Debriefs | MassCops


Discussion in 'Patrol' started by LA Copper, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    A good friend of mine on a local department there in Massachusetts was recently involved in two fairly significant incidents, one of which involved a weapon. Both incidents involved multiple officers. The outcomes were ultimately good but from what he told me, they could have and should have, been done better.

    I asked him what came out of the debriefs and he almost laughed. He then explained to me that his department doesn't do debriefs. When I asked him why not, he said that they just don't do that kind of thing around there. He also wasn't aware of any departments around him that do them either.

    He has been out here to LA and watched my guys do several debriefs so he knows what they are and said he would like to see them done on his department.

    So, I'm now wondering if any of your departments conduct debriefs after a critical or significant tactical incident? And if not, why not?

    My department has been using them for at least my 20 years on the job and find that they are very beneficial to learning... What do you guys think?
  2. HousingCop

    HousingCop Czar of Cyncism and Satire

    Never done a debrief here, unless you count beers after work and shitting on a co-worker who fucked up on the previous shift / latest incident. Your buddy is right, that's just not how we roll back East.

    It's kind of like watching programs which feature cops in CA doing traffic stops where the cops get out, take tactical positions and order the occupants out one at a time. Back East, the car is swarmed like bees on a hive. Out West for some reason, the suspects seem to follow the commands of the Police at the scene. Back East, if you tell a suspect to turn around, put his hands behind his back, palms out..... they just look back at you, grin, and jet off like a cheetah.

    It may have something to do with a criminal charge being attatched out West if you flee from the Police. Back East, there is no charge for fleeing / running from the police and they'll take their chances in the Massachusetts court system.

    I guess debriefs would be a good thing but with ego's being so big with some people, they probably can't take criticism lightly. Things are tough enough as is without benefit of making additional enemies within your own ranks.
  3. Sarge31

    Sarge31 MassCops Member

    Our department has done them after major/extensive incidents. That being said, they are sparatic and dependant on who is the IC of the incident. I personally prefer to do them after all such incidents. But I am not always the final say........
  4. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    HC, why do you think people's egos would get in the way? Don't those folks understand that the debrief is only for learning purposes? How else do we get better unless we try to learn from most every incident?

    When we do debriefs, they're usually after a foot pursuit, vehicle pursuit, perimeter, OIS, barricaded suspect, etc. Whenever possible, we do them at scene (usually at the CP) before we leave and usually again the next day in roll call when we have more time.

    Also when we do a debrief, rank goes out the window. Everyone from the newest probationer to a deputy chief can chime in.. as long as they do so in a respectful way of course! It's up to the supervisors to make sure a debrief starts, once they do, they usually roll from there.

    We do have a criminal charge for a suspect who runs (on foot) from us but it's only a CS misdemeanor. But we do still have people who take off from us just like you guys do there.

    Out here, if guys "swarm a car like a bee on a hive," they'll be hearing about it from supervisors like me to make sure it doesn't happen again. That is one of the ways we can avoid unneccesary officer injuries and deaths. It's also what debriefs are for afterward, to make sure it doesn't happen again.

    Oh well, just wondering...
  5. Truck

    Truck MassCops Member

    A mention of a debriefing would bring out the union reps with a stack of grievances. All sorts of speculation about who was after who.
  6. RodneyFarva

    RodneyFarva Get off my lawn!

    HousingCop has a very valid point, an innocent "you should have done this, instead of doing this" gets a response of "DON'T YOU FUCKING TELL ME HOW TO DO MY JOB!" ..well sometimes.. But what the hell do I know, I'm just a part-timer in a po-dunk town.:D
  7. dark horse

    dark horse MassCops Member

    I just attended my departments first debrief. I have been working there since 1996. If everything turned out ok after a major incident, then that was good enough and we moved on. We were destined to continue making the same mistakes.

    I have to say that the debrief was very productive. There was no finger pointing or bashing of anyones actions. Everyone involved talked about what they did and why and then we discussed how to handle a similar situation more effectively.
  8. Tuna

    Tuna Always entertained

    The only Debriefing I ever got was when management removed my boxers just proir to my "GUNS IN COURT" hearing.
  9. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    You are kidding, right?

