No one, including officers and administrators who were not present at the scene, exits a critical incident unchanged. For this reason, teamwork training for stress inoculation should be practiced agency-wide before a critical incident.
Administrators should tell their officers: "During a critical incident I will give my officers the benefit of the doubt before any press release or investigation," and mean it. In the police administration business, reputation is everything.
Critical incident training should include the following:
Administrators should be trained that officers will need to de-escalate after a critical incident.
Anyone involved is still being guided by the primitive brain which precludes creative or complex thought patterns. What comes from their mouths while under the fight or flight veil should be closely guarded by the department.
De-escalation could take a few minutes or a few days, depending on the officer.
It should be a department policy to quickly get the officer out of public view.
This policy needs to be written and briefed, so the officer does not share any perception that he is being treated as "different."
- Supervisors must quickly isolate involved officers from the media, including persons who are adept at only capturing a single biased aspect of a complex situation on their cell phone.
- Supervisors must repeat the mantras "pending a full investigation" and "it's too early to tell," to everyone, not just the press.
An officer whose subconscious recognizes he is up to the challenge of shooting smaller, obscured targets at a fast cadence can overcome any friction. That officer who recognizes his agency will treat him fairly after a critical incident is an equipped peak performer.
Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches Administration of Justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.