As a firearms instructor over the last few years, I’ve noticed a trend that seems to have become the norm when it comes to how we train law enforcement. It starts with basic academy recruits and goes all the way through the rank and file at many agencies.
It seems we are more concerned with a passing qualification score and checking the box as it pertains to firearms training.
To go further, it seems that more and more agencies are limiting budgets when it comes to ammunition and overtime for officers to attend range days. More of the focus is spent on what can be conducted virtually and at a reduced cost. Though I understand this isn’t true of all agencies, I would argue it’s over fifty percent and this issue isn’t just affecting smaller agencies but larger size ones as well. With that in mind, I am in no way against technology and absolutely support our officers and deputies getting the latest and greatest.
But firearms are a skill that requires maintenance. There is no substitute for putting live rounds down range. I understand budgets and scheduling, but how long are we going to allow this excuse that our men and woman are not receiving appropriate training and being able to maintain the skills they are being taught?
It should be stressed to our officers, young and old, from patrol to command staff, that training needs and must to be followed up by the individual outside of the work place. Training should also be sought after outside our own agencies. I am thrilled when officers take courses from us and I find out either the agency paid for the course or provided ammunition for the officer or deputy attending. There needs to be give-and-take to those wanting to attend more training regardless of the training being basic or tactical in nature. It would seem that in today’s law enforcement, Command Staff would want its officers to have more training to limit liability, along with producing better officer and deputies on the streets.
I ask this: How many feel that defensive tactics, firearms, and de-escalation should be included in every range day?
Why are we not trying to create the environment our officers and deputies are presented with instead of having them standing still on a flat range as if they have cement in their shoes?
We need to get out of this range mindset and train our students in dynamic and disruptive environments, adding in the use of force on force with UTM’s allowing for feedback, good and bad. We should also be introducing deploying weapons in and around vehicles at basic recruit academies and continue to build on this skill set throughout their careers. It always irritates me to watch courses being taught, where we as instructors are telling the students when to reload and clear malfunctions. What are we doing? No one tells our personnel to conduct a reload or clear a misfire while in a gunfight. We need to truly teach our rank and file to train as they fight and adapt to a more realistic approach to carrying a firearm everyday.
As a comparison, let’s look at our country. We have been at war for the last 18 years and we have had many advances in training, equipment, and tactics. Why are we not reaching out to our veteran officers and applying what they have learned from deployments and applying it to how it could work and benefit our agencies?
The other side of that coin is this. Look at how many people have been deployed and our officers may have to face those that understand and can utilize advanced tactics. Many civilians, in my opinion, shoot better than a good bit of law enforcement officers simply because they train more and honestly seem to want to attend training. We as agencies, trainers, command staff need to change our way of training to adapt not only to bring the information current but also add, what I refer to as, purpose driven training.
Answer the why! Why are we working fundamentals? Why are we working movement drills? Why are we working vehicle counter ambush? Simple: because fundamentals never change and we need to master the basics to become a basic shooter. Moving and shooting have officers and deputies understand getting off the X. Counter vehicle ambush is where, we as officers and deputies, spend a majority of our time, in our two-ton rolling office. Purpose driven training has a purpose for everything we do, not just at the range throwing lead down range to hit a non-moving target in hopes of a passing score.
I understand qualifications are not going away and that it is necessary. However, we shouldn’t qualify static; nothing we do is static and we need to spend time and research on developing qualifications that make sense to how we deploy our firearms as officers and deputies in today’s law enforcement.
It’s my hope this article creates conversation and that conversation leads to the beginning of change on how we look at our high-risk training. Our men and woman today are more educated, better equipped, but the statistics in Officer Involved Shootings haven’t really changed. I have said time and time again, fundamentals don’t change but tactics do and we need to provide our officers and deputies purpose driven training.
Kris Sutton started in law enforcement in 2004 as a metro Atlanta police officer, working assignments in Uniform Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Narcotics, CID, SWAT, and Special Operations. He then took a position in Southwest Georgia, working again in Narcotics as a Unit Commander and left due to an injury. In 2012, Kris started Shoot and Move, LLC., a firearms training company that specializes in dynamic and real world training. To date, Shoot and Move has trained over 3,000 students to include Civilians, Local, State and Federal Law Enforcement, Military Contractors and Members of The United States Military. Although Shoot and Move is based out of Tallahassee, Florida they have traveled across the country to conduct Civilian and Law Enforcement training. In the past few years, Kris has returned to law enforcement in South Georgia where he currently holds the position of Narcotics Investigator and Deputy Commander for the SRT Team at a local Sheriff’s office. Reach Kris at [email protected]