Open Letter to President's Task Force on Policing

The following is text-only version of my official written testimony submitted to President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. In it, I boldly recommend The Illinois Model be considered as a framework for police training and operations in the United States.





05 FEB 2015

I am a full-time (17+ years) police officer/detective in a Chicago suburb. I currently hold collateral positions as: Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer; SWAT team supervisor; training unit instructor. I hold a variety of operational and/or instructor roles, responsibilities, and certifications, including:
  • Constitutional law trainer (4th Amendment search/seizure/force/intrusion);
  • Response to mental, behavioral, emotional health emergencies;
  • Weapons trainer (firearms, Taser® , beanbag projectiles, etc);
  • Scenario-based exercise developer & coordinator;
  • Certified Force Science® Analyst (human factors, physiology);
  • Report writing (tactical & investigative) instructor;
  • Community policing / bicycle patrol.
I work part-time for a consulting firm, The Virtus Group, Inc., as a lecturer, forum moderator, and instructor. I travel to outside agencies and organizations speaking about contemporary issues in both public safety training and adult learning principles. My cadre developed a program called The Illinois Model™ as a comprehensive vision for law enforcement operations.

I am a “systems thinker” and “generalist” who firmly believes in the value of analyzing issues from an integrated, universal, and holistic viewpoint. Our current status of police training (and policy) in America lacks a systems- or process-driven mindset. We need a flexible, yet standard, system so police officers can adapt to the complexities and ever-changing environment of policing.

Backed by my diverse experiences, study, research, and education, I confidently submit the following written testimony to your Task Force. Thank you.

***

Our roots of police training trace back to mid-20th century military training. The US military, who was bulking up forces for WWII, relied heavily upon the training methods used by the manufacturing industry in our Industrial Revolution. The instruction and testing was primarily technique- or skill-based, with little emphasis on understanding. The instruction was rigid, standardized, fragmented, isolated by topic, and focused on step-by-step physical tasks and maneuvers rather than on situation-analysis, problem-solving, or critical decision-making at the front line.

We in policing, still suffer from this upside-down approach to police officer development at both the recruit and in-service training levels. Police training too closely resembles that of assembly line factory workers, than that of adaptive thinkers in a complex environment.

Over the last six (6) years, I have been working with police agencies, supervisors, and trainers to re-engineer training from an integrated “systems” approach…that turns our police officers into risk managers, adaptive thinkers, and problem-solvers.

THE POLICE AND COMMUNITIES. Our officers must understand that the US Constitution, and its interpretations in case law, places different rules and restrictions upon the government than upon the citizens. Police officers have powers; citizens have rights. Everything that the police do is a balance between officers’ intrusiveness with communities’ and citizens’ rights, privacies, and securities. As current case law suggests, this is a fundamental aspect of all police decisions and actions.

POLICE ENVIRONMENT. The environment in which police officers work is: high-stakes; dynamic; unpredictable; rapidly changing; uncertain; confusing; unknowable. As such, police calls are extremely complex situations that can twist-and-turn into a limitless number of outcomes. In science, this is known as a “non-linear, open loop, feedback-rich” environment.

This environment is similar to that of pilots, emergency physicians, astronauts, nuclear facility workers, or explorers. It requires a specific set of critical thinking traits:
  • Non-linear thinking: understand the potential branches of a situation
  • Prioritization: ranking simultaneous problems
  • Decision-making: balance of “accuracy” and “timeliness”
  • Delegation/supervision: developing creative teams, with limited standards
  • Generalist skillset (as opposed to Specialist): diverse understanding
  • Stabilization attitude: preventing problems from getting worse
  • Process- & Systems-Driven: understanding of connectivity/relatedness
Generally speaking, these traits have been neglected in police training and education. I, instead, have been focusing on developing and nurturing these attributes…above most technical/physical skills and memorization of information.

PROBLEM-SOLVING THINKERS. Police officers are described by a number of different terms: warriors, helpers, crime fighters, peacekeepers, public servants, law enforcers, community councelors, protectors, investigators, street lawyers, pursuers-of-justice, and first responders. Each of these terms can have positive and negative impacts on how the police officer sees him/herself. I suggest another term: problem-solver. As such, we can apply a problem-solving approach to public safety calls for service, investigations, and emergencies. One part of solving problems is managing risk.

