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  • John Burchill

"Scientific Approach to Reality Based Training"- a book review for students of use of forc

For those of you who graduated from Robson Hall prior to 2013 and took Anne McGillivray’s Criminal Law class, you may have been fortunate enough to hear from Sergeant Jeff Quail as one of her guest speakers. At the time Jeff was a member of the Winnipeg Police, a court recognized use of force expert and the developer of a number of use of force training tools for police. With his energetic personality Jeff led several of Anne’s classes on police use of force scenarios and why and how police are trained to react in different situations.

Jeff, who by then had already co-authored training manuals on Reality-Based Training for the United States Law Enforcement Training Academy, recently published his first book on the Scientific Approach to Reality Based Training with Dr. Terry Wollert.

Supplementing their own expertise with findings by other law enforcement researchers, this book provides a framework for realistic scenario training based on the principles of human behavior and the vital role that stress should play in training for real life use of force encounters.

Training under stress “is one means to ensure that individual skills and competencies meet or exceed [real-world] demand through the development of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy increases an individual’s confidence that he or she can successfully deal with the threat, transforming it into a challenge and regulating the level of [detrimental] arousal experienced … In general, the more information an individual has about reactions to stress and the likely effects of stress on task performance, the more likely he or she will be able to anticipate them, and the less distracting they will be in the operational environment.” It is this training under stress that led Jeff to develop the Shocknife and the Stressvest as live-action training tools deigned to create a feeling of panic, causing the body to respond with the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, similar to that encountered in a real life situation. However, while building the case for stress innoculation training, they do underscore two important cautions: 1) to maximize learning and the development of basic competency in physical skills, initial instruction should not be conducted in a stressful environment; 2) when training advances, stress should be introduced incrementally into simulated encounters. “Students should be challenged but never overstressed. Training that incorporates no stress and training that incorporates constant high-intensity stress are both likely to be counterproductive.”

A valuable component of the book is the use of the ADAPT (Assess-Diagnose-Prescribe-Train) Model that encompasses training (through experiential learning) and testing (through performance assessment) to improve performance. While the book does not provide a legal analysis or digest of use of force court cases involving police, it does provide context around what happens to a person physically and physiologically when encountering a physical threat and how live-action training can help reduce anxiety, increase confidence, and reduce performance errors in stressful situations.

Anyone interested in reality-based training, especially those in law enforcement, would appreciate this book. However it may also assist legal counsel either defending or prosecuting a use of force case by helping to understand what happens to a person physically and physiologically when encountering a physical threat and how they may (or may not) react to it based on a number of different factors.

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