Written by Ellis Pines – December 7, 2020

The Value of Realistic Scenario-based Training

“The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight….The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, United States Supreme Court, Graham v. Connor, 1989

As the Supreme Court affirmed in its landmark use-of-force case Graham v. Connor, law officers do not have the luxury of armchair consideration of constitutional law. Instead they must be able to apply legal precedents and principles as well as departmental protocols on the spot in dangerous situations that can escalate within seconds. Yet they must ensure that not only have they protected their life and the lives of others, but that they meet the standard of “reasonableness.”

Virtual training scenarios can help officers deal with that kind of situation. For example, suppose you are an officer responding to a domestic call involving a man who has beaten his wife with a hammer. He is now threatening to harm his children. The suspect is extremely aggressive and possibly suffering from a mental disorder. Yet you have to put aside emotion and respond with appropriate use of force. On the one hand, lives (including your own) could be at stake. On the other, law and departmental rules warn against excessive force.

Can you exercise good verbal communications skills to defuse the situation while being alert that matters can escalate in seconds?

Since the scenario is based on actual 2014 case, trainers can measure responses against known results. Officers thus have more experience in gauging a dangerous situation.

For more information on realistic training scenarios, check out the Courseware page