By Tony Lambraia
Co-CEO of Phoenix RBT Solutions
Special Contributor to PoliceOne
There are many challenges facing agencies, academies and professional training organizations (PTOs) when tasked with implementing multiple agency training.
Developing a training program or curriculum that is suitable for multi-jurisdictional operations and academies serving multiple agencies can be daunting without an integrated plan.
One way to create an effective multiple-agency training program is to follow a training model that is not technique driven, but concept driven. Teaching concepts, best practices and core skills rather than specific rehearsed complex techniques allows officers from different backgrounds to work more effectively together.
Training concepts must transcend an individual agency’s approach or protocol to be useful for multiple departments.
For example, unlike SWAT or ERT members, many uniform patrol officers don’t always know who their partners will be in advance of a critical incident like an active shooter event. If we teach officers concepts and principles, along with widely accepted industry best practices, they will be more likely to operate cohesively with other officers and teams.
Verbal and hand signal communications can vary agency to agency. Some agencies instruct officers, when re-loading, to take a knee and yell “red, red,” to communicate to their partner or team that their weapon is down.
Obviously, this is important communication. However, if you are on an active shooter call and working with several different agencies and yell “red” and take a knee, someone unfamiliar with this cue may trip on the officer or worse misread the cue, causing confusion among the group.
It’s also advised that officers use plain language on the radio during joint operations to avoid confusion and misinterpretations during joint tasks.
Tactical Training Needs to Be Less Restrictive
Earlier in my career, I worked at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in many different capacities and ranks. While at FLETC, we faced training challenges regularly. We were tasked with training agents and officers from over 86 different federal agencies, as well as officers from numerous state and local agencies.
These diverse ranks forced us to constantly develop best common practices and concepts without teaching too many technique-specific tactics.
Do not misunderstand the principles here: we must teach techniques and tactics. However, teachings must be adaptable and fluid as to not hinder cross-jurisdictional operations.
Tips for Creating Valuable Joint Training Programs
How do we develop training for joint programs? First and foremost gather your team of experts — from different agencies — and ask them to keep an open mind and leave their ego at the door.
1.) Select your topic for discussion such as tactics or arrest techniques — let’s say tactics.
2.) Identify the components of the program (i.e. weapons handling, cornering, door entries, room clearing, etc.). Then identify common best practices in the industry. If terminology becomes an issue, try to find a common ground that all can recognize. When there is a disagreement on a teaching point, remember to apply the underlying principle which is joint operations.
3.) Go through each topic, record the best common practices, then go and test the theory. You should be able to teach a small group core tactics and put them with others who have not been trained by your staff and see how they operate.
4.) Don’t be too critical on techniques; judge based on effectiveness in that situation. For example, there are many ways to clear a room, so stay focused on the important teachable points such as, did they cover all areas? Were individual skills like footwork and timing through the door efficient? If all areas weren’t covered, then they immediately adapt in a reasonable amount of time, then good to go. Example: Many teach the principle “don’t over penetrate,” telling the team not to move in front of their team members, thereby taking those guns out of the fight. However, there are times when that will happen, so it’s critical that we prepare for these situations and adapt. The other team members should adjust and move up and get back in the fight. It’s irrelevant who created the situation the important thing is to fix it.
So gather subject matter experts (SME’s) from your area. This will help to strengthen your training program. Having a good moderator also helps.
I would encourage all law enforcement professionals to implement concept driven programs versus technique-specific programs. Officers retain and perform better when they are given the latitude to make a technique work based on concepts. Many instructors are programmed to control every movement of their students. But we must remember that we all have different skill/experience levels, as well as physical differences
Concept Training Examples
Defensive tactics — Weapon Retention — (gun grab in the holster)
An example of technique driven training would be a specific type of wrist grab or joint manipulation that requires precise placement of the hands and pressure (rehearsed fine motor skills). Concept driven might include securing your gun back into your holster and driving forward with your own violent counter-attack (taking the fight to him.)
In concept driven training, we advise to strike in whatever way presented that feels natural.
We also incorporate non-lethal training ammunition (NLTA) and force-on-force training (FOF) to practice skills in a dynamic environment with stress inoculation. Be sure to create cross discipline training exercises, such as integrating firearms into your defense tactics and arrest techniques training, to improve your overall program. FOF training is also a great way to test what works and what does not in a fatality free environment.
Design your program based on the common teaching points, best common practices and foundational skills and your training will be successful and increase officer survivability.
Be safe and train hard!
About Tony Lambraia
Co-CEO Phoenix RBT Solutions, Tony Lambraia is recognized as a use of force, tactical and reality-based training expert in federal, state and local law enforcement, along with the military and private sectors. He is the co-CEO of Phoenix RBT Solutions, a supplier of reality-based training and products worldwide. Phoenix RBT Solutions serves as the official training arm, distributor and sales force for Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM), a provider of force-on-force training ammunition. Prior to his position at Phoenix, Lambraia served as the deputy director/chief of law enforcement training and compliance at the Federal Reserve Police 6th District. He completed 12 years of U.S. government service and served 10 years in Florida local law enforcement. Lambraia served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served as a division chief, branch chief and law enforcement specialist at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA for 10 years and was involved with training more than 55,000 students enrolled at the center.
Lambraia’s Department of Homeland Security assignments include program manager and co-developer of the FLETC 220-acre Counterterrorism Operations Training Facility. He is an original charter member responsible for developing DHS’s use of force policy. He held multiple titles while at FLETC, including: commander of DHS-FLETC active shooter response team/special response team member, tactical oversight board member, and developer/branch chief of the Tactics Branch responsible for all tactics delivered to students who train at the FLETC. His local law enforcement assignments included SWAT team, detective undercover vice/narcotics, lead defensive tactics instructor, use of force instructor and more.