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July 20, 2016

Training one-on-one OR training in groups with a simulator

Are there other ways of teaching?

Historically, it appears most training with simulators has been conducted with one instructor and one student. That does work and many have used the style for years. But, are there other ways?

One of the primary goals when training with a simulator is to get the student as close to fight or flight while in training. This is done through overloading all senses. Sounds, visions, feelings are all stimulated. Presenting scenarios that challenge the brain and push for a correct solution in a very short period of time. What else adds stress? Preforming in front of other colleagues.

This can be as many as will fit in your training environment. Even with a two officer configuration in a scenario, can add stress to the flight or flight state of mind. As you add students, you add stress. A class of twenty-five can provide a stressful atmosphere and allow a full day of training. Discussing use of force issues, the history of force options and supreme court rulings will provide a framework from which you can add scenarios that address your talking points. Consider your training environment and the possibility of using other locations. An audience of more than one, allows you to spread your message with a bigger bang for your buck.

This article is written by Todd Townsend. Todd Townsend has over 22 years in public safety, state and municipal law enforcement training. He holds a Master Peace Officer license and Instructor License with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in the State of Texas. Todd also has his instructor license for TASER, Glock Armorer and he has a Precision Driving Instructor License from the Michigan State Police. Todd has been a certified master instructor for the Ti Training Simulator System for over seven years.


June 21, 2016

It’s all fun and games till someone gets hit in the eye…

Force on force, an article on options

Remember the idea of doing something and knowing there’s chance someone could get hurt? As trainers, it’s our responsibility to ensure safety rules are followed by all of our students.

One piece of equipment that offers excellent training yet still the challenge of how best to use it is the “Shoot-back Cannon”. This device is an awesome force-on-force device to remind students that cover in a fire fight is a necessity. This needs to be done without sacrificing the safety of your students.

The first thought that usually comes to mind with shoot back cannons is the idea of shooting the student somewhere on their body. Keep in mind that even though the projectile is a small yellow foam ball, it does sting if the student is too close. Eye protection is a MUST and even protecting other body parts may be a concern.

So, how else can a shoot back canon be used without hitting the body? In 1975, director Steven Spielberg made a movie called “Jaws”. The premise is the idea of local beach goers are being eaten by a huge 25-foot shark. The problem is the mechanical shark was constantly breaking. Spielberg realized that fear of seeing the shark would be stronger when the imagination is in control. So, Spielberg had special music written when the shark was in the area. This would allow the audience’s imagination start to build their fear. The audience didn’t need to see the shark to be scared.

This will also work with the shoot back cannon. When demonstrating the simulator, also discuss the use of the force on force shoot back cannon. Pick a safe location in the room down range and fire several shots. This will show the student the possible consequences of not seeking cover. The sound of the ball hitting the wall and the ball then ricocheting around the room will demonstrate the painful possibilities of being hit.

Now, you have students going through scenarios with the mindset that the shoot back cannon is tracking them. (Not really, but a close shot gets the idea across…) As always, eye protection is a must.

If you have barricades or cover setup, you can pick a spot to shoot other than the student and get the student to seek cover. Some users will want to shoot the student using pain compliance which is fine and will work. Just remember to provide adequate protection to each student.

Remember, sometimes it’s enough to think there’s a shark in the water…

This article is written by Todd Townsend. Todd Townsend has over 22 years in public safety, state and municipal law enforcement training. He holds a Master Peace Officer license and Instructor License with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in the State of Texas. Todd also has his instructor license for TASER, Glock Armorer and he has a Precision Driving Instructor License from the Michigan State Police. Todd has been a certified master instructor for the Ti Training Simulator System for over seven years.


June 1, 2016

Response to Resistance Training

Changing the mindset

With ever changing times come ever changing challenges. What once was “Use of Force” has now become “Response to Resistance”. In this case the title change actually better describes an officer’s actions. Officers respond to witnessing violations, dispatched via radio calls, 911 complaints and citizen complaints. These are all responses.

