a Webex with all of them, and they were all able to see each other and see the recruit commanders.

You could see the exhilaration on their faces, that we were all still connected and still there.

After that junior class resumed, we had a few recruits who tested positive. While they were quarantined, I could Webex them into their class. They could hear and see what was going on, and the instructor and their classmates could hear and see them at home. I made sure the instructors called on the recruits who were home and paid attention to whether they were raising their hands.

We use PowerDMS for our testing, and I simply put a timer on it, so I don’t have to worry about them cheating. If they spend time looking up answers, their time will run out. 


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.