    If that's the case then shame on those people. I would hope those kinds of egos wouldn't come into play no matter where we work. Debriefs aren't about slamming someone, they're about how we can learn to do it better for the next time... actual learning points so that we go home at EOW.
    Joel98 likes this.
  10. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    As a chief, what is your opinion? Do you encourage debriefs at your department?
  11. Killjoy

    Killjoy Zombie Hunter

    Just because no one was hurt or killed doesn't mean the incident was handled perfectly. Much of the time officers make mistakes, which happen not to be spotted by the bad guys, so they continue to make the same mistakes. Mistakes could range from tactical, to procedural to supervisory. One sergeant I know had a great term for it "de-training", although I'm not sure if he came up with that term or stole it. It basically means an officer is rewarded (through success) for doing something the wrong or sloppy way, so he continues to do it the same way. In the end it only takes one sharp bad guy to take one error of ours and turn into a life-changing or life-ending moment. Reasoned and open discussion over incidents, whether they came out good or bad, is the only solution.

    I think the Eastern US, particularly, New England, is in many ways far behind the west coast for police tactics and training. The smaller amount of officer-involved shootings out here is one reason. The liberal laws could be another factor, as these often significantly hamper police response. One the largest factors is the existence of fairly powerful police unions and the nature of union-management relations. In many departments "debrief" is simply another word for "witch-hunt" with management looking to nail an officer for some perceived misdoings. This sends officers and unions automatically into defensive mode if someone in authority starts asking for detailed breakdowns of situations, not the best scenario for open discussion. While I think departments out here would certainly benefit from debriefing, but with the steadily worsening relations between management and unions, I feel it will be long time before anything like it is ever implemented.
  12. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    If you're right, then management is not handling things correctly, especially regarding something as basic as a debrief.

    The only reasons debriefs are supposed to be used, at least as far as we use them, are to: 1.) Better catch the bad guy next time, and 2.) Better and safer ways to go home at EOW. They aren't designed to catch someone in an Internal Affairs type situation.

    I must admit, I'm kinda surprised at the types of responses to what I thought was a very basic thing but you're right, it goes to show how basic police work is handled differently coast to coast.
    Joel98 likes this.
  13. Delta784

    Delta784 Guest

    I wouldn't want to be involved in any debriefing that involved a supervisor (nothing personal Mike, things are different back here); as Killjoy mentioned, way too much of an opportunity to get it jammed far and deep, and I've seen or heard of it done way too many times.

    My advice for someone involved in a critical incident is always to say nothing to anyone, except a union rep and union attorney, until told otherwise by the attorney.
    pahapoika likes this.
  14. lofu

    lofu Subscribing Member

    In my experience, "debriefs" are done but on a very informal level. I am lucky in that I work with the same 2 officers in my sector every night and we have made it a habit of discussing just about every call from traffic stops, building and car searches, and arrests to talk about what went well and what could have been done better. We have found these very beneficial. Maybe its because I am relatively new to this career but I have learned a lot and have no problem admitting to my partners when I have made a mistake and we have a good enough relationship and trust in each other that we have no problem telling each other what we think might have been done better.

    In short, I think debriefs are very beneficial. My only concern would be with the "Monday morning quarterbacks" being present for these debriefs despite not having been there for the incident in question.
  15. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    Bruce, I guess that's just the difference in the mentality from west coast to east coast. We sometimes have supervisors up to the rank of deputy chiefs involved in debriefs. As I mentioned before, the rank comes off and we "put it out there" so that EVERYONE can learn from what just happened, both good and bad. The idea being that we make it better the next time, not to punish someone.

    You are correct about an OIS type incident, that's where the shooter and everyone directly involved wouldn't be saying anything. When I mentioned critical or significant tactical incidents, I was mainly referring to foot pursuits that turn into a perimeter; a vehicle pursuit that turns into a perimter; a vehicle pursuit that leads into everyone rushing the car and someone getting hurt because of it; and any other tactical type incident where something can be gleaned from it that ultimately helps make things better for the next time..
  16. williams1870

