After the Webinar: Are Current Training Models Failing Our Officers and Communities Alike? Q&A with Don McCrea

Webinar presenter Don McCrea answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Are Current Training Models Failing Officers and Communities Alike?  Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: Don, you talked about how people can still walk away with a favorable opinion after an engagement with a law enforcement officer. Even after something like a traffic stop. Can you give an example of this?

Don McCrea: You know, that’s a great question. In my hands, Chris is a note. I’m a part-time deputy sheriff for the local sheriff’s office here, and I do a lot of traffic control and I’ve got a note that my Sheriff received from an individual I wrote a speeding ticket to a while back. It was from an individual by the name of Jason. He wrote “I just want to comment on the amount of courtesy and respect officer McCrea showed me. I wish all officers conducted themselves the way he did.” sincerely Jason.

Now at the top of his note just so you know, it says I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. So, let’s not hold that against him, right? Anyway, that’s evidence where a citizen is looking to be treated fairly and respectfully and have their rights respected. I know there are times when we can’t do that, but we shouldn’t be the ones who escalate the contact and that’s the whole point of what I’ve been talking about. So anyway, I thought that was a good example.



Audience Question: Can you give examples of what particularized and articulable, reasonable suspicion of a crime? Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Don McCrea: Yes, absolutely. All right. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that out in the country, there is a spot that kids pull over next to the road by a bridge. Picture the bridge, picture the rural road, the gravel road. There’s a wide field approach there and kids are known to pull off and drink underage. Okay, they’re drinking beer.

This particular location is known for underage drinking. Alright, so now my wife and I are traveling from our home in Minneapolis, and we’re going to go to her folks’ farm west of Brookings. Well, it’s late at night. We’re behind schedule. It’s midnight. It’s Friday night. We’re taking the road to the farm and our baby starts throwing up so I pull off on a field approach so my wife can take care of the baby who’s sick. When she gets everything cleaned up now, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be sexist. Let’s say my wife is driving and I take care of the baby. Okay.
Anyway, we take care of the baby who was sick. I pull out and I start back on my journey down the road. Half a mile later, I get pulled over by an officer and I want to know why and he says “Well, this is an area known for underage drinking. So, I thought I’d stopped to see if you were underage drinking.” Do you see where it falls apart.

There was no actual particularized reasonable suspicion of the crime of underage drinking on me or my vehicle, right? The suspicion was to the geographic area not to me particularly, the occupants of that vehicle. So, when you have to have particularized and articulable reasonable suspicion you have to be able to articulate from a set of facts and circumstances why a particular person or a particular vehicle may be connected to the crime that has, is, or is about to occur.

In other words, he conducted a fishing expedition and it was a happenstance of geography. So, see thank you for your question because now I was able to use an example that brought two of those circumstances into play.
See you just can’t do that. You can’t throw a net. It has to be particularized suspicion of a crime to a particular person or vehicle and that’s where we’re going off the tracks and that’s where we start making these unlawful stops that can then lead into escalation. I hope I answered the question.



Audience Question: Don you talked a lot about escalations and such. Are there other mitigating factors here that we need to keep in mind? So for example, a lot of agencies are really understaffed. A lot of officers are being asked to work a lot of overtime and a lot of extra duty shifts, they’re stressed. They’re tired. They’re being pushed to the max. Are you seeing any of these other contributing factors also contributing to these escalation events, lawsuits, etcetera? 

Don McCrea: You know, I have to go back to when I was out at that training out in San Diego in October, and I had the opportunity to listen to Gordon speaking. And so he said basically that there are three categories of officers that we have trouble with. We have trouble with officers who are rogue officers and there’s not a lot you can do with them except fire ‘em and never hire ‘em back. And then he said there are and I don’t mean to offend anybody, I’m just quoting he said there are stupid officers.

And then he said there are officers who think they know or they want to know but they just don’t because of the lack of training and so if you talk about extenuating circumstances, let’s look at the humanness of this and I think that question is very fair. Absolutely when a person is under stress whether it’s let’s say working too stressed and they’re working long hours and they’re tired. You better believe there’s a connection with escalating a situation even if it’s a legal stop.

So I absolutely believe that science is clear on that that the more stress the mind is under, and the body is under the less able we are to make clear decisions and we lose our temper right? We’re grumpy. Come on, we do it with our family too, right? So yes, there’s a connection and I think that agencies have to be really careful how far they do overextend their officers because those physiological effects and impacts are real. It also then directly impacts their ability to make decisions. And absolutely there is a connection between that and an officer who let’s just say loses it. But what I’m talking about is the upfront, let’s say conditions are OK, the officer just ends up making that stop at the beginning, unlawful, under Terry and then what you see is that escalation after that. But yes, fatigue is certainly a factor we have to consider.



Audience Question: Are there any states that are more known for this non-escalation training that you’re talking about or areas or anything like that? 

Don McCrea: No, not escalation and that’s the issue I was raising. De-escalation, yes. You’ll have some states that are mandating it and some states that don’t. That’s one of the reasons why I was really thankful to Michael Brown giving me the opportunity to put on the webinar. And again, these are great questions, but non-escalation isn’t really on the radar screen. And so, from a non-escalation perspective, that’s what I’m trying to do.
So not for non-escalation, de-escalation, yes. There are states that mandate it. certain hours and some states that haven’t yet. They’re still looking at it. So, there’s still no consistency and quite frankly, a third roadblock that we can talk about is the inconsistency of training as well.



