Posted on Aug. 17, 2023 by Lon Bartel

There has been a staggering number of calls for police change in reaction to multiple high-profile incidents captured by body cameras. The calls for defunding have been subsiding and are starting to be replaced with a realized need to reform. Many quickly realized that training needs to be maximized, not just increased. The slow boil will continue to build to ensure that training is evidence-based.

Constraint-Led Training would have an immediate impact and is scientifically backed up (Passos et al., 2008; Newcombe et al. 2019; Low et al., 2021). This concept was recently featured on the Trainers Bullpen. Dr. Staller and his work are featured in this episode:

The Constraint-Led Approach

There are some key features to the Constraint-Led Approach (CLA) to consider.

  1. Identify key constraints: Start by identifying the critical constraints that law enforcement officers may encounter in their operational contexts. These constraints can include physical, environmental, and social factors such as terrain, weather conditions, the presence of civilians, legal considerations, and ethical dilemmas.
  2. Create representative training environments: Design training scenarios that closely replicate real-life situations officers will likely encounter. These environments should include the relevant constraints identified in the previous step. For example, if officers frequently work in urban settings, training scenarios should reflect the challenges of crowded streets, noise, and limited visibility.
  3. Manipulate task constraints: Introduce tasks requiring officers to adapt and problem-solve. Vary the complexity and demands of the tasks to match the officers’ skill levels and gradually increase the difficulty as they progress. For instance, you can include scenarios where officers must make quick decisions under time pressure or use de-escalation techniques in tense situations.
  4. Encourage decision-making and problem-solving: Rather than prescribing specific techniques or actions, promote officers’ decision-making abilities by allowing them to explore various solutions to the problems presented in training scenarios. Encourage critical thinking, situational awareness, and the ability to evaluate risks and benefits in different situations.
  5. Provide reflection opportunities: Offer constructive feedback and opportunities for officers to reflect on their performance. Encourage self-assessment and peer evaluation to enhance learning and facilitate knowledge transfer to real-world situations.
  6. Continuous assessment and adjustment: Regularly assess the effectiveness of the training program and make necessary adjustments based on feedback from officers and performance outcomes. This allows for ongoing improvement and alignment with the evolving demands of law enforcement.

Much of the research is focused on sports, but CLA has been used to look at law enforcement (Koerner & Staller, 2021). By applying CLA to law enforcement training, officers can develop a broader range of skills, adaptability, and decision-making abilities necessary to navigate the complex and unpredictable situations they may encounter in the field.



  • Koerner, S., & Staller, M. S. (2021). Police training revisited—meeting the demands of conflict training in police with an alternative pedagogical approach. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 15(2), 927-938.
  • Low, W. R., Sandercock, G. R. H., Freeman, P., Winter, M. E., Butt, J., & Maynard, I. (2021). Pressure training for performance domains: A meta-analysis. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 10(1), 149–163.
  • Newcombe, D. J., Roberts, W. M., Renshaw, I., & Davids, K. (2019). The effectiveness of constraint-led training on skill development in interceptive sports: A systematic review (Clark, McEwan and Christie) – A Commentary. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 14(2), 241–254.
  • Passos, P., Araújo, D., Davids, K., & Shuttleworth, R. (2008). Manipulating Constraints to Train Decision Making in Rugby Union. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 3(1), 125–140.

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