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Home  >  Topics  >  Use of Force

May 27, 2014
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Duane Wolfe The Warrior's Path
with Duane Wolfe

Why being a training 'Goldilocks' could get you killed

Our version ‘Goldilocks’ is a police officer in a training scenario who needs to have everything “just right” or their performance suffers

There is a lesson for police officers in the story of ‘Goldilocks and the three bears.’ Recall that in the original version, the bears kill Goldilocks — they’re called Grimm’s Fairy Tales for a reason. 

In our version, a police officer in a training scenario — or a real-world incident — needs to have everything “just right” or their performance suffers. 

Hopefully our Goldilocks is not killed, but we know that death — or great bodily harm — is always a possibility for the professional police officer. 

Training and Quals
An officer takes the line prior to qualification. He kicks all the brass on the ground away so that he has a pristine shooting area. He adjusts his belt so that the holster is perfectly seated in the “sweet spot.” 

When the target turns he tries to draw fast — instead of smooth — and the gun hangs up on the holster. Instead of working the problem out, he throws his hands in the air and turns to his instructors with a look of frustration. He knows he’s one of fastest and best shooters on the range.

His instructors shout encouragement, “stay in the fight!” and “never quit!” but he makes no attempt to clear the holster. The target turns back when the time is up. The officer — like Goldilocks — needs everything “just right.” 

One slip and the officer becomes mentally derailed. 

If things aren’t just ight then it’s all wrong and the officer expects a “do-over.” This is unacceptable. 

On The Street
A female officer is assaulted by a drunk who decided he didn’t want to go to jail and sure as hell wasn’t going to be taken there by any woman. She finally gets him down and cuffed before back up arrives, but she’s hurt and the car camera video doesn’t look like any of her training kicked in. The video makes the police circuit where it’s viewed by thousands of cops. 

The viewer comments included, “Never send a woman to do a man’s job” and “Shoulda stayed home baking cookies” and “All female cops should be fired and replaced with men, never worked with one that was worth a damn.”

She gets beaten up four times. First by the suspect and then by herself, she couldn’t understand what happened, she had trained hard in the academy, stayed in shape and continued to train hard. She was disappointed in herself and her performance because things hadn’t gone “just right.” 

She had set herself up for failure by expecting perfection, but nothing — and no one — is perfect. 

She starts to doubt her abilities and then all the bears on the department start with talk of how they would have done it “just right.” 

No one steps up to offer a word that none of us are perfect. No one says or does the things that would make it ok, explaining that it happens to us all. No one explains to her that under the stress of the moment the brain cannot make a “just right” decision. It cannot weigh the options and come to the best solution, it makes a decision in a split second that will work.

If Goldilocks had the ability to pick and choose the circumstances of her life and surroundings wouldn’t she be merrily skipping through the woods today, humming a happy tune in the fairy tale forest? 

The three bears determined the time and location of her last fight. You have no say in how the fight will start, but you do have a say in how it ends. Train to fight the beasts, on their ground, at their choosing. A fight will not be what you expect it to be, it will be what it is: ugly, dangerous, and never “just right.”

No tool — hand, chemical agent, baton, TASER, pistol, rifle, or shotgun — is always “just right.” 

They can malfunction, fail to work properly, or work fine and still fail to stop an attacker. Train to change weapons and targets as the situation dictates. Train to escalate and de-escalate in a split second. 

Train until there is no situation you are not mentally and physically prepared to deal with. Training means studying human aggression and the strategies, verbal and physical, that will lead you to victory. “Talk when you can, fight when you must” and learn to know which is which. 

Your Three Bears
Who are the three bears of law enforcement? One bear lives in your head: in the negative thoughts and attitudes of doubt, fear, complacency, laziness, and arrogance. 

Another bear lives in your heart: jealousy, hatred, prejudice, envy, and the rest of the destructive emotions that live in that cave. 

The third bear lives outside you: in the hearts and minds of those who surround you, the cops, suspects, friends, and enemies. 

Don’t’ feed those bears. 


About the author

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University. Duance has previously published articles on Calibre Press and IALEFI and served on the Advisory Board for Lt. Col. Dave Grossmans book, On Combat. Contact Duane Wolfe





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