End users of security services are not shielded from liability if an untrained or inadequately training security officer acts outside the law while representing a company. The following are several key elements of a successful and court defensible armed training program that should be considered.
Your organization or your security provider must employ or contract with qualified instructors. The legal standard and requirements differ in each state. However, a good benchmark is to ensure that firearms instructors hold certifications by either a law enforcement governing board or the NRA’s Law Enforcement Firearm Instructor certification.
Why is this important? Besides having qualified instructors who develop your security officers shooting abilities, they should be able to convey key concepts such as civil liability and a foundation of use of force law. During civil and criminal litigation having a well-trained instructor can make the difference in the defense of the officer, company or client company. If the officer has applied the legal amount of force necessary to stop an assailant’s actions and affect a legal arrest, the instructor will know how to translate that to a judge and jury. Likewise, if the officer steps outside of the legal framework allowed for the use of force, that instructor can make the difference in a company or other party’s liability.
Along with a professional certified instructor the officer must be providing a quality training program. The training program should be designed for the maximum retention of key legal and physical concepts. Having multiple sessions reiterating the same concepts is key to retention. For example, having the student attend an online learning program that addresses use of force policy and law with testing prior to instructor led range training (including practical skills and re-training topics) allows for more retention of policy and law.
Having a second session allows for the officer to develop questions before meeting a physical instructor and gives them the opportunity to truly digest the content provided. A quality training program complete with detailed records of delivery and testing is the crux of any legal defense. If the instructor has to testify on your organizations behalf, he/she will need to refer to your program implementation and the information provided to the officer as your legal defense in the case of justified and non-justified use of force.
Training curriculum provided should be practical to the job functions and expectations of the officers. Each officer must be tested in a live fire controlled qualification. This qualification should reflect multiple stages of fire from varied distances and weapon retention. Long gone are the days when qualification meant shooting only thirty rounds of ammunition from the same distance without testing to ensure accuracy or safe handling from a holstered position.
Lastly, the officers need to train using the equipment they will carry every day on the job. They must wear their duty belt and body armor if they are assigned as well as use the same caliber and weapon they will carry on duty. If the officers carry a Glock 22 .40 caliber, they need to be trained and tested on exactly the same firearm.
Safe Training Environment
Just as important to providing good instruction based on quality defensible content is that a safe training environment must be provided. Especially considering we are talking about live firearms. Officers will also learn more when they know they are in a controlled setting and do not need to worry about the officer next to them and their handling of a firearm. In non-live fire demonstrations, such as a classroom setting where the students and instructors will handle real firearms, a safety check must be conducted any time there is a break from the class. No weapons other than those necessary for the course should be allowed in the classroom and there should be no live ammunition.
Utilize a controlled shooting range appropriate for learning and that allows for private instruction. If your instructor is suggesting students go out to the national forest or desert to shoot, then safety has not become a priority!
Conducting safety briefings prior to the start of the training is key to keeping safety on the forefront of the officer’s and instructor’s minds. Instructors should ask about physical limitations of their students and be mindful to allergies such as bee stings. Having an emergency plan should someone become injured is paramount. Having these key questions addressed ahead of time may save lives:
- Where is the medical bag/AED?
- Where is the closest landing zone for a helicopter for a medevac?
- Who will run and call 911?
- Where is the tourniquet?
Along with a safety plan in place and briefing, each officer should be dressed appropriately for firearms training. The elements may also be a factor and students and instructors need to account for weather related issues, hydration and other elements. Providing a written list to the officers prior to training of the expectations, clothing, and other recommended items is very helpful to ensuring everyone is ready to safely train.
Much to the chagrin of budget minded managers, there is no such thing as “one and done” training. Proficiency with a firearm is a perishable skill set that requires repetition and re-training. Armed officers should be tested annually at a minimum and provided with continuing education as to legal changes that effect their use of force. Any court district can set and change how force is applied and what was legal and acceptable five years ago may not be anymore. Providing continual legal and policy updates may mean hundreds of thousands of dollars saved in a civil litigation. Additional simulation based non-range training conducted in the actual work environment is also highly encouraged and can be hugely beneficial for the security team and other facility personnel.
Law and policy walk hand in hand together. Organizational policy as either the security provider or the client must be in step with the current legal framework for your jurisdiction. Failure to have a “Use of Force Policy” is equally negligent as failing to adequately train the officers.
During any civil litigation your policy will be brought into question. Here are several key factors that should be addressed in a “Use of Force Policy”:
- Standards for the officers who are selected to carry firearms.
- Standards for the equipment the officers will carry on their person in the performance of their duties.
- Ensuring that only the company provided weapon is utilized and no other personal weapons are carried while on duty.
- If your officers are carrying a firearm, do they have any less than lethal options such as chemical agent, baton or electronic restraint device?
- Standards of training for firearms, less than lethal weapons and the often overlooked handcuffs.
In conclusion, it is imperative that a safe, competent and legal firearms training program and use of force policy is in place and being delivered consistently to all armed personnel. Doing so will be critical in limiting civil and criminal liability for all parties during and after an event. Other tangible benefits may include a more skilled security force who understand that they are truly a professional and not just a guard. Retention of quality personnel increases as they feel confident that the organizations they work for are investing in them and that they matter.