Turning Tragedy into Victory...We Must Start APPLYING LESSONS LEARNED

Triumph over Tragedy

After watching to many cops die in the line of duty, I have come to believe that if surviving officers, to include police leadership, truly want to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, then they must learn the important lessons that come from their experiences and commit themselves to the quest for mastery in policing. The status quo is not good enough!

"The first decade of the twenty-first century was replete with articles, books, and seminars that discussed law enforcement training and safety issues; and saw several attempts at realistic training that made at least some reference to the fact that peace officers' exposure to high levels of stress exerted a degrading or disrupting influence upon their perception, decision making, and tactical performance. However, written knowledge of the subject and the groundbreaking research performed, for example, by the Force Science Institute (Lewinski, 2007; 2009; 2010) have been largely ignored in most police training efforts." ~Lawrence Blum, Turning Tragedy into Victory

I read everything Lawrence Blum has written and he is frankly fantastic at understanding and applying his writing about cops and the profession overall in a way that I can relate with 100%. The quote above from his book Turning Tragedy into Victory is a sad truth about much of the existing research out their on policing, being ignored.  The truth is, with the exception of the 5% who take it upon themselves to train to a higher level, the vast majority of police get academy training and then some annual in-service training, throughout their careers. Most high school sports teams get more hands on, scenario based, free play, realistic training, to prepare for a game, than cops get throughout their careers.

Research, hell their are folks out there talking evidenced based policing, like policing has not been researched in a scientific way. This is bogus! Since the 1960s policing has been studied very robustly with evidence showing where we need to change and how and why we should do it. Evidence on proactive patrols, reactive patrols, community policing, problem oriented policing, 21st century policing, centralized versus decentralized control, fair and impartial policing, procedural justice, precision policing, escalation and de-escalation, use of force, police corruption, and we could go on and on with more studies and research on how to train and develop the most effective police officers. Training methodologies like Outcomes Based Training and Education, Adaptive Leader Methodology, Experiential Learning and Facilitation, all have countless research showing the way to develop police, has evolved extensively over the past 30-40 years.

“While improvements in policing have usually resulted from revelations of wrongdoing or the documentation of inadequacies, it does not follow that public dissatisfaction has always produced change. With monotonous regularity, peaks of interest in the police have been followed at both national and local levels by the appointment of a group of citizens to examine the specific problem that has surfaced and to make recommendations for dealing with it. In the heat of the moment the appointment of such a group has often, by itself, been sufficient to reduce public anxiety. And with a reduction in public anxiety, public interest begins to fade so that, by the time the study is completed, support to implement its recommendations is lacking.” ~Herman Goldstein, Policing a Free Society, 1977

So why all the fuss about evidence based policing? Well quite frankly policing has all the evidence sitting on the shelves or nowadays in computer file folders, of police departments. Then it simply gets ignored or forgotten. The best administrators (again a small percentage) have taken the information and have their training and development people designing and running programs of instruction in an effort to develop their folks to high levels of professionalism. The worst of these administrators have the files on the research, and they sit on them sharing them with nobody unless, it serves some self-promoting purpose as the status quo continues to put not only their officers, but the public as well at greater risk. I can hear and have heard the argument "come on! these researched ideas are in the form of policy and procedures for our department.

Here is the dirty secret, most police department have not developed, written or even fully read and adapted their policy and procedures. Some lawyer or other organization has put them together and mass produced them. Yes, they recommend you adapt them to fit your department mission and intent. This goes all too often about as far as "FIND and REPLACE" SO AND SO POLICE DEPARTMENT, with OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT in a word document. Then...READ IT! SIGN FOR IT! YOUR ALL SET! Yes, there are exceptions found in your most progressive departments, but in general I already said it above, sadly. Is this a high level training for police officers required to handle crises? I think not! But all too often policy and procedure is masking as training and development. They are not the same. Knowledge (reading/education) is one thing. Being able to apply that knowledge (training) is quite another.

"The assumption continues to be made that once an officer has been taught tactical principles and practices, he or she should be expected to perform them properly no matter what conditions they encounter. While verbal and written references are made to attitude and “stress” as important elements to be considered, the dynamics of officers' reactions to the stress of the moment has remained a “black hole” that is generally left out of after action reports. Whereas Force Under Pressure contained a discussion of the importance of the mind in police work, Turning Tragedy into Victory will identify pitfalls, errors, and traps that are created when officers lose control over how their brains and bodies react to unexpected crisis moments." ~Lawrence Blum, Turning Tragedy into Victory

The book "Turning Tragedy Into Victory" contains information that will explain why and how this lack of control occurs and provides mental, emotional, and behavioral control tools that have proven highly effective at enhancing officers' performance; reducing the chance of officers making a catastrophic mental, emotional, and/or tactical error; and increasing the viability of their health and well-being.

I say the 5% who care and take the initiative is no longer good enough. If we are holding police officers to a high standard of professionalism then its long past the time of hoping the 5% get it done. As leaders we have a responsibility, a duty to ensure our folks (ALL OF THEM) are far better prepared than reading a template policy and procedure manual to police a free society. Instead we must indeed train them, trust them and let them do their jobs.

Stay Oriented!

Fred