Do you teach the principles of Contact and Cover in the Academy? If not, you should. If you do, then are you also continually reinforcing the principles of Contact and Cover with your FTOs / PTOs and frontline supervisors? Do you continually review the principles of Contact and Cover and why they are important during in-service training and through 10 minute Roll Call training? Do you teach that if the Contact Officer is involved in a physical struggle with a subject the Cover Officer will only get involved if the Contact Officer asks for assistance or is visibly losing the fight? If neither of those things are happening then the Cover Officer’s job is to have their head on a swivel scanning the environment, controlling other people and providing cover for their partner.
If you fail to embrace the need for the relentless, consistent repetition of the message then the culture in the field can override your training. What do I mean by that? Despite the fact that most academies teach Contact and Cover, the prevailing mentality, and culture on the street is that if one officer is in a fight or a struggle with a subject, then everyone is expected to be in the fight /struggle with the subject and contact and cover goes out the window. The new officer who stays out of the fight to do his or her job as the cover officer, and make sure no one ambushes or sucker punches their partner is often accused of freezing and labelled as hesitant or worse, a coward.
Despite trainers continually stated concerns about ambushes, and the “plus one rule”, it is all to common to see officers in the field violate the principles of Contact and Cover. In a recent discussion with a group of trainers they all said they taught Contact and Cover, yet they were all of the “if one of us is in it we are all in it” mindset when it comes to a physical altercation on the street.
The result of “if one of us is in it we are all in it” mentality is what we continually see in videos of altercations. We see multiple officers in a cluster of bodies, arms and legs, with little or no communication or coordination between the officers who are often working against each other. No one is focused outward looking for other threats. Why? Because most agencies fail to teach, and continually reinforce, multiple officer control tactics. Most of the time in control tactics training is devoted to one officer controlling one subject.
If the culture in your agency is not consistent with the training you provide that should be a red flag that that something needs to change. You either need to change your training or you need to take action to change the culture. Contact and Cover is one example of a clash between training and culture. Pay attention to determine if you have others.
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