A Day of Driver Training at the New York State Police Driving Academy

Fellowship is a very appropriate word for the friendship and allegiance between serving and retired police officers, in most parts of the world.

Since I officially moved to the USA, just over 15 years ago, I have had the great good fortune to acquire some excellent friends in American law enforcement.

Some years ago, through one by the name of Steve Kring, I spent a wonderful day on the police shooting range, in Boston, MA, where those who did not previously know it were taken aback to learn that the vast majority of British police officers at that time, like myself, were never armed at all, and that before that particular day I had never even held a handgun in my life.  Such are the differences (and each approach was, of course, correct for its own country).

Signs for the New York State Police Driver Training Academy
New York State Police Driver Training Academy.  (Copyright image.)

Another massive difference in the job between the two countries lies in the type and duration of police driver training, the latter part of which — specifically defensive and advanced driver training for corporations — is now my professional field.  So it was with great delight that I accompanied my good friend, retired T/Sergeant and EVOC instructor Tom Winterstein, to spend an October day at the New York State Police driver training facility, located on a former airfield.

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Jerry Darby, T/Sgt. & Division Safety Officer Matt Daley, Eddie Wren [ADoNA] and Tom Winterstein.  (Copyright image)
With Tom and I that day were retired Captain and former Division Safety Officer Jerry Darby, who originally introduced the current Emergency Vehicle Operators’ Course standards to the New York State Police, and Michael Flynn, retired BCI Investigator and former EVOC Instructor.

The chief instructor was Matt Daley who was an excellent host and was kind enough to take me on two demonstration laps of the full course — dramatic stuff.  When we got back to my companions, they were quick to ask whether he’d managed to scare me but his answer was ‘no’ and that I’d been too busy videoing the drive.  Apparently, the honour of my own UK police driver training had been upheld! 🙂

Photograph of the next car in line for the slalom part of the training course at New York State Police Driver Training Academy.
Waiting for the off!  The next car in line for the slalom part of the training course. New York State Police Driver Training Academy.  (Copyright image.)

New York State Police are at the top end of driver training for law enforcement officers in the USA, with each officer getting up to two weeks of training.

A New York State Police SUV ready to commence the slalom traing run after the one in the distance has cleared the course.
Ready to commence the run in an SUV after the one in the distance has cleared the course. New York State Police Driving Academy.  (Copyright image.)

For NYSP cadets, the driver training involves learning the various sections of the course and then putting it all together into a fast and accurate drive which is against the clock.

A New York State Police SUV on the slalom section of their training course.
A New York State Police SUV on the slalom section of the course at their driver training academy. (Copyright image.)

A saddening part of the day occurred during of our visit to the building used for all indoor aspects of the courses.  On one wall were the photographs of seventeen NYSP troopers who had been killed while driving on duty since the year 2000.

As a surprise “gift” from Tom on a previous occasion, I have also been lucky enough to get a full tour of the main NYSP training academy in Albany, NY, and I have therefore seen the overall hall of honor, where photographs of all troopers killed on duty since the formation of the NYSP are displayed.  Both were very sobering experiences.

As for the actual driver training, the big difference — apart from duration — between police training in the USA compared to my native Britain is that for whatever political reason, none of it can take place on public roads here in America.  That’s a great pity because it dramatically limits what can be taught in relation to maximizing safety, but that aside, what I experienced with the NYSP was extremely professional, the camaraderie was superb, and the whole thing made for an immensely enjoyable day.

My sincere thanks to everyone concerned.

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Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at: http://www.advanceddrivers.com/ceochief-instructors-resumecvbio/

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