P1 First Person: Contextual training concepts

Editor's Note: This week’s PoliceOne First Person essay is from PoliceOne Member Scott Barlow, who now serves as the Deputy Director or the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy. In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. If you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members, simply send us an email with your story.

By Scott Barlow
Deputy Director
Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy

Use of force training for many years has been recognized as an essential component of police curriculums.  There are very few topics that have become more politicized and controversial in modern day policing.  During my many years as a trainer, and supervisor of trainers I have become concerned that the training community has not evolved to meet modern day needs.  This concern is twofold. 

Police training, in particular physical skills training, has spent vast amounts of time and resources on specific technique as opposed to “contextual training.”    Training in “context”, explained in basic terms, just means that as we teach technique we provide explanation as to when such technique is applicable, and that we teach “reasonable technique” as opposed to “specific technique.”

The second concern is integration of training topics and techniques.  As I monitor training I continue to see conflicts between topics.  This is most common with physical techniques as we transition from empty-hand tactics, to Conductive Energy Devices (CED), baton, less lethal technology, and finally, to lethal force (firearm).

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