The biggest lie in law enforcement, and likely in most professions, always starts with the same seven words, “If I was there, I would have.” Anything that comes after that is BS. The only people who know what they would have done are the people who were there and did what they did. The best anyone else can do is speculate. The lie is usually told with the benefit of hindsight bias knowing the outcome and without a clear understanding of what information the people involved had, what they were attending to and what their perceptions were.
If you want to learn from other people’s experiences, then have a hard look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “What would I most like to do when I find myself in a similar situation?” Spend time without the bluster of ego that surfaces in group settings and social media and truly reflect on the question and the answer. Once you decide what you would most like to do, take a deep look inside and ask yourself, “Have I put in the work to be able to do that? Am I prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally to perform at that level?” If the honest answer is no, then get to work. If the honest answer is yes, then get back to work.
Are You Fully Prepared?
Have you prepared your mind for where your body may have to go? Are you continually helping your people prepare their mind for where their bodies may have to go? You cannot simply pay lip service to mental skills. Mental skills are learnable skills, and we need to do a better job of teaching them. You can have all the tools, gadgets, tactics and physical skills, but if the mind shuts down, they will of little use to you. Training mental skills is a career long process that needs to start in the academy.
Having Attended Is Not Enough
Having “attended training” in, is not the same as “being trained in”. Very often when agencies state, “All our officers are trained in (fill in the blank).”, the reality is that people have attended training in the topic. It is often a one-time training that exposed attendees to the concepts but, little or no actual learning takes place. Too often the training is not done in a manner that would allow for attendees to replicate the behaviors in a spontaneous, high stress or tense uncertain and rapidly evolving event even a month later. The reality is that little, if any, of the information was taught in a manner that is likely to result in retention and the ability to recall and apply what was “taught”. Training needs to be done in a manner that is evidence based and research informed.
The training also needs to be continually delivered in small doses throughout people’s careers. The training needs to include critical thinking, decision making, problem solving and sense making. It can be done in just 10 minutes a day, every day. It can be pen and paper tactical decision games, If Then / When Then thinking exercises, properly done video breakdown or physical training. These 10 minute training sessions will serve to augment the longer in-service training sessions.
Are the people in your senior leadership positions “trained In” practical and tactical matters? Have they even attended the training? Have any of them trained to the level that they are legitimately “trained in”?
Blustering and Blaming or Learning?
After major incidents, there is always a lot of bluster and blaming. As Sidney Dekker said, “You can blame, or you can learn. You cannot do both.” Sadly, too many people get caught up in the blame game and the bluster of what they claim they would have done.
Let’s stop the lie, the blustering, and the blaming. Instead, let’s learn and get involved to make a difference. The time immediately following a tragedy is not a time to sell your programs as an answer to everyone’s problems. This is a time to step up and make a difference for all those agencies who are continually challenged with not enough people and little or no money for training. It is a time to support your brother and sister officers. It is a time to help make the profession better. Start by taking a long hard look at yourself and your agency. Then look for others in the profession you can help to learn, grow, and improve.
Brian Willis is the President of Winning Mind Training. This article originally appeared here. You can find out more about Brian and his training at the links below.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site for law enforcement trainers seeking to invest in their ongoing professional development. Join Now.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Practical leadership training.