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We've had a number of news items on law enforcement training this week—some of them good, some not so much.

Firstly, we reported earlier this week that the Seattle (WA) Police Department are training to become EMTs so they're prepared to render aid in the event of a large-scale emergency.

The final day of the training includes high-stress inoculation training intended to simulate the physiological effects officers may experience in a high-stress, traumatic event.

Then there was the news that several cadets attending the Louisiana State Police Academy were reportedly injured—including cuts, bruises, a broken nose, and a fractured arm—as part of a punishment at the training academy earlier in October.

Then we reported that the training and consulting firm John E. Reid and Associates filed a federal lawsuit against Netflix and director Ava DuVernay claiming defamation in one of the episodes of the four-part series "When They See Us."

The lawsuit centers on a line of dialogue in which a character—confronting an actor portraying an NYPD detective—says, "The Reid technique has been universally rejected."

The suit alleges that the series—and specifically, that one line of dialogue—has damaged the company's reputation. The suit seeks actual and punitive damages.

Finally, we reported on a criminal justice professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX, who believes that police training is to blame for the death of Atatiana Jefferson—who was shot and killed by former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean late last week.

In the Jefferson incident, police had arrived to a residence in response to a call of an open door at a late hour. During the encounter, arriving officers circled the house with their guns drawn.

Jefferson reportedly picked up a pistol after she heard noises outside. Dean fired a single fatal shot less than a second after seeing the handgun in Jefferson's hand.

Professor Johnny Nhan said that Jefferson's death is the result of training officers receive in the academy—and while in-service—that conveys the message that officers can be hurt or killed at any time.

Nhan—who has authored a book titled Issues and Controversies in Policing Today—contends that police training in the United States hasn't changed much over the years. Nhan acknowledges that policing is inherently dangerous, but offers that officers tend to go into situations feeling their lives are constantly in danger.

There's a lot to unpack in that last item.

Let's get to work.

"Issues and Controversies"

With regard to Professor Nhan's comments about police training being the core cause of the death of Atatiana Jefferson, I have a one-word answer for an alternatively plausible explanation for the shooting: Tachysychia.

Tachysychia is an altered perception of time in which time seems to speed up or slow down.

I'm not saying that Tachysychia is definitively the reason for what happened that night—it's possible that Dean fired that single fatal shot without being affected by Tachysychia, auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, or increased heart rate—but the split-second between "Show me your hands" and "bang" might have felt to Officer Dean like an hour.

It's been scientifically proven to have happened before.

A select few have been granted access to Dean's statement—I am not among them. Consequently, until I have all the information, I will reserve judgment on what he was experiencing at the time of that shooting.

However, I WILL judge Professor Nhan's comments.

I suggest that Professor Nhan's leaping to the conclusion that police training is at fault in this case—without having access to all the evidence—is irresponsible at best.

I don't know whether or not Nhan knew that Jefferson was holding a pistol at the time of her death. If he did, then he's ignoring that crucial fact. If he didn't know, he's shown that he jumped to conclusions without all the facts.

Either way, not a good look for Professor Nhan.  

With regard to Nhan's comments that "police training hasn't changed much" I can say firsthand that such a contention is just patently false. It's a lie.

I've only been associated—albeit as a civilian member of the law enforcement community—with policing for roughly a dozen years, but I can say with certainty that in my time participating in law enforcement training I've seen significant changes in police training.

Let's make Exhibit A the training we recently reported on in Seattle, where officers are being given training that just a few years ago was rare.

Now, programs to train and equip police officers to medically treat victims when a scene is still an active "warm zone" are becoming more and more common.

Nowadays, police officers routinely cross-train with members of other public safety disciplines in exercises large and small. Just five or 10 years ago these training events were rare. Now they're the norm. Cooperation and preoperational planning are at an all-time high.

Agencies across the country now require training in implicit bias. They require advanced crisis intervention training for interactions with mentally and emotionally disturbed persons. Departments require training in the delivery of the life-saving drug Naloxone to overdosed subjects.

A Failing Grade

In my opinion, Professor Nhan gets an F on this test.

Perhaps I'll grant him an incomplete—he may not know what he doesn't know.

My hope is that he gets himself to a force-on-force reality-based-training exercise and tests his mettle.

Maybe he can get in the force-options simulator—where he would know there's zero chance of being hurt—and have his heart rate go through the roof anyway.

There are numerous examples of civilians—politicians, press, and the public—emerging from such training and saying, "Wow, I had no idea how hard that is" or "Wow, that completely changed my mind."

Perhaps Professor Nhan has already endured such training. If he hasn't, I hope he remedies that deficiency. If he has and continues to make statements such as those he made this week, then the only rational conclusion a law enforcement person can make is that he's willfully ignorant.

The only facts we know for certain in the earliest stages of the ongoing investigation about the death of Atatiana Jefferson are as follows:

  • Her death was a terrible tragedy
  • We don't really know much else

If an argument can be made by one side that Officer Dean was "too quick to the trigger" then an equally valid argument can be made that he was justifiably in fear for his life at the time of that shooting.

I implore politicians, the press, the public, and police leaders to reserve judgement on these matters until all of the available information is released.

Doing otherwise is potentially irresponsible—and possibly even irrational.

Best and Brightest

I'm a proud member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

It's one of the greatest honors of my professional life to be accepted into the warm embrace of the men and women who I consider the very best and brightest in law enforcement training.

Every year, I head to the Midwest for a weeklong conference and get my head filled with the most cutting-edge ideas in law enforcement training.

Every year, I learn about new innovations in police training as more is discovered about adult learning and the most successful teaching techniques to accommodate for different types of learners.

Every year, I get to spend time with friends who find ways to improve me without even trying.

Law enforcement training is better than it's ever been, and it continues to evolve for the better.

And everyone in America is better off for it.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Web Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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