Just when you thought the debate about Use of Force Models had died down someone feels the need to write an article for a Chief’s magazine slamming those that advocate teaching to the law rather than teaching to a model.
I am not going to weigh in on the model versus no model debate. I will however, weigh in on ways to deliver training to develop competent and confident officers.
Models serve as a visual aide to help visual learners understand how use of force options fit into totality of circumstances. They are not a decision making tool for law enforcement officers.
Training needs to be designed and delivered to teach officers what they can do, teach them when they can do it and help them develop the confidence to do it immediately. How do you do that? Teach the law and teach behaviors and options. Based on the behaviors of the subject and the totality of circumstances the officer always has a range of force response options he or she can utilize. There is no one right option; there is always a range of reasonable options. Teach behaviors and options, decision-making, failure drills (what to do when a tool or techniques does not work) and articulation throughout training. This allows officers to learn to apply the law and adapt to a variety of behaviors and circumstances resulting in officers that are both competent and confident. At this point if you have a model, teach officers how behaviors and options fits into the model so if he or she ever has to answer questions on the stand concerning the model they can explain the totality of circumstances and how their actions reasonably fits into the model. The officer’s notes and reports however, describe the subject’s behaviors and are written based on the totality of circumstances, not based on the model.
If you are using a model to educate visual learners in court also ensure you educate them about the reality that use of force is subject driven. Subjects always have the opportunity to cooperate. When they choose not to cooperate they create a situation where officers in the lawful execution of their duties have to use some level of force to control the subject. The level of resistance or aggression by the subject will make up part of the totality of circumstances, which will determine the level of force the officer reasonably believes is necessary to establish control of the subject.
You need to continually evaluate what you are teaching, but more importantly you need to evaluate how you are teaching to ensure you are doing what is best for your officers.