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The IPMBA Instructor Course

The IPMBA Instructor Course

By Kirby Beck

Since IPMBA initiated the Police Cyclist Class in 1993, the demand for both instructors and instructor training/certification has been high.  To meet the demand, the IPMBA Board of Directors and a cadre of experienced instructors guided the evolution of criteria and programs for certifying IPMBA Police and EMS Cyclist Instructors.  Today’s IPMBA Instructor Course is the culmination of years of experience and encompasses topics and techniques designed to prepare IPMBA Instructors to successfully conduct the basic standardized IPMBA cycling courses. 

The 40-hour IPMBA Instructor Course is geared toward both Police and EMS Cyclists.  The course demands that each candidate meets five criteria.  First, their basic riding skills must be flawless, as they must be able to correctly demonstrate the techniques that they will be assessing.  Second, they must possess an above-average cognitive knowledge of the material, to enable them to explain information to a broad audience and to answer questions with expertise.  Third, they must be able to break the skills into their component parts in order to help students overcome problems.  Fourth, they must be able to demonstrate their ability give a well-coordinated and professional-quality classroom presentation.  Finally, they must possess strong interpersonal skills and the ability to deliver constructive criticism as well as positive feedback. 

Throughout the week, students must pass two written tests and numerous on-bike tests. They must also prepare and deliver two evaluated classroom presentations. It is emphasized, and has proven true, that it is possible to fail the IPMBA Instructor Course.  Candidates are required to work and demonstrate they can perform the functions of an IPMBA Instructor before they earn their IPMBA Instructor Certificate on the last day.  Some believe that an IPMBA Instructor Certificate may be one of the toughest instructor credentials a law enforcement officer can earn.

Unlike many other instructor training programs, IPMBA requires candidates to possess a minimum of training and experience before they are eligible to apply

Candidate Requirements

Unlike some other “Instructor” classes, IPMBA Instructor candidates must demonstrate that they have used the basic skills and can put them into a real-world perspective.  Several years ago the author attended an Instructor Course for a side handle baton.  Though a Master Instructor for the manufacturer, the Instructor Trainer confided that he had never actually gotten to use the baton on the street, and he envied those who did.  While he was a thoroughly competent trainer, his admitted lack of experience with the tool had an adverse effect on his credibility.   IPMBA instructors would never say that because they must have truly used the bike on duty, in a variety of situations.  They have been involved in day-to-day police activities, including pursuits, arrests, and vehicle stops.  They have the ability to tie together basic skills and concepts with street experience to make the instruction meaningful for new practitioners.  They must be able to “walk the talk.”

Before a candidate will be accepted into the course, they must meet several criteria.  First, they must have completed and passed the Basic IPMBA Police or EMS Cyclist course, or its equivalent.  They must have achieved a written test score of 90% or better.  Since on-bikes skills are scored on a Pass/Fail basis, their Instructor must provide a recommendation statement attesting that the candidate’s skills were “better than average” to “excellent.”  They must obtain a letter of recommendation their department, pledging support and acknowledging the responsibilities of an IPMBA instructor.  Candidates must be experienced bike officers, having worked at least one year as a full-time bike officer, or at least two years as a part-time bike officer.  Current bike instructors from other organizations, such as LEBA, are also eligible to apply.  Lastly, candidates must be IPMBA members to receive general and specialized mailings from the organization.   Few instructor level classes in law enforcement have such stringent prerequisites for instructor candidates.

Rationale for Specialized Training

Bike training is a high-risk, high-liability activity.  As with training in firearms, defensive tactics, and emergency vehicle operation, officers can get injured, or even killed, if the training activities aren’t tightly controlled and properly supervised.  Rarely is a bike class held in which someone doesn’t fall.  In fact, bike officers joke that there are two kinds of bike cops, those who have fallen and those who will!  A bicycle is a single-track vehicle, dependent upon the rider to maintain balance.  There will be times when something happens to that balance which will cause the bike to do what it does naturally, fall over.   Most falls occur when the cyclist is turning, stopping or clearing obstacles.  Unfortunately, those are the maneuvers bike officers use most often! 

