Forget PERF, Wisconsin has the use-of-force model all PDs should follow

This system was created in the 80’s and recognized at its inception to be an imperfect system, which makes it the perfect system


The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) recently recommended that police use of force trainers examine the training of unarmed Scottish Officers as a model to be followed. Not to denigrate our brothers and sisters in Scotland, but PERF could have started their search closer to home.

There already exists a defensible system of “Unified Tactics,” that every officer in the State of Wisconsin is trained in. This system was created in the 80’s and recognized at its inception to be an imperfect system, which makes it the perfect system for PERF. Let me explain.

The Development
In 1983, the Wisconsin Training and Standards Bureau envisioned a state-wide system of verbalization skills coupled with physical alternatives that could be taught to every officer in the state of Wisconsin.

At the time, in the state’s eyes, I was already what was called an existing “Mechanics of Arrest” instructor. Because of this, I was selected to take part in the first round of “train the trainer” courses. The system was developed by Dr. Kevin Parsons, the creator of the Asp expandable baton.

Dr. Parsons utilized these initial classes to fine tune the state system, which was initially called Rapid Intense Specific Competencies (RISC).

In order for a tactic to be fit for inclusion in the RISC system, it needed to be:

1. Effective
2. Easy to teach/learn
3. Defensible in court and to the public

After RISC was in place, Training and Standards Bureau Director Dennis Hansen used the same formula to develop state systems in other disciplines, which included firearms, vehicle contacts, emergency vehicle operations and professional communications, to name a few.

Street Level Input
Each system was developed by tactical committees consisting of existing trainers, who were street level practitioners. These systems were proposed to and approved by the Law Enforcement Standards Board, which consisted of experienced police and corrections notables. They also had the job of approving of any recommended changes in these systems after they were developed.

Even though all officers had to be trained in the state systems, these systems were not limiting. Officers were allowed to use dynamically applied techniques, other trained techniques, as well as untrained techniques as long as they were made reasonable by the totality of the circumstances.

The ability to change the systems when necessary was built into the system.

Examples of Changes
The first change to the system of Defensive Tactics was cosmetic. RISC was changed to Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAAT).

A significant early change in the systems occurred a short time after the development of the multiple systems. It was discovered by trainers that the separate systems developed competing philosophies, and different tactics were put into play in each system. For example, DAAT trainers would teach an interview stance one way and firearms trainers would teach another, confusing students and trainers alike.

At the direction of Dennis Hansen, the Tactical Committee became the “Unified Tactics Committee,” tasked with re-configuring the disciplines so that trainers complimented each other’s training rather than competing with each other.

The committee identified Six Integrated Core Abilities that would be taught so officers could professionally:

1. Make decisions
2. Use tactics
3. Manage emergencies
4. Conduct investigations
5. Articulate and document
6. Interact with others

The Unified Tactics Committee determined police officers and corrections officers should embrace certain core values:

1. Act ethically (within the constitution with no abuse of power)
2. Treat all people with dignity and respect
3. Maintain professionalism (no favoritism, doing ones duty regardless of personal feelings, following established policies and procedures)
4. Be truthful

Another change occurred in the 90’s. The Continuum of Force, which was accepted at the time nationally and still is in some places, was being easily attacked in court by our adversaries. The Unified Tactics Committees developed a different approach in use of force decision making called “Intervention Options.”  It became the state’s model used for force decision making.

Obvious Advantages of the Unified Tactics Approach
The first advantage of a state-wide systems approach was realized immediately. When several agencies came together in mutual aid efforts, they often worked seamlessly together because they shared skills.

Additionally, the tactics and techniques retained in the systems are those that are street and court tested and found to be defensible.

The system is set up to accommodate necessary change. As mentioned, the committees for each of the disciplines are occupied by “practitioners,” who are not only training the techniques, but are also still using them on the street or in the cell block. This also allows for eyes on the ground as well as local control of the system.

Perfect System for PERF
The recent PERF report recommended an overhaul in how law enforcement teaches use of force. This is why they looked to Scotland.

Since the 1980’s, the State of Wisconsin’s systems have been in a constant state of overhaul. The state recognized that any system built would be imperfect and certain techniques would have a shelf life. In other words, conditions in the field would change and innovations would be made.

The State of Wisconsin recognized that any system created by humans will always be imperfect and can be improved upon. This is the perfect attitude for a true profession, which law enforcement is.

We must always strive to provide and improve upon effective, defensible systems worthy of the honorable efforts of our modern knights out there on the streets. They must possess defensible skills that allow them to fight the good fight…and win!  

About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

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