Training for these issues now becomes response to resistance training. This includes all levels of the force continuum. From verbal conflicts to deadly force, the “response” is what officers are judged on by society. Once the change is made and all training objectives address the response to resistance theory, it begins to make since.

If you look at the history of law enforcement training, the content is the same. It’s the title and more importantly the mindset that’s changing. Addressing response issues better prepares officers for the best possible outcome.

Response to Resistance Training. It’s not new, just a new viewpoint…

This article is written by Todd Townsend. Todd Townsend has over 22 years in public safety, state and municipal law enforcement training. He holds a Master Peace Officer license and Instructor License with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in the State of Texas. Todd also has his instructor license for TASER, Glock Armorer and he has a Precision Driving Instructor License from the Michigan State Police. Todd has been a certified master instructor for the Ti Training Simulator System for over seven years.


March 18, 2016

Ferguson Who? Ferguson What? Ferguson Where?

One incident away from going from the unknown to the well known

Some police departments need no introduction: LAPD, NYPD, Chicago PD, Boston PD. Some police departments are known because the public knows the city: Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver and Dallas. Some other police departments are known for incidents that occur and bring them to the public's attention: Sandy Hook (CT), Aurora (CO), Ferguson (MO) and San Bernadino (CA). But, HONESTLY, how many of you had heard of Ferguson or Sandy Hook? Unless you lived there, worked there, drove through there, or knew someone from there, these places are small cities and towns that would go unnoticed until the incidents that "define" them made them famous...or infamous.

I had only knew of San Bernadino, because I was a police officer in Southern California. I only knew Aurora, because I now live in Denver, drive through Aurora on the way to the airport, and APD is a client of Ti Training. Sandy Hook? The truth is Sandy Hook is also part of Newtown, Connecticut, where I happened to grow up but still had no relative idea of where it was. Ferguson MO? Had never heard of it. Before the Ferguson PD use-of-force incident, and subsequent riots, had any of you?

Ferguson was brought to light, because of a law enforcement incident. I am not going to give my opinion of what happened, whether I think it was wrong or right, or my thoughts on the media coverage. What I will speak to is something I have seen in the past year, traveling all over the country and training police departments. "It is open season on cops, not just tactically, but politically — and its not just major city police departments. It’s ALL police departments, regardless of size, pace and population."

Police officers use force every day, it’s a part of the job. Some of force incidents are justified and some of them may not be justified. But know this — today, many of these incidents are video recorded whether by a civilian cell phone or body camera and that tape will be viewed, pondered, pulled apart, and evaluated ad nauseum, ad infinitum. What is not recorded, and certainly not reported on by news media, are the THOUSANDS of citizen contacts that do not involve force.

The point I'm trying to make here is that as an officer of ANY Police Department, no matter where you are, how busy your agency is, how big your agency is, you are only one incident away from becoming Ferguson PD and becoming famous... or infamous. This is NOT a big department phenomenon (LA, NY, Chicago). This is NOT a street level cop phenomenon (South Carolina SRO). This is NOT an officer-suspect race issue (Baltimore PD). All its going to take is one incident, videotaped, to hit the news and YOUR department can become the next Ferguson.

Ever heard of Ferguson (MO) Police Department?

I'm sure you have now.

This article is written by Henry Lu. Henry Lu has over 12 years of law enforcement experience, starting at the Patrol level, served as an FTO, and on the Gang Unit. Additionally, he served as an investigator on an independent oversight board investigating Police Use of Force. He holds Instructor Certifications in Defensive Tactics, Firearms and First Aid/CPR. He has been trained by Federal, State and Local agencies, OGAs, in areas such as officer safety and survival, weapons and tactics, sniping, tactical medicine, explosive devices and Post-Blast Investigation, intelligence gathering and advanced interview and interrogation techniques. He has been a certified Emergency Medical Technician for 20 years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Post-Graduate work in Leadership and Management.


October 9, 2013

ATM may not be good enough anymore!

