Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Ground

Kasey made the cover of Police Magazine. He posted one of the interior pictures on FB with this caption:
"Here is the April 2015 issue of Police Magazine
Randy the business Sensei will be pleased to see the product placement of the One on One Control Tactics - O3CTlogo in a national publication. Also if you look close you can see a flag for Allegiance Fitness in the back ground. And I'm sure Rory Miller will recognize the Chiron Training weapon retention being demonstrated. #represent"
The shout-out is appreciated. And the CDT program (Chiron Defensive Tactics) is a good jumping-off point to something else.

The weapon retention part is good. I want to say it's the best out there and there's nothing else like it, but that's probably not true anymore. Enough people have been exposed to the idea, and been pleased with it, that it has and will spread. And there's always convergent evolution-- many different ways to get to something that works, and many of the things that work will be very similar.

The thing that's important in my head right now, though, is an aspect of permission. Under what circumstances do people and organizations give themselves permission to change? Refusal to adapt is a death knell. But change, especially organizational change, is hard. ConCom explains why...  but there's still a lot of work to do in how to change despite the difficulty.

Incremental improvement, building off of previous foundation is change, but it is very limited. As Dabrowski pointed out (Hat tip to Ann Craig) big personal growth involves a dissolution, a complete destruction and rebuilding of the person you were before. Big growth in a system would require dismantling the system and starting over.

You can get better by continuing to build on your foundation, with diminishing returns, but you have to dismantle them to get paradigm shifting change. And, of course, this level of change is seen as ego or identity destruction and is fought fiercely. ( I know I'm having a good thinking morning when I reheat the coffee four times and keep forgetting to drink it.)

So-- what gave MCSO the internal permission to give us the permission to change our weapon retention? I don't know the absolute answer, but I do know some of the pieces.

  • We cared. The people who needed this weren't some abstract "customer" they were people we worked with and cared about. Friends and colleagues. I think this is important personally, but it was true before change was allowed, so it wasn't the key.
  • We had a different demographic. Thirty or forty years ago, a big part of officer selection was simply size. (And who you knew.) They wanted big men and that was mostly what they hired. If you're teaching (like many military-based systems) 18-20 year-old men in the best shape of their lives, full of ego and testosterone, you can teach them almost any crap and they will make it work. Times change. In trying to make the profession gender and age neutral, there was a definite shift in physical abilities of the average officer. More importantly, there was a much wider range of physical abilities. You could no longer teach crap and expect a former high school linebacker to rely on strength to make it work. But that's not the reason either, because one of the things a modern bureaucracy requires is slavish lip-service to the patently untrue ideal that "all people are the same."
  • The techniques taught at the academy and by my agency simply didn't work. That right there should have been enough... but it wasn't. What they were teaching was measurable: the stereotypical eight-step wristlock takedown to prone cuffing never worked, but it gave you eight easily measurable steps on which to pass or fail a student.
  • People got hurt when things didn't work. Again, that should have been reason enough. But it wasn't. Not until we had a year with so many injuries that people got alarmed. Really alarmed, as in the union was looking into it. Understand that injuries came out of a different budget, it was state workman's comp. But lawsuits came out of the agency's budget. ---And another thing. When things are rare, like shootings, it is often easier to categorize failure as a "fluke" rather than entertain the possibility that you are doing things systematically wrong. Lots of people rationalize away problems until it is too late.
  • I think this was the key. It was the stupidest, most minor of details. We were teaching the academy-approved weapon retention curriculum for a gun grab from behind-- use your weapon hand to pin the weapon in the holster and turn to your non-weapon side to move the gun out of reach... and realized that the turn gave up the third level of retention for our modern type III holsters. We had not changed or seriously looked at our training methods on this subject since before we switched to semis. What we were teaching was actively wrong for the equipment we carried.
All of the other stuff mattered. People cared. But it took something to blame that didn't tie to people or policy to get the permission.

Just one example, and I know it's incomplete. But if you want to break new ground you need to reject old ground. Not out of ego. As a rule you don't change things that work, especially if you're doing it just so you can be in charge.

And there's a method to deconstructing the old practices so that what you build is stronger. It's not, or shouldn't be, just a childish rejection out of pique or spite.

This is already getting too long. Do you or does your organization need to change? If so, what will be required to give that kind of permission?


Charles James said...

It is "not funny" funny how you hit something on the head that I see here at my work. We have gone through about four major changes that actually changed nothing and no one sees it. We humans are pretty predictable aren't we?

pax said...

"It's not working," should stand alone. It doesn't.

