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Polishing their essential skills

'Payback' hours give officers the time to reinforce their earlier training and get to know other units.

February 16, 2011|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Burbank police officers are now devoting more work time to training under a program instituted by Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse, who said the change will reinforce crime-fighting skills.

In the past several months, Burbank officers have been devoting their so-called "payback" hours — four-hour increments accumulated each week after their three-day, 12-hour schedules — to daylong training exercises. The new program essentially means extra training, since officers had previously just worked another full shift once their "payback" hours accumulated.

The daylong exercises have also allowed the department to comingle more, officials said.

Officers that may work Monday through Wednesday could go months without seeing those that work Thursday through Saturday, Lt. John Dilibert said.

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"If a situation occurs where more units are called in, it's helpful for officers to know who they are working with," he said.

The most recent payback training days involved building searches, what to do in the event of a felony vehicle stop and practice at the shooting range.

"It's not appropriate to train someone once and forget about it," said LaChasse. "You need to reinforce it."

Police officers out at the training sites agreed with the chief.

"It definitely makes us more confident in what we do," said Sgt. Mitch Ross, a 16-year member of the department.

Officer John Voorhis, a four-year department veteran, said he welcomed the training and preparation for what can happen in the field.

He was one of many officers recently who donned full protective gear for a building search for a hypothetical suspect involving simulated gunfire with paintballs.

"I don't remember the last time I practiced with live fire," Voorhis said after completing his first walk-through of the unknown building. "It's good for us on patrol to be able to go through and work on this."

Dilibert was running the building search rotation during the last training session.

"Officers need to know how to protect each other and make the best decisions no matter what the situation is," he said. "It's about efficiency and safety because each scenario is different."

The new training regimen was partially modeled on other departments in the region and LaChasse said he hopes to soon incorporate community service into officer payback hours system.

In the current fiscal year, LaChasse budgeted $191,550, up from the $113,335 spent on training two years ago before he arrived, according to city records. The training includes seminars for administrators and field exercises for civilian employees, patrol officers and the department's forensic team.

The training may be costly, but the chief said it was worth the expense and planned to continue the program.

"Because of the type of work we're in, there's a liability attached to not doing things properly," he said. "Things change all the time and this is a means of getting that information to people and make sure our department does its job properly."

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