Use-of-Force paradigms are narrowing

For those of you who think this is about Automated Teller Machines, think again. The ATM I am here to discuss is the "Ask, Tell, Make" procedure of gaining compliance.

When I first started in Los Angeles, my first Training Officer taught me ATM. The procedure goes like this: First, "ask" nicely. "Sir, sit down on the curb for me please." Second, "tell" them. "Sir, sit down on the curb NOW.". If still there's noncompliance, "make" them. At which point, it's hands on with use of force.

The idea, of course, is for these steps to be done over a time period to evaluate just how compliant or noncompliant the subject is behaving. Courts, however, have been asking "How MUCH time elapsed" before Officers used force to gain compliance. While most officers are familiar with Graham v. Conner, several court decisions have started to narrow an officer's use-of-force against suspects. It is now important for them to consider additional factors such as an immediate threat to themselves or public, active resistance and/or attempts evade seizure, severity of the crime and the "pace" of events.

ATM deals directly with the "pace" of events.

In the early 2000s, at least in Southern California, we started adding a step to the ATM standard operation procedure. ATM changed to ATCM. It became Ask, Tell, Command with Consequences, and then Make (if necessary).

A couple things were accomplished by adding this simple step. First, this provided additional "time" to comply. This goes a long way toward defending an officer's actions in the event they are called to testify in court.

Second, the suspect is now made aware of the consequences should they chose not to comply. Those with any sense will chose compliance. Those without sense ...well, they will have been warned of what's next on the menu. Just as important, any witnesses, including some who might be video taping with the now commonly cell phone camera, will also hear the warning. It wasn't uncommon for witnesses statements to read something like, "The cop told them what would happen if they didn't do it, and they didn't. Then the cop (expletive omitted) did it." At that point, the witness just supported your noncompliance side of the story.

Keep in mind, all of this is predicated on the officer having consent, reasonable suspicion, probable cause and acting in "good faith" in regards to the stop and use-of-force. BUT, the Bottom Line and the point I'm trying to make is: The days of "I'm a cop, do what I say" and using force are gone. The Supreme Court and your Individual Federal Circuit Courts are evaluating police use-of-force cases with more scrutiny and holding officers to a higher standard. Law Enforcement is a rapidly evolving business, not just in equipment and tactics but in law and what officers can and cannot do.

At Ti Training we work to provide a product that our clients can personalize with their department policy and procedures and case law that directly affects them. If you have been in my class I always ask, "What Federal Circuit decisions affect your agency?" and the ratio is about 50-50. Half the guys know and half stare like a deer in headlights.

It is important for you to know the use-of-force decisions from the Circuit Court in YOUR REGION. These are the decisions that will affect the way you do business, engage suspects and escalate use of force.

I know a simulator can be a cool, "pumped-up-on-steroids" video game, but at the end of the day it is a teaching and learning TOOL. And we need to treat it as such. Honestly, with as much as I fly around the country, I sincerely hope the pilots training on their simulators aren't treating them like a video game. I expect them to be preparing to handle unusual situations they don't often get to experience... so when one of those situations suddenly arises they are prepared to safely return me to the ground!

Use the simulator to train them on ALL aspects-- to train them to plan, assess, react, think-on-the-fly and explain and articulate their actions in accordance with policy, procedure and law. A good buddy of mine summed it up, "In every force encounter there are 3 battles that have to be won, the physical fight, the legal fight and the moral fight... You have to win all 3 to truly survive."

I don't believe people "People rise to the occasion". I believe, that people fall back on their training. Prepare your people for all three aspects and remember....

Train hard. Fight easy.

       - by Henry Lu


August 12, 2013

What happens if you train them and they leave?

Training personnel in today’s environment

When I started law enforcement in Southern California there were no such things as “contracts” when you got hired. In that sense, it’s no different than those chosen few who have the privilege to be accepted to Annapolis, West Point or the Air Force Academy. In return, graduates are required to serve a certain number or years to “pay-back” the government for a top-notch education. In other fields which require a heavy investment, such as special operations or flight school, they are required to fulfill a certain number of years of service.

