Take your training scenarios back as far as possible

The great adventure of police work is the challenge of doing the right thing at the right moment under pressure. Whether it’s rolling up to a crash scene or a charging into a bar fight, officers have a confidence that they’ll adapt to anything they find and win the day. 

That’s a great attitude, but it often isn’t necessary and often accepts unacceptable risk. We can take the “rush” out of “adrenaline rush” and make better decisions for better outcomes. 

The OODA loop — stages of Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action — has become a part of law enforcement lexicon in training for use-of-force encounters. Wading into a situation with the assumption that you can handle whatever comes up makes no use of the OODA loop at all. 

Once an officer gets inside the action circle — within striking distance of a subject, or in an area where redeployment is precluded — the opportunity to observe, orient, and decide is gone. The speed of an attack will likely cause only a reaction based on instinct or training that bypasses the rational decision making process of the brain. Any delay in completing an observation and decision process can result in no effective response at all.

The solution is distance. The decision making process should happen, whenever possible, outside the action circle — the action circle should always be within the decision circle. The decision-making process must change from “I’m going to stop that pedestrian and see what he’s up to.” to “I wonder if I should stop this pedestrian. What behavior am I going to describe in my report that makes this stop lawful? What will happen if he doesn’t cooperate? Are there any indicators of impairment? Do I see any indicators that he’s carrying weapons or contraband? Do I know where my closest back up is? Where is the safest place to make the contact for both me and the pedestrian?” and so on. 

Trainers, start taking your scenarios back as far as possible. When we begin our scenarios at the “excuse me sir” point of contact, we rob our students of the opportunity to learn observation and planning skills. 

There will always be situations where the unexpected happens, and you respond immediately. The task of the professional is to make those situations as rare as possible. 

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