How shift debriefings can improve officer safety Published at P1


We must become more deliberate, more disciplined, and more thorough in our approach to learning and teaching

As cops, we often cry loudly about the lack of training in our profession. I am guilty of it myself.

However, while we whine about the seemingly lack of interest in ongoing training, we also miss the opportunities to train and learn from the everyday lessons available to us.

Those lessons that come from every call we respond to and every shift we work.

There’s No Magic Here

The uses of training tools such as tactical decision games and after action reviews still are rare occurrences in our profession and seemingly only used when some catastrophic or unconventional crisis has occurred, like when a cop is killed in the line of duty or a deadly force scenario leaves the public calling for an explanation.

We should be doing more to harness the wisdom of the street cop and what he learns from each and every day on each and every shift. The shift debriefing is a training tool we can and should utilize to develop full spectrum cops capable of making sound decisions and employing sound tactics to resolve crisis situations and record and report them accurately in the aftermath.


“Only those who have challenged themselves with countless tactical situations in peacetime, only those who have refined their ability to make decisions and communicate clearly with subordinates, are prepared to command in war.”
— GEN Paul K. Van Riper

Police departments by their very nature are learning organizations and eventful or not, every shift yields fruit in the form of lessons learned. Hence, some effort needs to be made to “harvest” knowledge that can be used in bettering future shifts.

While methods may vary, they usually take the form of a debriefing. A debriefing is a facilitated discussion focused on gaining understanding and insight regarding specific actions, taken on shift and involving those people who were personally involved.

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Stay Oreinted!

Fred