As trainers you have all been asked questions in class where officers want to know what they should do in a certain situation, or more commonly they ask “What would you have done?” Please do not answer these questions. Your job as a trainer is not to tell them what the right answer is. Your job is to teach them what they can do, teach them when they can do it and give them the competence and confidence to do it immediately.
It is easy as a trainer to say “this is when you should shoot”, or “if that was me, this is what I would have done”. Do not take the easy way out. It is more work to ask the student questions and help guide them towards an understanding of the totality of the circumstances, the legal authorities and powers applicable based on those totality of circumstances and the use of force options and tactics available to them based on that information. Notice I said options and tactics not option and tactic. There are often many ‘right’ answers to these questions. Your opinion of what the right answer is, is just that – your opinion. Your opinion is based on years of experience and training they may not have. It is also based on watching that particular video or scenario hundreds of times. Use your knowledge, training and experience to guide the officer you and understanding by asking questions instead of stating opinions.
Conducting training this way takes more time. However, it creates a more effective learning environment and serves to develop the officer’s ability to articulate the reasonableness of their actions. The skill of articulation is critical to officers yet is often overlooked in training.
On the stand if the best the officer can do to justify their use of force is say “The trainer said this is what we should do.”, then both the officer and the trainer are going to have some issues.
It is inappropriate for a trainer, or any officer to say “If I was there I would have done……… Anything that comes after that statement is pure speculation. The only person or persons who know what they would have done are the officers who were there. Now, we can learn from their experience by asking what would I most like to do when I find myself in a similar situation. At that point you can brainstorm tactical options, discuss use of force options and imagine yourself in a similar situation controlling the situation and the subject.
Make sure you teach them what they can do. Too often the lesson is ‘what not to do’, or ‘things that will get you hurt, killed or sued’. Teach them what they can do to win the fight in the field, to win the fight in the court room and to ensure they are emotionally and psychologically fit.
Take the time to help them learn and understand and you will set them up for success.