Focusing on the technique is more important than focusing on the outcome because, inherently with technique, the outcome will be part of the result you are trying to achieve.
Good Technique Needs to Compliment Experience
Experience alone is not the most efficient manner in which to improve performance. And yet, you may often put a great deal of emphasis on experience when training yourself or others. Many times, I hear how important it is to expose a new officer to certain situations, but not so much about the technique that will be used to manage those situations. How often have you hired someone who had a lot of experience, but when it came time to do the job, the person did sloppy work? While it may be important to gain experience to become good at something, without practicing good technique, you will most likely be reinforcing bad habits.
Focusing on Technique
Bad habits can become entrenched if you approach a task by focusing too much attention on the outcome. While this may be counter intuitive, it will make sense if you think about it. Even though nobody was seriously hurt or killed and the bad guy went to jail, it does not always mean the police response was managed properly. Focusing on the technique is more important than focusing on the outcome because, inherently with technique, the outcome will be part of the result you are trying to achieve. Approaching the completion of tasks from this perspective should also bring about more consistent results.
Master of Many Trades
Your approach should be focusing on technique when training yourself or others to perform a task. In patrol work, this can be particularly challenging because of the variety of situations you may have to respond to on any given day and the chaotic nature of the job. Some officers resign themselves to a saying that I have moved away from – “being a jack of all trades, master of none.” I think a patrol officer should be consistently working toward mastery of many trades. Whether working a vehicle crash, a robbery-in-progress, or trying to coordinate the search for a missing child, too much is normally on the line at police scenes not to manage them skillfully or, dare I say, masterfully. Although a patrol officer may not have follow-up responsibility on certain situations, they should be striving to become the masters of the things that they are responsible for (and there are many things).
Police work is a never-ending challenge to improve upon your technique. I have found that building a solid foundation begins with having the right attitude, followed by focusing on technique. Your skillfulness will develop quickly from a routine and honest assessment of your actions, refinement of what you can improve upon, and repetition. In assessing my actions throughout the years, I have identified basic tasks and the actions that are commonly associated with them to improve my technique in how I manage police situations.
I try to use single words that can be reviewed often to remind me of the actions associated with specific tasks. I have previously written on a few of these words, the tasks that are associated with them, and what the words are designed to remind me to do when I am managing a scene. You can check out this approach in the following articles:
I have used this method extensively enough to recognize the benefits it has brought to me working countless scenes. It has allowed me to judge my performance more objectively, build upon the actions that worked to be able to use them in similar circumstances, accomplish tasks more thoroughly, and keep better control of complicated situations. No strategy is foolproof, but I am a firm believer that improvement does not come from experience alone. This approach may require some discipline and perseverance, especially to establish the baseline actions to provide you with the consistency to perform specific tasks more skillfully, but as the saying goes – “nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.”
– Erick Richards is the author of The Officer’s Brain: Raising Your Police Scene Management IQ. He is currently assigned as a patrol supervisor for the Dallas Police Department. You can find him at www.theofficersbrain.com.