A year after Dorner: Are you committed to training?

The Dorner incident has not yet changed law enforcement training, tactics, mindset, and methods to the extent that I believe it could (or should!) and it’s on us — you and me — to make that change happen


One year ago today, Christopher Dorner died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as a cabin in the Big Bear area of the San Bernardino Mountains burned to the ground around him. Yesterday, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office issued its final report on the incident

The San Bernardino DA’s report confirmed what anyone who had looked closely at the incident had already concluded: that the lethal- and less-lethal force used by police against Dorner was legally justified, but ultimately was not the deciding factor in his demise.

Dorner died of a “gunshot wound of the head,” which “traversed across the temporal and parietal aspects of the hemispheres of the brain bilaterally... consistent with a right to left direction of travel for the projectile.”

Your Own Time, Your Own Dime
I would bet a waist-high stack of green money that at the outset (if not before) of his 10-day rampage, Dorner had decided that would eventually die by his own hand.

But not before — as he stated in his “manifesto” — bringing “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty.” 

By the time he finally committed suicide, the disgraced and dismissed ex-LAPD cop had claimed the lives of four innocent people (two of whom were law enforcement officers), injured several other officers, held an elderly couple hostage, carjacked another man, and led dozens of police agencies on a 10-day manhunt which extended into Mexico and several neighboring states. 

I’m not going to attempt to debrief the details of this incident here. First and foremost, I’m not the right guy for that job, but furthermore, I want view the Dorner incident (at least for the purposes of today’s discussion) through a very personal prism. 

As I indicated in my column on the topic last week, I think the primary training value we can derive from reflection on the Dorner incident is that agencies, trainers, and individual officers need to double down on time spent training. Notice I said time, not money spent. This is an important distinction...

That is NOT to say that the LEOs involved in the Dorner manhunt were in any way in need of more training.

Quite the opposite, in fact, because while some things may be judged — with 20/20 hindsight — to have had “another way” to be done, the decisions made and actions taken in real time at that moment were the correct ones in that moment. 

The San Bernardino DA’s report confirms that statement beyond a shadow of a doubt, in my opinion. The column by Glenn French (which also posted today) further buttresses that view.

I believe, however, that we can use the Dorner incident as the launching pad for a new (and higher) level of commitment to police officer training. It has been my observation — and I’m not alone in this — that this opportunity has not yet been seized.

Many departments struggling with budget woes have had to continue to cut back on training. Meanwhile, dangerous adversaries — from rare (but totally unhinged) ex-cop and ex-military folks like Dorner to survivalist “preppers” and hardcore anti-government extremists — are ratcheting up their training. 

The DA’s report offers an example of the severity of this type of threat. 

“Dorner was intent on maximizing the lethal carnage that he had promised in his manifesto,” said the DA’s report. “Dorner continued to escalate the situation into an all-out war zone.”

What You Can Do
I believe that if you’re reading this column — and if you read recent columns on the Dorner incident by my friends and PoliceOne colleagues Dick Fairburn, Dan Marcou, Ken Hardesty, and Glenn French — you're one of the hard-charging coppers who regularly seeks out as much training as you can cram into your schedule. 

The cops who (before Dorner) were true 5%ers doubled down on getting the training and equipment — on their own time and their own dime, if necessary — that they need to win in a confrontation against an adversary who possesses a skillset more dangerous that the “average asshole” on the street. While attending live-fire and classroom training such as those presented by my friend and PoliceOne colleague Ken Hardesty, I’ve seen those cops sharpen the sword physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But I’ve found there to be very few “new faces” in those training sessions, leading me to conclude that those who (before Dorner) were sitting on the couch at home remain there. The cops who really need to be reading our training columns are the same ones who don’t attend training. They’re just not seeing this commentary. You are. And turning an old adage on its end, if you’re not the problem, you might be the solution.

So, what can you do to get your colleagues more involved in the training you love to participate in? 

You cannot drag a colleague (kicking and screaming) to training, but you can set an outstanding example (and possibly get others to join you) by doing just 10 minutes of training a day right there within their view. If they don’t go to PoliceOne, bring PoliceOne to them! 

When I heard the concept of 10-minute so perfectly articulated by my friend and PoliceOne colleague Brian Willis, it struck a nerve with me, because just about everything you read on PoliceOne will take no more than five minutes of your time. Same is true for watching our video tactical tips. 

This is not an accident. This is so you can read a training column (or watch a training video) and still have five minutes to think about it by yourself, discuss it with your patrol partner, or share it with everyone on your shift at roll call. 

The columns and tips here on PoliceOne are available for free, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there is also a tremendously low-cost PoliceOne resource to which you can subscribe. The PoliceOne Academy is available to agencies, of course, but also to individual officers willing to trade the cost of about a single cup Starbucks of coffee a week for 24/7 access to more than 600 high-definition training videos as well as full-length block courses from some of the most renowned instructors in law enforcement.

That little commercial message over, I want to close by letting you know about a couple other training options you might consider telling your shift about. One week from today (19 FEB 2014, from 1300-1600 Eastern Time), I will tune in online to a webinar hosted by Cotter Research

Until two days ago, I’d never heard of the Virginia-based company, but was intrigued when I saw an email announcing the Active Shooter Symposium with my friends Don Alwes and Randy Winn as featured speakers (the third instructor, Sergeant Brian Ruck of Fairfax County Police Department is unknown to me personally, but being in the company of Alwes and Winn is more than enough reason for me to listen to what he’s got to say). 

To my knowledge, the three-hour event is free and open to all verified LEOs (click here to learn more). 

There are countless other training resources — from California Tactical Officers Association to Illinois Tactical Association to the International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association — providing low-cost and no-cost options you can use and tell your colleagues about. 

The Dorner incident has not yet changed law enforcement training, tactics, mindset, and methods to the extent that I believe it could (or should!) and it’s on us — you and me — to make that change happen.

I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading. 

You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be training right beside you, too. 

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

Read more articles by PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie by clicking here.

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