Three E-911 staff members cross-trained with the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office during a recent weeklong course in the city of Loudon to bolster decision-making and problem solving skills among 911 and law enforcement personnel.
The course, which was held at the Loudon County E-911 center, was led by Joe Wolf, with Innovative Reasoning LLC, which is based in Orlando, Fla.
Although Innovative Reasoning has traditionally worked with military personnel, company officials hired Wolf in May to lead a civilian law enforcement training program as a separate operation. Wolf has 35 years of law enforcement experience and 10 years of law enforcement training experience.
Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Lt. A.J. Yokley said he assisted in designing the training after meeting with company officials and participating in numerous brainstorming sessions.
“I saw how valuable it could be for dispatch,” Yokley said. “The call starts there at the 911 center. It helps them see what information we need. It helps us when responding to a call. Understanding the different aspects of each of our jobs can actually help us do a better job of serving the citizens.”
Yokley said the company contacted him about the LCSO participating in the pilot program.
“The company had actually reached out to individuals who were acquaintances of mine,” Yokley said. “They were looking for a department that was equivalent to our size and that would support their training. That’s where the pilot program is coming in. The company currently does a lot of work with the military and are wanting to branch out into law enforcement.”
Matt McMillan, who works with Loudon County E-911 as the lead communications training officer and dispatcher, said the training provided a new perspective about his job responsibilities.
“It centered around classroom-based training, which involved cognitive thinking skills,” McMillan said. “It was a cross-training type of thing. For example, we did domestic violence scenarios and traffic stop scenarios. Where the 911 center is, that’s where they set up. We got to see a lot of what officers do when they’re on the scene.”
McMillan, who has worked with Loudon County E-911 for more than three years, said this was the first time he participated in that type of training.
“We’ve never cross-trained with law enforcement before,” McMillan said. “Me personally, I’ve never gotten to cross-train before. They don’t really happen that much. If we can spare the time or the manpower, that’s when we do that. We are encouraged, especially on our time off, to ride along with officers and develop a better relationship with them.”
McMillan said when dispatchers run a license plate or a driver’s license for a traffic stop, they typically don’t know what happens after that point.
“We check their status and make sure they’re safe out there,” McMillan said. “It actually helps a lot for their safety purposes and for citizens safety purposes. You’re wondering exactly what’s going on. In the 911 center, you don’t get to see anything. The scenarios were great. It shows us how officers get to handle things.”
McMillan said that Yokley wants 911 staff members to be more involved with LCSO’s training going forward.
“The training that was provided was a new way to look at things,” Yokley said. “Of course, with law enforcement when we respond to a call, we want to give the best outcome.”
Yokley said each newly hired LCSO officer visits the Loudon County E-911 office to sit with dispatch for four hours.
“They understand what dispatch goes through,” Yokley said. “They understand situations where they think I need my information and why am I not getting it back soon enough. The more we’re cross-trained and the more we understand, the better that we can serve the citizens. That way we can understand what the dispatchers go through.”
“Even during those scenarios, we got to explain our side of things,” McMillan added. “Even how we would do those things. We are going to do a bit more cross-training and how we both operate.”
Craig Tucker, who serves as the federal programs director with Innovative Reasoning, developed contacts with the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, which recommended Loudon County Sheriff’s Office for the pilot training.
The company conducted its first pilot training in October on a Native American reservation with assistance of an adjunct officer. The Rio Rancho Police Department in New Mexico will receive its third pilot training before the end of the year. Company officials will then determine whether they will conduct additional pilot programs before fully launching the new program.
“The company is taking the lessons learned in the Marine Corps after realizing people weren’t doing a good job of making decisions in a stressful situation,” Wolf said. “They’ve hired me to develop this same curriculum for the civilian law enforcement program.”
Wolf said instead of focusing on teaching law enforcement officers how to shoot a gun or fill out paperwork, he is focused on providing them with tools in how to make good, solid decisions.
“The problems that are going on and the decisions law enforcement are making — bad outcomes come from bad decision-making,” Wolf said. “We don’t give them the tools to make better decisions.”
“It was a lot of classroom instruction that went over certain models about problem-solving,” McMillan said. “Just taking in all of the information and risk assessments. I would definitely recommend it, especially even for dispatchers. It’s very informative and gives you a different perspective on problem-solving. It teaches your brain on how to solve problems and how to develop that risk assessment skill.”