This week we will explore some things we can do in a classroom setting to help develop the skill of articulation.
Classroom training in use of force needs to cover a variety of areas including:
- Legal authority to use force.
- Relevant case law decisions.
- Constitutional issues affecting use of force.
- Situational factors.
- Subject behaviors.
- Response options.
Most agencies do a good job of teaching the legal and constitutional issues. The question is whether these areas are taught in the context of use of force and officer safety or in isolation as part of the ‘academic studies’. Without putting this critical information in the context of the subject behaviors and situational factors that officers face on the street, the legal aspects are just abstract concepts for many officers.
Many people entering the profession of law enforcement have little or no experience with interpersonal human aggression so they have no frame of reference when discussing subject behaviors. It is important then to focus on behaviors, not behavior categories, and have classroom discussions about the types of behaviors that subjects may demonstrate. It can be helpful show actual video footage of these behaviors. Subject behavior must be taken in context so it is important to build situational factors into these discussions. The classroom discussions can then move to the range of response options available to the officer when they find themselves confronted with these behaviors on the street. As training progresses and officers receive more training in force response options the discussions can expand to include these. Ideally these discussions would be followed up with video footage of officers successfully applying each of the force options discussed. These discussions need to describe behaviors using descriptive language that would allow a jury months or years later to form an image in their mind of what the officer was faced with. Move away from generic statements such as “The subject was being aggressive.” or “The subject was brandishing a weapon.” Make the officers describe what they observed.
It is important for officers to understand that no tool or technique is 100% effective 100% of the time on 100% of the people. You can create a valuable learning experience by showing video footage of officers using force response options that are reasonable but unsuccessful in gaining subject compliance. This creates an opportunity for you to build problem solving into the classroom discussion and allow officers to begin to imagine what they would do next to gain control of the subject.
Communications training needs to go beyond just tactical communication. Skills in deflecting and defusing aggression and the ability to resolve conflicts in the field with verbal and non-verbal communication skills is an important element of officer safety. Once the situation is resolved physically officers need skills in articulation (telling the story) to allow them write effective reports and provide good evidence in court. Giving good evidence requires officers have the ability to make powerful presentations on the stand. Communication consultant Chez Lorincz says the three essential principles that allow a presenter to communicate effectively are:
- Be yourself
- Use clear thought
- Use strong feeling
All of these principles can and should be incorporated into use of force training with officers being rewarded when they communicate in this manner.
Tuesday we will explore some ideas for the training room.