Written by By Ellis Pines – June 22, 2020
Second in a series from Meggitt Training Systems
Why the “scenario” has become the basis of today’s police training
“De-escalation, tactical decision-making and tactical withdrawal are all part of the new thinking about police work and the use of force in particular. Traditionally, use of force policies have focused on the immediate circumstances of a police encounter, telling officers what they can and cannot do. The new approach takes a broader view and sees police-citizen encounters as scenarios that play out over time. A scenario may last from 1-1/2 minutes to 30 minutes, or even longer. During that time, an officer has an opportunity to continually reassess the situation and make tactical choices that are likely to reduce the possibility of using force.”
– Samuel E. Walker and Carol A. Archbold, The New World of Police Accountability, SAGE Publications: 2020.
In the previous blog in this series, we mentioned scenario-based training as a valuable step in ensuring that officers protect themselves as well as their communities. Scenarios are not merely a training method. As the above textbook quotation shows, scenarios provide a flexible framework for understanding police-citizen encounters.
If you look at a scenario as the basic element of day-to-day police work, readiness to confront a wide variety of unfolding events is essential. Every potentially high-profile crisis begins as a sequence of steps, which Walker and Archbold outline. Referencing a class 1980s study of police use of deadly force by Peter Scharf and Arnold Binder, they identify the four stages in scenarios of police-citizen encounters:
STAGE ONE Anticipation
STAGE TWO: Entry and Initial Contact
STAGE THREE: Dialogue and Information Exchange
STAGE FOUR: Final Decision
The authors note that each stage “includes actions by the citizen, the perception of those actions by the officer, the officer’s response, and the person’s response to the officer’s initial action. Although the scenario originated in a study of deadly force, it is relevant to all police-citizen encounters.”
Scenario training: simulating the surprises
The average citizen (or juror) has little understanding of the pressures within a 30-minute scenario, much less a 90-second event. Obviously the longer the scenario, the more time the officer has for tactical decision-making to de-escalate the situation, influencing the hostile parties. The officer, responding to a call, however, is stepping into an unknown. There may be little or no indication as to the duration or scope of the conflict. In short, the officer must be prepared for anything: escalation as well as de-escalation, a situation that can change in a moment.
That is why Meggitt Training Systems designed its new FATS® 300LE simulator to accommodate surprises in the various stages of the scenario. It brings a 300° field of view to officer, providing realistic, engaging training. With high definition on every screen and 5.1 surround sound, the trainees feel in the action, facing decision-making pressures while maintaining situational awareness.
As the scenario eye point moves, all screens reflect the motion. The officer experiences an immersive experience that highlights realistic conflict situations and awareness in a true-to-life training environment. Meanwhile the judgmental scenarios highlight use-of-force and de-escalation choices, from OC and TASER® to weapons.
In our next blog in this series, we will discuss how new scenarios are addressing current issues of mental health and homelessness.