It is bad enough that officers are being attacked, wounded, or killed by the BadGuys. This year, 281 officers have been shot in the line of duty. One hundred four of them were shot in 71 “ambush-style” attacks. Fifty-five have been killed in those shootings.

With the threats out there – physical, mental, and legal – “we” need to train. Safely.

None of those deaths should be considered acceptable. But they happen because the BadGuys get a vote in these events.

This article is not about any of the attacks. Instead, this is about us killing our own. Specifically, the three shootings (two fatal) in training this year cannot be justified.

Start with having those participating in the training search themselves and secure any potential weapons.

Returning to the training side of things, I am focusing on firearms and tactics. We start in the classroom and then move to the square range. We add scenarios to address cover, movement, alternate positions, diminished hit areas, and decision-making.

From there, we progress into video simulators that branch while tracking weapon employment and effectiveness.

Finally, we move into training in scenarios with other people who are witnesses, victims, and suspects. Officers can use training weapons in that environment. Foam batons, inert OC, Tasers that don’t have an electrical charge, and even modified firearms that cannot load, chamber, or fire live ammunition. They are modified with sub-caliber barrels and offset firing pins. Blue (or red, gray, and yellow) “guns” made of solid plastic can also be used.

After the Self and Buddy searches, all instructors and participants need to be searched.

Way back when, this training used wax bullets loaded into cartridge cases with only primers. That evolved into Simunitions FX marking rounds. “Sims” is not the blanket name for non-lethal training ammunition (NLTA) because Simunitions makes live ammunition. Their “FX” line is the non-lethal marking cartridge. Options include Universal Training Munitions (UTM) offerings and the ForceOnForce line currently made by General Dynamics.

There are long-standing protocols for conducting this type of training without injury to the students. And they apply to instructors.

A participant with the protective equipment for a NLTA training scenario.

In early August, a retired Washington DC Metropolitan Police lieutenant was conducting baton training for Metro Special Police Department officers. NBC Washington reported, “(the retired Lt), was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, police said. He reportedly said, “I thought I had my training gun. Why did I do this? Is she ok?” 25-year-old Special Police Officer Maurica Manyan died from that gunshot.

On October 19th, Customs – Border Patrol firearms instructors were training at a Dade County shoot house. That morning, a loaded firearm entered the training environment. The gun was fired by another instructor, killing Officer Jorge Arias.

Then, on November 5th, the Sansom, Texas Police Department was involved in “active shooter” training at an elementary school. Per news articles, the training was being conducted by an outside entity. An agency spokesman said, “… the officer was shot with a live round and then taken by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital, where she is in critical but stable condition.”

Face mask and helmet, throat guard, and a padded torso protector. None of these are ballistic protection.

Just before the Texas police officer was killed, Alabama cop Chase Jenkins, with Centrifuge Training, posted his company’s protocol for preventing a tragic death during this training. Used with permission, Chase wrote:

“Here’s a four-tier plan that has helped me keep it safe.

  1. Sterilize yourself, your person, and all gear you bring into the training environment.
  2. Sterilize each other. Pick a buddy and search his person and any gear he has. Backpacks, lunch boxes, protective gear, dump pouches, search it all.
  3. Have two dedicated people to search everyone that enters the dedicated training environment. That includes everyone, all their gear, equipment, bags, backpacks, etc. If it enters the training environment, it gets searched.
  4. Before each drill begins, we check the status of the guns, magazines, and ammo. It takes 10 seconds and is the most critical step of the four. Guys will be like, but these guns won’t chamber a live round. Yeah, but I don’t rely on some mechanical design to be my safety check. And blue isn’t a magic color. Copy?

“Also of importance, dedicate, identify, and clearly mark the training area. Once it’s identified, no one enters or leaves without being checked. That buddy you searched in step two? Yeah, you are now connected for the remainder of the training event. If one of you must check out for a moment, your partner goes with you so you can check completely out and deal with whatever it is you need to deal with. He watches you to make sure you don’t do something subconsciously that will endanger everyone else. When you come back to the training area, you get searched.

“No outside participants enter the area while armed. Chief, Sheriff, Captain, nosey Lieutenant? Doesn’t matter, disarm, or don’t come in.

“See, Boss, we’re protecting you and each other’s legacy here. If you research these incidents, you’ll see that the major culprit is usually the instructor or an outside observer that inadvertently jumps in. So, we’re going to prevent that for you and us.

“Also, everyone in and around the area eye pros up and doesn’t remove them until we “EndEx.”

Instructors and Role Players need to be searched to make sure these are the only items they bring.

Get competent training if you are involved in conducting NLTA scenarios. While not a substitute for that training, pick up Kenneth Murray’s Training at the Speed of Life until you can get to a class. Simunitions and UTM, as well as some organizations, offer NLTA training instructor courses.

This came off of my belt and out of my pockets after teaching today. How much do you want me carrying in a scenario?

It is unconscionable that we – the law enforcement training community – continue to kill our students and peers needlessly. There is no reason for these training deaths.