"It's not working, because ___" means we need... what? Someone or something to blame? Why?

When we must blame, finding something to blame other than the people who implemented the previous iteration or supported its use makes sense. Nobody likes to feel judged.

But why the urge to place blame at all?

What's going on with that?

Rory said...

Maybe the urge _not_ to place blame is so strong that people will pretend nothing is wrong until they have something inanimate to blame?

Paul McRedmond said...

In my agency, BJJ has been THE benchmark for all DTs and legal applications of force for the last 10 years; the ONLY allowed force training (even weapons retention has gone away). In that same time, NONE of the techniques have been used and no officer has ended up on his back with his legs apart, wrestling a bad guy. The administration has pointed to this and said, "see, it works!" Plus, to them, starting on your back on the ground looks way safer (from a risk management viewpoint) than training the full spectrum of force. Meanwhile, the law dogs on the street and guard dogs in the jails have continued doing what they need to do to "go home safe" (Golden Rule #1), "gain compliance" (Rule #2) but still getting beefed, sued, fired and jailed because they are using whatever they can to follow the first two rules but don't have the proper training to encompass rule #3 - "lawsuit free." A proper broad spectrum force options program that follows the 3 Golden Rules inculcates technical skills with tactical adaptability (concentrating on transitional force and not sequential posturing) and developing an objective mind set through stress-innoculation. What the agencies have never seemed to understand is that it DOESN'T take more money to train properly (which will reduce officer AND bad guy injuries), nor will such training cause more injuries (to trainees). It only takes managers who pick the right people - and let them write and teach the courses. Rory proved this over and over when he was a 'knuckledragger.' Injuries to crooks and cops went WAY down and training cost were the same, if not lower. Why don't the politicians, lawyers and administrators listen, and learn? And then the 10 million dollar lawsuit comes along and they run around crying, "those darn officers didn't follow their training/were out of policy/eat too many donuts why don't they ever do what they'reTOLD!?" I don't know but it's been that way since Nebuchadnezzar disregarded his generals and spent money on the hanging gardens instead of better defensive walls.

Jim said...

Tough question.

What needs to change? What SHOULD be changed? (Are they the same?) Who's responsibility is it to make the changes?

And... what can actually be changed? What will those changes impact? Do you want those impacts? (Unintended consequences can be hell...)

Change can be really tricky, because you may find out that one change impacts something else. Change one weapon retention technique... do you have to change others? Change shift schedules -- will that mean that they take away some overtime? How do you get buy in... at all levels?

Josh K. said...


Starting off you made no distinction between what is already broken and what works. It was until 3/4 of the way through I realized you noted this only applies to things that are broken.

Blind spots.

Honorable Enimies.

At the institutial levels some times they bring in someone from the outside to take an objective look, consultants and the like. Some try to handle it internally with a systemic review process independent of the stakeholders.

I was a little confused at the beginning of this post as all you can do is fiddle around with it trying not to break it. Or you can try to find a new way of doing the same thing hopefully better but that doesn't invalidate the old or break it.

Even in your example the technique worked just not with the new variable in play.

From a project management perspective you have Stakeholders and they can be in the form of Blockers and Champions. You can try and go around Blockers by going to a higher level Champion. This might get you what you want, but doesn't win you friends.

Or you can try to turn Blockers into champions by offering some way for them to buy into what you are trying to do.

Sometimes it is as simple as asking their opinion and seriously considering it.

The holster as the root cause is understandable a rise in law suits, injuries and death are not fixable problems as as they are just the symptoms.

Even if people realize there is a problem they might not know how to identify it or fix it, so they just mentally freeze hooping the problem will fix itself and or go away.

Oh it's just the holster, and there is a solution. I can understand that.

Josh K. said...


I was a little confused at the beginning of this post as all you can do [with what works] is fiddle around with it trying not to break it. Or you can try to find a new way of doing the same thing hopefully better but that doesn't invalidate the old or break it.

Scott Park Phillips said...

Good post. This may be an aside, but something I learned from Keith Johnstone when I was 15 doing improv theater:
Whenever I'm in charge (teaching, leading) I start off by apologizing in advance for anything that may go wrong, and ask everyone to please blame me.
With kids I have them practice blaming me, for trivial or imaginary things, right away because they are constantly being told to blame themselves and it is hugely liberating to drop that non-sense.
Adults loosen up considerably and become more willing to take emotional-risks, and responsibility. And when things go wrong, I do insist that they blame me!

I wonder how far this can be taken?

Obviously I don't want to take the blame for someone's crime, but it is possible to admit that I have failed as my brothers keeper.