P1 First Person: Does your DT program pass the 'Pavement Test'?

Editor's Note: In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. This week’s essay comes from PoliceOne Member Jeff Paynter, a Detective and DT Instructor with the Lakewood (Wash.) Police Department. In the year since the brutal murder of four of his fellow officers, Paynter has written a sort of “Defensive Tactics Bill of Rights.” Do you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members? Send us an e-mail with your story.

By Detective Jeff Paynter
Lakewood (Wash.) Police Department

On 11/29/09, four of my partners were murdered in Lakewood, Washington, in an ambush and disarming assault. In the aftermath of this event, I talked with a fellow DT instructor who confided in me that he felt we had failed our fallen officers with the training we had provided them. One of the fallen officers, Sergeant Mark Renninger, served as a DT instructor with us. Mark’s loss, in particular, was difficult for me; he was a mentor and colleague for several years. Between us, my colleague and I have piles of instructor certifications and years of experience on tactical teams, all of which seemed quite meaningless as we had an unthinkable, surreal discussion about whether we had prepared our officers properly for their fatal confrontation with Maurice Clemmons. My efforts as a trainer seemed insignificant next to the fatal velocity of Clemmons’ bullets.

However, I strongly disagreed with him that our training program had failed our officers.

My fellow instructor and I had a long discussion about our program in which I explained to him that given normal limitations, we had delivered the best program possible to all of our officers. Having convinced my associate that he was torturing himself unnecessarily, I thought, “What if there is a major hole in our training that I am not seeing?” After that conversation I looked at our training program with a new set of eyes in order to better articulate why I felt that we had given our officers the best training possible. I subsequently made some changes to the program and more are coming.

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