It’s reassuring to have my belief about the power of film as a training tool confirmed — and not by some artsy-fartsy-patron-of-arts-and-letters or ivy-towered theoretician who hasn’t seen any side of real for most of their lives.
Well, Clemson Turregano was a career military officer and retired Tank Battalion Commander. As a Professor of National Security Decision Making at the U.S. Naval War College, he pioneered teaching Strategic Leadership using movie films as case studies — which earned him awards for teaching excellence.
In an online article on “Great Leadership” he said, "I started using movies when I was teaching at West Point and then at the Naval War College. Movies, like a case study, offer real-life portrayals of examples of leadership in crisis. Viewers can use these portrayals to discuss the behaviors they would like to emulate or avoid during similar circumstances."
The key that turns entertainment into interactive learning, according to Turregano, is purposeful viewing — watching the film with a goal in mind. Give the viewers an assignment to find examples, themes or behaviors that translate to the topic being studied.
The medical profession is using movie clips in doctor training. Several physicians tout the benefits of this tool and explain how it works in an article published in Family Medicine.
As the physician authors note, “Although technical knowledge and skills can be acquired through training with little reflective process, it is impossible to refine attitudes, acquire virtues, and incorporate values without reflection. … Learning through aesthetics — in which cinema is included — stimulates a reflective attitude in the learner.”
Law enforcement is a demanding profession that, like medicine, requires the continuing refinement of attitudes and pursuit of virtue.
The doctors concluded from their hands on experience that movie clip teaching:
• Is well suited to the audiovisual culture in which we are now immersed
• Resonates with learners’ need to learn on affective as well as cognitive dimensions
• Results in high levels of motivation and involvement
• Powerfully promotes reflective learning
• Links learning to experience
What law enforcement trainer wouldn’t want to add all that to their training?
Enter film maker Jay Pulk’s new law enforcement short film series — coming to an academy, conference or in-service theater near you. Think Sundance Film Festival meets Scenario Training. The beauty of these short films is you don’t have to look for movie clips on YouTube that may not directly depict policing (or depict it in Hollywood fashion) and then stretch to make them relevant. These films will be raw cop reality.
I first met Jay when he asked if I’d be willing to view a short film of his and let him know if I thought it had any law enforcement training benefit. “Sure,” I said. A few days later when I slipped the DVD into my laptop, I settled in to watch some stilted re-enactment of a common cop scenario. Instead, I was treated to a multiple film festival award winner where I got so caught up in the story, plot twists and characters I forgot to take notes.
After recovering from the “oomph” in the stomach ending, I got excited about the film’s potential to dynamically engage officers in real police dilemma decision making. Plus, all that engagement and interactive and reflective training value was contained in a six minute film.
I’ve been emailing and talking to Jay ever since. I was curious how he came up with the film. Turns out Jay didn’t start out to make law enforcement training films. He just wanted to tell compelling stories through well-produced movies. The film I watched, called Copper Penny, sure did that.
It was a friend of Jay’s who had retired from a career in criminal justice who first suggested Copper Penny was well-suited to engage law enforcement personnel emotionally with subjects that can be difficult to approach. Jay’s response?
“The idea that my films might do more than simply entertain, but possibly help people, was so appealing to me that I stopped working on my current film, and began contacting trainers from around the country to get their feedback on Copper Penny, and the concept for a new series. The response was positive, so I began developing a series of films based on the original, specifically written for use by law enforcement trainers.”
Jay spent eight months studying law enforcement and getting input. His plan is to make Copper Penny (renamed The Blues for the series) the first in a series of three films designed to get officers thinking and talking about both emotional and ethical situations before they might encounter them on the job.
I’m a sucker for a good story, so I showed Jay’s film to two Corporals, a Sergeant and the Lieutenant of a DPS Academy (many of you readers understand that I can’t identify them by name or agency because of policy that prohibits them from endorsing specific products or services). Each of them thought the film had excellent training potential in a number of ethical and emotional arenas: cop suicide prevention, cop suicide aftermath, work-family-life balance, undercover ethical dilemmas and unintended consequences of decisions.
Moreover, all of these savvy cops said they didn’t see the final ending coming. Real life can be like that — especially on the streets. Yet another lesson from the film.
To make it easy for law enforcement trainers to tap the films’ instructive value, they will be accompanied by instructor guides that provide introductions, discussion points, group exercises, and follow up activities to enable law enforcement trainers to maximize their training potential. That’s what Tank Battalion Commander Turregano called “purposeful viewing.”
Jay is going to use a new and exciting platform called Kickstarter to fund production. Kickstarter is generating buzz. See the sidebar for more information on how it works and how you might use it to “kick start” a great idea you have for powering up policing.
To learn more about Jay’s new law enforcement film series and, if you want, to be part of something new and beneficial for the profession and get your own copy of the series, check it out here.