A RESPONSE TO CHANGING THREATS
The nature of threats to law enforcement is evolving. In response, the Safariland Training Academy has adapted its Basic Tactical Shield Instructor course to better serve the needs of first responders as well as tactical teams. Originally, the course was designed for tactical operators that needed ballistic protection—a basic SWAT 101 tactical shield course. As the threats to law enforcement have changed, the course has morphed into a more all-inclusive offering to include both tactical teams and general patrol. Essentially, the proven tactics that SWAT teams have used for years are now used to train law enforcement.
“There’s a lot of times where a lot of agencies are putting ballistic shields in their patrol cars to meet the active shooter threat, or first responders to do officer-down rescue or citizen-down rescue, things of that nature,” says Chuck Martin, the Master Instructor/Senior Technical Specialist. Martin has an extensive background in the tactical community and as a tactical trainer, having served as a United States Marine, and worked in law enforcement and SWAT in Metro Atlanta, before retiring as chief of police. Martin notes that worst thing an agency can do is buy a ballistic shield for a patrol officer, have them throw it in their trunk, and not train them how to use it—which can do more harm than good.
EQUIPPED & TRAINED TO SAVE LIVES
One of the main purposes of the tactical shield course is to get officers in the mindset that they could potentially be in a deadly force encounter. “We’re trying to get them where they are as comfortable as they can be, and as prepared as they can be, and go into those life-threatening environments and maintain their professionalism, and do their job in a proper manner.”
“With these active shooter environments, we’re trying to get that officer equipped and trained, where he can go and save people’s lives. And this is another piece of equipment they’ve got to use,” says Martin. “It’s a tool that will impact them greatly if they use it, but if they don’t use it they’re putting themselves at needless risk.” In addition, patrol officers who use ballistic shields can inject themselves into an active shooter environment and negate the shooter in as little as three to four minutes, instead of waiting 45 minutes for the SWAT team to arrive. The speed of the response can increase the safety of both officers and citizens in a hot zone.
THREE DAY COURSE
Using an EDIP methodology— Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice— Day One of the course begins in the classroom and covers safety briefs, the lesson plan, and a highly detailed PowerPoint presentation which reviews all the tactical shield positions and shooting techniques. In the afternoon the class moves out to the range for firearms drills, and to learn about shield positions, holding the shield with a firearm and shooting, and then practicing movement drills while holding the shield.
On Day Two Martin teaches students how to go into buildings with a ballistic shield, clear doorways, work a threshold and stairs, and operate in low-light and no-light environments. Drills using one-man, two-man and stacked-shield configurations are explained. Rescues are practiced. “We will work on using a shield for cover in ballistic breaching, in conjunction with our wallbanger system, or if an agency is going to be doing explosives, explosive breaching, things of that nature,” says Martin.
Day Three dives into role playing. Scenarios are set up. Force-on-force training with simulation or airsoft is carried out, as well as searching and officer protection techniques. Participants return to the range for more practice and a qualifications course is run that simulates the graduation test requirements. Students must pass a proficiency and written test to complete the course and receive their credentials as an instructor.
TRAIN THE TRAINER
The Safariland Training Academy has a long history of instructor-level courses. “Our focus has always been for the instructors to be empowered and to be given information to take back to their departments and train their people,” says Martin. In some instances the course will be offered at an operator-level, but that will generally be at a regional conference, a small tactical association, or for a department that buys a large number of shields and wants to have all their officers trained immediately.
Outside of the major cities, which have large agencies with considerable resources, the vast majority of departments in America have fewer than 50 officers. To accommodate the many different backgrounds and experience levels, Martin welcomes officers to the course who have varying levels of experience, from rookies to veterans. Typically, the course receives operators who are in the median range, from five to eight years on the job. “We try to take the pulse of class, find out who we’ve got and the class allows for some flexibility to spend more time here or less time here, it just depends on the makeup of the course.”