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Reality-Based Defensive Tactics Training

Being hit with frying pans or coffee tables may happen to you if you’re involved in law enforcement. Making scenario based training as realistic as possible is the goal for any training program. Yet, there must be a balance between realism and safety. There is no doubt that scenario based training, which is done in a realistic manner, reduces the potential for liability.

A number of specialty manufacturers work in cooperation with law enforcement in developing equipment specifically for scenario based training. RedMan has done a great job of developing various lines of protective gear that officers wear during scenario based defensive tactics training. RedMan has always listened to law enforcement trainers and this has paid off with some of the best protective defensive tactics gear on the market. Dummies Unlimited has manufactured training dummies for law enforcement for more than 40 years. In particular, the

Dummies Unlimited “Numb John” and “Cuff- Man” have allowed officers to train in an effective manner before any scenario is put into action. This practice reduces the potential for injury during a scenario, or the dummies can be creatively used as part of the scenario.

ProLine Training offers its TEX (Training Evaluation eXperience) that allows the normal ranges of motion of the human body. The realistic 5’ 10” tall, 190-pound anatomically accurate TEX, can bend or twist in a manner that is similar to a human being. You can put a wristlock on TEX, use a neck restraint, or even use an arm lock. TEX can be a part of many realistic scenarios, from being a passenger in a car to a subject sitting against a wall.

One of the most creative approaches to scenario-based defensive tactics training has nothing to do with traditional training equipment, such as protective gear or the use of training dummies. Crown Gym Mats, a manufacturer of gym mats used for wrestling and tumbling has slowly entered the arena of law enforcement training. Initially, the company exclusively sold gym mats, but gradually it began to listen attentively to law enforcement trainers in developing a line of equipment for use in law-enforcement defensive tactics training that included kick and punching bags, in addition to gym mats.

Crown Gym Mats also manufactures its “Police Public Disturbance Props.” These consist of chunks of asphalt and concrete, bricks, beer cans, wine and beer bottles, and even a razor knife. These props are all made of high-density foam, which can easily be wiped clean. Other training aids consist of a foam brief case, and soft and firm rubber training guns.

Crown Gym Mats introduced its innovative “Notta” line of police training equipment at the 2004 International Association of Law Enforcement Trainers (ILEETA) Conference in Rolling Meadows, IL. A creative play on words, the Notta line serves the purpose of looking like something, say a piece of furniture such as a floor lamp, but closer inspection will reveal that it’s “Notta” floor lamp. That is, that floor lamp is made of firm polyfoam with a durable bacteria, fire and mildew resistant PCN cover.

Constant demonstrations of the Notta line took place in the vendor area at the ILEETA conference. Chairs, tables, lamps and even a frying pan were flying into ILEETA Conference attendees. Not a cut or scrape was to be had as these items hit the attendees in the arms, legs, torsos and heads. These demonstrations were impressive and got a great deal of attention. Currently, the Notta line consists of a floor lamp, a table lamp, a couch, a chair, two different size tables, and a frying pan. Future nearterm Notta “furnishings” include a dresser, a file cabinet and a desk.

Jon Eckert, CEO of Crown Gym Mats in Barrington, IL, said, “We can custom make virtually any item in foam, from a car fender to a mail box and we’ll do our best to see that it meets law enforcement’s needs. If the item seems to be something that would have appeal to all of law enforcement, we will then make the necessary molds to place that item into production.”

Chief William Harvey of the Lebanon, PA, Police Department had a chance to practice with the Notta line at the ILEETA Conference. “This line of ‘furniture’ is a trainer’s dream for two immediate reasons. One, no sharp corners or hard boards to fuel the chance of training injuries. Additionally, the vinyl covering is easy to decontaminate or clean up between training sessions since it will not absorb sweat or blood. Second, this equipment lowers risk management claims for injury. Prop replacement cost is also greatly reduced since the equipment seems to have a rugged construction,” Chief Harvey stated.

Clean up is also an important concern. This equipment will undoubtedly be exposed to human perspiration, or at least it should in dynamic training scenarios. Unfortunately, minor scrapes and cuts occasionally happen in even the most safety conscious training programs. Scrapes and cuts also mean blood. Training equipment should be able to be easily and effectively cleaned in order to not pass on any possible pathogens. Training safety involves more than just training injuries when you consider potential pathogens.

Since the Notta line is so new, it is a good idea for instructors to identify the scenarios that will be used, then to slowly go through these in order to see how they will progress. Identifying “what if” situations, then dealing with these situations from a safety perspective is absolutely necessary. The overall responsibility for safety is ultimately left with the instructor.

According to Deputy Chief Chuck Mader of the Bloomingdale, IL, Police, “This is an opportunity to enhance all of our simulation training scenarios. It creates a much safer training environment and allows us to rearrange the room setting quickly. We all have that scenario that we want redone; here we can do a room setting change quickly while the student is setting up outside to come back in again. Now the student re-enters the training room(s), but the environment has changed. What a concept— every entry is a new environment.”

Deputy Chief Mader looks forward to other possibilities in the Notta line. “I’d like to see Crown develop foam ‘people’ that could take the FX rounds, PepperBall rounds, bean bag and Taser shots. We would also need some type of slip on or snap on metal screening for accepting the taser hit. We would need to color code the body so it would correspond to both lethal and less lethal practices. And it should be flexible for either standing or sitting positions.”

The Notta line can be used to furnish a training room complete with permanent mats on the floor and walls. Folding gym mats can also be used to turn almost any room into a training room. There can still be hazards in many rooms, with doorknobs and windows as the obvious culprits. There can also be other dangers, such as sharp corners in doorways or pillars. If possible, it’s a good idea to remove large items with sharp surfaces, or to cover fixed potential hazards.

Roland Ouellette, an active law enforcement trainer who teaches the Management Of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) training program, offered a historical perspective: “When I was with the Connecticut State Police, we used real furniture when I was teaching at the academy, which was really dangerous. We had injuries that could now be prevented. This Notta line is great, since it really adds to safety, while not taking away from realism. This beats falling over real furniture.”



Ed Nowicki, a nationally recognized use of force expert, is part time officer for the Twin Lakes (WI) Police Department. He is also the executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). He can be reached at

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Published in Law and Order, Jun 2004

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