It’s no different in law enforcement. Police departments’ invest in academy fees, salaries, equipment and training only to see officers lateral to another agency and take the skills, and money invested in them, with them. Now, with attrition rates being incredibly high, it is not uncommon for police departments to require newly hired officers to sign “commitment contracts”, requiring them to work for the department for a certain number of years before they leave for other departments.

As departments suffer from budget crises and constraints, the issue is not so much “What happens if you train them and they leave?” as much as the reduction in training. When I was in the law enforcement business in Southern California the “standard” was we had to qualify with our handguns once a month to be cleared for duty. Now, in talking to some of my old buddies still in the business, monthly qualification has dropped to once a quarter, a decrease in training of 75%.

I’m not trying to vilify bean counters. The truth of the matter is “sometimes we have to make due with what we have to operate within the construct that we are in”. Training in today’s environment is getting more and more tricky as things such as budget constraints, lack of manpower, less than qualified applicants and ammunition shortage is just the reality. But what is the true cost? We all know that this is a litigious society and government agencies are considered to have deep pockets.

Law enforcement is a business where no one remembers the 1000 things you did correctly but the 1 last thing you did wrong. It’s also a business where even if you do things right and a citizen files a lawsuit often it’s easier to just pay them off than to litigate in court. With that said, training is the usually one of the first things that is reduced when budgets get tight but can department’s really afford to reduce training?

In the short term, it fixes the problem but all it takes is one lawsuit, one large payout and all that you saved in the present is gone. Do we invest now to lose what we invested to someone else in the future? Or do we save now and pay in the future? The question really shouldn’t be, “What if we train them and they leave?”. We should truly be asking ourselves, “What happens if you DON’T train them and they stay???”

       - by Henry Lu


July 24, 2013

This isn't the Special Olympics...

...there's no medals for participation

I’m not the oldest guy in the world but I remember a time when there were no such things as elementary school “graduations” and just because you showed up, ran the race and came in last out of 10, that you got a participation medal. There were no medals for simply participating, it was a competitive endeavor. It doesn’t matter what it is, sports, business, or fighting for our lives, the first thing we need to understand and accept is, “Am I doing this in a competitive environment and what are the stakes?”

Sometimes it amazes me how officers don’t realize how competitive the law enforcement business is. I’ve met many, and worked with some, that think that promotion tests or testing for specialized assignments is the competitive part of the job and that’s all they prepare for. For the few who have faced the ultimate competition, fighting for your life, whether it was a physical fight or a gunfight, we can never forget that this is a job where the officer may face the ultimate competition he or she will ever face in his or her life.

Peyton Manning is renowned for not only training physically, but for the hours and hours he spends watching game films to prepare. Are your officer’s training that hard? Are you?? Peyton Manning may not face a gunfight in a professional game but it is still a competitive physical endeavor and he could, and has been, seriously hurt. Police officers could face the same thing with one major difference. There are NO RULES and no referee to throw a flag or stop the action.

As instructors, we should never forget that when an officer comes to us for training, participating should never be enough. “In every discipline, the ability to be clearheaded, present, cool under fire is much of what separates the best from the mediocre… The secret is that everything is always on the line (as quoted by Josh Waitzkin, a world class chess player, in The Art of Learning). A chess player said that!!!

As instructors, train them; hold them accountable to train hard; don’t let them just go through the motions. Remember, when they leave your room, your range, or your class, “showing up” doesn’t mean sh*t. Never take for granted that instruction and training has to be applied in a real-life, time-critical, competitive environment. Remember, for us and the people we train, that winning the ultimate competition in police work means the prize is you get to live.

We don’t know WHEN it will happen, IF it will even happen, but they may one day we might have to compete in the ultimate competition. The stakes can’t be any higher. Winning means living, losing could be death. There are no medals for simply participating.

Second place in a gunfight is a body bag.

       - by Henry Lu


May 2, 2013

Hello, My Name Is... "Trouble!"

Pay Attention!!

