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Bringing the street to the range: Does your training reflect the reality of policing?

It is imperative to hold training sessions that reflect actual working conditions for police officers


Training does not need to be complicated or expensive, but it does need to be realistic.

Photo/Chrystal Fletcher

Modern trainers are recognizing the need to create more realistic training for police officers. This can be done in various ways, from running scenarios to conducting training using everyday equipment under everyday conditions.

As we constantly try to stretch our training budgets, here are some simple and inexpensive ways to provide realistic training.

Firearms Training

Shooting at night requires a completely different skill set compared to shooting in well-lit conditions. Since the majority of gun fights take place in low or altered light, wouldn’t it be beneficial to conduct a significant amount of firearms training in those conditions?

The use of weapon-mounted lights mitigates much of the low light disadvantage while shooting, but without proper training, it is easy to fall into the habit of using mounted lights for searching, which violates one of the cardinal rules of firearms safety: never point your firearm at anything you are not prepared to shoot.

Officers must practice proper muzzle control at all times; therefore, handheld lights must be the go-to light for searching. Since the handheld light is most likely to be in their hand, officers must be proficient shooting with handheld lights as well, which means a lot of one-handed shooting. Putting a handheld light in the mix necessitates developing a whole new skill, one that is not trained or practiced enough.

Use of Force Training

Most use of force incidents also occur in low light, so hands-on training like defensive and control tactics should be conducted in similar conditions. The flashing and strobing overhead lights create a unique working environment, yet this is seldom incorporated into training. Are your officers ready to recognize changing threat cues under less than ideal lighting conditions?

Fully Clothed

It is easy to become lackadaisical about wearing full duty gear when training. Many police officers show up for training in clothes other than their regular uniform with gear other than their regular duty gear.

Most of the time, this won’t make a difference on the outcome of the training, but everyone should train with the clothes and gear they use every shift at least once a year.

Uniforms are much more restrictive than athletic wear, and the vests, boots and other duty gear add a lot of weight and bulk that will impact performance and endurance.

Inversely, it is common for those in plain clothes assignments to show up to train with their full duty belt. Many of these special assignments carry smaller framed handguns and carry them concealed, yet they fail to receive the training and practice time with this equipment.

Drawing and presenting a full-size handgun from a retention holster is an entirely different action than drawing from concealment. And the smaller the handgun, the harder it is to shoot well.

Proficiency with duty gear does not necessarily equate to proficiency with concealment gear.

Be Weather Wise

For those who live and work where the weather can be inclement, it is important to train in those conditions. No one wants to train in hot or foul weather, but it is imperative we do.

Extreme climate conditions place additional stress on our bodies and equipment, so we need to ensure officers and equipment are up to the task. While it is important to limit exposure to extreme conditions to safe time frames, it is imperative to have that training time.

Heat is not such an issue as cold. Additional layers of clothing, the use of gloves, and navigating snow and ice add a new facet to the job and training. We require officers to perform their duties in harsh conditions; therefore, we must allow police officers time to train and practice in these conditions.

Without the scheduled and forced training time, very few will take it upon themselves to practice using cold weather gear, and I assure you, it is a game changer.

Workforce Needs Should Dictate Training Schedule

Often, training is scheduled at the convenience and comfort of the trainers. It is the job of trainers to train, and their success is dependent upon the readiness and success of their officers. The needs of the workforce should dictate the training schedule.

It requires a special person to look outside their own personal desires, to see the big picture, and make decisions based on the good of the officers, the department, and the community.

Not long ago, an agency cancelled previously scheduled winter range training because of snow on the range. This agency is located in an area where it is common to receive winter snow so these conditions should have been expected. Their officers work and drive on ice and snow all winter. Oddly enough, this range training was cancelled just a few weeks after an officer-involved shooting in the same region. Whether or not the training was cancelled due to weather is irrelevant. The fact that they cancelled a regularly scheduled range training event on the heels of an officer-involved shooting sent a loud and distinct message to officers about administrative priorities.

It is human nature to seek the easiest and most comfortable way to live. Given our druthers, we will never train or practice those things that cause us physical or emotional discomfort. This is why it is imperative to hold training and practice sessions that reflect actual working conditions for police officers.

We want to give our officers their best chance at success, and this is the best way to accomplish this goal. Training does not need to be complicated or expensive, but it does need to be realistic.

Chrystal Fletcher is a firearms instructor and co-owner of Combative Firearms Training, LLC, providing firearms training, instructor development classes and force response training to law enforcement, private security and armed citizens. She has trained shooters and instructors from coast to coast in order to maximize their performance. She has presented instructor development training at multiple regional, national, and international conferences including the ILEEETA conference and multiple IALEFI annual training conferences, regional training conferences and Master Instructor Development classes. Email Chrystal Fletcher.