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Technological Over-Reliance, the Foundation of Leveraging the Basics

Michael Padilla-Pagan, Managing Partner APC/Mi2 International

As a society, we live in a technology advanced era. Nearly everything is faster that it was two decades ago. Everywhere one turns there is a faster alternative to what was “New to the market” just last year. Even those of us in law enforcement are inundated with technological advancements. On board computer systems, advanced radio systems, global positioning systems, and so many other advancements in crime detection and prevention have made law enforcement a profession, not just a job. The downside to this paradigm is the over-reliance on technology and a trend of abandonment of good old-fashioned policing.

As a combative instructor, I have seen the full array of “The next-best tool” for military and law enforcement officers to use in the line of duty. As military and law enforcement officers, we need to be flexible enough to accept some modifications, (improvise, adapt, & overcome), but not a complete change of doctrine. Being over-reliant on a baton, a chemical agent, or any other tool can lead to disastrous consequences. This is what we in the Use of Force arena call the Total Control Theory. Relying on one tool or technique to control the majority of resistance situations posed by the suspect is not advisable, nor is it practical. Unfortunately, in order to assimilate these new tools into our training schedule, a trend of cutting time spent on other techniques or worse yet, dropping something completely has become an issue for many training organizations.

I frequently read articles that explain scenarios where officers use a tool excessively because the tool did not work or properly function the first time. As opposed to transitioning to a form of empty hand control techniques or another appropriate level of control, soldiers and officers use a tool repeatedly because of a training failure to supply an acceptable alternative. This has resulted in more than an acceptable number of injuries or loss of life for the solider, officer or the suspect. When a solider or officer encounters resistance, typically he/she will respond as training prescribed. If the control technique fails then the solider or officer should either escalate in their use of force or disengage and re-evaluate the situation. Chemical agents, impact weapons, and electro-stun devices are all great tools when used properly. However, many soldiers and officers are under a misconception that these tools are incapacitants. This, as most trainers and seasoned soldiers and officers know, is not the case.

Some may ask, “Why does the solider strike the suspect repeatedly with the baton or the butt of his rifle? Why does the officer use the electro-stunning device repeatedly? Why does the solider use the chemical agent over and over to no avail?” The answer lies in the training. We have failed to teach students to transition when a failure is encountered. We have forgotten to teach stance, positioning, striking, takedowns, escalation, de-escalation, and controlling adequately. Simply glazing over these skills in order to make time for higher-end techniques will not suffice, you must incorporate both. To simply show the solider how to strike the suspect is inadequate. To simply show the officer how to spray an offender with chemical agents is inadequate. To simply show the officer how to use an electro-stun device is inadequate. We, as supervisors and trainers, must show soldiers and officers how to use follow-up control in those situations and, if failure is encountered, how to tactically, legally, ethically, and medically respond to that situation. It is imperative that we not forget the basics! As one of my drill instructors use to explain to me, “Advanced techniques are the basics mastered.” He was telling me to learn the absolute basic techniques because everything else was a derivative of the basics. Once the foundation is laid, it is easy to build a great structure, but without the foundation, the structure will fall on its own weight. As warriors, it is our duty to remember where we came from, and as instructors it is our responsibility to make sure our students don’t forget. Our students are, after all, only a reflection of the training that we supply. We at APC and Mi2International believe in this approach and use this in the foundation for our entire course selection.

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