Use of Force Simulation Training:
The Key to Risk
D. Ashley, M.S., M.L.S., MFCI, ARM
As risk management professionals, we
are constantly attempting to devise ways to manage the exposures inherent in
high risk law enforcement activities. Among our greatest concerns is
management of the use of force.
Many agencies view the firearm as the
most dangerous implement utilized, and its use the most dangerous activity
undertaken, by police. The simple fact is, however, that in most
jurisdictions, use of less-than-lethal force leads to a much greater
frequency of incidents, and a proportionally higher potential for severity.
In the experience of one large
midwestern Pool, excessive force claims comprised approximately seventeen
percent of all police related liability claims, resulting in sixteen percent
($4 million) of police losses incurred. Frequency of shooting incidents
represented only two percent of police related claims. While individual
shooting claims may be more costly, on average, it’s clear that
less-than-lethal excessive force claims harbor a greater potential for loss,
as each claim could result in a high dollar loss.
Reviewing Worker’s Compensation claims
for many of the same law enforcement agencies indicates a similar finding.
With approximately 5,000 claims being reported each year, roughly 1,300 are
law enforcement related. About one-half (or 600+ claims) result from
injuries sustained while attempting an arrest. Over the past ten years,
these figures for officers injured during arrest situations are believed to
be approximately $14 million dollars, as a result of about 5,000 claims.
Clearly Officers are being injured, and
are causing litigation, during the use of force. It stands to reason that
much of this exposure is as a result of frequent, less-than-lethal,
activity. Any mechanism that aids in the management of this risk will lead
to significant savings from both an officer safety and a liability reduction
THE KEY TO CONTROL
Training is the key to controlling the
risk associated with the use of force. While many officers are trained to
some degree, most have minimal training where it counts, in the critical
decision-making and practical implementation of force management concepts.
Static repetitions of standard defensive tactics techniques can only go so
far in preparing officers to deal with resistance on the street.
What is needed is a two-pronged
approach to training in the management of control techniques. Phase One of
this approach incorporates training in the department’s policy regarding the
use of control mechanisms, supported by information regarding applicable
Phase Two should entail practical
exercises and training in as realistic an environment as possible. While
there are various alternatives for the delivery of job related training
involving firearms, there is really only one viable option for accomplishing this
training in defensive tactics and impact weapon (baton, etc.) scenarios.
That alternative is simulation training.
is training that utilizes “moderate force” to closely approximate actual
“fighting” conditions, by allowing for the use of near true intensity baton
strikes, punches and kicks. This must be done, so as to properly program
officer expectations regarding effectiveness, while honing officer abilities
in actual physical utilization of techniques and implements.
In most common, static training,
officers practice “slow motion” or light impact techniques, in a repetitive
manner. The stated purpose of this training is to “program” muscle memory
so as to enable the officer to respond with the programmed technique when
faced with a similar situation on the street. While learning does occur
during this training, officers do not experience the physical effort
necessary to deliver the techniques under actual conditions.
In simulation training, officers
actually strike real blows, against a live opponent (not a “tackling dummy”
or a kick bag). And usually, as the training progresses, the exercises
become more interactive, with the live opponent striking back, or otherwise
Of course, participants in such
training must wear protective pads, and are frequently required to use
“moderate” force in their blows and kicks, rather than full force. But the
training is very realistic nonetheless, and officers experience a situation
that is much more valid in terms of what they will encounter on the street,
than is ever possible in a static training environment.
During simulation training,
instructors typically reinforce proper decision making, as well as proper
techniques. In other words, while officer receives training and positive
reinforcement in the proper way to deliver a punch, kick, baton strike, or
other technique—they also receive training on when to deliver a
technique. This blending of “how to” with “when to”, results in better
control of the subject, as well as the situation.
The cost of this training, in both time
and dollars, sometimes leads departments to forego it in favor of other
alternatives. While no one program, system or product can promise complete
relief, the fact is that this combination of decision-making oriented
training, coupled with actual, realistic simulation of tactics and
techniques, is one of the soundest ways to manage officer injuries while
reducing the risk of lawsuits.
Once officers complete both phases of
this Control Management training, agencies should see a reduction in both
officer injuries—followed by a corresponding drop in worker’s compensation
claims and costs—and litigation. If such a program is maintained through
frequent retraining (at least annually, and more often if possible),
substantial savings can be realized.