“There is only one right way to do it, and only I know it.” We
all know instructors and Field Training Officers with that attitude, don’t we? So,
which kind of instructor does honorable service to those they teach? The “Listen
only to me, everyone else is wrong, those other techniques will get you killed”
type? Or the “Listen to everyone, take the good that you find, sort out what
works best for you” type?
Put yourself in your student’s shoes. Do you want to be
taught by Mr. One Way Only? Or by Mr. Consider These Approaches? “My way or the
highway” does a disservice to the next generation of police officer, sheriff’s
deputy and state trooper. In fact, today’s generation of police officer is less
persuaded by “just do what you are told” and more persuaded by “here is why.”
Even the so-called fundamentals are open to opinion, change,
challenge. The Isosceles Stance was once the only way and has given way to some
version of the Weaver Stance. “Use a tourniquet only as last resort” has given
way to “Use a tourniquet as the first choice.” The passenger’s side approach?
Cuff before (or after) search? Every single technique in every aspect of
policing has street-wise, veteran-officer proponents for this variation or that
Open your mind and actively seek new and different
techniques. Give these an honest try for two reasons. First, you may learn a
valuable lesson and add an important tool to your patrol or tactical toolbox.
Second, you may learn that the way you were doing it was superior to the new/different
Instructor confidence is one thing. Unchallengeable
arrogance is another. Even national training organizations have collapsed under
the weight of instructor. In training circles, we are on high alert for injury
from “friendly fire” and somehow miss the fact that one instructor
back-stabbing another is also friendly-fire. Get out a bit. Attend national
conferences like ILEETA and IACP. Attend regional SWAT conferences. The very
essence of “networking,” its entire value, is to listen to other ideas.
Flexibility is one of the greatest assets of a SWAT team,
literally defining the team’s effectiveness. The same should be true of the individual
instructor. You have heard, “A good SWAT operator always has a Plan B…and a
Plan C.” Well, a good instructor or FTO should always teach a Plan B and a Plan
C on every patrol tactic.
If you are the type of instructor or FTO who thinks there is
only one right way, you are part of the problem. If you are a hammer, every
problem you see is a nail. In fact, the very essence of both CompStat-driven
patrol and Community Oriented Policing is out of the box, problem-solving
thinking. Yes, thinking is hard work.
Our responsibility to the officers and deputies we train is too
great to think any one of us has all the answers. Don’t take tools out of the
new officer’s tool box. Instead, add more and different ones…then train them
how to decide which one to use.
Look around you. The instructor and FTO is no longer the
only source of training. Every police magazine, every police blog, is full of
different tactics and techniques. These include heated rhetoric from credible,
savvy instructors on what makes this tactic or that technique a valid method.
And with that overload of tactical information, you are going to tell your
officers that you have the one and only way? Not happening.
Every new officer has already been told that they will hear
and see many different—safe and legitimate—ways of doing everything. Many have
also been told the real bottom line—that ultimately they are responsible for
their own safety. We want them to have more options to finish their shift
safely—even if those tactics came from someone else.