If I haven’t said it before I’ll go ahead and say it now. I’m a huge fan of my friend Brian Willis. Brian runs the Excellence in Training Academy and is one of the smartest law enforcement minds I’ve been blessed to interact with. If you aren’t familiar with him, check out his website here.
Brian has proposed that one of the most dangerous things that an agency can do is to go to a new holster. The amount of training that is necessary to become proficient with a new holster is mind boggling. And the truth is many agencies aren’t willing to invest the necessary time and money to do it correctly.
The same is true of new equipment in general. From external vest carriers (big fan, by the way) to less-lethal tools, agencies will often implement new things without the needed training.
There are two things that have been implemented by many agencies over the past year or so that I think fall into these categories. I’m not saying either are bad - I’m saying that their introduction needs to include baseline training and continuing training.
The first is the use of embedded social workers to respond to specific calls for service. I believe this concept has incredible potential. I’m all for the use of subject matter experts to improve the quality of our efforts.
But we can’t just throw them in a patrol car and expect things to work out ok. Training must be intentional and ongoing. On both sides of the equation - the law enforcement side and the social worker side. The officers need to be trained on what the role of the social worker is, how they will work to accomplish their assigned mission, and what these interactions will look like. The social worker needs to be trained in self-defense, criminal law, and officer safety tactics. That way the social worker will understand the officer’s role in the encounter and the methods they will employ to accomplish it.
The second area that concerns me is the Bola-Wrap. Full disclaimer - I have never used one or been trained in their use. I have watched demonstrations of the tool and have listened to supporters extol the benefits of the weapon. And they may be exceptional - I don’t know. But what I do know is that there are agencies out there that purchase the tool and then provide no more than a familiarization course for their people. They see it briefly and then are expected to deploy it effectively and appropriately under stressful conditions. Not realistic.
Instructors must be included in all these activities. Not as an afterthought, but from the very beginning. They should be part of the policy writing portion to ensure that the expeditions of the new tool or resource is within the bounds of human performance. They must be provided with the time and money necessary to provide whatever training is needed to ensure proficiency.
I’m all for new things. I think that change for the good is change we should be actively seeking. But the change must be complete - not just brought about for the purpose of saying we did something or we have something. Let’s complete the process so that we make full and appropriate use of the tools and resources available.