Core Principles of Police Training Under Attack
Core Principles of Police Training Under Attack
Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile on July 6th. Since then, everything about this officer is being examined by the media as if the shooting was unjustifiable. Their focus now is on Yanez’ training, specifically a training course taught by Calibre Press owner Jim Glennon two and a half years ago. “The Bulletproof Warrior” training addresses the complicated aspects of the job including the emotional and physical responses to stress. It is designed to discuss several topics such as the use of force, communication, decision making under stress, balance and the importance of investing in training to better themselves as officers as well as protect their lives.
News media outlets appear to have taken issue with the training because of the word “warrior” and discussions and videos that address how the human body responds under high-stress use of force events. They insinuate that the Yanez overreacted during the Castile incident because of the training. Though they ignore the fact that Yanez has had no questionable force events in the over two years since the training or have they investigated the many other trainings he has attended since.
It appears as though they don’t think officers should train for combat type events. These journalists are ignoring two major realities.
- A huge number of law enforcement officers are assaulted every day; it’s so routine that it’s rarely reported on. If officers are not taught about the physical and emotional effects of combat, it’s unlikely they will prevail when inevitably they are attacked.
- Police officers still need training on lethal-force situations. Just because these situations are rare does not mean that we should send officers into a fight for their life without training. Patrol officers are sent to deal with the most dangerous people in the country; we cannot send in a SWAT team every time a person may become violent. Sending an under-trained officer into a violent encounter will actually increase the chance that they lose control over the situation, and increase the chance that lethal-force is used.
Training is Why Officer’s Aren’t Being Murdered Every Day
1974 stands as the all-time high for police officers killed in the line of duty: 280, half of whom were killed by gunfire. Three things conspired to bring that total down.
Riding the popularity of the television show Emergency!, adviser and firefighter James O. Page, along with the ACT Foundation, brought emergency medical services to the American public. This has saved countless lives, including police lives. Around the same time, Richard Davis, founder of Second Chance body armor, began selling the first ballistic vests to police agencies. These first Kevlar vests were clunky and heavy, but they were effective and proved their worth in officer lives immediately.
The final player in the trifecta arrived in 1980. A couple of freelance journalists, Chuck Remsberg and Denny Anderson, a writer and a photographer, working on assignment covering police, noticed something curious about their subjects. Remsberg says, “There was a certain amount of fatalism in police work then. The thinking was, if your number was up, your number was up. We came in and said, ‘No, there’s actually a lot you can do as an officer to improve your odds.”
The end result of their work is the now-classic police training book Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters, and with that the launch of Calibre Press.
“The thing about Street Survival and Remsberg’s approach was that it caused us, as a culture, to rethink how we were training and focus on officer survivability,” says Dale Stockton, founder of Below 100 and prominent retired police captain who joined the force in 1974. “As we transitioned from the very deadly period of the 1970s into the 1980s and saw line of duty deaths decline, it’s clear to me that Street Survival was integral to that.”
A Second Act
The Street Survival Seminar reverberated with police agencies almost from the onset. In fact, it was the only seminar the company produced until 2012, when it was sold to one of its lead instructors, Jim Glennon, who is its current owner and a 30 year veteran of law enforcement.
“The thing I saw,” Glennon explains, “is that the principles that Remsberg and Anderson hit on were true and still relevant. But the times have changed, perspectives and expectations are different and the dangers for cops go beyond a gunfight. So one of the first things we did was to rewrite the Street Survival Seminar so that it includes things like officer suicide, harassment and bullying, physical conditioning, wellness, and most importantly communication skills and dealing with stress. Yeah, we still talk about bad guys trying to kill officers—because it happens all the time—but we had to recalibrate to balance our message.”
“Because of our reach, we have a huge responsibility,” says Calibre CEO Lisa Gitchell. “Do I want my officers to go home safely at night to their families? Yes. But my goal, as CEO, is to make everyone safer: cops, community, and criminals.”
“These days,” says Glennon, “a police officer is more likely to take his or her own life than to be killed by a bad guy. That’s reality, it’s not popular, but we have a responsibility to address this stuff.”
In addition to re-tooling the flagship seminar, Glennon and Gitchell aggressively rolled out new seminars on topics such as leadership, women in command, communications and de-escalation, driver’s training, and more. Today the company boasts more than a dozen offerings and ten regular trainers with diverse expertise teaching. It’s most recent course is about bias—implicit, as well as illicit—called the “PEACE Program.”
Calibre Press is the most popular police training company in the U.S., reaching approximately 20,000 officers per year. Recently the company has come under criticism.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank based in D.C., told the New York Times: “Courses like this reinforce the thinking that everyone is out to get police officers. This teaches officers, ‘If you hesitate, you could lose your life.’ It is the exact opposite of the way many police chiefs are going.”
Although the placement of the critique was prominent, it’s narrowly held. (And it should be noted that Wexler has never attended Calibre Press training, nor has he ever been a police officer.) Asked about Glennon’s use of the word “warrior” in his training, Commander Ed Lemon of the St. Paul (Minn.) PD told a reporter,
“Jim is the best trainer I’ve ever seen in my life. … Does Jim ever say, ‘Shoot, ask questions later’? No! The Bulletproof Warrior is about a mindset. It’s ‘do everything you can to de-escalate and get someone to willingly be taken into custody, but don’t lock yourself into something where you can’t transition if you need to be that warrior.’ It’s not ‘be the aggressor’– all of this is in response to threats. You’re doing what you need to do. You’re not under-reacting or overreacting.”
Nick Selby, a detective and law enforcement data expert, concurs. “What I admire about Calibre Press is that they aren’t reacting emotionally to every controversy. They go where the data leads. That to me is the definition of leadership.”
As long as law enforcement is controversial, law enforcement training will be a prime battleground. But Glennon, is unapologetic. “Listen,” he says, “I became a cop because I wanted to help people, just like every other cop I’ve ever met. My goal—my company’s goal—is to deal in the reality that these men and women will face on the job.
“Training is the issue. Police don’t train enough—not in communications, de-escalation, defensive tactics, law, and so forth.” Glennon, who conducts training himself almost twice weekly, seems to be doing everything in his power to change that.
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