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Hendon Publishing

The Force Instructor

When suspects attack law enforcement officers, they do not proceed like static robots, using distinctive and telegraphed movements. Rather, their attacks are carried out in fluid motion, and their movements flow seamlessly from one to the other without interruption. The situation can begin with a verbal cue and escalate rapidly into a deadly attack, or it can begin as a deadly assault and de-escalate immediately to the point of being non-threatening.

Considering the dynamic and fluid nature of these situations, instructors should make their training as seamless as possible—up and down the force continuum—in order for officers to develop the edge they need to survive, as well as the foresight to avoid overreacting to a rapidly de-escalating situation.

If instructors segregate empty-handed defensive tactics training from less-lethal training from firearms training, they create a number of problems that could prove detrimental to an officer’s safety, especially if there are different instructors specializing in the different types of training.

One of the biggest problems with having specialized instructors is the potential for inconsistency in training. For instance, firearms instructors might advocate a shooting stance that differs from the fighting stance taught by defensive tactics instructors. Firearms instructors might recommend a particular stance because it improves an officer’s accuracy, while defensive tactics instructors may argue it compromises the principles of balance and movement and could place an officer in grave danger.

Additionally, less-lethal instructors might recommend deploying a TASER in the same situation a firearms instructor might advise utilizing deadly force, and so on. These types of inconsistencies can lead to confusion, which could cause hesitation and result in officers getting hurt or killed.

One remedy would be to have the different instructors come together and exchange information to ensure they are teaching the same techniques across the use of force spectrum. By letting the “right hand know what the left hand” is doing, instructors can minimize the amount of inconsistencies between the different levels of force training. While this would be better than the aforementioned alternative, it still is not the seamless approach necessary to adequately prepare officers for rapidly evolving attacks.

When boxers train for a fight, they don’t segregate offensive techniques from defensive techniques and from footwork, because this approach would not closely replicate what will actually take place during the fight. Instead, they work on all of their techniques simultaneously, flowing seamlessly from offense to defense while utilizing proper footwork. If officers combine empty-handed defensive tactics training with less-lethal training and firearms training, they will be able to more effectively and seamlessly transition up and down the force continuum.

While this all-inclusive approach is necessary for officer survival, how can instructors promote it if they do not practice it themselves? Thus, rather than thinking in terms of “firearms instructor” or “defensive tactics instructor” or “less-lethal instructor,” the law enforcement community should transition to “force instructor.” These force instructors should be certified in all areas of officer survival, which should definitely include verbal communication.

The benefits could be immeasurable. Consider a force instructor teaching firearms and observing an officer shooting in a squared-up stance. He would be able to immediately explain the dangers of facing a suspect in that manner because of his instructor-level defensive tactics training, whereas a firearms instructor might not recognize the problem.

Similarly, a force instructor might recognize that a rising block violates the principles of weapon retention because of his instructor-level firearms training, while a defensive tactics instructor might not. Additionally, in a single training session, force instructors would be able to immediately transition from firearms to less-lethal to defensive tactics and back to firearms, whereas an individual with a single instructor certification would not.

Utilizing this all-inclusive method would promote consistency in training and ensure a seamless and ever-evolving approach to use of force, which more closely replicates what happens in a real attack.


BJ Bourg is the chief investigator for the Lafourche Parish District Attorney’s Office. He has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and has served in various capacities, including patrol, investigations, training and special operations. He can be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Fall 2015

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