Want to get better and be safer? Debrief!

Several months back I discussed in a blog post the importance of debriefing or after action review (AAR) and how 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!

Chuck Joyner, who was employed by the CIA from 1983 to 1987, and was a Special Agent with the FBI from 1987 until his retirement in October 2011, Chuck is the creator of the Dynamic Resistance Response Model (DRRM), a modern Use of Force model. He currently is the President of Survival Sciences, LLC, offering training and expert testimony to law enforcement on use of force topics has written a great piece for Police One titled “Want to get better and be safer? Debrief!” I think you should all take a look at because it is valuable advice focused on making you and your organization more adaptable and effective.

If we don’t look critically at incidents that go poorly, we fail to learn, we fail to get better, and we will continue to lose lives needlessly

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.

I’m hesitant to start an article with a political reference because inevitably I risk losing at least some of the audience. But a current event is such a powerful example about the topic about which I write today that I believe the benefit outweighs all other considerations.

In a Congressional hearing on the Benghazi murders, a well-known politician — I won’t name the politician, but I’m confident that most readers know who this is — made the now-infamous statement, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

I was livid. The statement completely discounts the value of conducting a Debrief. Debriefs and After-Action Reports are incredibly powerful, life-saving tools. Through careful examination of the incidents in which we find ourselves, we get better at what we do!

A Way of Doing Business

If something really bad happens, we should pick it apart, identify mistakes made, and develop practices to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It is important to honor those who gave their lives by acknowledging errors, making improvements, and saving lives in the future. If we fail to look critically at these incidents, we fail to learn, we fail to get better, and we will continue to lose lives needlessly.

A Debrief should not be done only after a crisis. A Debrief should be a habit — a constant, continuing way of doing business. I’m shocked how many SWAT teams don’t do a Debrief after every operation.

If we choose not to take a critical look at our performance, then we are saying that either our egos are too fragile to accept constructive, potentially life-saving criticism or that we think everything we do is perfect. I remember doing basic two-man entries all day long on SWAT. And you know what? I never did it perfectly. Sometimes we did it really well, other times less so.

But never perfectly.

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