This week I am going to talk about an issue I have written and spoken about before and will continue to write and speak about because I believe it is so critical to the success of the officers we are provided the great privilege to train.
My fundamental question is this – “If our goal is to create competent and confident officers why do we continue to focus on stress in training and why do we continue to set officers up to fail in training scenarios?”
Now I know that some of you will immediately want to explain to me that we have to place our officers under stress in training so they can perform under stress in the field. No we do not. We need to create a training environment where they get the opportunity to practice the skills and tactics they are taught in the contextual setting they are likely to encounter in the field. This is done in an incremental manner where the officers are gradually exposed to more contextual factors and are allowed to solve problems at each level and have success at each level. This type of training will help produce the competent and confident officers we are striving for.
A couple of issues with focusing on ‘stress’:
- Stress is too subjective. What is high stress for one person may be low stress for someone else.
- Stress is not the goal. Competence and confidence are the goal. Training is very different when we ask “What can we do to create officers that are competent and confident when faced with dynamic situation in the field?” as opposed to when we ask “What can we do to stress these officers out in training?”
I agree that ‘stress inoculation’ is an important philosophy. As we have discussed before however, too many trainers and academies have become obsessed with the ‘stress’ part of stress inoculation and are completely overlooking the goal. As a result we treat new recruits like crap under the guise of running a ‘stress academy’ so we can properly prepare officers for the field.
I have also heard the argument that they need to learn how to lose before they can learn how to win. No they do not. They need to learn to win. In order to win a violent encounter they have to be prepared to solve problems and work through adversity. They need to be prepared to keep fighting when they are injured. They do not need to know how to lose.
Set high standards for your officers. Challenge them to succeed. Expect them to succeed. Reward them when they succeed. Teach them to problem solve. Teach them to win. Build competence and confidence.
“LE personnel in pre-service and in-service training do not need to be pampered, but confidence and competence – the 2 elements required for great performance under stress- are not gained by stress drills that primarily result in failure. “Dr. Bill Lewinski, Force Science Institute