In terms of officer safety and survival, driving and use-of-force are the two most critical skills. The threat of violence on the job is obvious, and given how much time officers spend in their cars, it’s no surprise that for most U.S. law enforcement officers, driving is a more consistent threat than firearms.
But almost every law enforcement training solution has a terrible blind spot: Failing to address how these two skills are intimately linked.
“We maintain this false sense of two separate entities,” explains Chuck Deakins, lead subject matter specialist with FAAC’s Training Group. “Even though every night, all over this country, officers are out in the field doing both roles at the same time. Why don’t we practice them at the same time and together?”
How We Built a Dangerous Gap Between Driving and Force Options
Chuck Deakins had a 30-year career as a law enforcement officer and trainer before specializing in simulator instructor training. Over time, he’s become increasingly frustrated with this key shortcoming in most law enforcement training solutions:
“We have this attitude, of whatever-everybody drives; it’s not a big deal. As a result, we consistently diminish the importance, liability, and risk of driving. We act like safety and survival don’t apply to driving. But driving really is an integral part of officer safety/survival; we are losing almost as many officers to driving every year as shooting. Why don’t we train the same? Why isn’t driving important to us?”
A big part of this division arises from simple historical practicalities: Live-fire ranges and shoot houses have been a part of organized law enforcement from the start. But even on a closed EVOC driving range, safety demands we place sharp limits on what officers practice. In fact, most officers drive faster-for longer-during their daily commute than they do during their “high-speed pursuit training.”
As a result, we take a single, continuous, dangerous daily practice–driving to the scene and engaging with a suspect–into two parts. In one part, we show the tools we use the full respect they deserve, and continually remind ourselves that a dumb decision on the range can prove fatal. In the other part, we train under artificially safe conditions and allow ourselves to forget how dangerous a car can be (as though we don’t see the consequences of that every day in the field).
Closing the Driving/Force Gap in Law Enforcement Training Solutions
This is why Chuck Deakins is so enthusiastic about integrated driving/force-options training systems like DrivingForce. In his opinion, these are systems that truly take officer safety and survival seriously.
In part, this comes from being able to do so much more than he can on an EVOC. Using the driving simulator, Deakins can confront trainees with terrible weather, chaotic and evolving situations, horrific collisions, and let them see how they’d really react. Then they can replay it together, review what went right and what went wrong, then practice how they should address each scenario.
More importantly, by bringing force options and driving into the same training session, these advanced law enforcement training solutions allow you to bring the same attention to after-action debriefing, and assessing all of the risks, from the time the call comes in until the situation is resolved:
“Because it’s a simulation you can jump back, hit replay and say ‘What about this over here? Look what happened here, how close you came to this cyclist here, the risk you took at this intersection.’ In other words, this is an opportunity to help them look at the risks they take with their driving, as well as the risks they take in assessing force options. Running through a red light, that’s just as risky as running in front of a guy with a gun. What’s the difference?