Posted on Feb. 22, 2022 by Christopher Dorch

As a trainer, our goal should always be to equip our officers and agents with the best tools and techniques for the task at hand. We like to refer to our duty belt as our tool belt. OC, baton, taser, handcuffs, sidearm and magazines are all placed in a position where we can get to them quickly and are staged in a manner that ensures they can be deployed easily using the least amount of effort. We call this “economy of effort.” We emphasize the importance of being able to reach our gear without looking and holster our tools by feel. Through repetition and refinement, we hone our techniques to the level of unconscious competence. These are all very important aspects of training, but how are we preparing our officers and agents for situations that don’t go as planned.

“Check the box” training has become the go-to for many agencies because it’s the minimum standard. I get it, I was there too; legal updates, new equipment training (N.E.T.) and policy review are all very important, but ask yourself as a trainer: what are we doing to help develop our officers’ mindsets?

In my 32 years of combined law enforcement and military experience, I’ve seen training go through a lot of transitions. I’ve trained with a lot of great instructors and some that weren’t so great. I can remember times in training when it seemed like the instructor wasn’t really training us to be good, he was actually just showing us how good he was. I know you’ve been there, the freakin’ “gotcha” scenarios that left you thinking, how the hell did I miss that guy hiding in the dishwasher? You remember, the one who shot you six times with marking cartridges while the rest of the cadre laughed about it…Anyway, I digress.

It’s been said that our mind is our most powerful tool, but how do we train our mind to win in situations that in reality last for mere seconds and often catch us off guard? We can achieve this by developing a winning mindset. I was first exposed to the wining mindset in 2010 while attending an advanced S.W.A.T. course. Four agencies had come together to attend the training provided by a company called Fulcrum Tactical Training. The lead instructor was one of the best I’ve been exposed to. At the end of a long week, the final training exercise (FTX) was a drill they called the Mumbai drill. The FTX took place in an abandoned fire extinguisher plant that consisted of office spaces, warehouses, machine shops and loading docks. There were four teams, two of which were assigned a protectee. The goal was for the teams with the protectee to move through the compound reaching certain checkpoints while being hunted by the other teams. It was a great evolution that involved team movement, communication and weapon manipulation. We were all armed with Simunitions guns and we were all wearing full kit. It was intense.

At one point as we were moving our protectee through an office space to reach an exit that was in a corner office, we came into contact with one of the other teams following not too far behind. As our rear security called out contact, the other team was on us. My teammate took the shot from about seven yards and the other team continued to advance. My teammate yelled out “hey I shot you” but the point man for the opposing force replied “S.W.A.T doesn’t die” as he muzzle-punched him in his protective plate and pushed past him. I remember thinking during the debrief, that was kind of corny and that they weren’t fighting fair. The debrief was fairly eye opening for me. When my teammate confronted the officer about his comment the officer’s reply was amazing. He said “that wasn’t meant for you, that was for me.” The “S.W.A.T. doesn’t die” comment was the result of a well-trained mindset.

Keep in mind that the only real goal in any fight is to live. Whether its natural disaster, a use of force encounter or a health crisis, our mindset should always be to win. Working at VirTra on the training and content team has provided me the unique ability to create content that is realistic and relevant to modern law enforcement. If you are debriefing your students using the Socratic method, you enable them to recognize their mistakes on their own. Plainly put, learning has occurred. Once the student has recognized his mistake, a good repetition will help to set it in stone. Lou Holtz once said “Set a goal and ask yourself, what’s important now.” He uses and acronym that spells W.I.N. which stands for what’s important now. He said, “If you set a goal and don’t ask yourself what’s important now, you don’t have a goal, you have a wish list.”

Every day that we put on that uniform and with each encounter that we have, our goal needs to be to win. Training our mind in a realistic simulated environment helps develop that wining mindset through proper repetition. Remember, practice does NOT make perfect if you are getting bad repetitions in. Perfect practice leads to proper performance. Let your students get perfect repetitions in to sharpen their most powerful and practical tool: their mind.

This article was written by Mike Clark, VirTra Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert

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