In the past, law enforcement use of force training was often segregated into various use of force options. In some cases instructors only taught one element such as handcuffing, OC, baton, firearms, etc. Their certification came from a manufacturer’s sales rep who taught them how to teach this one tool, this one force option. As a result many officers were taught force options in isolation and there was little if any integration or crossover between options. Many instructors in essence were ‘one trick ponies’. If a question came up in class that pertained to another force option and how to would transition between options, how various force options fit together, or what to do if this tool failed you were often told “That will be covered in another class.” The problem is that too often it was never covered.
The problems were further complicated if the various use of force instructors did not talk to each other and ensure that everyone was on the same page and ensure there was overlap between all the sessions and options. This is no longer acceptable. It should never have been acceptable but we have learned many lessons over time. All use of force instructors should be well versed in every aspect of force response options, tactics and the law. There needs to be consistency with the concepts and philosophies taught in all sessions and ideally there should be consistency in the instructors through as many of the sessions as possible.
Although we have seen significant improvements in this area over the past few years we still have a ways to go. There still exists a gap in many agencies between the academic instructors and the ‘hard skills’ instructors. And in many cases a gap still exists as well between the firearms training personnel and the subject control tactics instructors. In some agencies the ‘hard skills’ are broken up into three groups: control tactics, firearms and officer safety / tactics. This can work as long as there is cross training in all areas and good communication between the instructional groups to ensure there is always consistency and overlap with what is being taught.
Scenarios need to involve all use of force options so officers learn to make decisions and articulate the decisions they make. We need to be very careful about running single force option scenarios as there is little if any decision making for the officers. If officers are not allowed to have some use of force options available to them during scenarions then they are not being trained to respond as they would in the field. However, in order for officers to have all force options available to them in a scenario the instructors running the scenario must be familiar with policy. legal issues and tactics regarding all these options.
If you still have ‘one trick’ instructors in your agency then you need to take steps to broaden their skills and horizon.