A major reason for bike patrol training is to reduce the instances in which officers will fall and to minimize the risk of injury when they do.

Training Credentials Are A Modern Day Requirement

Some departments have sent officers to basic Police Cyclist training with the idea of having that officer return to instruct other department members.  Few, if any, law enforcement agencies would allow an employee to train officers in firearms, empty-hand control techniques or even police baton, without a certificate showing they have completed an accredited instructor-training program.  Yet, for some reason, because an officer has experience as a cyclist, either on-duty or off, some administrators believe that experience is credential enough to train other department members.

The basic cycling program does not teach students how to set up exercises or how to teach specialized skills.  It does not cover basic safety concerns, like setting up drills and using spotters.  The basic training course is intended to teach the skill of police cycling.  It does not teach students how to go back and teach the course themselves.

While many police instructors have attended courses in presentation skills, none have ever attended training in how to safely and properly teach on-bike skills.  The IPMBA Instructor Course is the only training that combines the two.  Nowhere else will instructor candidates learn basic cycling skills, how to break them down, and then how to teach them, both in the classroom and on-bike.

Units of Instruction

Below is a list of the specific units of instruction that comprise the IPMBA Instructor Course.

  • Basic (Cycling) Knowledge Test
  • Basic Cyclist Course Theory
  • Why IPMBA?
  • Responsibilities of an IPMBA Instructor
  • Basic Skills Drills and Cone Courses
  • Basic Maintenance and Safety Evaluation
  • Planning Your Basic PC or EMSC Course
  • Police and EMS Specific Training  (e.g., bike-related firearms training considerations)
  • Cyclist Course Safety Considerations
  • “The Delivery” – Presentation Tips
  • Instructional and Visual Aids
  • Theories of Instruction and Adult Learning
  • Five, Ten and Fifteen Minute Presentations (10 and 15 minute presentations are evaluated)
  • Vehicular Cycling Road Ride
  • Night Riding Exercise and Training Tips
  • On-Bike Testing
  • Final Instructor Course Written Test

Some of the topics are presented in the classroom, while the on-bike sessions are conducted outdoors at various training sites.  Most of the on-bike drills are repeated throughout the week.  One can see that the course offers a full and comprehensive array of training.  The 15-minute presentation is given on the last day.  It is essentially the “final,” and is a measure of how well the candidates have assimilated the material from the week. 

On-Bike Training

Candidates don’t have to ride like Lance Armstrong to pass the on-bike portion of the training.  They must, however, be able to correctly explain, demonstrate and perform each of the basic skills and drills that are a part of the Basic Cyclist course.  They must also demonstrate their ability to ride in a vehicular manner in heavy city traffic.

Candidates learn how to properly set up the various drills they will be teaching.  They are taught to assess the riding surface and determine what, if any, hazards could cause problems for their students.  Because drills that cover crash avoidance techniques like maximum braking and instant turns can result in injury if they are learned on a slippery or hazardous surface, safe placement becomes important.

Skills are broken down into their component parts so that candidates understand both the correct and the dangerous ways to ride.  For example, braking is a critical skill.  Most understand that a front brake used incorrectly can cause a cyclist to launch over the handlebars and onto their head.  Yet, the front brake is the most efficient brake.  Choosing not to use it is foolish.  Using it wrong is painful.  Knowing how to use it right…priceless!

A good portion of public safety cycling is done at slow speeds; therefore, slow speed skills are essential.  Whether winding down a busy sidewalk, sidling between cars in a parking lot, or scanning a crowd for trouble, officers need to know how to go slowly and ride in control.  Few recreational cyclists ever learn to ride slowly, so these techniques are quite foreign to most riders not specially trained in them. 

IPMBA has three standardized drills that it uses to teach slow speed skills.  These drills are tested and students must pass all in order to attain certification.  Instructor candidates have to know how to properly measure, set and evaluate them.  

IPMBA’s standardized training requires IPMBA Instructors to teach the same proven techniques in each of their classes.  Standardized techniques, combined with standardized testing, helps assure the highest level of professional bicycle training available. 

