Originally published in 2021 by FBI National Academy Associates Magazine

You would be surprised to know the similarities between sports medicine and law enforcement.

Before entering the world of law enforcement, I worked in sports medicine. Years of college studies left me with certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Council on Exercise. Come graduation, I had a degree displaying Exercise and Sports Science, with a focus on Biochemistry and Physiology.

After college, I worked with a wide variety of clients, from collegiate athletes to individuals with only half a heart. Years of being inside the sports medicine world showed a shocking contrast between my understanding of high-performance psycho-motor skills and officer safety classes with training consisting of constant “don’t do this” videos and filled with block style training. Granted, learning from history is always beneficial. But should videos featuring actions to avoid, paired with shouted phrases of “don’t ever give up”, and the same skill repeated over and over, be the core of law enforcement training?

For athletes, they have training down to a science, perfecting methods to perform with a clear head, quick thinking and fast muscle response despite a high-stress atmosphere. However, the worst consequences for athletes are a lost game or a season-ending injury. Whereas for law enforcement, the worst consequences include loss of life—a citizen, partner or one’s own. With significantly more at stake, modern science-based training becomes critical for officers everywhere.

Following my work in sports medicine, I spent 20 years in law enforcement—including 18 years as a certified trainer—where I have noticed a lack of strong, stress-inducing and research-based training. Just as athletes must often train to condition their minds and bodies, so must law enforcement engage in realistic, science-based training to condition their ability to make decisions and use psychomotor skills. This practice of quick, unhindered thinking in stressful situations is an incredibly valuable skill to transfer to the field.

Just as important as the “why” of science-based, stress-inoculation training is one of the “how’s.” For decades, officers have trained through role-playing, square range drills and mock situations. While these forms of training certainly have their benefits, the fact of the matter is that they fall short to mirror the real-world demands. Research shows that the best training comes from the best environments: those mimicking the real world through both physical and psychological fidelity.

The best example of this is high-fidelity simulation in which the training officer is immersed in a real-world situation. Physical fidelity is achieved through the visual environment, and since training simulators display high-quality video scenarios, officers can engage with diverse subjects, locations and situations for maximum training. Physical fidelity also expands into the tools trainees are given—duty firearm, TASER®, OC spray, etc.—making it so officers train with the same tools they use in the field. The combination of a realistic environment and proper tools help immerse the trainee in the scenario.

The second part, psychological fidelity, is created as trainees engage in the same mental processes as in the field, learning to perform under high amounts of stress and distractions. It is the combination of physical and psychological fidelity that fully transports trainees to the scene, making the situation feel real and dangerous for the entirety of the training scenario. Understandably, training in such an environment, developing stress inoculation and adaptation, best equips officers for the variety of situations they will find themselves in once in the field.

As such, departments should train only with simulation that focus on high-fidelity, research-based training—especially those continuing to adapt their products to the latest research. There are many prominent researchers currently doing great work in pushing the science for law enforcement, including Dr. Paul Taylor, Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Institute, and Drs. John and Dawn O’Neill. Each is discovering ways to better train, and thus, create better officers.

We must also train smarter, with the science to back it up. High-fidelity, research-based training simulation is a powerful tool to accomplish this goal; immersing officers in difficult situations parallel to what is seen in the field. It is time to remove the crutch of “the way it’s always been done” and focus on updating training to the latest research. After all, every community deserves the best training for its officers.

Different instructors have different ways of training. It makes perfect sense; each department has a specific way of doing things, different topics/needs that need to be emphasized, different schedules and so forth. But what should not deviate from one department to the next is the approach to training and education.

Or in other words, instructors need to utilize a science-based approach in their classroom.

For decades, training has consisted of a mish-mash of “the way it’s always been done” with a few required updated topics thrown in. However, with the modern challenges our officers face, communities are demanding—and rightfully deserve—fully and highly trained law enforcement. This means our officers must be fully prepared to handle increasingly complex situations, and thus require a new method of education.

While revamping classroom training into a science-based approach may seem difficult, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and its Partner Advisory Committee (IPAC) created a science-based learning digital report for instructors to read, download and implement. You can access this document here.

This PDF includes valuable articles such as “How Evidence-Based Training Developed and Evolved” from VirTra’s Lon Bartel; “How the Science of Human Performance Can Accelerate Skills Development” from W. Lewinski, Ph. D., and J. Robb, Ph. D.; and more. Readers can find studies, solutions, references and more in addition to well-rounded articles to help instructors update their training methods.

By stepping away from “the way it’s always been” and gravitating towards a science-based approach, your officers can protect their communities to the best of their abilities. Protect your officers and community with this readily-available training. Start today.

The entire world of law enforcement experienced significant changes and challenges throughout 2020—and now, half of 2021. This has caused a massive focus on law enforcement’s training, interaction with community members, their role in complex cases, ability to de-escalate and more.

In order to ensure your department can answer your community’s concerns—and guarantee your training is up-to-date—instructors must evaluate current police training methods against what science has proven to be effective.

To make the instructor’s life easier, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and its Partner Advisory Committee (IPAC) created a science-based learning digital report available to read and download.

In this document is an article written by Lon Bartel, VirTra’s Director of Training and Curriculum, titled “How Evidence-Based Training Developed and Evolved”. This article describes the goals of evidence-based training and how to implement it into your training regimen to create the best, most prepared officers.

To make understanding easier, Lon breaks it up into three sections: evidence-based training in action, the barriers to evidence-based training and transitioning to evidence-based training.

Instead of keeping your department stuck in a training rut, provide your officers—and your community—with the best training possible. Start utilizing the research-based training so many companies readily provide.

Download the booklet here.

If you would like to read more of Lon Bartel’s piece, it begins on page 5 of the document.

September 22, 2020: The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST®) and its Partner Advisory Committee (IPAC) have released a new Science-Based Learning digital report – “Why Law Enforcement Needs to Take a Science-Based Approach to Training and Education” – to serve as a reference point for chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, risk managers, Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Directors, training academy directors and all those who have an investment in police training and education. As IADLEST’s mission is to support the innovative development of professional standards in public safety, this digital report is designed to increase the quality and sustainability of training and education in law enforcement agencies.

Topics covered in the report include evidence-based training, the science of human performance and skills development, sustaining a science-based approach, enhancing online learning, and measuring performance outcomes. With the contributions of IPAC members, the report is an informed response to the law enforcement training challenges faced in 2020.

“The timing of this report is ideal,” said Mike Becar, IADLEST Executive Director. “We must use this tool to transform the quality of law enforcement training and education in ways that will contribute to lasting progress.” IADLEST strives for a continual improvement in our industry and together with the finest forward progressing leaders in our industry we hope this digital guide will be a relevant and timely resource and guide to be implemented moving forward. To download your copy of the Digital Report, please visit the webpage here.

Learn More About IPAC:

The IADLEST Partner Advisory Committee (IPAC) supports the IADLEST mission by providing research and proven best practices for high quality training and education. IPAC seeks to advance the public safety profession with a vision of outcomes-based police training and standards. Learn more here.

Learn More About IADLEST:

IADLEST is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming policing by promoting excellence in training and professional standards. Our membership is comprised of key leaders in law enforcement training, including the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Directors of every state in the U.S., as well as state and local training academy directors. With these two influential groups, we directly impact 664 basic law enforcement training academies and approximately 900,000 police and correctional officers in the country. Because we believe in learning from, and sharing our experiences with, other countries, we are proud to have international members and thus have a worldwide perspective and dialogue regarding public safety standards and training. Learn more here.