Where is your focus in training? What are you missing because of that focus? What price are your officers paying because of it?
Are you focused on teaching officers to follow orders or, are you focused on teaching officers to think and solve problems? In some training the thinking is done by the instructors and the officers are conditioned to jump to it and do what they are told. There is no explanation of why they are doing what they are doing, they need to just do it and not ask questions. The officers get very good at following orders. Following orders however, is not usually where we get ourselves into trouble in the field. Where we get into trouble is often in relation to decision making. There are times in the field where officers just need to follow orders. The majority of the time however, officers need to make decisions and solve problems without someone there to tell them what to do.
Are you focused on Deescalation and Disengagement, the new buzz words in law enforcement? If so you are focused on the wrong D. What we need to focus on is decision making. If officers make good decisions then everything else will fall into place, including the officer’s ability to articulate the reasonableness of his or her decisions and actions.
Are you focused on skills, techniques, and tactics but, failing to teaching the art of articulation? It is not enough for officers to do what is right. They must be able to articulate why their actions were reasonable based on the totality of circumstances. Articulation is a learned skill so make sure you are teaching it.
Are you focused on team building and teamwork to the exclusion of officers being able to function and solve problems on their own? Teamwork is important. Officers work in teams during tactical operations, crowd control functions, some investigations and many high risk situations. We have tactical teams and joint forces operations where teamwork is critical. But, unlike the military who almost exclusively are deployed in teams, law enforcement professionals often spend a great deal of time working alone, or at best with one other officer. Does your training focus exclusively on team building and neglect to have officers learn to solve problems and function when they are alone?
Are you so focused on single officer control tactics that you fail to train officers how to work as a team to control a subject. This may seem to contradict the previous point however, both these issues exist in many academies. There is a huge emphasis on teams everywhere except in control tactics where most of the tactics that are taught are single officer tactics. It is important for officers to be competent and confident in controlling subjects and defeating attacks on their own. When multiple officers are trying to control one subject in the field the situations are often total chaos with officers actually working against each other as they have not been taught control tactics with two or more officers. Make sure officers experience single officer and multiple officer arrest situations in training so they learn to communicate and problem solve and avoid the chaos we too often see.
In your control tactics or defensive tactics programs are you overly focused on technique? Or, is your focus on teaching principles and concepts that will allow an officer to be successful and solve problems when the fight or struggle in the field is “not like it was in training” (and they never are)? Technique is often the first thing to break down in a fight. Principles and concepts like balance, power and mobility, will an officer to solve problems in the field regardless of the environment they find themselves in. It goes back to problem solving and decision making.
Take a step back and ask yourself, “What are we focusing on in training?”, and “What might we be missing?”. Then bring someone in from the outside to look at what you are doing and ask you questions that will help to further uncover the gaps in your training, and we all have gaps. Some of the gaps exist because of inattentional blindness. We are so focused on teaching certain things that we are blind to what we may be missing.
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