BATTLE OF THE STREET
For greater officer safety and public safety alike, today's training for the street needs to be more realistic, incorporate more of the breakthrough findings of the Force Science Research Center (FSRC), and place more emphasis on good decision-making.
In Chudwin's words, "We have to start bringing the street to the range and stop trying to bring the range to the street." Too many agencies, in his opinion, still "put holes in paper and say an officer is qualified. Qualified to do what? Put holes in the next piece of paper he encounters!"
"We need to create and train in the same adverse environments that officers face on duty," said Revling, whose college is a strategic partner of FSRC. Messina concurred. "If we see a lot of vehicles in tapes where cops are killed, why not a vehicle in the training area?" Messina asked. "If it's raining, why not rain? If cops are dying in living rooms, build a fake living room. That's part of my job as a trainer."
Revling added: "Once we know how to kick, why continue kicking blue bags? Start kicking people [protected by Redman gear, for example]. Once we've shot paper targets to the point of proficiency, why not shoot people [with marking cartridges]?"
He stressed the importance of "validating what we do as trainers. Is it having a measurable effect on the street? We should have no interest in doing anything that does not work, no interest in just creating tools for the toolbox. We should strive for 100 per cent accountability."
Quoting Ken Murray, an advocate of realistic training, a member of FSRC's Technical Advisory Board and author of the relevant book "Training at the Speed of Life," Aveni charged that law enforcement spends "so much time teaching people how to shoot and so little time teaching them how to think." In fact, Aveni declared, "I'm not convinced we're training officers to make any better decisions today than we did 20 to 30 years ago."
Before Tennessee v. Garner, for example, the ACLU claimed that roughly 1 in 4 of the people shot by police were "not armed and not assaultive when shot." Aveni's current research, he says, shows that this percentage of "mistake-of-fact shootings" remains about the same today.
"Unless there is more emphasis by trainers on how to make valid decisions under stress, we are going to find more and more cops accused of questionable shootings," Aveni predicted.
He expressed some personal concern that training is overemphasizing "extreme equipment and tactics," becoming "a little too aggressive," "muzzle-heavy" and "militaristic" in the process. He cited "SWAT tactics being pressed down on street officers." (A member of the audience from Arizona reported that in his area there is pressure to teach SWAT techniques even to Explorer Scouts.)
Soltys took issue with Aveni on this point. He said he considers it "a positive that SWAT tactics are trickling down to the street level" and believes the process "needs to be ratcheted up, based on the demonstrated skill level of individual officers." He pointed out that departments are gravitating to advanced equipment like the patrol rifle "because of what they are seeing on the street. The officers I encounter are capable of carrying this weapon and to make the right decisions about using it."
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the FSRC at Minnesota State University-Mankato, underscored the importance of enhancing decision-making training and expressed the hope that the Center's on-going research will continue to reveal valuable new insights about human performance under stress that will help strengthen and focus law enforcement instruction.
Lewinski mentioned several studies currently in progress or soon to begin under Center auspices that promise to have potentially profound training implications, including:
--a 2-year "hit probability" study, relating to shooting accuracy under various conditions; what works, what doesn't and how to improve performance.
--an EEG study in London that will identify brain processes involved in tunnel vision and tunnel hearing.
--a study of perception and memory that will also incorporate brain data collected via EEG readings.
--a study aimed at evaluating and improving strategies for conducting cognitive interview of officers after lethal-force encounters.
--continuing studies on psycholinguistics, specifically the command styles officers use in high-stress situations, their impact and how to make them more effective.
Several panelists expressed appreciation for the Center's efforts at "debunking myths" and providing "science that is going to help us" and reminded trainers that the challenge they face is not only to be aware of FSRC's findings but to consciously integrate them into their training programs.