undercover training

Undercover Policing - Training for the real world

At HSM Training we have been working recently with several psychologists who are actively involved in creating safe learning environments for officers engaged in such high-risk activities as undercover policing or managing human sources (confidential informants). Frequently, these psychologists are having to deal with the paradox that officers are being asked to operate in high-risk environments, but the agency’s training regime refuses to allow training that simulates real life.

With an increasing number of law enforcement educators advocating the stance that training should take place in an environment where officers are not allowed to feel uncomfortable, one where they will rarely be challenged as to their behaviour, and not even allowed to fail a course, there is a real problem as to how to get staff up to standard to operate safely in the real world.

Here are ten questions you might want to ask your training department when you talk to them about designing the type of training course that is required to keep officers safe:

  1. In the real world will officers be asked to make decisions under pressure?

  2. In the real world are officers likely to be subjected to verbal attacks?

  3. In the real world will officers have to cope with significant, sometimes seemingly overwhelming, work load?

  4. In the real world will officers encounter aggressive and offensive individuals?

  5. In the real world will officers sometimes feel isolated and alone?

  6. In the real world will officers potentially feel high levels of anxiety?

  7. In the real world is the stress encountered likely to be prolonged and/or have a cumulative effect?

  8. In the real world might someone could an error by an officer lead to their death?

  9. Do you believe everyone can perform the role in question? (If the answer given to this is “neither” the person you are talking to does not know what they are talking about. Not everyone has the aptitude for specialised roles.)

  10. Would you rather officers failed in the classroom or failed in the real world? (If the answer given to this is “neither” the person you are talking to does not know what they are talking about. If an officer’s vulnerabilities are not identified in the classroom they will be come out in the real world often with catastrophic consequences.)

Often, reluctance to build role appropriate training stems from fear: Fear of a complaint from a student, fear that the instructors themselves would not cope well with the type of training, or fear from those outside of the learning environment (such as managers or human resource staff) objecting to the nature of the training. It also shows a lack of knowledge of the law.

Failure to provide training that prepares an officer to deal with the real world they will encounter is a failure to protect the officer.  It is an ethically bankrupt strategy, based for the most part, in self-protection. Furthermore, it is negligence and where the risks faced may lead to the physical or mental harm such omissions may amount to an offence under Health and Safety or Workplace Safety legislation.

Muhammad Ali once said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

For those involved in high risk police duties a shorter version suffices: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life....”

At HSM Training we strive to provide training that ensures officers are ready to deal with the world they will face: Better hard training, than hard ending.