Tactical Decision-Making: Accuracy versus Time
If I were to ask a question, "What is 17 times 6?" there is only one truly correct answer. In math, solutions are objectively either correct or incorrect. Even during timed classroom quizzes, the answers to questions are graded completely on correctness. If it is not right, then it is wrong.
The same cannot be said of decisions made in combat, or emergency trauma medicine, or fights, or sports, or car racing, or fire fighting, or tactical policing.
|Decision that are timely and accurate are best.|
Answers to the questions begin to lose their status as being Right or Wrong. And another factor enters.....Time.
The element of time encroaches on the mind's ability to calculate the perfect answer (if such thing even exists, which I argue rarely does). In the above listed realms, time matters. Sometimes more than the absolute correctness of the solution.
Now before anyone slings "Objectively Reasonable" at me and claims Right or Wrong, let me defend my position. Within the court ruling of Graham v Connor, Chief Justice Rehnquist specifically addressed:
The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.So the Court does accept that time restraints factor into the evaluation of a police officer's decision. And the whole idea of Objective Reasonableness is not one of right or wrong; there are many legal alternatives and many illegal ones too. A more fitting comparison might be Acceptable or Unacceptable, with an understanding that just because a decision was Acceptable (or "reasonable") does not mean it was the absolute best option.
So irregardless if a tactician is a police officer, or boxer, or trauma surgeon, or combat soldier, or athlete, or firefighter, or race car driver...their decisions are evaluated by a balance of Time and Accuracy. The best tacticians make great choices immediately. The worst tacticians make poor choices with delay.
Each situation is different. In some circumstance, a near-perfect answer with a short delay might be good. In other cases, a decent answer almost immediately is good. Some scenarios require quick intervention (Time is more critical) while others require perfection (Accuracy is more critical).
- If a police officer were to suffer an upper leg gunshot wound, would it be better to immediately apply a makeshift tourniquet comprised of a rifle sling and expandable baton? or to wait 20 seconds to get a commercially-manufactured combat tourniquet from a nearby squad car?
- While responding to an active shooter in an office building, is it better for a pistol-armed officer to respond immediately? or to delay 30 seconds to un-trunk and ready her patrol rifle and medical go-bag?
Cases can be made for both options in both scenarios. (And now that I think of it, why don't you make your own case in the comments section below?!) Those defending their stances should use both Time and Accuracy in their arguments. We believe in a healthy allowance for a bit of inaccuracy of a decision, especially when a decent alternative is put into play immediately. Otherwise, without that allowance, the decision-makers may be paralyzed while contemplating all the options....searching for the perfect one.
So to return to the very first math question...what is 17 times 6? Sometimes a quick response of "about one-hundred" is good enough.
Louis Hayes is a systems thinker for The Virtus Group, Inc., a firm dedicated to public safety leadership development. He is a co-developer of The Illinois Model™ law enforcement operations system and moderates several courses rooted in its theory and concepts. Lou is a 17-year police officer, currently assigned to a multi-agency tactical unit in Chicagoland. He carries a SOFTT-W in his pocket every day, hoping to never use it or any makeshift tourniquet. A full compilation of articles on the model can be found here. Follow Lou's LinkedIn blog, or on Twitter at @TheVirtusGroup.