I am sure everyone has heard of the four levels of competence:
- Unconscious Incompetent – We don’t know how to do something and we don’t know that we are incompetent.
- Conscious Incompetent – We are now aware that we do not know how to do something.
- Conscious Competent – We can now do it, but we have to think about it as we are doing it.
- Unconscious Competent – We are now proficient enough at the skills that we can do it without consciously thinking about what to do as it is programmed into our subconscious.
Unconscious competent is often touted as the goal. This is set as the benchmark for where we want to get out officers through training. I think for many professions this is true. For law enforcement professionals however, it is not enough. I believe there is a fifth level. That level is Unconscious Articulate Competent. It is not enough for our officers to do the right thing, they also need to be able to articulate in a court of law why their actions were reasonable and why it was necessary for them to use the level of force they did.
If you were to watch the sports news highlights of an NBA basketball game where LeBron James was being interviewed after the game about some spectacular feat and he performed that resulted in a highlight reel dunk he may very well say “I don’t know what I did there. I just adjusted in mid air and was able to get the ball in the hoop.” Everyone would go ‘Wow. That was cool.’ and leave it at that.
Now imagine a courtroom where a law enforcement professional who performed some exceptional feat to save his life in the middle of a violent encounter testimony is, “I don’t know what I did. It just sort of happened and at the end he was dead and I was alive.” Will the attorneys, judge and jury all simply go ‘Wow. That was cool.’ and leave it at that? The answer is no, and because of that we need to train our officers to a level where they can do what is reasonable and necessary in the field and have the ability to articulate it after the event.
Over the next few blogs we will explore some options for building the art of articulation into training programs.