RISK MANAGEMENT. Risk in the realm of police operations comes in many varieties: physical human life; civil rights violations; financial restitution; community trust; agency embarrassment. Regardless of the type of risk, we describe it in terms of three (3) variables:
  • Importance/Consequences: how bad can this get?
  • Probability/Frequency: what are the chances of this occurring?
  • Urgency/Timeliness: how much time is available to decide?
Many of the critiques of recent national police incidents can be analyzed by the above three (3) factors of risk. Critics suggest that police officers inflated the potential dangerous consequences, exaggerate the probability of that danger, and/or misinterpreted (or adversely influenced) the available discretionary time.

Public safety incidents and police officers’ actions can be evaluated against the above three-dimensional depiction of risk. There is a systematic way officers can: reduce the potential negative consequences/threats; decrease the probabilities of injury/harm; and increase the available time to collect and interpret information.

THE ILLINOIS MODEL™. The Illinois Model is my systematic approach to police operations. It is an integrated, singular, universal model to develop thinking police officers, at all levels, ranks, assignments. It has many applications, is highly adaptable, and scales to incidents of any scope, size, and danger. The model is being used by police agencies as a complimentary add-on to the currently mandated Incident Command System / National Incident Management System (ICS/NIMS).

The Illinois Model is essentially a decision template – considering supervision, problem-solving, risk management, police intrusion, citizen rights, officer safety, and communication. Its strength is in its simplicity, even in the complexity of the above described police environment. The model addresses issues along the entire timeline of a police incident:
  • BEFORE: agency policy; training; case law.
  • DURING: decisions; intent; actions.
  • AFTER: report writing; internal/outside investigation; testimony.
Here is the layout of The Illinois Model:
  1. Priority of Life: What is the problem/threat/crime/situation?
  2. Mission / Objective: What is the solution? (and legal/policy issues)
  3. Strategy / Tactics: What is the urgency? Intrusiveness of officers?
  4. Team Skills: How do the officers work together?
  5. Individual Skills & Equipment: What are skills of each officer?
This is a unique perspective of policy, operations, evaluation, and training. It prioritizes the factors that go into a police response, as highlighted by Constitutional case law and other generic non-linear problem-solving models. The continually-looping (re-engaging) model is universal and generalized for policing, in that it eliminates the need or desire for separate, unworkable, inflexible, and unrealistic checklists for specific types of incidents: traffic stops; investigative Terry stops; criminal arrests; mental health (ex: suicidal persons) crises; active shooters/killers; civil unrest/protest; hostage rescue; person-down medical rescues; vehicle pursuits; K9 searches/manhunts; barricaded standoffs.

The Illinois Model gives police officers a single model by which to solve public safety problems. Officers become proficient in using the one model, and apply it to all incidents. Because this model can be applied and adapted to the whole spectrum of policing problems, officers can make quicker, more accurate, more preferred decisions…without the burden of selecting, comparing, choosing, or matching a specific checklist for a specific type of call – a call that is likely to change in a split second anyways.

As such, officers who are trained in the use of this model are flexible, adaptive, critical-thinking, problem-solvers rather than just “assembly line workers” who do not fully understand the situation or rationale behind actions.

IMPLEMENTATION. What we currently have in American police training is a patchwork of unrelated topics, few of which form or stress the connectivity or relatedness between each that is required for deep understanding. The Illinois Model is a radical departure from current police training and education. It places the various aspects of a police response into their correct priority level. It balances citizen rights with police powers. It brings harmony and an unprecedented level of integration to topics that have historically been taught in complete isolation. It relates every cog to the whole machine!

The biggest obstacle is getting a diverse set of instructor staff and policy writers onto the same page. It requires them to use the model as a common framework, potentially asking them to abandon their own specialized agenda or materials. To maximize effectiveness, the themes of the model must be internalized and shared across ALL instructors and policy writers, regardless of their area of expertise or study. However, I have seen the benefits of re-engineering training and development firsthand. The upfront investment and change quickly turns training and policy into an effective, efficient, fiscally responsible, and united program.

By approaching policing with this systems thinking or process-driven emphasis, we nurture a set of neglected skills – ones that are so necessary to police America in the 21st Century. Together, we can get policing back on track.

My resources are free. Please check out the attached [links provided for this version]:
and visit the two (2) blogs I maintain on my training philosophies and The Illinois Model: www.virtusleadership.com/blog/ and www.theillinoismodel.com.

Thank you for your time.

God bless your Task Force.

Louis Hayes, Jr.

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