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Current Training May Leave New Officers More Vulnerable
By Tracy E. Barnhart
Published: 09/05/2011

Karate belts Below are but a few of the findings that will be included in an assessment of training in the U.S. and the United Kingdom that has been conducted across the last 3 years by the Force Science Institute. Wherever they are based, if officers are unprepared to meet the various threats and levels of resistance and violence they face, it can impair their ability to make good judgments, to affect control, and to avoid injury or death to himself or herself. This fact in itself leads to the excessively high turnover rates among correctional agencies. Therefore, if I were to give some advice to a new officer what would be some things that I would want to know that would give me a better chance of success.
  • The average officer within months of leaving an academy will be able only to describe how a given suspect-control technique should be used but will have “little ability” to actually apply it effectively in “a dynamic encounter with a defiantly resistant subject.”

  • At the rate academy and in-service training is typically delivered, it could take the average Corrections Officer up to 45 years to receive the number of hours of training and practice in command-and-control and officer-safety techniques that a young student athlete gets through practice and education in competitive sporting events during the usual high school career.
  • Many Correctional training programs are not employing modern research-based methods of successfully teaching psychomotor skills, a shortcoming compounded by the fact that current record-keeping fails to capture even the most elementary relevant information about the dynamic nature of real-world assaults on officers.

“I would say, Jump on this website and start reading and educating yourself!”

Take into consideration the amount of practice that you do involving your agency response to resistance techniques. If your agency is like mine, that would be about eight hours per year during recertification, at slow speeds, with your partner acting a specific way. That would be like asking a martial arts instructor to give you a black belt worth of knowledge but he could only train you eight hours per year. Most instructors that I know would laugh at you and walk away. However, your administration, community and court systems expect that level of expertise from you as it relates to your use of force incidents. You are expected to win, not get hurt, and not hurt the inmate. Not one of us would bet $5 on a football game in which we knew that the quarterback only had practiced with the ball only one time in the past year.

Remember those terms in previous articles, Reasonable, Excessive and liability? Are you confident in your ability to be reasonable? How about your ability restraining an inmate while you are being video taped and not being excessive? Will you use the techniques properly and as instructed or will you write in your reports that you Attempted the proper agency technique only to have to abandon the maneuver during the restraint and do something else that actually works?

Training shortcomings that threaten survival

Any departmental self-defense techniques need to have a two-pronged approach;
  1. Having techniques that allow an officer to enact the strategy of advancing from one position into a more dominating one {positional moves.}
  2. Those techniques that allow an officer to finish a fight quickly and efficiently {submission moves.}

We run into problem with administrations attempting to water down martial arts techniques in order to alleviate the pain aspect of their maneuvers. All techniques are by their nature Pain Compliance or Submission Techniques. If you take away the motivation of pain to establish voluntary compliance, then there will be no compliance with your commands in the mind of a defiant criminal. They must be shown, better yet feel, that if they voluntarily comply, the pain will stop, thereby giving them the motivation to obey your commands.

Officers and supervisors need to evaluate handling of real-life events with a critical eye. Do we have the skills and fortitude to recognize mistakes have been made and take corrective actions?

Consider the Navy Blue Angels flight team. At the end of every flight, there is a debriefing in which rank is taken off the table and every member can feel safe to do self-criticism or constructive criticism of another team member. Corrections need to adopt this same mentality where pre- and post-performance is evaluated with a critical eye, with the focus on improvement rather than castigation or discipline. The answers to these questions should be addressed:
  1. Is our self-protection techniques based in reality, work when used, and easy to apply?
  2. Do we need more training?
  3. How could we have prevented or avoided the violent incident from happening?

Look out among the predators of the institution. Watch them as they do countless push-ups and train themselves into physical combatants in which you might someday have to physically restrain. Are you ready? Do you have the stamina to withstand an onslaught of punches in an all out assault until your back up arrives? It is one thing to look back ten years ago when you were in great shape and in a martial arts class three times a week. Look at yourself now. Are you as ready now, as you were then? One thing you have to consider when working in a prison setting. You are getting older everyday yet the average age of the inmates are staying steady at a young average. Inmates come in and get out and new young aggressive inmates fill their open beds. You however, get older, more and more out of shape everyday. This is why we must keep ourselves in shape and condition our bodies for combat. We walk among the predators of society without question. Our abilities must reflect our authority to tame these aggressive predators without question.

Visit the Tracy Barnhart page

Other articles by Barnhart:



Comments:

  1. DeeBoDav on 11/26/2013:

    Most institutions don't train their staff well enough to spot situations or to defend themselves. Just because an officer is well trained doesn't mean he or she will become an abuser of their authority. Both sides of training are needed.

