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The ditch diggers just want to know four things
How damned deep? How damned wide? 
How damned long? And in which damned direction?
                          Dianna Gordon

Institutional vs. individual goals

On this page:
So What's the Difference? | So You Got Hit, So What?

This idea arose from discussions with several Ph.Ds in psychology. They were consulted because we were in the process of developing the No Nonsense Self-defense's Control Presence program. In discussing the problems relating to working with violent patients in mental wards there arose a recurring theme. An idea that was so ingrained in the thinking about the subject that until we started asking questions of the psychological process from outside the perspective of , it had never dawned on the doctors we spoke with.

The original question was: How do you reconcile the needs of the institution vs. the needs of the different levels of staff?

When that question caused an unanswerable pause, we realized we'd found something important. In time this idea grew until we found ourselves asking: What is the difference between the goals of the institution and the goals of the individual who works for the institution? 

Despite what management will tell you, they are NOT the same.

We started asking this question to various individuals in both large and small organizations and departments. It rapidly became clear that the answer was largely dependant on how high up (or down) the organization someone was. While from an institutional perspective the answer was officially "There is no difference at all," it rapidly became clear why so many departments have such moral problems. And not only that, but such problems with officers following their use of force policies in violent situations.

This page is designed to help bridge the gap  between the administrative thinking about defensive tactics training and what the line officers think about what they are being asked to "bet their lives" on in the street.

So What's The Difference?
Institutional goals are dramatically different than the needs and goals of the individual working for the institution. And one of the biggest differences is immediacy. One position is looking at the long-term needs, one position is looking at the immediate need.

Since this arose from discussion about psych wards, let's stick with the example. The goal of the doctors is stabilization of a patient through the psychological/medicinal process. It  is a long-term agenda. They are actively seeking to 'cure' the patient, and that takes time. In fact, this assessment  is a given and it is how they approach the whole issue.

However, in my discussion with doctors a question that often stumped them was "What if I don't want to cure him? How do I handle him then?"

Without the basic goal of "curing" the patient and all the attendant assumptions of how things should work, they didn't have an answer to that nuts-and-bolts question -- much less an answer that they would be willing to bet their lives on. Quite frankly the idea of "curing him" is meaningless to an orderly who is facing a mentally disturbed person in the middle of an episode -- especially if the 'crazy' has got a weapon. This isn't a long term issue, it is an immediate one. How do you stop the immediate, unacceptable behavior and do it without getting gutted like a fish?

That's what's known as a individual goal ...

Thus far we've developed two distinctly different sets of goals, the psychiatrist and the orderly. Let's throw in a 3rd level, the institution. Putting it bluntly, the institution has a two-fold goal, first warehousing the loonies, second protecting its interests. Curing the individual? Not the institution's goal they have too many other things to worry about. Now that may sound rather condemning, but it is a cold-hard economic fact. "Curing" the individual is the psychologist's goal, not an institutional goal, it has many other concerns. The psychological service is just one of many that it must provide. The institution must oversee the care, feeding, treatment and housing of these individuals. To do this, they must provide not only services to the patients, but the staff to do so. That adds another level of complexity to the institution's goals. And the institution must do it all within the allotted budget. In this "bigger picture" the needs of the individual are often relegated to lesser importance. And this includes the needs of the staff.

The biggest threat to the institution is the court system. While an institution cannot be killed by a weapon, the court system is literally the knife that will gut it. In fact, the orderly and institution are both at risk from the patient, whether that knife be literal or figurative.

The idea of following the strategy of a long term psychological process is ludicrous, especially when facing the very real and immediate threat of a physical assault. Unfortunately, a similar way of thinking has crept into defensive tactics. Effectiveness  in controlling the suspect has been replaced with "court proven"  Unfortunately, what protects the department in court, does not necessarily work to protect the individuals out in the streets, the cell block or in the locked wards. Quite often, this leaves the people in "front line" positions both exposed to danger and distrustful of administration's motivations and concern for their safety.

So You Got Hit, So What?
When looking at defensive tactics it is important to realize is that the "end result" is not proof of success or failure -- especially if you are the one wrestling with a resisting perp.

The fact is, whether they use departmentally approved tactics or not, most of the time, officers "win" in a violent confrontation. The suspect is restrained and either brought into custody or remanded to higher level of security. If no one is seriously injured, administration considers this a success. The situation is resolved, no lawsuits are likely and bumps and bruises -- all of which heal -- are the worst that happened.

Here's the problem with that attitude: The main reason the officers usually win is that they used a tactic that bullies have relied on since kindergarten -- superior numbers. Which unfortunately gives the perp a secondary victory. But that's another problem. In short, the reason why officers come out ahead most of the time is because they dogpile the suspect. It works in the playground, it works against a resisting perp or inmate. This is why you cannot judge the success or failure of defensive tactics just by the end result.

There are several aspects that must be included to gauge success. While this may seem like an unnecessary splitting of hairs or making the subject more complicated than it needs to be, there's a real nuts-and-bolts issue at stake here. That is: Officers WILL NOT use training that they do not trust! That doesn't just leave them exposed to internal disciplinary action, but it rightfully exposes the department to being sued.

Let's start with a basic concept and see where it goes. For example: An officer tries to perform a departmentally approved tactic and gets slugged in the process. Yet, despite this the officer still manages to restrain the individual. From an administrative standpoint what matters is that the suspect is restrained and  without serious injury to the officer or the perp. Alls well that ends well and all that...

Unfortunately it is not that simple. Getting slugged in the process is going to have a long term effect on that officer's trust in that move. That technique failed to perform. Contrary to what the marketer who sold the department that move might claim, there is a good chance it wasn't because the officer performed it wrong. There is a good chance that critical components were lost in how that move was taught. What kind of components? Distance, effective bodymovement and an unconscious reliance on muscle are both common and critical failure points of techniques. These issues are often glossed over, minimized or outright ignored in training because instructors are trying to cover too much information at once. These are issues that just mentioning them isn't enough, they need to be ingrained in the officer's reactions so they can be performed under adrenal stress.

But let's take a look at the deeper lessons the officer learns when he is hit performing a restraint technique. By getting hit, whether consciously or unconsciously, the officer realizes that technique leaves him exposed. We're not just talking a chink in the armour, we're talking about potentially finding oneself in a firefight without body armour. What got through this time was just a fist, but next time, that fist could be holding a knife or a gun. Every time they use that technique that hole is there for something to come through. Getting hit during the execution of a move might not seem like much of an issue from an administrative standpoint, but it has major influence on the line-officers trust in a move. And by extension, whether they use it or not.

What about ease of use? If a move is complicated and difficult to apply it won't be used either. How about if it requires specific conditions? Often techniques can be rendered ineffective by the suspect simply taking a step. Do you train your officers what it feels like when the move is being countered? While a drunk may "fall out" of a control technique, an experienced fighter will recognize the danger of developing control tactic an intentionally counter it. An officer not familiar with what this event feels like will not only fail to change tactics in time, but often will continue to attempt to apply the technique right up until he is hit. Never realizing that it wasn't technique failure, but being effectively countered, the officer will lose faith in the technique.

We must therefore quit judging the "success" of defensive tactics by just the end result. Unfortunately, this is how many institutions judge success. Individuals however, are the ones who are being asked to bleed because of this standard of success.

Do we believe that arrest and control training can effectively cover both individual and institutional goals? Yes. But not without close examination of the subject and communication between all levels of staff and administration. But until that happens it is up to the individual officer to develop his/her own resources and training... because the bottom-line is it's your blood.

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