Stupid training tricks: Get out your checkbook
Those of you who read ÆGIS regularly know that we are big believers in training. More than that, we are big believers in realistic, scenario-based training. However, while we believe training should be as realistic as possible, we don’t believe that it should be a surprise. That is to say, every participant should know that the training is training, not real life.
We also need to take every safety precaution. Thus, when we train police officers, we make sure that there are no functioning weapons available to them: No functioning firearms, no knives, and no impact weapons. This way we don’t have to worry about someone accidentally hurting someone, or getting so carried away by the scenario that they do something harmful.
This approach is not unique to us, of course, and is, in fact, the general approach taken by most trainers.
We were therefore distressed to read an article by David Hendee in the 9 December 2003 issue of the Omaha World-Herald about a training exercise jointly performed by the Lincoln-based Gas ‘N Shop convenience stores and the Schuyler Police Department. According to the description given in the article by one of the victims, Kristin Johnson:
“We were just chit-chatting, waiting for a manager who was late, and these two guys come running into the store. One yelled, ‘Get down on the floor! Get down on the floor!’ He had a shotgun. . . .
“I immediately hit the floor. He started yelling for our purses.”
According to the article, “Johnson said she couldn’t bring herself to go to work the following Monday because of anxiety. She worked a few hours Tuesday and quit.” We don’t know whether she merely left early, or quit for good after being thus traumatized.
Assuming the report was accurate, Gas ‘N Shop Inc. and the Schuyler Police Department were very fortunate that there were no armed employees, civilians, or off-duty officers unwittingly on the scene, that no employees decided to fight back, and that no employees with weak hearts died, any of which would have turned an exercise of bad-judgment into a needless tragedy.
In the future, employees may well assume that any bad thing that actually happens is a drill, and do something foolish. The company will certainly have to deal with employees who quit, or suffer some sort of temporary or even permanent physical or psychological damage
We have not followed up on this, but if the World-Herald report is true, both Gas ‘N Shop Inc. and the Schuyler Police Department face a very strong negligent action suit: They knew, or should have known, that what they did was a dangerous practice. We have discussed this case with a number of prominent law enforcement trainers, all of whom would be delighted to testify for the plaintiff in a case this egregious.
We certainly hope any company or police department that would pull a stunt like this would also do role-playing on writing settlement checks.