I know you all have been to a class or convention and received one of those stick-on name tags that reads "Hello, my name is...". As police officers, wouldn't it be convenient if the people you encountered every day wore similar name tags, but instead of their name it displayed their temperament? Hello, my name is...Trouble", or "Hello, My name is...Unable to tell the truth", or "Hello, My name is... Going to resist".

Of course that would be convenient, but in the real world it simply doesn't work that way. In the real world an officer must quickly evaluate the situation and person he is dealing with, almost as quickly as reading a name tag. This is an essential ability for every officer. From assessing risk factors in relation to officer safety, to interviewing suspects and witnesses while conducting investigations to giving directions, to the little old lady who is lost, we are ALWAYS, ALWAYS assessing the people we encounter in the public. But, where do we learn this skill? It's not a job prerequisite and certainly not something most police tests even cover.

Some officers have an innate ability to quickly assess people. Other officers develop the skill over time as a result of their experience dealing with people on a daily basis. But if you don't have "it", that doesn't mean it cannot be learned. This is where reality based and simulation based training can be incredibly useful and effective.

These days, simulation-based training exposes the officer to situations that help develop observational skills and situational awareness, as well as recognize precursors to an attack and how to safely respond. The old paradigm of simulation-based training was simply shoot/no-shoot scenarios. Identify a weapon and react. I remember finishing training simulations where in the end the instructor simply asked, "Why did you shoot?" and I mumbled a simple explanation like, "Because he pulled a gun and was shooting at me." That was good enough for the instructor to show me where my shots were and send me on my way.

But what did I really learn? What real world value did it add to my ability to assess a potential threat?

Were there signs or clues that preceded the suspect pulling a gun, or knife, or attacking? Where there any auditory, visual or physical clues the suspect presented which would indicate the situation was about to head south? Normally, there are many and we are told that paying attention is one of the most important things. Of course paying attention is important, but it begs the question: Are we paying attention to the right things? Are we "processing" the correct information? Are we looking in the right place? What are we missing that may save our life?

Not everyone is born with the ability to read people and situations. Fortunately, like a muscle, it is a skill that can be developed over time through repetition, exercise and training. Simulation-based training, especially in the form of video simulation exercises, is an effective way to develop observational skills without putting officers in harms-way. Not only does it allow instructors to point out the verbal, auditory and physical clues to precursors to an attack, simulation exercises teach us what we need to pay attention to in situations and trains us to process the important information to help respond accordingly. It also allows for repetition.

And the value of training doesn't stop there. We all know Use of Force cannot be always be avoided, as the suspect often dictates the situation. So a critical component to officer safety is not only to assess when a threat is imminent, but to quickly assess and choose the best use of force tool at that moment. After all, what good is knowing the signs of an attack if you aren't prepared to quickly and safely neutralize the threat?

In the real world criminals don't wear name tags. Training to quickly recognize the clues and distinguish between an imminent attack requiring Use of Force may be just as important as having the skills to effectively use the various Use of Force options.

"Train them for the fight, for when the fight starts they'll fall back on their training."

   - My Name Is... Henry Lu


November 1, 2012

Fat People are Harder to Kidnap

First a disclaimer:

Disparaging fat people is not the intent of this article. Not in the slightest.

This article is about preparation and the title could not be more appropriate, although it borders on politically incorrect. The truth of the matter is, one of the most common reasons Police Officers get hurt is simply because they do not prepare properly. This isn't about running 5 miles a day or being in the gym for hours on your days off lifting plates that would make an ox groan. That is physical preparation. What this article is about is mental preparation, a concept too often taken for granted.

We have all been trained by our FTOs, or at least the good ones, on crisis rehearsal. All that is is "preparing". We get the call and as we drive to the location we prepare. Whether its playing out every possible scenario from best case to worst case and everything in-between, or simply thinking about the layout of the location, how to approach, where to park, how we are going to set up responding units, the standard protocol for the type of call's ALL about preparation.

