Sunday, August 14, 2016

Realistic Training

Social media meets PERF - police should use force in the manner that would be most acceptable to the average citizen. So said the report of the Police Executive Research Forum. Translated to FB speak..."Why didn't they shoot the gun out of their hand or something? Can't they be trained to do that?"

The answer, of course, is yes. This is how.

0600 - Officers report for day watch. They change into PT gear and spend the next 45 minutes exercising. Each has had a routine tailored for their particular needs, with an eye toward beginning the day energized. Light stretching and breakfast during roll call.

0700 - Change into training gear. Report to the use of force simulator. Firearms staff delivers a half hour of marksmanship drills. An array of instructors then run a variety of computer-delivered scenarios on a wall-sized screen, some of which require force, some that do not. Detailed critiques follow. Each officer runs them multiple times, until their performance raises to the level necessary for flawless performance.

0830 - Live fire drills. Each officer performs multiple handgun and long gun exercises. Nearly three hundred rounds of ammunition per trainee is expended. No missed shots are tolerated - a score lower than 100% results in immediate remedial training.

1000 - Legal update.

1100 - Pre-trip and load vehicle. Call in service. Begin patrol duties.

1400 - Return to the station. Download.

1430 - Debrief. Massage. Wellness lecture. Meet with department psychologist.

1600 - Off duty.

That would be one duty day (swings and graves, too). Three hours of actual service, seven hours of training. That doesn't count those days when an officer, or team of officers, were taken out of service completely, to run building search, active shooter or other drills requiring a full day. These would be among the best trained individuals on the planet.

Unreasonable?

Not at all. Granted, it would require some re-tooling of the department budget, as well as hiring a few more officers. Maybe...three times as many officers as now serve a community. Of course, taxes go up, other services are cut. America (at least in 2012) spent about $45 billion in salary and benefits for police officers. The above schedule would increase that to $135B. There are some municipalities that cannot pay their officers now, but that's what the Feds are for.

If only one life is saved, it's worth it, right?

Sure, but there is no guarantee this would end up in a net saving of life. Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that officers threatened with a weapon are successfully trained to shoot the suspect in an appendage. That should end the fight, yes?

There is a video we all get to see in training. An officer - everyone from his town agrees he was a stellar cop - stops a vehicle. The driver is outraged at the officer's intrusion against his freedom. Despite several commands and attempts at deescalation the driver removes an M1 carbine, a 30 caliber rifle, from his vehicle. He starts shooting. The officer returns fire and gets a number of hits. The effects of adrenaline (and other predispositions) allows the suspect to fight on. He closes on the young man and executes him. We get to hear one final whimper, recorded by the mike on his lapel, as the cops dies. He left behind a wife and children.

Officers are trained to end the threat to them, and the people they protect. For some assailants, minor uses of force (Tazer, OC spray, a few love taps with a baton or ASP) are all that are necessary. A little bit of kung fu (sorry, my friend) can go a long way. When kind words and reassuring manner fail, just removing a weapon from its carrying case sometimes has a therapeutic affect. 

For others, being wounded is enough. It is impossible to determine, until the person trying to kill you stops, if you have encountered someone with a finite reservoir of will, or a person who will persist until their last breath escapes them. Would you want to stake your life on this decision, made in the heat of a running gun battle?

One can be trained to shoot the eye out of a fly every time. Cops can be trained to do all kinds of magic. In the split second an officer has to decide what is necessary to defend themselves, a lot happens. Most of the time they are reacting to what is in front of them. It takes the average officer about a second to draw their weapon. Unfortunately, that is sometimes the rest of their lives. For three men this week, all of the training they got wasn't enough.

The decision, how much training an officer receives, does not rest with street cops. It rests with society. Citizens have  a right to demand a lot of government. Demanding perfect interactions and foolproof solutions to complex problems deeply rooted in human nature?

That isn't a training issue.

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