Tactical Behavior Science Skills: Changing the Law Enforcement Landscape and Preventing Violent Enco
Law Enforcement personnel are facing challenges unique to any other time in history, as explored in our previous White Paper: Navigating the Seascape of Change in Maritime Public Safety. In this paper we will look at the People part of the 4’Ps (People, Platforms, Process and Performance) and specifically why advanced training is critical for officers to recognize nonverbal signals of aggression and how this training can provide them with behavioral tactics that can enhance citizen compliance, dramatically impacting violent outcomes that have been occupying headlines across the country.
We can all agree that there’s been an escalation in violence against police officers. Today’s law enforcement personnel are facing media scrutiny, community mistrust and misguided public outrage. Often times, this results in an increased mental workload on officers, having to balance potential threats and maintain community trust simultaneously. The violence officers face is oftentimes sudden and unpredictable. The media bias produces mistrust that officers have to overcome. Gaining compliance from an otherwise cooperative member of the public has also become more difficult, as the media focus is on the negative aspects of law enforcement. The landscape has changed, and unfortunately, or training has not In 34 states, training decisions are left to local agencies. Less than 3% of officers are trained in behavioral methods of compliance and violent behavior recognition. Chiefs cite cost, lack of staff, and a belief that the training isn't needed.
“People are now more willing to engage the police in combat”
-Randy Sutton, Blue Lives Matter
As time passes, officers are having to deal with increasingly complex social and behavioral winds of change. And the need for advanced violence recognition skills has never been greater.
TODAY’S TRAINING, THOUGHT PROCESSES, AND THE CRITICAL DIFFERENCE
In a December 2014 article by Seth Stoughton in The Atlantic entitled “How Police Training Contributes to Avoidable Deaths,” he wrote the following:
“Police training starts in the academy, where the concept of officer safety is so heavily emphasized that it takes on almost religious significance. Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. But cops live in a hostile world. They learn that every encounter, every individual is a potential threat. They always have to be on their guard because, as cops often say, “complacency kills.”
“Officers aren’t just told about the risks they face. They are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation. They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance. And as they listen to the fallen officer’s last, desperate radio calls for help, every cop in the room is thinking exactly the same thing: “I won’t ever let that happen to me.” That’s the point of the training.
“In most police shootings, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred. They shoot because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they are constantly barraged with the message that that they should be afraid, that their survival depends on it. Not only do officers hear it in formal training, they also hear it informally from supervisors and older officers. They talk about it with their peers. They see it on police forums and law enforcement publications.”
Officers’ actions are grounded in their expectations, and they are taught to expect the worst. But not all contacts end in violence or warrant that level of fear. Police officers make an average of over 63 million contacts with citizens each year, yet only .0001% of those engagements resulted in an officer losing their lives due to a violent act.
According to the FBI, in 2016, 66 felonious law enforcement officer deaths occurred in 29 states and in Puerto Rico. The number of officers killed as a result of criminal acts in 2016 increased by 25 (or 52%) when compared with the 41 officers who were feloniously killed in 2015. The 5- and 10-year comparisons show an increase of 17 felonious deaths compared with the 2012 figure (49 officers) and an increase of 8 deaths compared with 2007 data (58 officers). In 2016, 57,180 officers were assaulted while performing their duties, and 28.9 percent of them were injured.
So, although an officer has a 1 in 954,545 chance of dying from a violent act while on the job each year, the fear instilled upon them at the recruit level and throughout their career impacts their thought process, and their ability to identify violent behavior before an act occurs. This gets magnified by the media and the focus on perceived mistakes officers are making in their use of force choices.
So here is the bottom line: Fear should not be the foundational building block established in the officers’ minds. And although the likelihood of losing their lives is low, the incidents and assaults are increasing. How do we balance institutionalize fear with increasing potential conflict with citizens while under increased scrutiny? How do we create the opportunity for better outcomes? We train our officers appropriately, and with proven science.
BALANCING INCREASING RISK WITH CONFIDENCE AND SCIENCE
Adapting officer training to these statistics doesn’t minimize the very real risks that officers face, but it does help put those risks in perspective. The goal is to understand the real risk (vs. perceived) and provide the officers with the best training to control and influence outcomes in the best way possible. What we need to provide officers is another alternative, another tool to utilize in these instances of conflict and confrontation.
What we will look at in this paper is how we can change the paradigm by understanding what goes on in the adversary’s mind, how their behavior can be identified, and how officers can apply a Tactical Behavior Science that can change the mindset of the law enforcement community and the outcomes of many engagements with the civilian population in the performance of their duties.
The Officer's Thought Process
The O.O.D.A. (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop was developed by Colonel John Boyd and is a standard for law enforcement agencies across the country. Colonel Boyd’s quote “Machines don’t fight wars. People do, and they use their minds,” epitomizes the importance of using our most powerful weapon, our brains, to approach the most complex (and potentially violent) circumstances. It illustrates the decision process an officer goes through during violent interactions. An officer has to go through these mental processes before arriving at a decision to take action on a potential threat. Understanding the OODA loop gives one the ability to get inside the time/space decision making cycle of an opponent, and thus maintain a competitive advantage. This is called “getting inside the opponents OODA loop.”
The Adversary's Thought Process
The TFCA cycle (pronounced ‘tiffka’) was developed in 2017 to show the prevalent decision cycle a suspect goes through before committing violence.
The “Trigger” is any mental process that activates a fear response. For some suspects, it may simply be a uniform. For others, it can be a second squad car coming to a scene, a request for identification, or the mention of a person's name.
Secondly, every violent action has been precipitated by Fear. This fear response is inherent in all human beings, and is unavoidable, even in hardened criminals. The fear response, while different for every suspect, will cause very similar behavior patterns. As fear increases, so does human predictability.
In the Calculation phase, the suspect begins weighing options. This may take only a hundredth of a second, but it will happen. This is usually where the fight or flight response is in control of the suspect, and the reticular activation system (RAS) in the brain is running the show in a fear-based, irrational mindset. Even if the suspect initially complies, the behaviors for future resistance will show up.
The Action phase is when the suspect commits to taking violent action to evade or attack.
The cycle shows that a suspect goes through mental processes (however irrational) before taking violent action. Herein lies the critical element of the engagement, and how an outcome can be controlled, and the dynamics changed. Officers can capitalize on this by observing proven behaviors during the cycle before an attack occurs.
The Critical Difference
These two cycles present a problem: an officer usually responds to a suspect during the ‘Action’ phase of the TFCA cycle (above). However, the suspect exhibits behaviors that can be identified in the other three phases of the TFCA cycle in an overwhelming number of cases. But they need the proper training to identify those behaviors, and how to manage or counter those behaviors.
With behavior training by Ellipsis through the National Maritime Law Enforcement Academy, Officers can spot these indicators before an attack occurs. The officer no longer has to wait to begin to take action. With a single day of training, an officer can identify critical behaviors of suspects, allowing reaction time that would not have existed otherwise.
The ’Act’ phase of the OODA loop can start when the suspect begins exhibiting the ‘Fear’ phase of the TFCA cycle, instead of the officer waiting to be attacked.
The Solution to the Challenges of Today’s Law Enforcement Engagements: Tactical Behavior Science
As leaders and supervisors, we have an obligation to our officers (and the citizens they serve) to provide proven training that can prepare them to meet the increasing conflicts and identify that violent behavior that could otherwise threaten their safety, and the safety of those they protect. We must give them tools that are not fear-based, but are sc