Scenario based training, (aka: reality based training, confrontation simulation training) can be an important element of proper preparation for law enforcement professionals. It must however, be integrated in training as a building block approach.
Too often I see programs where officers are in static environments for the majority of training and then thrown into scenarios at the end as a test of what they have learned. In some cases the officers are overwhelmed by the scenarios resulting in the trainers complaining about the officers not having learned what they were taught in training. Remember one of the key themes of Excellence in training is John Wooden’s philosophy “You have not taught until they have learned.”
In some cases officers are set up to fail in the scenarios to show them what they do not know, or how they can get killed or injured in the field (yes this is still happening). If you are setting officers up to fail in your scenarios, you are setting them up to fail in the street.
Scenarios can be used for testing but, they have to be implemented throughout training in a building block format.
Ok, so I have said twice “scenarios must be used in a building block format” so what does that mean?
- start small,
- start early,
- integrate decision making into scenarios throughout training,
- as the scenarios progress ensure you integrate all aspects of use of force,
- build in time for articulation,
- make sure you include communication skills and decision making,
- integrate legal issues into scenario decision making,
- ensure there is congruence with all aspects of training (law, firearms, control tactics, investigations, etc) in the scenarios,
- remember the focus is context, not stress,
- include decision making,
- include articulation,
- focus on building competence and confidence,
- as you progress through training you can increase the complexity and intensity,
- include articulation,
- ensure you build in decision making.
No it was not a typo that I mentioned decision making and articulation a number of times in this list. In the field officers make decisions every day, often with little time and limited information. After the event they are required to articulate why their decision was reasonable, for them, at that moment in time, based on the totality of circumstances. Do you build these skills in training? Or, do you assume they know how to make good decisions and can explain what they did and why they did it.
It is important to be able to shoot well, hit hard and drive fast. Poor decision making in these areas however, gets officers injured, killed and in trouble far too often.
In other cases officers act reasonably but are unable to explain why their actions were reasonable.
Scenarios are a way to build these skills. The emphasis here however, has to be on the wordbuild.You cannot simply throw an officer into a scenario at the end of training to test what you have not taught.