I’m a patrolman at a medium-size agency and a defensive tactics instructor, and I’m hanging onto my last nerve when it comes to my department’s defensive tactics training. Our program consists of a two-hour block annually of baton training. I’ve tried to persuade the golden boys in the upper rooms to let us do some real training that could actually keep us alive, but they don’t care enough. They’re so worried about lawsuits that might arise from a use-of-force incident that they block all of the defensive tactics training. I’m all about shooting what needs to be shot, but you can’t shoot everybody. How about some handcuffing or ground fighting? Is there a recommendation you could offer on how to open the eyes of the brass in regards to some actual DT training, or will it take one of my guys to get beaten to death before they sit up and take notice? Give it to me straight. I’m a big boy.
I can’t even imagine only doing two hours of baton training every year. Why bother doing anything? What happens if you’re chasing a suspect and your baton falls out as you jump a fence? Hell, how about if you simply drop your baton? How about if you’re in a hallway and there’s no room to effectively swing a baton? I could go on for hours with what ifs, but it really won’t help, so let’s move on.
Your brass is insane. Do they think they’re only gonna get sued for beating people up? Out near me there’s a big city that had some dark times in their use-of-force training, and they ended up shooting a lot of people. I’m not sure how it works where you live, but by me, every bullet that hits its target is worth a lot of money. These guys were getting sued more often than a good motor cop cuts a cite. When your agency starts shooting more people than the surrounding agencies and they have the same basic crime statistics the sky will start to fall. Answering up for three punches when two would’ve done the job is a lot cheaper than answering for 15 rounds.
If the lack of training goes on for too long, the real problem will be changing department culture when the morons running the shop finally figure out they need to do something. Fixing an officer who’s done nothing but swing a stick for years will be harder than convincing a motor cop that those boots are really silly looking. (Easy fellas, I’m just having a little fun, but do you really need those taps?) Back to my point. Fixing the culture may take years of internal struggle. After years of nothing, the fat lazy cops will come out with both barrels to stop any real training that you try to start because they don’t want everyone (including themselves) to know how out of shape they’ve become.
Worse yet are the lawsuits from the spouses of the officers you’ll eventually lose. When you don’t train your people properly, you’re begging for legal action from that end. Check out Dave Grossi’s Disarmings article in the January issue of Law Officer to understand this. He speaks about equipment mostly, but also training. The jump from one to the other will be easy for any competent lawyer. Failure-to-train lawsuits are becoming increasingly common.
First you need to check with your state’s commission on police officer standards of training. Pretty much every state has one now. If all your state requires is two hours per year, you should move. Or you could contact them and ask them to remove their heads from their rear ends. Then contact all the agencies near you to figure out if there’s a baseline and how far below it you are. If all the agencies in your area suck, continue to look until you find the right numbers. Someone must be doing some training. You need to find those agencies and use them as the model when you start arguing with the head shed.
You also need to start a wave with the line-level folks. Don’t be psycho and over the top, just get them to understand the danger of not training.
If none of this works, offer your own time. As a defensive tactics instructor, your mission is to help officers survive attacks physically and administratively. A few hours a week can make that happen for a lot of great cops. You signed up to serve, and your own people are the most in need of service right now.
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