Not long ago a disappointed plaintiff’s attorney looked at an IPMBA Police Cyclist Instructor Manual and commented that the training course meets or exceeds the basic driver training necessary to get a driver license.  It is for that reason IPMBA maintains high standards.  It all begins with our qualified Instructors.

Achieving Balance

While this is indeed a “bicycle class,” teaching a specific set of psychomotor skills, it is still the intent of the instructor-trainers to make sure that candidates leave as credible classroom presenters.  Much of the wide-ranging information in the IPMBA Police Cyclist course is presented in the classroom, or is explained and demonstrated in the field.  Candidates must be able to use their personality, voice, body, and training aids effectively.  Experience has shown that many instructor certification courses for teaching psychomotor skills (e.g., firearms, defensive tactics, etc.) thoroughly teach proper application of the skill through repetition.  Many, however, fail to provide basic presentation skills to students who may never have taken classroom instructor training.   IPMBA feels that it is crucial for IPMBA Instructors to give professional and effective presentations to maximize the training experience.

Candidates in the IPMBA Instructor Course are issued the IPMBA Instructor Manual for either the Police Cyclist or EMS Cyclist Course, as appropriate.  Part of maintaining program consistency is using standard lesson plans.  While course content is expected to be the same, the manner in which it is presented can be vastly different.  Candidates are given guidelines for successful presentations, but are expected to use their own personality and style to make it unique.  The course stresses the idea that bike training should be both useful and enjoyable.  Students learn better when they are having fun and instructors teach better when they are having fun, too.  If the “teacher” isn’t having fun giving their presentation, it is obvious, and it is a good bet their audience isn’t enjoying it, either.  Throughout the course, candidates are challenged to thoroughly prepare their presentations and training aids so they can effectively deliver their message, while at the same time keeping their students interested and involved.  A large percentage of candidates rise to the challenge by the time they give their final 15-minute presentation.  The personal transition witnessed by their peers and IPMBA Instructor Trainers between day one and day five has often been both amazing and rewarding.

Feedback from student evaluations is virtually always positive.  Many have said it is some of the best instructor training they have ever attended.  Many commented they like the fact they “had to work” and felt pushed to do even better. 

Below are some comments from student evaluations :

  • “It has been one of the most challenging and fun training courses I have ever had.  EXCELLENT!”
  • “Very demanding course.  Made me realize the difference between riding the bike and teaching others how to ride!”
  • “The course was hard, yet each instructor made sure that each student was confident in themselves before moving on.  I have been to a lot of courses that were “gimmes.”  This one you earned.  Hats off to each of you. 

IPMBA’s cadre of Instructor Trainers (ITs) are all experienced bike officers or retired bike officers.  Most instruct in a number of job-related topics.  Each IT is totally committed to the safe and effective use of public safety bicycles.  All have been teaching IPMBA courses for over four years and have taught in excess of 4,000 student-hours, which means literally hundreds of basic students.  All have taught in national venues and have trained and attended numerous conferences to expand their own knowledge and skills as professional trainers.

While the requirements to become an IPMBA Instructor Trainer are impeccably high, the associated financial rewards are not.  All Instructor Trainers are volunteers with a commitment to making IPMBA the finest public safety training organizations in the world.   Since ITs work for expenses only, the fees IPMBA charges to candidates and their departments can be held to a minimum.

Conclusion

Quality training starts with quality instructors.  IPMBA’s comprehensive Instructor Course was developed with that belief in mind.  By merging its proven training programs with stringent instructor selection and education, IPMBA has sought to continue its stated goal of providing the first and finest public safety cyclist training programs in the world.  The Instructor Course is an essential component for IPMBA to meets its stated mission. 

Candidates interested in the IPMBA Instructor Course can down load an application PDF with full details at www.ipmba.org.

Kirby Beck is a veteran Police Officer in Coon Rapids, MN.  A Past President of IPMBA, he is Police Cyclist Instructor #002 and an IPMBA Instructor Trainer.  He also helped author the Complete Guide to Police Cycling, published by Calibre Press.

This article appeared in the June 2004 issue of Law & Order magazine.

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