Failing to Train
We’ve been very fortunate and honored to be able to travel the country instructing our fellow law enforcement on topics from use of force, defensive tactics, de-escalation and much more, but the consistent theme among law enforcement is failure to train.
We find that many of the agencies don’t have a well-documented defensive tactics program or even regular training on their own policies and procedures. We’ve noticed some that have a requirement through a certification or accreditation program that simply check the box when it comes to this type of training, but don’t actually train their personnel in scenario based defensive tactics training and other aspects of defense.
The state in many cases doesn’t require an officer attend many of these type programs, which creates a major void in how officers are equipped both mentally and physically to respond on the street.
The governmental entities can be liable in cases where policy, practice, and rule cause the employee to commit violations, or where the agency has failed to supervise or train the employee, and this failure in itself could lead to a constitutional violation.
This can also be seen where the United States Supreme Court held that “a municipality may be held liable for violations of rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, where violations result from the municipality’s failure to adequately train its employees.”
This could be established in a civil proceeding by two different ways. The first is where there is a clear and obvious need for training and that agency failed to provide and document adequate training. The second could be the patterns of conduct that put the agency on notice that training was needed and they failed to respond with training.
You could also see officers themselves involved in an excessive use of force violation where the officer places the culpability back on the agency for failure to train and provide him or her with the necessary physical and mental decision making tools to be within policy.
The courts have ruled that training of officers needed to be reflective of what conditions they would face in the field, which is also seen with firearms training as well.
This was reflected in the City of Margate’s liability case where the court noted that the city failed to provide low light training that would have been consistent with what the officer would face in the field. This could easily be seen as well where no training has been provided in a “shoot” “don’t shoot” scenarios, which takes on decision making skills for the officer.
These cases bring up the question on physical fitness for law enforcement and the failure for an agency to maintain a standard that would be needed to perform simple tasks like climbing a fence, or being in a physical confrontation with a suspect.
The civil litigant may argue that the agency failed to keep a physical standard that would allow an officer to be able to subdue a violator without having to use excessive force, claiming that failure to train and provide physical standards resulted in the officer using excessive force due to exhaustion related to being unfit.
There are some agencies that actually test their officers using some standard physical assessment, but then don’t act on that assessment when it shows the officers is unable to perform in the fitness for duty test.
We’ve noticed that all agencies have some type of state required firearms training, which mainly consist of an annual qualification, but then have no training for defensive tactics or decision making scenarios that would reflect policy or state law.
The officers in the field will most likely work their entire career without having to use deadly force, but they will be guaranteed to use verbal skills as well as physical force at some point during that career, and most likely many times as compared to firearms.
Why is it that agencies are concentrating on the use of firearms but not both physical and verbal skills?
There are many justifications that are given for the failure to adequately train officers, which mostly consist of budget as well as fear of injury. But the overall price could be much more in the way of human lives and civil litigation for failure to train officers.
The training that the agencies provide must be documented and reviewed on a consistent basis to make sure the training is providing the necessary implements to success that reflect what officers experience in the field.
We’ve noticed law enforcement incidents where the DOJ has reviewed training procedures by local law enforcement and have found that training provided was not adequate and did not reflect policy or procedures. We realize the cost associated with training and how it can cause concern for administrators that are provided with lower operating cost each year, but the academy training alone is not enough to satisfy the needs of the officer to be able to respond to the demands of today’s encounters.
We must look at cost operative ways to train personnel in the skills that not only make them a better officer for the people they serve, but help them maintain a consistent blueprint that reflects policy and procedures of that agency.
Our objective has always been to provide training that is reflective of the difficulties that are experienced in the field, and we continue to strive to provide the best training possible in these topics.
We look forward to the day that training becomes a priority for agencies across the United States that successfully prepares our fellow officers for the demands of this high stress job we call law enforcement.
– Ray Beshirs, Blue Shield Tactical Systems LLC, Blueshieldtactical.com