Last week I addressed some firearms training issues where I believe safety is being used as an excuse to avoid conducting effective training. These excuses may be costing officers their lives in the field. This week I will continue with that theme by exploring training and environmental awareness.
Trainers continually encourage officers to have ‘environmental awareness’ despite the reality your training programs may be doing just the opposite. During subject control tactics training the environment is often strictly controlled to ensure there is adequate room between officers. This is done for ‘safety’ reasons to prevent collisions during takedowns, officers tripping over each other or someone being struck with a training baton during drills.
In many combatives rooms or training areas all objects are removed from the floors so that no one trips over anything and falls or rolls an ankle. On the face of it this makes perfect sense and may be appropriate during the very early stages of training where officers are just learning skills and tactics. Unfortunately, trainers often maintain this strict control throughout entire training programs.
My concern is this type of strict environmental control eliminates the need and the ability for officers to actually develop environmental awareness.
Consider placing striking bags and other obstacles on the floor early in training and force officers to be aware of their environment. As soon as possible get the officers out of the open environment into rooms with furniture and people. This will help officers to be aware of the environment while also learning to deal with subjects in realistic environments.
As officers progress through training you can take away some of the room between officers and groups. This forces the officers to be aware of their environment and the people and objects around them. You can have other people or objects in the area that may pose an additional threat to the officer. Doing so creates an environment where officers need to get their head on a swivel scanning for threats as soon as the highest priority threat is in control. By simply adding these environmental and contextual factors in an incremental manner throughout training you can develop the skill of environmental awareness in your officers.
There must always be a balance between safety in training and training appropriate skills and environmental awareness. Safety is a critical element in training. At the same time you must be aware of becoming the ‘over protective parents’ you accuse of coddling the younger generations.