In the first two parts on this series of posts on CEW training I talked about the importance of failure drills and placement of CEW training in the overall recruit training program. Today we will address some issues concerning exposing officers in training. Now there is a lot of controversy around whether or not officers should be exposed to the CEW during training.
Personally I feel there is little benefit to continuing to expose officers they way it has traditionally been done. What I am referring to here is where either the probes are shot into the officer or simply taped onto the officer and they ‘ride for 5’. Usually there are other officers standing by on either side of the person being exposed to catch them and guide them to the ground to avoid any possible training injuring during the fall to the ground. While officers may walk away with an understanding of the power of the weapon to control subjects, they also too often walk away with a belief that it is the panacea for overcoming all types of resistance or aggression, the magic phaser and the one intermediate weapon that will always establish control of a subject. This is a dangerous mindset and too often results in officers getting injured in the field due to over reliance on a tool. A tool that can fail for no tool or technique is 100% effective, 100% of the time on 100% of the subjects we encounter.
If you are going to expose officers to the CEW in training here are some things to consider:
- Challenge officers prior to the exposure to see if they can defeat the CEW or pull out one of the darts prior to experiencing full body lock up. You may be surprised that some of them, like subjects in the filed, can accomplish this. This is not meant to diminish the effectiveness of a CEW as a force response option. It is meant to infuse some reality concerning what may happen in the field.
- For those that do go into full body lockup have the other officers that are standing by to guide them to the ground get the ‘subject’ in control and handcuffed as soon as possible, ideally within the five second cycle. This is an important training gap brought to light for me recently by Chris Butler of the Calgary Police Service during his great presentation Police Use of Force: Implications in the Search for Reasonableness at the 2009 Legacy of Excellence Conference. In my opinion Chris Butler is one of the most knowledgeable use of force trainers and experts in North America. At one point in his presentation Chris pointed out that too often in the field we see officers deploy a CEW and the subject goes into full body lockup following the first exposure from the CEW. However, after the first 5 second cycle the fight is back on. When the other officers at the scene are unable to gain control of the subject the officer with the CEW indicates they are going to cycle the CEW again. At this point we often see the officers all jump off the subject, perhaps out of fear of being exposed themselves. This pattern often repeats itself a number of times resulting in a huge outcry about the multiple CEW exposes when the video is released on the internet. While listening to this part of the presentation it struck me that here is another training gap that we must address. If we are going to expose officers in training then we must take advantage of that exposure as an opportunity for officers to practice establishing immediate control of the subject and handcuffing them following the deployment of a CEW. This will make the deployment a valuable training opportunity rather than the exposures simply being a commercial for the CEW manufacturer.