That is what reality based training is about. Not just exposing officers to scenarios and evaluating their judgment and tactics, but training them to recognize "precursors to an attack", affecting the survival motor program, shortening their reactionary time lag, and keeping them "ahead of the situation". A large number of officer's get injured in the line not because they were simply unsatisfactory or over matched, they got hurt simply because they did not prepare. They did not take time to set the conditions that placed them in the most advantageous position.

Maybe it was anger, fear , some other emotion or maybe lack of training. I cannot comment on every situation and certainly will not judge. What I can comment on is that I have been guilty of it myself and afterwards thought, "Wow. That went sideways pretty quick." And then said, "Hey..If you guys see a tooth on the ground pick it up for me, I might need that if I want to eat ribs again."

Bottom line: We have to prepare and think things through. ALL of the conditions, ALL of the possibilities, ALL of the possible outcomes, as best we can because that's the most we have control over. Police work is a reactionary business, we always start behind the curve. Once a force encounter starts, officers don’t know how far the suspect is going to take it. Prepping can bring us as close as we can to an even playing field and even then it's not still not in our favor. Imagine what it would be like if we didn't prepare for the situation at all. We rent that Yugo because it was cheaper and gets better gas mileage. Then, when we kidnap that fat person we realize he won’t fit in that trunk! Guess we should have rented the mini-van or Excursion... Too late.

Prepare. Prepare like your life depends on it...because it does.

       - by Henry Lu


February 14, 2012

Deep Practice

What is "perfect" practice?

Almost every Instructor has heard or said “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” This is usually followed by several grunts of approval and a group of instructors feeling very proud of themselves. However, since “Perfection” is unobtainable, what do we really mean when we talk about “perfect practice”? I have asked several instructors this very question. Their answers have ranged from very trite (“Do it right”) to incredibly deep and probing (read: confused the hell out of me).

In a previous post, I talked about the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. In it, Coyle talks about the concept of Deep Practice. I think that this is what we all really mean when we say “perfect practice.” Coyle gives “rules” for performing Deep Practice. These are very telling and do a lot to explain what a “perfect practice” session must contain.

The first rule includes spending time watching or listening to the desired skill as a single entity, breaking that skill into chunks and then slowing the entire skill down. I hear many a firearms instructor discussing what a shooter did wrong, but I see very few jumping up in front of the class to show how it should be done. Have you ever considered video taping yourself shooting in order to show your students what it should look like? What if you did this from different angles? How about breaking that video into the different components (draw, presentation, trigger press, recoil management) or, playing it in slow motion? My friend Dr. Bill Lewinski the Force Science Research Center ( has told me many times that an important component to learning a skill is spending time watching someone who performs that skill well.

The second rule is fairly simple, Repeat it. Coyle states “There is, biologically speaking, no substitute for attentive repetition. Nothing you can do – talking, thinking, reading, imagining – is more effective in building skill than executing the action, firing the impulse down the nerve fiber, fixing errors, honing the circuit.” Pay particular attention to the phrases “attentive repetition” and “fixing errors.” This isn’t repetition for repetition’s sake. This is thoughtful, focused repetition. This is paying attention to each motion, discovering how the errors come into being and learning how to prevent them from occurring the next time.

The third rule Coyle calls “Learn to Feel It.” As an example he discusses the fact that “Deep Practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking out a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.” The cycle is, according to Coyle:

Pick a target (goal).

Reach for it.

Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach.

Return to step one.

Practice does not make perfect. Only concentrated, Deep Practice, can make us better. In a world of short cuts, time savers and easier paths, this may not be what most people want to hear. We tend to employ any and all measures available to avoid struggle. But, we have learned that struggle is the path to better performance. There is no way around this and no shortcut through this. As Coyle says, “Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required…”

       - by TODD BROWN


August 16, 2011

Wrapping The Circuits

"The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle

Flying a lot for work, as much as it can suck, can have some advantages. The biggest of which might be a few uninterrupted hours to read. Recently, I have taken advantage of this and had the opportunity to read “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle.