  2. bryavila on 09/13/2011:

    Although I will agree with some points that were brought up in this article, there are some things that I disagree with along with some things that I think need clarification. "Current training may leave new officers more vulnerable” · The average officer within months of leaving an academy will be able only to describe how a given suspect-control technique should be used but will have “little ability” to actually apply it effectively in “a dynamic encounter with a defiantly resistant subject.” Agree. Most new officers will forget the techniques that they were shown, and practiced repeatedly, within a few months of leaving the academy. Clarification: As they are being trained at the academy, they are told repeatedly that they need to continue to practice the techniques in order to maintain proficiency. The expression "Use it or Lose it" says it all. If you do not practice the technique (use it) you will forget how to apply it when needed (lose it). · "At the rate academy and in-service training is typically delivered, it could take the average Corrections Officer up to 45 years to receive the number of hours of training and practice in command-and-control and officer-safety techniques that a young student athlete gets through practice and education in competitive sporting events during the usual high school career." Agree. It takes an average person 1,000 repetitions for something to become muscle memory and be able to apply it without having to think about it first. See the clarification above as to why it would take so long to achieve that level of proficiency. "Take into consideration the amount of practice that you do involving your agency response to resistance techniques. If your agency is like mine, that would be about eight hours per year during recertification, at slow speeds, with your partner acting a specific way." Agree. There is only a limited amount of time that can be dedicated within the training timeline constraints, within ANY agency, to a certain topic. Most agencies throughout the country allot 40 hours a year for in-service training. However, there is nothing stopping a person from practicing on their own in order to improve their technique and get better at it. "Will you use the techniques properly and as instructed or will you write in your reports that you Attempted the proper agency technique only to have to abandon the maneuver during the restraint and do something else that actually works?" Here it gets sticky. Almost every agency has a policy that states that you can do anything in order to protect yourself. Now for the sticky part: Although this may be true, the caveat is that this is a last resort and you MUST attempt what is in policy/training prior to implementing anything else. The techniques that are taught at the academies do work. However, you must practice in order to maintain your proficiency. They have been simplified from various defensive techniques out there so that the moves are very simple to perform and remember so that the average office can practice this when not at work. There are numerous officers out there that honestly believe that they can do whatever they want and get away with it by referring to the "policy." And when the rubber meets the road and they have to write their report, they will say that they attempted the technique and had to abandon it for something else when the reality is that they never did attempt the technique. It's called integrity issues... If we want to improve on the way that we train and the results that we get from the training, we must look at ourselves first before criticizing the training itself. All you have to do is look at the mentality that some officers have when they go to in-service. They just say it's a one week vacation from the unit therefore they don't have to pay attention and do the very bare minimum while they are there. Remember, when we go to in-service, we are still on the clock. That is our duty post for the week. The same rules apply as when we are on the unit. We have no one to blame but ourselves when it comes down to our proficiency. Did you know that if you wanted to get some practice with the firearms in order to improve, or just become more familiar with the weapon, all you have to do is call your regional academy range and schedule a time to go? You provide the ammo, they provide the weapon (psst, they will even help you get better if someone is available!) Same thing applies to many other training topics. All we have to do is call and ask. There is a reason why approximately 100-120 staff members throughout the state that work for CTSD can serve a population of 40,000? and train them every year. They have a passion for what they do and the 39,880 staff members that they serve is the reason why they go to work every day.

  3. Eugene on 09/10/2011:

    As a career correctional employee assigned to line duty my entire career, I know we do not get enought training. I would like to say that our focus should not be on physical combat; but instead on identification of potential problems, sharing of information,fair and equal treatment of staff and inmate with regards to rule infraction and application of all security guildlines. So often in secure facilities more weight is given to the physical act than to resolving a issue without use of force. I found that working with female staff members was more effective to the security needs of the facility in most instances than use of males .ie... the male ego was taken out of the situation and common sense was inserted.That is not to imply that there is not a need for male staff. Corrections facilities typically hire the wrong type of staff to work in the prison security enviroment.Due to fair employement guildlines that do not take in consideration physical ability, age and ability to function in the proposed enviroment as one requirement. Without line-supervisors that understand it is not our position to punish or look the other way when staff feeling may be involved, that it is important to insure that reports are written that correctly reflect the account of the rule infraction or occurrance, or that theirs is not a popularity contest. I know this sounds as if I am reaching for something that is not true,but, to say that phyical resistance until help arrives in an enviroment where you are rarely one to one in situations is equally far-reaching and lends itself to more of the same being taught to staff that need more and more trainig in how to handle difficult people and difficult situations.


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