Training at the speed of life, July 2005

In this issue:


I. RBT Tip of the Month


II. Close Call Corner




I. RBT Tip of the Month

Stop Killing Your Students In Training


We've all been there - a training simulation where an instructor blows the whistle after the 'bad guy' has delivered his deadly attack, looks you in the bewildered eye and says the words "you're DEAD."


It has always been a mystery to me how ruling somebody dead has any type of positive effect on their future survival. I understand where it comes from. In North American society, from the time we are children to the time we are cold in our graves, those around us seem to notice what we do wrong instead of what we do right. Parents admonish their children, "If you run on that wet deck you're going to slip and fall." Spouses remind their shopping counterpart, "Don't forget to pick up the milk."


The probability of results in both of these cases is relatively predictable - the recipient of the message has been motivated with a statement that is the reverse of the intent. The dominant thought in the first instance is 'slip and fall.' The dominant thought in the second is "forget to pick up the milk."


This is more than simply semantics - it goes to the root of how the brain processes information. In any actions, we are governed by our dominant thought. Framing anything in the negative leaves the residue of the negativity which preprograms the mind for failure.


A more effective method is preprogramming with a positive thought. "Be careful on the wet deck" and "Remember, we need milk."

Using the same preprogramming mindset, telling officers that they are dead in training provides them not only with a negative training result, but it also provides them with the potential programming of failure for future encounters. The mind is non-judgmental when it is recording experience for future playback, hence the adage "practice does not make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect."


In any crisis rehearsal, it is essential to program a positive outcome rather than a negative one. This is not to say that we should simply 'let' a student win if they have not performed correctly. This is just as bad as it provides them with a false sense of security in that they have not demonstrated a skill set necessary for solving the problem. Rather, it is essential to ensure that any role play simulation continues – ESPECIALLY where lethal force is being applied – until the point that the student delivers decisive fire, moves to a position of advantage, continues to keep the suspect at gunpoint and expresses an intention to hold that position until backup arrives. Anything less than this degree of outcome may provide a student with an experiential 'gap' where they simply stop fighting in the middle of a critical incident after receiving incoming rounds, fists, knife blades, etc.


As trainers, we have a moral and a legal obligation to provide our students with programming that is consistent with the result we want them to demonstrate on the street. Stopping the fight because they have been told over and over again in training that 'shot equals dead' programs them for just the opposite.


II. Close Call Corner


During a training day at a shoot house where marking cartridges were being employed, one of the training participants who was not participating in the action decided that he wanted to watch the goings on. Without any face protection whatsoever, he decided that he was going to peek through one of the windows in the shoot house to watch the other guys go through the scenario. When the officer entered, he was confronted by a role player with a deadly weapon. The officer drew and fired. One of the shots missed the role player and continued through the window, striking the observer in the face just below the unprotected eye. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured. The training ammunition could certainly have destroyed the unprotected eye.



  1. No external safety officer
  2. No control of students who had or had not been through the scenario
  3. No protocol for everyone wearing some form of eye protection at all times within the training area
  4. Lack of a training site that would completely contain projectiles


  1. Do not let students wander on their own in the secured area, but rather have a place to keep them and tasks to keep them busy
  2. Face protection must be worn by all active participants, eye protection by all non active participants
  3. Ideally, a training venue should be sufficiently sealed so to ensure stray projectiles do not exit the training venue, or should be chosen so that in the event a projectile does exit there are no unprotected people 'down range'




A reader asks: "We have a training program where we can only put one or two students through a scenario at a time, yet we have up to 20 students waiting to go through. What is the best way to manage the additional students?"




First, it is important to begin to realize that scenario training does not fit within the conventional paradigm of having a bunch of people arrive for training as is done with conventional range training. This training is different, and training must be structured differently. The only two ways that scenario training can effectively work is either using a block training approach, or through what I call "on duty, in-service" training.


With block training, you need a good number of staff and there can be either multiple scenario sites or other types of training going on. This allows for a rotation of students through various training venues. If you use this approach, safety must be paramount to ensure that no weapons or ammunition that are inconsistent with the training environment find thier way in through slipshod safety protocols.


The second and most effective method is the "on duty, in-service" approach where students are called to a training site during their work shift. They arrive at the training site, drop their duty gear with the Safety Officer, slip into a coverall, receive their training devices, participate in a scenario and any necessary remediation, and are back on the road within the half hour. This method has proven extremely successful with many agencies and is extremely motivating for the officers if the training is properly structured.


So the real answer to your question is: Don't have 20 people waiting around. Change the way you train.


Agencies must begin to understand that the value of Reality Based Training is the individualized approach that is taken with improving officer skills and experience levels. This value is best maximized by drastically altering the training methodology that has been used for years.


Einstein said, "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved with the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Simply stated, if we keep doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we always got.


Until next time, train hard and train safe.

Ken Murray


Kenneth R. Murray appears monthly in Police One on the topic of Reality Based Training. His book “Training at the Speed of Life – Volume One – The Definitive Textbook for Police and Military Reality Based Training is available here. Please send questions and comments to

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