I first heard about this book when attending a talk given by Tim Larkin at Tony Blauer’s Combined Combatives Camp recently. Mr. Larkin was explaining his methods of training. He explained that they purposely trained very, very slowly in order to practice as precisely as possible. At some point he referenced “The Talent Code.”. Although I don't remember the exact reference I definitely scribbled the note down as quickly as I could because Mr. Larkin had a wealth of information that I didn’t want to miss out on.

Anyway, I bought “The Talent Code” and it was so engrossing I tore right through it. The premise of the book is the greatness is not born, it is grown. I know this because the full title of the book is “The Talent Code: Greatness Is Not Born. It Is Grown. Here’s How.”

Mr. Coyle explains many things in the book. But most interesting to me was that scientists have learned that as we practice a skill a substance called myelin is wrapped around the Neuro circuit that controls that skill, much like insulation around a wire. The more practice, the more myelin that is wrapped around the circuit, and the faster and more efficient that circuit can fire. There is even photographs of myelin wrapping around these circuits in the brain.

He goes on to discuss the idea of “deep practice” and how to achieve a training program that maximizes myelin production. Check out “The Talent Code”. You will be glad you did.

       - by TODD BROWN


May 23, 2011

The Art of Articulation

Adapting communication to your audience

Being able to speak with hundreds of instructors from small agencies to large ones allows a person to see a really good cross section of Law Enforcement Training. Luckily, I have had this opportunity over the last 10 years and it has taught me quite a bit. Some agencies have missions and/or constraints that are specific to them. However, the vast majority have much more in common in regards to training challenges.

One thing I ask the instructors in almost every class I teach is “How many of your officers articulate their decision to use force in a way that anyone (especially those outside of Law Enforcement) can easily understand?” The usual response is something like “Well, they articulate things so we can understand them…….” Is this good enough? After all, sooner or later, someone who is not one of your officers will need to understand why your officers are doing what they are doing. If we haven’t explained it in terms they can understand then should we really be surprised when they question the decision?

I am reminded of a drill that snipers and spotters use to build communication. I believe the exercise that I am about to describe originated in the Marine Corps, but I may be mistaken. It is really a simple exercise that uses, believe it or not, Tinker Toys. Basically the instructor builds a structure from the tinker toys. One officer is allowed to view the structure and must describe it to another officer who has to recreate the structure from another set of tinker toys. The structure can vary from very simple to very elaborate.

An amazing thing happens when people participate in the exercise. The first officer is forced to consider what someone else HEARS when he or she says something. The second officer is forced to really LISTEN to the meaning and intent of the first officer. When they do this, both of them usually conclude that what we say and how we say it is critical to communication and that we must really listen, with an open mind to what the other party is saying. Why is all of this important? Because, when an officer attempts to articulate a use of force, he or she must consider who might be reading or listening to them. Often, fellow officers understand meaning on a level that no one outside would understand. After all, they do the same job. However, if they were able to articulate that use of force so that anyone, especially those outside law enforcement can understand, it may just change perceptions of Law Enforcement in general.

It isn't easy. If it was, we would not have nearly the number of people questioning every decision an officer makes. It takes practice and patience. The ability to articulate your decision making to another develops as you begin to learn what they hear when you say something in a particular manner. For that reason, I would argue that it is more of an art than a science. It is constantly developing and evolving depending on your audience and your ability.

However, If an officer develops this art, it can make it much easier for everyone, the public, administration, etc, to understand why they did what they did (or didn't do what they didn't do) and why that was “objectively reasonable.” Development of this art could lead to reduced liability for the officer and the agency as well as better relations with the public.

       - by TODD BROWN


April 22, 2011

Investing In Loss or The Ego Is Bulls#!t

In training, losing is actually winning!

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin. I decided to purchase and read this book after reading The Fighters Mind by Sam Sheridan. In both books they discuss the concept of “Investing in Loss” or “Losing in Order to Win.” At first glance, this seems, at least to the Type A personalities in law enforcement, like a concept we should avoid at all costs. However, the opposite is true. This is a concept that, we in the law enforcement training community, should be embracing everyday; from the new recruit to the veteran officer.

