Today video footage of incidents involving law enforcement professionals is more accessible that ever before. Videos can be a great training tool provided you use them appropriately. Since starting my law enforcement career in 1979 I have seen a lot of videos during training. Some have had a profound impact, some have served to convince everyone in class they are likely to die on the job and some have been a profound waste of time.
I have seen trainers use videos in a a variety of ways including:
- Filling time because it is easier that spending time researching and preparing lesson plans.
- Scaring the shit out of their officers under the mistaken belief it will make them better, safer officers in the field.
- For pure entertainment value so people will like them and say nice things about them and their program.
- A few have been used effectively to enhance the learning experience for the participants and through that positive learning experience enhance their competence and confidence.
The trainers from the first three groups will likely tell you they fit into the last category. This is either because they do not want to admit the reality, or they do not realize the real impact of their video use.
Video can be a learning tool provided it is used appropriately. Here are a few tips for using video.
- Use them judiciously. If your class is simply video after video after video you need to step back and ask yourself how you can use fewer videos and do more teaching.
- Make sure the videos reinforce the key teaching points. If you are teaching officers how to win violent encounters showing them video after video of officers losing violent encounters may be teaching the opposite of what you intend.
- Review the video a number of times in preparation and determine where the key decision points were for the involved officer(s). When you show the video in class stop it at each of these decision points and have a discussion about what the officers are observing, their legal authority to arrest, detain or use force based on what has occurred up to this point and tactical and / or use of force options. It is easy to watch the whole video and afterwards, knowing the outcome, talk about what they would do. It is more challenging and more realistic to make decisions based on limited information.
- Avoid being critical of what the officer in the video did. It is easy to second guess officers in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving events. The officer’s actions are likely a reflection of their training, or lack thereof. Instead, focus on what the officers in the class would most like to do when they find themselves in a similar situation in the future. This will increase the likelihood of a more desirable outcome for those officers when faced with a similar threat.
- Use a mix of videos from actual events and clips from Hollywood movies to help draw out and reinforce the instructional points. There are great clips from Braveheart, The Patriot, Men in Black, Bone Collector, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail, Gettysburg and many others that can be used in mental preparation classes, incident command classes and leadership classes. These videos have a high production quality, use music very well, keep the class interesting and the officers never see a real cop dying or losing a fight.
I would encourage you to step back and reflect on the way you use videos in your training programs. The effective use of videos takes more time (meaning you have to use fewer videos) but, it is far more powerful method of programming officers for success in the field.