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Why training matters

One of the most difficult things for us as trainers to understand is how training is so often the first program to cut in a budgetary crisis. We very often compare notes on what we heard from our attendees after the seminar and are always amazed at the comments about how this or that training program had been cut due to current budgetary concerns.

We had hoped that the post 9-11 world would be one with law enforcement being the primary emphasis of governmental entities from Federal to Local levels but from the stories told to us this has too often not been the case. We submit that training is a critical element in organizational performance and too often it is difficult to measure how effective it has been, since its very definition is “the long term modification of behavior.”

As exhibit “A” in our argument to always make training a priority in your agency we submit the following email from an attendee who found his training came back to him at the exact critical moment he needed it…after five years! This officer is a good example of what can go wrong and the need to keep your head and heart in fight no matter what!


My name is Corporal James T. Smithers of the Havre de Grace, Maryland Police Department. After the seminar, I felt that I learned the “survival mind set” and could win, and survive any situation.

Well, five years later at 0432 hours, that time came, and all my skills, training and strength would be put to the test, as I would fight for my life.

On that cold Sunday morning I received a radio call for a fight in progress, I thought to myself it was just some idiots that had a few too many drinks at the local bar. I was wrong, boy was I wrong! The suspect I was about to encounter was under the influence of PCP, and had super human strength,

As I arrived on scene, I female flagged me down; she reported that a male subject was going crazy, as he had just choked his mother. The female then pointed up the street, and said he went that way, and stated "you have to do something".

I located the suspect, several blocks away. As I stopped my patrol car the suspect started yelling and screaming and tried to open the front passenger door to my patrol car, but it was locked. I got out of the car and asked the suspect “what was the matter.” The suspect stated that he was "Jesus".

The suspect then became out of control and attacked me. The suspect rushed towards me and I put both of my hands out in front of me to keep him away. The suspect then grabbed both of my hands. I was able to break free from the suspects grasp. The suspect then grabbed me by my neck and began choking me. I punched the suspect in the face several times in an attempt to break free as I could not breathe. My punches were having no affect on the suspect. I then deployed a burst of O.C. Spray in the suspects face.

The suspect continued to choke me for several seconds until the O.C. Spray began to affect him. I was then able to break free from the suspects grasp. Sometime during the struggle I dropped my O.C. Spray. I then deployed my ASP Baton. I called for a "Signal 13" (Officer needs assistance) as the suspect laid on the ground.

I ordered the suspect to put his hands behind his back. As I approached the suspect the attempted to get up off of the ground. I struck the suspect in the back of his left leg with my ASP baton. The suspect then jumped up from the ground and attacked me again. I struck the suspect several more times with my ASP baton having no effect.

The suspect continued to attack me and began choking me again. The struggle continued and we both fell to the ground. The suspect was able to get on top of me and continued to choke me. At this time I was unable to breathe and was gasping for air. I was in fear for my life and I was about to use lethal force.

I then observed out of the corner of my eye the first back up officer arriving. The officer knocked the suspect off of me.

In all, it took 5 police officers to subdue the suspect and take him into custody. The suspect also broke a pair of metal handcuffs, and a pair of flex cuffs.

I just wanted to thank you for “survival mind set.” It truly saved my life. During the incident I kept telling myself, “I’m not going to die!” Again thank you! I hope that you can use my incident in future seminars.


Corporal James T. Smithers #7705
Havre de Grace (MD) PD


Some of you will say you may have done this different or that different and that is great, since each of you have a different set of skills, knowledge, experience, tools, and physical assets. The key is to keep the winning mindset with your focus on the one most important goal: “I will win no matter what!”

Thanks to Corporal Smithers for being willing to share his struggle. In the words of “The Simpson’s” Mr. Burns: “Excellent Smithers, excellent!”

Stay safe!

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