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What 7 mannequins can teach us about police training

This incident serves as a stark reminder that officers are being actively targeted by violent criminals – here’s what you can do to stay safe

This week, it was reported that two individuals with known ties to a white supremacist group deposited seven mannequins bearing the names of law enforcement officers with bullseye targets painted below the names at various locations in the Crestline and Cedarpines Park communities in Southern California.

Following an investigation, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department arrested 36-year-old Sarah Stewart on suspicion of making criminal threats against an officer, and 47-year-old Erin Elder on suspicion of cruelty to a child (meth was found in the home where the pair were arrested). In the process of the investigation — and because of their affiliation with a white supremacist group — 27 people were arrested on a variety of other, unrelated charges.

This incident serves as a stark reminder that officers are being actively targeted by violent criminals. Now more than ever, officers across America should double down on training in order to stay safe.

Take out your Blue Gun and do repetitions on your draw. Use your SIRT pistol to practice your manipulations, grip, and trigger pull. It is invaluable. (PoliceOne Image)
Take out your Blue Gun and do repetitions on your draw. Use your SIRT pistol to practice your manipulations, grip, and trigger pull. It is invaluable. (PoliceOne Image)

What You Can Do
We all know that given what’s happened to department budgets across the country, your agency is not likely to increase its training expenditures out of the clear blue sky. The increased training you will be receiving will be on your own time and on your own dime. The good news is that you do not need to invest in a 32-hour course or even invest a lot of money.

I have long advocated an idea I stole (well, borrowed with permission) from renowned police trainer Brian Willis, who serves as the Deputy Executive Director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). Do 10 minutes of training a day every day you work the job. Assuming you work a four-day week, you will have done 40 minutes of training per week. Assuming you work 48 weeks in a year — four weeks off for vacations, holidays, etc. — you will have done 1,920 minutes of training annually.

That’s 32 hours of training every year — for free!

This training can be anything from watching a video tactical tip on PoliceOne to working with your inert training tools before your shift. In just a few minutes an officer can get some potentially life-saving ideas from watching Fletch Fuller demonstrate the ‘Stack and Strip’ weapon retention technique, or watching Lee Shaykhet’s basic takedown of a non-compliant subject.

Practice applying a training tourniquet one handed (both left and right hand!). Take out your Blue Gun and do repetitions on your draw. Use your SIRT pistol to practice your manipulations, grip, and trigger pull. I call this “quiet time” and it is invaluable. Not only does this work (again, no more than about 10 minutes per day) to increase performance, it has a tremendous effect on an individual’s confidence in their performance. For example, because I’ve practiced it countless times, I’m pretty confident that if my right arm had a massive bleed, I could apply a tourniquet and keep fighting with my left hand.

Speaking of confidence, simply reviewing case law in SCOTUS decisions like Graham v. Connor, Tennessee v. Garner, Plakas v. Drinski, Brown v. United States, and others will give you the confidence to know in no uncertain terms that when use of force is necessary, you will know you are legally justified — and that you can successfully defend your actions after the fact.

If you’ve got a training partner to work with, you can practice your handcuffing skills, or do a few repetitions of some non-contact (or low-impact) DT drills. Or you could simply talk with each other about incidents in the news, or do when-then planning for known trouble spots in your patrol area. The point is, be creative.

Two Trainers Speak Out
While preparing this article I turned to two police trainers who I know to be of like mind — even though they are retired from their agencies, they constantly train both mentally and physically.

PoliceOne Columnist Duane Wolfe said, “For police officers to be most effective on the street they need to have a recently rehearsed, pre-planned response to the situations. Mental rehearsal using the When/Then concept — when this happens then I will... — versus the If/Then concept. If implied a chance or possibility of it occurring. When is an absolute, and we must absolutely train in order for us to perform at our best. Mental rehearsal is critical. Running through scenarios and their positive outcomes keep those training pathways sharp in our minds. Running through the possibilities on the way to a call gives us an opportunity to have a Plan A, B and C when arriving on scene. Using tactical breathing on the way to a call allows us an opportunity to keep our minds in the forebrain so that we can operate intellectually at our best. And an informal debrief after each call with the officers involved — whenever possible — also provides a continual analysis and improvement of what and how we do it. Every day is a training day.”

PoliceOne Columnist Dan Marcou commented, “There are people in this country whose ideological hatred has so bent their minds that they aspire to put the names of our brothers and sisters, not just on mannequins, but on walls. I would say to all of you officers still in the life to be careful, but instead I will urge you to train seriously and often so that you can assess your own preparations and honestly say to yourself, ‘Bad guys better be careful!’.”

Wolfe then added, “Officers must physically train in order to maintain coordination, speed, power and accuracy in physical applications of use of force. Hitting a heavy bag one day a week for 10 minutes with your hands, feet, knees, elbows and baton will do more to prepare you when you need them than an hour one day a year will.”

Are there other individuals out there like Stewart and Elder, who have so much hatred for police that they would be willing to put a target on an officer? Absolutely, there are, and they’ve been very active lately. Already this year we have lost 12 officers to gunfire — that’s a 300 percent increase over last year! This is unacceptable.

Remember: when the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare has passed, so take every possible opportunity to work on your knowledge, mindset, skills, and tactics.

Hope is not a strategy, and luck is not a tactic. Be safe out there. 

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