Today we’re running the final installment of Chuck Remsberg’s regularly scheduled, monthly column on PoliceOne.
Don’t panic. Chuck will continue to write columns every so often and will continue his work at the Force Science Institute, but he is retiring from the demands of regular PoliceOne deadlines and taking a tiny step toward full-on retirement.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that “retirement” in Chuck’s eyes actually just means working only 60 hours per week as opposed to 80.
Critical Incident Information Sharing
Looking back at the impact that Chuck has had — and continues to have today — in the world of police training, the one thing that stands out more than anything else is his unique approach. Chuck absolutely revolutionized the way officers are trained.
He did two things simultaneously that had up to then never been done before. He gathered information about police incidents from across the country, and he examined them using the techniques of an investigative journalist.
The two tines of this tuning fork created a perfect pitch: Realistic, candid, evaluative training culled from dispassionately investigating lessons learned across the entire span of law enforcement. Examine an incident or an issue, synthesize your findings with the knowledge from relevant perspectives, and disseminate the results to as many officers as possible.
That’s commonplace now, but it wasn’t always.
Prior to Chuck coming on the scene, most agencies based officer training on how an event synched up — or didn’t — with the agency’s own policies and procedures. It was training based largely on the experience and knowledge base within an agency, applied against a critical incident either local enough to be heard on the grapevine or big enough to be on the national news.
What Chuck — along with his then-partner, Denny Anderson — did was to create a national repository for lessons learned from real-world police incidents that could be used to improve training techniques anywhere and everywhere.
At a local level, an incident may have been briefly pondered and then quietly pushed aside — “That was awful. Let’s not let that happen again. OK. Let’s get back to work.” — but Chuck and Denny dug deeper. Chuck, a freelance writer with a master’s degree in journalism, and Denny, a guy who produced law enforcement training films for Motorola, were unconstrained by administrative limitations. They could press the investigation.
And they did. They dug into the truth of an incident, they exposed the places where improvement could and should be made, and they made that information available in the first generation of Street Survival Seminars, and in Chuck’s troika of police training textbooks — Tactical Edge: Surviving High-Risk Patrol, Tactics for Criminal Patrol: Vehicle Stops, Drug Discovery and Officer Survival, and Street Survival: Tactics For Armed Encounters.
Chuck brought to the table in those books — and in all of his columns here on PoliceOne — an ability to take the very best teaching points from countless sources and compile them in comprehensible text that continues to stand the test of time.
Trust, Respect, and a Legacy of Safety
We learn more from what went wrong than from what went right. But for that learning process to even begin, somebody's got to admit that something went wrong. Thing is, cops tend to not like doing that.
Somehow, Chuck gets guys to talk about things they wouldn’t tell their spouses or their squad mates. Before Chuck, things like “cop dreams” and other issues were rarely even discussed, let alone carefully examined. Guys can tell Chuck about “the dream of the wilting revolver barrel” because they know he’s not going to burn them.
How does he gain such trust, such respect?
I believe that Chuck approaches his craft so seriously and with such humility that trust in him and respect for him are inevitable.
It’s also been said that cops dislike change, and yet also have a deep distaste for things as they presently exist. Chuck has somehow preserved the best of the “old way” of experience-based learning but also radically shifted the paradigm of police training.
Think about this. Before Chuck and Denny went out on the road to diagram incidents on chalkboards and display images from a slide projector, the “business” of private enterprise police training was a cottage industry at best.
Now you’ve got PoliceOne — in my opinion, the next generation of Chuck’s ethos of gathering, examining, and disseminating information — and a half dozen other police websites and publications, as well as countless “road show” training cadres.
Yeah, This Is Personal
Before I even joined the ranks here at PoliceOne, I felt a special kinship with Chuck Remsberg.
In the interview process for this job, I came to know Scott Buhrmaster — now the vice president of operations at Force Science Institute — who was at the helm of The Good Ship PoliceOne a couple of skippers before me.
Scott, who remains a close personal friend and perhaps my closest professional confidant, said, “Read all of Chuck’s columns. Read as many of our columnists as you can, but definitely start with Chuck.”
And I did. And I learned — boy, did I learn. Perhaps more importantly, I also found someone to emulate, because as I looked at our entire roster of writers, Chuck stood out as being most like me.
Chuck was never a sworn police officer. I’ve never been a cop either.
Chuck’s a writer, a reporter, a scribe. Same here.
Chuck is “pro-cop.” Me too.
Chuck is more than merely my mentor — I love Chuck Remsberg like family — so I hope you’ll join me in celebrating his retirement by adding your thoughts in the comments area below.
Chuck’s next column on PoliceOne may be in January or it may be in June — neither of us knows.
I do know this: I can’t wait to read it!