Pre-Planning Leads to Success

Bryan Yant

Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” You must put in the sweat equity no matter what it is that you do to achieve success. How does this quote apply to police work and pre-planning, you may ask? Pre-planning is the 99% in the genius of a successful call and positive outcome. The days of just winging it and taking it as things come are going. Critical thinking, preparation and execution will slow the momentum and provide for positive outcomes.

LVMPD policy describes de-escalation as “an officer’s actions to slow down, stabilize and resolve an incident as safely as possible by reducing danger through the use of verbal persuasion, tactics, resources and transitioning through force options.” Policing requires that, at times, an officer must exercise control of a violent or resisting subject to make an arrest or to protect the officer, other officers or members of the community from risk of harm. 

Clearly, not every potential violent confrontation can be de-escalated, but officers do have the ability to impact the direction and the outcome of many situations based on their decision-making and the tactics they choose to employ. As a strategy to diminish the likelihood and the severity of force, officers will attempt to de-escalate confrontations. When reasonable, officers should gather information about the incident, assess the risks, assemble resources and equipment, attempt to slow momentum, and communicate and coordinate a response. Officers should start to develop a tactical plan prior to arriving at the scene and, when applicable, utilize intervention techniques by coordinating approaches to people who are in crisis, are believed to be mentally ill or have developmental disabilities. Where potential confrontations are anticipated, the deployment and use of low-lethality options should be evaluated. 

In responding as a team, officers should manage the containment or isolation of the subject. In their interaction with a subject, officers will, when feasible, use advisements, warnings, verbal persuasion and other tactics as alternatives to higher levels of force. The use of cover, building more distance or withdrawal to a more tactically secure position should be considered as options to help create time to diffuse a situation. Officers will perform their work in a manner that avoids unduly jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others through poor tactical decisions. Supervisors will possess a thorough knowledge of tactics and ensure that officers under their supervision perform to a standard (in accordance with LVMPD policy and training). 

The prospect of a favorable outcome is often enhanced when supervisors become involved in the management of the overall response to a potentially violent encounter by coordinating officers’ tactical actions. Supervisors will acknowledge and respond to incidents in a timely manner when officer use of reportable force is probable. Supervisors will also manage the deployment of resources and equipment. In dynamic and highly-charged incidents, supervisors will provide clear direction and communication to officers regarding their positioning and roles. Upon observing substandard officer approaches or flaws in tactical decisions, the supervisor will promptly act to correct any deficiencies. At times, de-escalation may mean the timely and appropriate use of a lower force option to mitigate a later need to use greater force. Officers will make efforts to control a confrontation and not allow it to escalate.

The way we accomplish de-escalation is through sweat equity in training, mental rehearsal and pre-planning. The blueprints for success are outlined in the training and instruction given in the Academy. This sharpens the mind and lays the foundation for success. LVMPD carefully lays out the framework of knowledge-based and scenario-based training to provide officers with blueprints for success. As the old saying goes, “Under stress, you will rely on your training and perform to the level that you trained.” The blueprints that have been laid out through training and experience are stored in our brains and shape our decision-making process. Clearly, the more experience and training you have, the more options or scenarios that are stored in your brain, and they act as resources and examples to rely upon and implement with the situation faced. This is why pre-planning and mental rehearsal are paramount. One of the biggest hurdles we face as officers is complacency. Focusing our brain and priming it with mental rehearsal prior to calls will refresh and recall the blueprints for success from training and experience. The mental priming will provide you under stress options to add to your decision-making process much more rapidly based on your training and experience. The pre-planning and mental priming will often provide the prospect for a much favorable outcome.

As a way to pre-plan, think about these questions that you will be asked after a critical event when you will be interviewed by CIRT. In this interview, you will be asked about information sharing. What information did you learn from dispatch, CAD and other officers? You will be asked about the tactical assessments that you made en route to the call. You will be asked about your pre-planning and de-escalation plans made by yourself or with your partner(s). Utilize your body-worn camera to document your pre-planning. You will be asked about your approach to the call and potential use of cover and concealment. You will be asked about the principles of contact and cover you and your partner(s) utilized. You will be asked about your use of deadly force to include the elements of deadly force: ability, opportunity, imminent jeopardy and preclusion. You will be asked about your threat assessment, which includes the factors for determining objectively reasonable force. You will be asked about your decision to use deadly force. You will be asked about the medical response and intervention after your use of force. You will be asked about your equipment, firearms, ammunition and training. 

A critical event will be the most stressful times in your career. As always, we will be there to assist you through the process. Be safe and healthy, go home at the end of your shift and please call any of us 24/7 if you have questions or concerns.