Adapting protective gear for 'out of the box' training
Police instructors have to plan training scenarios according to an ever-changing landscape — this may mean throwing the “standard directions” overboard
By Gary Monreal
PoliceOne Special Contributor
Police officers strive to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. To support that mission, we police instructors have to plan our instruction according to an ever-changing landscape — shaping what we teach to account for new trends in policing. If instructors fail to have that level of flexibility, we haven’t done everything in our power to help save an officer’s life. So what do we do? We look for innovative ways to teach officers street survival tactics, specifically looking to new equipment for “out of the box” training.
As instructors, we need to use equipment as it was designed, but there is also a need to adapt our equipment for other beneficial uses. I’m reminded of something my mentor, Gary T. Klugiewicz, once said. “Why read the directions? They only limit you...” The more I thought about it, the more I knew how right he was.
As a law enforcement instructor addressing a variety of issues in the industry, the concept of “standard directions” has to be my favorite oxymoron. Let me explain...
A Case Study in Creativity
A training exercise that took place a while back at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows the flexibility of protective training gear. The class was designed as a course in weapon retention, weapon avoidance, and active countermeasures for officers. Usually instructor suits are not used in boat or water training activities (or shot at by AirSoft training munitions), but that was a necessary reality for this class.
First, the instructors were shown how to properly deploy the instructor/student suits for active countermeasure training, and were taught how to properly conduct safe realistic training. This took them through all the levels of simulation training, starting with shadow training and ending with high-level simulation.
Fortunately, the benefits of protective training gear didn’t stop there. Students were able to use the gear on boats, in parking lots, and other environmental areas that are similar to where they work. When necessary, parts of the boat were covered with padding to protect the equipment and/or the students. Equipment was custom-tailored for each level of scenario training.
It was amazing to see the “light bulbs go off” when they took static training techniques and applied them to real world environments. The gear allowed not only for safe training, but an important element in officer training — the unfamiliar feeling of dealing with a combative person.
Improving Your Scenario Training
When I use protective training gear for scenario training, my lesson plan actually lists the protective posture that I want the student and the role players to have. Specifically, I always plan for what I expect the student to do. However, in reality, we should be planning for what the student may do.
For example, in one of the lower levels of simulation training, trainees wear a standard student suit and the role player wears a standard instructor suit. We then proceeded to have the students draw their training weapons and move directly towards their respective role players.
Think of it this way, you are charging through a door during entry, giving loud verbal commands like, “Police! Search warrant! Get down!” Typically, the subjects are not listening, so as you get closer to them, what do you do? The officers did what was expected: they properly transitioned their training weapons and physically controlled their subjects by directing them to the ground with a high level of force.
However, the scenario wasn’t over and a secondary threat appeared from the back, requiring the officers to transition their training weapon back into a shooting platform and use deadly force. How’s that for mid-level simulation training? Remember, in mid-level simulation training each participant is told what he/she should do and what our expectations are.
Nonetheless, this was still a very intensive exercise because each officer knew that they had a functional training weapon and that their techniques needed to be effective for a successful simulation outcome. Because we were able to take training gear and adapt our protective posture to training munitions, we increased the intensity of the scenario during the exercise, creating a greater learning curve.
This particular protective posture allowed students to use both physical techniques coupled with shooting techniques. When the students were shown the scenario earlier in the training week, you could see they had doubts about their ability to multi-task effectively.
Earlier, I mentioned simulation training in boats. When you use environmental scenarios such as boats, cars, trailers, bathrooms, and even phone booths, look at the environment you are in as another role player. Consider what protective posture should you use that will ensure no injuries occur due the harsh surroundings. Obviously, if you cannot pad a potentially dangerous environment to make it safe, then choose a different location.