FEATURED IN LIFELINE TRAINING
In September 2010, I had the opportunity to formalize a small training company I began approximately 10 years earlier. We named it LifeLine Training Ltd. Through hard work, the hiring of the right people and the brilliant leadership of our CEO Lisa Gitchell, Lifeline flourished quickly to the surprise of many.
We had simple objectives when it began: 1) offer classes that were necessary and sought out by law enforcement, 2) update the curriculum constantly and 3) employ a cadre of dynamic instructors with years of real street experience. And so far—knock on wood—it’s been successful. So successful, in fact, that we found ourselves in the position to acquire one of the most renowned seminars in law enforcement history, the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. And we did.
I was familiar with Calibre; I’d been its lead instructor and curriculum director for eight years. Our goal now is to make the Street Survival Seminar better than ever. For the first time in its history Calibre Press is owned by a police officer.
The completely—and I do mean completely—updated Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar will be a hybrid of a seminar LifeLine Training has been presenting to overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews: Ultimate Survival Instincts. Although we’ll continue the best of the Calibre Press tradition, the focus of the updated seminar won’t be confined to gunfights, edged weapon attacks and theoretical concepts. It will focus on three key concepts.
1. The Fatal Four
Sgt. Keith Wenzel (Dallas PD) has more than 30 years’ experience, almost all on the streets of Dallas. He’s an extraordinary and respected trainer who wants to make a difference in those he teaches. But he was also frustrated. Most officer safety courses that he attended were antiquated, narrowly focused and taught by instructors who had limited street experience or had left law enforcement decades ago. So we put together—over the course of several months—a seminar that was short in theory and chock-full of strategies and information that would save the lives of police officers—now.
We began by checking the stats. We wanted to know how police officers were dying, on and off of duty. We spent much of our time on the Officer Down Memorial Page (www.ODMP.org). We found that officers were dying in plane crashes, from falls, exposure, electrocutions, drowning, etc. But, as we examined each case over a period of years and considered analysis done by a variety of agencies, we noticed a pattern.
There are four primary ways officers die. These are:
• felonious assaults;
• vehicle and roadway related incidents;
• heart attacks; and
• suicide. (Editor’s note: Although on-duty suicide is rare, the number of officers who take their lives while off duty is twice the number of officers lost to bad guys. See October 2012 Editor’s Note.)
The “fatal four” would be the foundation of this course. They would be the risks to manage, the dangers to expose, the strategies to discuss, the passion to follow.
2. Survival Instincts & Stress Response
Delving even deeper into the data, we discovered a common thread—from vehicular collisions to felonious assaults to heart attacks to suicides—something was rarely discussed. That is stress. All LODDs were affected by the officer’s misunderstanding of the following:
• instinctive survival responses;
• the evaluation/processing stage prior to action;
• maladaptive behaviors that occur under stress, such as freezing and hyper-fight; and
• personal attitudes, perspectives and paradigms.
All of these things are present in each of the four fatal categories. Perceptual narrowing, auditory exclusion, misunderstanding of speed, seatbelt and body armor excuses, and the inability to cope with the 24/7 realities of law enforcement are the main to contributors law enforcement deaths. They need to be dealt with.
Finally, a constant theme throughout the seminar is the need for involved leaders who address the day-to-day dangers mentioned above.
I was a supervisor for 18 years and I travel the country weekly. I know that in the management ranks there’s a constant jabber about risk management. But too often we look at risk management as nothing more than a neat term. The new Street Survival seminar stresses that uninvolved, uninformed, self-absorbed and directionless supervisors are the greatest risk to agencies and their personnel.
Do managers actually lead? Do they address officer behavior that causes loss of life—lack of seatbelts, unnecessary speed, attitude, judgment, thought processes and—perhaps most importantly—organizational cultures that enable personal and systematic behaviors that contribute to fatalities?
This article is the beginning of a series of articles about all of these issues. Law Officer and Lifeline Training/Calibre Press are committed to addressing the realities of our profession. I look forward to sharing and hearing from you.