Don’t write policy and expect change: How to make training stick
A training expert discusses why agencies should include pursuit in their de-escalation training and what factors ensure the lessons last
Sponsored by FAAC
By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
In today’s environment, where seemingly every action of a law enforcement officer is scrutinized, there is tremendous pressure on law enforcement agencies to ensure that their officers are well-trained not only in foundational skills but also in areas like use of force and de-escalation training.
When it comes to excessive use of force, our minds tend to jump to deadly or injurious situations involving an officer-involved shooting. But a high-speed police pursuit can have similarly deadly consequences and spark public outrage and calls for reform, especially when the situation could have been avoided or de-escalated had the officers involved gone through police driver pursuit training or used pursuit management technology.
Going through training and being well-trained are two different things, as are having a policy and making sure it is followed to the letter.
How can an agency make sure that training isn’t undertaken mainly to check a box, but that it is a genuine attempt at improving performance, adherence to policy and creating a safer environment for officers, citizens and suspects alike? How can agency leaders make sure that the skills and lessons have lasting impact and the money is well spent?
Police1 recently spoke with Chuck Deakins, lieutenant commander (retired) and lead specialist for simulation training at FAAC. With over 28 years of experience as a police officer, including training police officers in driver training, including situational awareness, de-escalation and use-of-force, Deakins has some thoughts on why law enforcement agencies should include pursuit training for their officers and what factors make the training more effective and memorable.
Why is a change in pursuit training needed?
Let me tell you a story.
The other day I was sitting in my car, with my mask at the ready, waiting to pick up my to-go order of Baja fish tacos when I heard the helicopter. It wasn't the high flying one that begs the question of what movie star might be in it, but rather that low flying, fast moving, intermittent orbiting sound of a law enforcement pursuit. Sure enough, the suspect vehicle blasts by with two Highway Patrol officers neatly spaced behind. I wait in anticipation of the other three units that are "paralleling," a K9 who is trying to "catch up," and at least one other supervisor who "needs" to be in the pursuit.
But it doesn’t happen. The other units never follow. There seemed to be no strategy for ending the pursuit safely. No de-escalation. The consequences could have been tragic for the troopers involved, the suspect and innocent citizens as well.
Especially in these amazing times of cultural, community and organizational change, it is imperative for law enforcement officers to consider less-lethal alternatives to high-speed pursuits. Agencies need to have policies and training that favor de-escalation techniques so that "just say no" and "it's not worth it, partner" decisions become the norm and adrenaline-fueled, high-speed pursuits are relegated to only felonious, life-and-death situations.
Law enforcement can be resistant to change. What have you seen in your career that works to create lasting change?
I believe it is imperative that we adhere to the fundamentals of effective, long-lasting training to best ensure committed change. Our goal in training and affecting change should be greater than defiant compliance – our officers, deputies, and agents need to demonstrate that they really do understand and can perform within whatever changes are brought our way.
Think back to the times that these changes in our law enforcement response have taken place and how long it takes for the actual law enforcement "culture" to embrace the change.
Written changes in policy and procedures can be immediately implemented, but training for fast-developing situations that require quick thinking, creative judgment and decision making "on the fly” takes time. There is a time gap between understanding the need for change and experiencing the actual change where officers themselves believe that alternative pursuit termination techniques are preferable to high-speed pursuits.
What tools and training techniques are most successful in ensuring lasting change?
Change comes quicker when agencies invest and engage in the higher-learning retention devices that create the environment for officers, deputies and agents to actually demonstrate their thought process, judgment and decision-making abilities in a safe and non-threatening environment.
Practical application simulators like FAAC’s LE-1000 training simulator are proven to work.
Learning retention studies traditionally report that lecture has an approximate 10% retention while practical application is in the range of 60%. If a sharp instructor can transform their students into teaching mode while in class, it reaches peaks of 90%.
Ask yourselves what has been the most memorable, the most influential and significant training you have experienced in your career? Your answer will probably be associated with some sort of "practical application/simulated" training.
Shouldn’t the training scenario reflect the types of real situations that officers are likely to encounter?
Yes. Some of the scenarios that our simulation products have trained with for years seem to be taken right out of today’s headlines. We’ve used the simulated scenarios of a suspect taking an officer’s Taser and opportunities for "blue on blue" intervention in our Driving Force product for years.
The question is, how many officers, deputies and agents are afforded the opportunity to interact, demonstrate their response, discuss and be guided by instructors and reinforced by policy? They are the ones leading change.
Pursuit policies vary by jurisdiction. How do you account for that in training?
We don't tell anyone how to train – we create situational opportunities for you to train your department policies, procedures, tactics and expectations.
What is your advice for agencies looking to build trust and credibility?
"Fundamentals win ball games" and fundamentals of simulation training wins change. In all these crazy times, and after all these crazy times, there will still be a need for professional officers, deputies and agents who can make reasonable and justifiable decisions regarding application of force, driving response, pursuits, communications, search and seizures and community contacts.
Stick to the fundamentals – don't cut training out of the budget, don't just write policy and expect change. Invest in practical application/simulation training to affect genuine, long term change.
Get more info from FAAC.