Most people are familiar with the Four Levels of Competency Model:
- Unconscious Incompetent – I don’t know how to do something, but I don’t know that I don’t know because I have never attempted it.
- Conscious Incompetent – I now know that I don’t know how to do it.
- Conscious Competent – I can do it, but I need to think about it to complete the task.
- Unconscious Competent – I have trained the skill to a level of automaticity so I can do it without having to think about it.
You can likely relate to these levels when you think about the progression of learning to drive a car or learning to draw and fire a handgun.
The challenge for law enforcement is that there is a fifth level that I don’t believe is in the scientific literature and that is “Unconscious Articulate Competent”. It is not enough to do what was reasonable in a high stress, spontaneous or time pressured situation, law enforcement professionals also need to be able to articulate why what he or she did in that moment in time was reasonable for him or her based on the totality of circumstances.
Society does not have that same expectation of professional athletes who have been training and practicing their craft for years and who get paid millions of dollars to train a lot and perform occasionally, yet there is that expectation for law enforcement professionals who perform continually and train occasionally.
The challenge for the law enforcement profession is that you are expected to be trained to a high level of proficiency in a wide range of skills but are given limited time and resources to accomplish that. Drawing and firing a handgun or CEW is a skill. Drawing and deploying an impact weapon is a skill. Emergency vehicle operations is a skill. Effectively communicating on the radio, with fellow officers at a scene, with people in crisis, and with witnesses, victims and subjects is a skill. Interviewing is a skill. Report writing is a skill. Testifying in court is a skill. Leadership is a skill. Learning is a skill. Teaching is a skill. Content creation is a skill. Emotional intelligence is a skill. Situational awareness is a skill. Human Behavior Pattern Recognition and Analysis is a skill. Decision making and critical thinking are skills. Conducting effective debriefings is a skill. Verbal articulation is a skill. Written articulation is a skill. Incident Command is a skill. The list goes on and on and many of the listed skills have several subskills within the general category.
Failing to perform some of these skills at the highest level in real world conditions can have tragic consequences. Failure to be able to articulate the reasonableness of his or her actions can result in the loss of the officer’s job, their pension and possibly the loss of their freedom.
As a trainer you need to be continually learning, reflecting, discussing, researching, implementing, assessing, iterating, assessing, learning, iterating, in an ongoing effort to understand the science of learning and teaching and trying to determine how you can best get your people as close as possible to the level of Unconscious Articulate Competent. This will likely require you to think differently about how you design and deliver training.
The demands on your people and our profession are too high to keep doing what we have always done, expecting it will get people to the fifth level of competency. As a profession we need to think differently about training.
We need to match how we teach to the science of learning. We need to be continually micro dosing training and education, so every day is a training or education day. To do that we need to grow the tribe of trainers in our agency by training, educating, and utilizing our frontline supervisors and FTOs to be delivering training in small chunks at roll call.
We will never get to the pro athlete model where are people train 95% of the time and perform in the arena 5% of the time. We will never get the military model for some units where you deploy for 6 to 9 months followed by an 18-month training evolution. That does not mean that we cannot evolve and improve our training within the box world we live in.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Providing practical leadership training.