At its core, the concept is really pretty simple. That is, we tend to learn more by doing something wrong than by doing right. Therefore, if we make the mistake in training, it is far less likely to do it in the real world. What is tricky about this is that it seems in direct opposition to the way most of our training is set up. Most set up training under the premise that “Practice Makes Perfect”, or more correctly “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” While in and of itself there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this premise, it can have some undesirable effects.

Usually when practicing/training, if we didn’t do it perfectly, we try again. And again. And again. Eventually, it becomes a mindless exercise where we can only achieve a certain level of “perfection.” At that point we believe that is good as we are going to get. If we continue down this path, we become right; that is as good as we will ever get. In contrast, if we “invest” a little in each mistake, we are much better prepared to improve. Let me explain:

Most of us never take an objective look at ourselves and our skill sets. Either because we are reluctant to, or because we are incapable of doing so. If we do, we can very often see our mistakes for what they are, an opportunity to get better. We need to be able to look at each mistake and dissect it. We need to break it down and discover where the mistake was made, why it was made, how it was made. Even if we get that far, often we stop the analysis instead of brainstorming alternatives that could avoid the mistake. This skill set is one of the best gifts we can give our officers. As Sam Sheridan states in his book “This is an essential skill that we must develop (in our officers), for even during the fight the fighter needs to be able to understand – and accept- that he is losing. In order to win.”

If we haven’t taught them to recognize that they are losing, and given them the skills to adjust, then they are likely to repeat the behaviors that were causing them to lose in the first place. This can be a downward spiral from which recovery becomes impossible.

Check out The Art of Learning and The Fighter’s Mind. You, and your officers, will be glad that you did.

       - by TODD BROWN


June 9, 2010

Two Books on How the Brain Works

Not only Teaching, but Retention!

Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading two books that have really helped me understand how to reach the brains of the officers we train. These books are worth reading and can help us make sure we are not only teaching them something but that they are retaining that information. Here they both are, in no particular order:

The first book was suggested to me by my good friend Dr. Bill Lewinksi of the Force Science Research Center ( The book is titled “Perception, Cognition and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Action” by Dr. Joan Vickers. On the back cover of the book, a very good synopsis is written. It says “Athletes must be able to make split second decisions under the pressures of competition, but often this vital learning is left to chance.” This sounds familiar and the word “Athletes” could easily be substituted with the word “Officers.” The synopsis continues with “This text features three innovations solidly based in research: the vision-in-action method of recording what athletes actually see when they perform, the quiet-eye phenomenon that has attracted considerable media attention, and decision training to identify and facilitate visual perception and action to enhance performance.” Originally it was the last part, about “decision training” that caught my eye. It turns out this book is a treasure trove of useful knowledge that can be directly applied to training our officers. Check this one out, it is published by Human Kinetics.

The second book is titled “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game” by Sam Sheridan, published by Atlantic Monthly Press. MMA enthusiasts may be familiar with Mr. Sheridan and his first book, “The Fighter’s Heart,” a truly fun and interesting read. In “The Fighter’s Mind”, Mr. Sheridan sits down with MMA fighters, chess players, marathon runners, boxers, trainers and others and asks what I think are the really important, meaningful questions about what exactly is between the ears of dominant champions. How he got this diverse group of people to each articulate their answers to his questions in such an easy to understand, digestible way is beyond me. In fact, Mr. Sheridan was kind enough to answer my email when I asked him how he was able to do just that. I am not sure I fully understand his answer but he was kind enough to attempt to explain his methods and he gave me some resources to help me understand. But this book is about so much more than what I didn’t understand. It brought real answers to many complex questions regarding how a champion’s brain works and how we can tune our brains, and the brains of our Officers to think like that. Just be warned, if you read it once, you will read it repeatedly. Oh, and make sure your highlighter is full of ink, you will need it.

In my opinion, BOTH books should be required reading for any Law Enforcement Instructor. Happy reading!

       - by TODD BROWN