Audience Question: Mike asked if you could go back and maybe take an extra minute or two and share and re-explained those formulas for training. I think they were back maybe about five or six slides you talked about the formulas. 

Don McCrea: Absolutely, I would love to. What we’re going to do is just convert the word model into the word formula because some people just do better with numbers. I’ve presented a couple of different slides full of words. Well just to slow everything down and get somebody’s mind wrapped around this I transitioned it into a formula.

Okay. So, when you build a Terry stop model, or formula that where you really want to reduce the incidence of Terry stops, you want to make sure your officers know everybody’s got constitutional rights and your goal is to really minimize the chances of an officer under your command committing unlawful detention, alright?

So here it is you always you start with the assessment. That’s the first part of the formula let them tell you what they know and don’t know. Then comes awareness training. This is huge. Then those six circumstances that I brought to you. That’s how the formula works. So the assessment plus the circumstances leading to those unlawful stops. I mean that alone is powerful medicine.

And then what you start doing is plugging in these six legal points, and that’s all through training. I mean I can give you examples, in fact, I’m sorry. I took one of the slides out that everything that’s in this Terry stop model and the other models, it’s one scenario.

The same thing with the arrest model formula, right? There’s an arrest formula. There are four circumstances that I’ve identified that lead officers to conduct unlawful arrests and then five legal points. So, what it is, it’s foundational supporting and so then it’s all done through training and the same thing with the use of force.

I hope I’m answering your question but it starts with an assessment. You then give them the awareness training, which is the middle part, the circumstances, and then you go into the actual here it is. I’m going to give you this use of force training and so the models or the formulas are based on assessments that I’ve done thousands of officers over the last few years, and I’ve gained a lot of information and everything that I’m telling you is from that research.

So that’s what the formulas are based on. By using a formula, it’s an easy way to explain to somebody instead of using words to describe what you’re trying to do. So, there it is and I like I said, it’s numbers. It’s 1 plus 6 plus 6 instead of a bunch of words, what each of those numbers represents a working formula and I can help you with that too. So that’s I guess what I meant like formula is turning it into actually like an equation.



Audience Question: Don, in your research how are academies teaching officers about their authorities, and conversely what should they be doing? What’s the element about their authority that agencies are truly missing? 

Don McCrea: Okay. Well, the issue is we have an awful lot of academies, they are state-sponsored. I mean we have what 35 post states 15 non-post States. Texas has, what, hundreds of academies. South Dakota has one. Two-year colleges responsibilities there. Every academy comes up basically with its own curriculum.

So for me to answer that there’s inconsistency, and that’s really as far as I can go. I’ve become very aware of all the inconsistencies that are out there and that’s part of the problem we’re dealing with. Some academies, are solid some aren’t. So, it’s inconsistencies that are really hurting us.
It’s not just on the academy side. I think most academies work hard and they do a really good job, but there are still those training inconsistencies. And so, when that recruit graduates and enters into a field training or police training officer program, what does the agency train them in?
That’s why I think there needs to be more communication between these different levels and entities of training so that we can get more of the same page, but I’m afraid that’s a humongous question. It just leads to the fact that there are inconsistencies, and that’s part of the problem.



Audience Question: What is the best way to ensure that our training model is legally defensible outside the courtroom? 

Don McCrea: Well, when we talk about legal defensibility, there’s another term for that. It’s can it stand up to legal scrutiny, right? So, let’s say you have a training model. Everybody knows their seven steps to a training model. I wish I had had that slide in there earlier too. Alright, so there are seven steps to developing a training model. The number one step is an assessment. You got to do a training needs assessment, right? And then you have to base and here’s legal defensibility. Step two is that you need to develop your curriculum based on adult learning, right? Bloom’s taxonomy. From there you have to design your training. And then from there, you have to make sure that the resources are there for the training that you want to do. Then what you have to do is have the training and then you have to evaluate the training and then that information goes back into the beginning again.

So legal defensibility is to make sure that you’ve also checked with more than two sources on some of your basic concepts and when you’re building this training model of legal defensibility based on building an actual training model, follow my formula. I think you’re going to have some real success in that. Legal defensibility also means to make sure that your training is all objective-driven, right?

Make sure then that what you do as far as information and scenarios back up those objectives clearly and if you want real legal defensibility, make sure then that you’re properly evaluating those recruit students or officers. You got to evaluate them and it’s got to be documented.

Then you get feedback use the student-centered feedback model. It all goes back into the top again and you go through the process again. As you go through this process, all you’re doing is refining and you’re making your model, your formula even more legally defensible. So, if you want to send me an e-mail, I’ll be happy to give you more information on that.



Audience Question: Based on your research. Where is racism or bias play into this? 

Don McCrea: Yeah, it certainly does and so that’s why I think implicit bias training is very important. When I put on my confident non-escalation training the very first part that I have the first half a day or more is spent on the constitution and constitutional rights.

We have to really stress to our officers that that constitution applies to everybody regardless of how many tattoos they have or if they wear their hat on backward. It doesn’t matter what their income is, right? It doesn’t matter what their social status is what their gender status is or what they’re fill-in the blank status is.

So part of non-escalation training does indeed include anti-bias training and I think that’s – you got to start with that. That’s the starting place and I think that it’s real. It is. It’s real and that we have to continue to work to defeat that.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Are Current Training Models Failing Officers and Communities Alike? 


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