Let me start by saying I am a huge advocate of safety in training and it is critically important that you have safety rituals in place for conducting reality based training. We must stop killing officers in ‘training accidents’. Having said that, I have come to the realization over the years that too many trainers are using ‘safety’ as a crutch and an excuse not to conduct realistic and potentially life saving training.
Trainers preach to officers to “never place yourself in a crossfire situation”. Avoiding crossfire is sound tactical advice. What if however, the subject places the officers in a crossfire situation? Are the officers prepared to win that fight or are they going to hesitate because of training, or lack there of?In Lakewood, Washington the subject entered the coffee shop intent on killing four officers and created a crossfire situation. In Maryland, a bank robbery suspect leaves a bank with a gun to a hostages head and is challenged by a number of armed officers. When he slips on some ice the hostage runs away and the hostage taker runs into the group of armed officers creating a crossfire situation. An officer is fighting over his weapon with a subject who is attempting to disarm and kill him. Because they are in contact range the cover officer now finds herself in a crossfire situation. In each of these situations the subject’s actions created the crossfire situation. The officers did not violate their tactical training and place themselves in this position. These situations often cause officers to hesitate as they have never been trained to shoot effectively at close range or when a crossfire situation exists.
I believe the solution is simple. Make time in training to address these types of situations. Use plastic training guns and place officers in a variety of situations like the ones above and let them work through the problem. The solution may very well be for one or more of the officers to close the distance and shoot the subject from an inch or two away. The sad reality is that very few agencies in 2011 are teaching this tactic in the academy or at an inservice level. In fact, the closest many officers ever get to a target they shoot is the 3 yard line at the range.
Too many trainers fail conduct training for winning fights when officers are in a crossfire situation and use safety as an excuse. Trainers fail to train officers to shoot someone from inches away and use safety as an excuse. While safety may be a valid reason for not using non lethal training ammunition in some drills it can not be an excuse for failing to provide proper training.
Trainers use safety as the reason officers are not allowed to move on the range and then wonder why officers fail to move in a gun fight or struggle to draw their gun while they are moving. Trainers use safety as an excuse for why officers are not allowed to pick up a fully loaded magazine if they drop it on the range. As a result some officers are conditioned not to pick up that magazine on the ground that may save their life.
It is time to stop using safety as an excuse. Find a way to conduct safe, effective training that truly gives officers the skills they need to win fights and go home to their families.
Next week I will look at safety excuses during control tactics training.