How to address fear during police training

Fear is a natural response that can be used to heighten our skills, senses and focus, but only if we acknowledge its existence


In law enforcement, fear is often seen as an evil word. We associate fear with cowardice, reluctance and an inability to be trusted. We leave our students to manage fear on their own with no coaching or even acknowledgment that it is okay to be scared from time to time. However, fear is a natural response that can be used to heighten our skills, senses and focus, but only if we acknowledge its existence.

As professional law enforcement coaches, we must handle fear in our training environments if we truly want to improve the decision-making and performance of our students. 

strategies police trainers can use to manage students' fear

1. Acknowledge fear is a normal reaction and have open discussions about it.

2. Identify both the positive and negative reactions fear can cause.

3.  Provide strategies for handling personal fear that include:
      a.  Mental preparation ("What if" scenarios);
      b.  Physical preparation (fitness, skill development, equipment inspections);
      c.  Include the use of verbal commands during training (forces students to breathe);
      d.  Create trust in students so that they can talk to you about their fears. 

Indicators that fear is impacting your training

1. Students are reluctant to engage or make decisions.

2. Students demonstrate skill knowledge and technique performance in the sterile training environment but cannot translate the performance to the street or scenarios.

3. Students' stress reactions increase disproportionately to the situation they are facing (rapid breathing, increased pitch of voice, physical trembles).

4. Students withdraw emotionally and mentally from the training 

If you are seeing these signs, very seldom will the answer be more repetitions of physical skills without addressing the unseen mental side of what is going on with your students.  

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