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Creating Trust: An Essential in Teaching Police Tactics

In almost any organization, trust is an important essential in creating an environment where a positive rapport with the leader can be developed, thereby maximizing performance. Trust is something that does not develop immediately, but may be destroyed easily. If this is true in a general organization setting, how much more so when teaching police tactics to law-enforcement?

If one were to place a dozen police tactics instructors in different rooms, each having been given their own class, we would, in all likelihood, witness twelve different styles of teaching. Yet, regardless of one's personal style, there are four "levels of trust", each with a specific definition and application, that are foundations in trust-building. These four are Integrity-Based Trust, Competence-Based Trust, Judgment-Based Trust, and Performance-Based Trust. (Note: these levels are concepts having their roots in Management, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology.) Let us briefly look at each level, and relate them to the police tactics teaching experience.

Integrity-Based Trust means that one trusts the integrity of the instructor, i.e., that the instructor is honest in his/her words, that s/he lives according to what s/he "preaches", and that the instructor will in fact teach that which is promised to be taught. This not only shows the instructor as being trustworthy, but lays a credible foundation for the other levels. For example, if an instructor states that one goal is to teach weapon defenses, students cannot be "shortchanged" due to time constraints or the introduction of new material.


The second level, Competency-Based Trust, states that while a student may believe an instructor's words as to what can be achieved as a result of completing the course of study, the students must believe that the instructor has the knowledge, skills and ability to demonstrate the techniques effectively, and to deliver this competency to the students. This is not a personal challenge to the instructor, but an issue of wanting and needing to trust that the instructor is able to impart the skills that may be necessary to save an officer's life in a confrontation. As the student becomes more competent, trust in the instructor grows.

Judgment-Based Trust means that the student cannot perceive any biases in the instructor which would impair the instructor's judgment. These biases could be the result of an instructor's past history and experience in the streets, they may be cultural biases, or the bias may reflect what is considered an inappropriate ideology and approach to police self-defense. In any case, a student must feel that the person teaching him/her will not have an impairment in judgment interfering in the teaching process. The student's learning experience will then be maximized. 

Lastly, we have Performance-Based Trust. By this we mean that the instructor must have a positive history of "delivering", i.e., that s/he has consistently and successfully taught police tactics to others in law-enforcement, and the "finished product" was in fact most satisfactory, that is, the student learned the techniques and felt confident in his/her ability. When the record reflects this, an officer will have even greater trust in his/her instructor. 

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