If I Knew Then: Lessons from Cops on the Street

Brian Willis, editor and author of If I Knew Then: Lessons from Cops on the Street, has commited to donating $10,000 to the ILEETA scholarship fund. Help support his efforts! If you enjoy this chapter, please consider purchasing the book–for yourself or a friend–at www.warriorspiritbooks.com. Enjoy and be safe. –The Editor

Enlightened instructors are always on the lookout for student-officer motivation factors. One thing that I know now that I wish I knew then: the power and influence of the “Chick Factor.” My career as a police instructor began in 1976 (about a decade after my start in the civilian police service), both as a hobby and for in-service training.

SWAT Team Revolt
Decades ago, an incident of operator revolt on our SWAT team occurred that introduced a new concept to me. Through attrition, I had inherited the duties of Rappel Master. The morning of our training session, my teammates cheerfully greeted me and inquired what we were going to do for the day. I replied that we were going to practice the Tyrolean traverse technique. The technique was new to them; someone responded with, “What the hell is a Tyrolean traverse?”

When I explained that the technique involved crossing horizontally on the rope between two buildings or two cliffs, there was a distinct change in expression and a pregnant pause. One member said, “Borsch, you have gone too far. That’s too dangerous and we aren’t doing it!” I was perplexed at the unprecedented revolt over a special tactic that could be both an individual and team confidence builder and potentially be SWAT-job related. I tried to figure out what I could possibly say to our type A personality macho men.

Most of the team was not aware that I owned my own ropes, climbing and rappelling equipment and practiced climbing as an off-duty activity. Suddenly an idea struck me. I suggested to my teammates that we go to a phone (this was before cell phones) and call our Municipal Court for Shirley, Laura and Jane so that the women could assure them that the Tyrolean traverse was not only a safe tactic but also challenging and fun. I told them that these women, I and other civilians did this as a fun recreational activity.

I added that if anyone on the team was particularly good at sweet-talking, one or more of the ladies might jump at the chance of taking the rest of the day off to join us and demonstrate the Tyrolean traverse. My teammates lowered their heads, slowly looked side to side for verification and then one spokesman said, “Never mind, we’ll do it.”

If I Knew Then What I Know Now
At the time, I didn’t realize the full value of this discovery, nor did I have a label for it. I told this story on multiple occasions merely as entertainment. As a professional law enforcement instructor, when I began to see female officers in my classes regularly, I told the story in class for its empowering value for women.

I only truly began to understand the “Chick Factor” concept when, over time, I observed that male officers were also being motivated to higher levels of performance.

Fast-forward to the present. What I’ve been doing is using successful female warrior-protectors as mentor models. At the top of my list is Stacy Lim. Off-duty from LAPD, she was outnumbered and shot in the heart in her own driveway; despite this, Stacy gained the momentum of battle, winning not only the gunfight, but also causing several other gangbangers to flee in the face of aggression from a real warrior. Stacy survived and returned to patrol duty.

Handcuffing: Before and After the Chick Factor
For several years our police academy has been able to give a reasonable guarantee of a 1.6-second class average during the Cuff-off after our 8-hour Tactical Speed Handcuffing class. (The Cuff-off is on a prepositioned cooperative subject—time starts on first touch and stops on last cuff.) A couple of years ago, I had the unique opportunity to instruct a handcuff class that was predominately composed of female officers. The students paid close attention in class, applying themselves during their motor skill practice and aiming for perfection. Their class average was 1.37 seconds. While not the fastest in my experience, it was significantly faster than the norm, and I decided to harness its “Chick Factor” power.

I prepared a report sheet in large font, showcasing the students’ average times, along with their fastest, slowest, and class average times. The students’ first names, also in large font, obviously revealed that the female officers comprised the class majority. I added different attention-getting colors. The result was showcased in a laminated training aid for our bulletin board. Black-and-white copies were prepared as handouts.

The next handcuffing class I had was all male officers. This was a great opportunity to test the “Chick Factor” handout as a training aid. Of course, for full effect, I had to call attention to the handout and discuss both it and how well the female officers performed. I challenged the men in the class to use the training aid as a goal to meet or beat. Beat it they did, with one of the fastest class averages ever—1.18 seconds!

Make It Work for You
I certainly wish I would have discovered and understood the “Chick Factor” much sooner in my dual career as a police officer and instructor. My advice to new police instructors starting their career and aspiring to be professional trainers: Study and understand the dynamics, both pro and con, of the “Chick Factor” and any other student motivational techniques. I wish you good luck and hope the information revealed here will be as big a training technique to help you as it has been for me.

Ron Borsch is semi-retired from a full-time, 30-year career with the Bedford, Ohio Police Department. He served with patrol and SWAT (both as an operator and trainer) and acted as Rangemaster, Arrest Motor Skills instructor and Active and Defensive Tactics instructor. Borsch still serves as a commissioned consultant-trainer, a part-time position. In 1997, Borsch was commissioned to start an in-service police academy by the seven South East Area Law Enforcement (SEALE) Chiefs of Police; since 1998, he has served as the manager and lead trainer of SEALE Regional Police Training Academy, a postgraduate facility. His research about rapid mass murder in schools and workplaces by active killers for the “Single Officer Lifesaving Others” (SOLO) has been widely covered on law enforcement Internet sites, blogs and magazines.

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