Here are a few statements I hear from officers when I speak about the power of words:
"What difference does a word make?"
"It's just semantics."
Or, "I know the difference."
If you understand how the mind works, then you'll understand the power of words to program the subconscious mind for success or failure. In this week's post, we'll continue with that line of thought by examining "the scale of desirability" and "the fatal funnel."
Many officers grew up in educational systems where they were taught there's one right answer to every problem. When you got an answer wrong, you were punished in some way. Unfortunately, this thinking has found its way into officer safety and subject-control tactics training.
Too often officers are taught there are right and wrong responses to a subject's actions. Some form of punishment accompanies a "wrong" response by the officer. This may be push-ups or some other physical activity, being told to do it over — make sure you do it right this time — or being told they would have been killed on the street.
This type of training can result in officers stopping during training when they think they made a mistake, or leaving the training session with the conscious and subconscious belief that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation on the street, they'll lose the confrontation and die.
I'm not talking about situations where the officer does something that's unlawful, but situations where the officer's response is not what the trainer would have done or believes should have been done. This type of training is generally technique oriented.
The Scale of Desirability, on the other hand, teaches officers that all responses fall somewhere on a scale with some responses or actions being less desirable, while others more desirable. Regardless of where their initial response falls, all situations are fixable and winnable. If the initial response is less desirable, officers simply flow into a more desirable response.
Once this mind-set is instilled in officers it is unlikely they will stop in training, or in real life. This builds on the philosophy of consistency in principle while allowing for diversity in application. This philosophy also takes into consideration the multitude of variables in any situation as well as the different strengths and experiences of each officer. It conditions officers to be goal oriented and instils the ability to successfully apply the concepts and principles necessary to prevail in any situation.
Another benefit of this philosophy and terminology is the creation of a positive learning environment where officers are more receptive to suggestions that will build on their strengths. This results in officers leaving training with an enhanced level of confidence and competence.
The "fatal funnel" is a term usually used pertaining to building-clearing operations. It refers to areas such as stairwells, hallways and doorways that are generally narrow, confining areas that offer little or no cover or concealment and potentially limit the officer's tactical options if they have to go into combat.
The literal translation and image of a Fatal Funnel is a choke point where you're going to die. Therefore, the term "fatal funnel" implies that officers will die if they are in these locations when the fight breaks out. Although these may be less desirable places to be when engaging in combat, the fight is far from over simply because you are in a hallway, doorway or stairwell.
It would be more desirable to call these areas what they are — thresholds and transitional areas. In order to search a building, officers must move through these thresholds and transitional areas. Therefore, it would be more desirable to learn tactics to both minimize time in these areas when possible, and win fights in these areas when necessary.
Words do have power, so be aware of the language you use. Train yourself to use more desirable language, and always train to win.
Editor's Note: Brian Willis is the deputy executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). Contact him via his website Winning Mind Training.