With officer involved shootings taking place in Kansas and Missouri in the last few weeks, including one in Clinton, Missouri where the officer was killed, it’s important to know how those officers are taught to react in those situations.
An instructor responsible for teaching new police recruits from across Kansas how to deal with potentially violent situations says that making procedures second nature could save an officer’s life.
“The challenge in tactics is that all these things happen in real time,” said Senior Trainer Jeff Ostlund with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. “There are sometimes very short decision timelines when an officer has to make very quick and very decisive decisions. The stressors that go along with that inhibit, sometimes, the speed or the ability to withdraw their training that they have had from the past.”
The best way to withdraw that training is to make it second nature.
“What we need to do as trainers is try to make things, as much as possible, instinctual,” said Ostlund. Habits that they do without even having to really spend a lot of time in recall so that they can just act in a certain way to protect themselves or protect others.”
It isn’t just about body positioning and always doing things the same way. It’s also about observation.
“We teach things like to look for what we would call a threat cue,” said Ostlund. “When I see certain behaviors, that an individual is doing things that may be counter to what I’m telling them to do, or that there’s really not a reason for them to be doing that unless they’d be posturing to get ready to maybe flee or to harm the officer or someone else, to pick up on those little cues and then take some type of measure to maybe stop that from happening before I would have to use force.”
The thing that is difficult for some officers is to overcome their natural biological tendencies and to do things the same way even though they are in a stressful situation.
“You still have, as a human being, certain fight or flight, certain fear responses that are built into you, the way you were made,” said Ostlund. “What oftentime, society expects is that we’re able to be some type of superhuman, to be able to see and respond much faster than what your biology allows you to do, so our job is to try to get an officer to function in a very systematic, tactical way that follows both their policy, but also kind of best operating procedures. Sometimes they have their biology fighting them.”
KLETC teaches officers in virtually every size department, from single officers in small towns, to larger counties and cities with dozens of officers, but the instruction needs to be applicable to all of them, so they have to teach a lot of their officers how to react one on one, because sometimes situations will arise before backup can get there. One such situation happened in Hesston during the Excel Industries shooting in 2016. Chief Doug Schroeder took down the shooter without backup. He will receive the medal of valor in a White House ceremony at a later date.