Signs of the times: Trends in law enforcement training
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
I am currently the training coordinator for my department and have observed a push towards officer training that enhances verbal skills. This is a result of current trends and high-profile incidents that are being aired on every major network.
Policing as a profession has always flowed with societal tendencies, so things are not too different from the past. I make every attempt to offer the most up-to-date training that encompasses current trends, but I make sure to not forget the tactical aspects of our jobs.
Law enforcement training is not necessarily changing, but being added to. This addition is due to a perception that officers are relying on force as opposed to verbal skills. We are still training for force on force, but have also added training that is more cerebral.
Take, for instance, departments turning again towards community-oriented policing. "Community policing" has been a popular term among public officials to indicate an intimacy between officers and the citizens they swore to protect.
In some cases, the term has been thrown out just to appease the community, but most departments deploy some variation of the community policing philosophy. Currently, this type of policing is being taken even farther as a result of public outcry and worries of the negative perceptions of law enforcement.
Historically as a profession, we have been dealing with the same issues for decades. One would only have to go back to the 1930s and ‘40s to find the war raging between law enforcement and organized crime.
Deadly force was used against threats then, as now, but the difference is the evolution of social media, which has changed the perception of law enforcement. When the perception changes, so does the type of training. Training for law enforcement is indicative of the era that we are policing.
The emphasis of training has been directed towards verbal de-escalation, community policing as a philosophy, leadership, surviving verbal conflict, and any program designed to teach officers how to effectively handle subjects without relying on deadly force.
This has all been brought to the forefront to combat the public outcry of a few officer-involved shootings. I say a “few” due to the actual amount of media driven incidents that account for such a low percentage of citizen contacts.
Stop and think of the large number of police contacts that are made daily across the nation by every officer and what the end results of those contacts are. If it is taken into account the number of public interactions police have daily compared to those resulting in deadly force used, it is a minute amount.
With that being said, I agree that a wrongful death is both sad and tragic.
We cannot get hung up on the numbers or statistics, because they do not have a bearing on law enforcement training trends, as these trends are dictated by public perception and threats to law enforcement itself.
Law enforcement is now at a juncture of training that incorporates a multitude of practices that lean heavily on verbal skills along with force on force.
We follow trends and we bend to public outcry, but that has always been the way for law enforcement. Are we as police officers entering an era of being kinder and gentler than our predecessors?
This word usage that I have heard over and over has an aura of being less tactical or weak. Trainers across the country should be pushing their officers to enhance their verbal skills when dealing with the public and violators, and to not jump through to the use of force continuum at breakneck speed.
We should collectively train to use all verbal skills available, and when these are exhausted, you should do what you have to do to go home at the end of your shift. We are not reinventing the wheel, but bending to the times and different generational attitudes.
Each officer should train for the unexpected, think and talk before climbing the use of force ladder, and familiarize yourself with generation gaps. If you are mentally and physically prepared, then each situation you encounter will be handled effectively.
I want to reiterate that trainers must ensure each officer in their department is trained in excellent verbal skills but also to tactically back up these skills with the necessary physical attributes when all else fails. Always, fight the good fight!
Train like your life depends on it! Because it does.
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