    williams1870 New Member

    I believe everyone has a good opinion. In our department we don't do debriefs either, officially. There is the back at the station talk about what occurred, but when telling someone they should have done some thing wrong or differently it becomes the impression that "oh you are better than them" or "they don't know what there doing and you do".
    When we train we always debrief, and sometimes you can feel the tension.
    As far as the difference between east and west. People in the east don't see the dangers out there. Maybe the media sugar coats it when something occurs, I don't know. When an incident occurs it seems everyone looks to look for a mistake and turn it into a dicipline action.
    I recently had an attorney claim putting a suspect proned out on the ground as not officer safety but excessive force, because it was a juvenile, and there was nothing to fear. We won the argument.
    A juvenile with a knife that was attempting to pull it out of his pocket on a sec.12 (mental evaluation order) for threats, we charged for possession of a dangerous weapon. A judge during a hearing stated, he did not agree with the charge because he never got the knife out of the pocket to attempt to do anything, and no one was hurt. Luckily that judge did not preside over the case.
    This is why I believe in the east the perception in the way it should be done is always concluded as excessive.
    I do believe in the debriefs as a way to sharpen skills because everyone does something not wrong, but different, and could learn from another view.
    But between politics, unions, there is the preception that debriefs is another way of conducting interviews.
  17. chief801

    chief801 Subscribing Member

    Absolutely! Egos and rank should be left at the door. It is all about doing the job better. If I screwed up, I hope that someone will call me on it. I try to do this with individuals on minor incidents, and with all involved on major ones. How well it works all depends on the approach. I try to open them with something I think I could have done differently. It should never spiral down to finger pointing or blame...that is done privately, if necessary...

    I wish you were kidding...It must suck to work in an environment where you can't trust your own...

    I actually took my lessons on debriefs from Sgt. Al Preciado (Ret.) LAPD...he explained how he handled them in his SWAT unit and it made great sense to me...he is a solid guy
  18. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    It sounds like you're doing it right at your agency, which is nice to hear. It also sounds like we think in a similar manner. Do your underlings agree with you?

    Al Preciado was/is a good guy. Did you meet him out here in LA or back there in Mass?

    lofu, I also agree with you; debriefs are done on an informal basis, which is why I mentioned that all rank goes out the window when doing them. Monday morning quarterbacking will always go on, it's just a matter of how it's done. It's sometimes a good thing to get a different perspective on an incident............ as long as it's done respectfully, especially if that person wasn't there like you said.

    I am currently the OIC of a divisional gang unit with 17 folks working for me. Every time we have an incident go down (excluding an OIS type thing), we always have a debrief afterward so that we can try to do it better the next time because there's always gonna be a next time.

    In my 20 years on the job, I've been involved in about 1000 debriefs and I've only seen an ego get in the way one time when an officer got into it with a sergeant. The officer was wrong but the sergeant handled it pretty well. Several of us took the officer aside afterward and had a talk with him; he didn't do that again and understood what the debrief was for.

    As for management using a debrief against an officer for doing something wrong, I would think it would have to be something really egregious. If management does use it against you guys, then shame on them too. That's an archaic way of thinking and should be changed as soon as possible to help the guy/girl on the street to do their jobs better.

    Thanks everyone for your responses, you've certainly enlightened me. Feel free to keep adding to this thread, it's meant to be an officer safety learning tool.
  19. chief801

    chief801 Subscribing Member

    I met Sgt. Preciado here in MA back in 1996. He was here for two weeks doing SWAT training for IACP. The trainers were Al, Steve Stear, and another guy whose name escapes me at the moment. All three were very squared away individuals. The image of Sgt. Preciado rappelling down the facade of a fire tower with a big fat stogie is permanently etched in my brain, quite a character.
  20. oneshot

    oneshot New Member

    I agree with the majority, if done it is ususlly done to hang someone.
    pahapoika likes this.
  21. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    And that amazes me. Debriefs are learning points only, nothing more. At least that's what they're supposed to be.

    For example, if I were to initiate a foot pursuit of a suspect wanted for robbery and I set up a perimeter; after the incident was over, we all go back to the CP and talk about it. I would start by summarizing what I had and what I did to facilitate catching the suspect. If I did or said something that could have been done better, then I would "admit" that and put it out there for everyone to hear. That way we would all learn from it, which is why we do the debriefs in the first place.

    From that point, the debrief is open to everyone for suggestions to help make it better. For instance, if the first responding back up officers went to the wrong place by mistake, they would mention that and say that they should have gone to point A instead of point B. After all, what's the point of making the same mistakes over and over when we could have corrected them the first time?

    The supervisors have a place in the debrief also. They would mention what they could have done better. The officers could also tell the supervisors what they think the supervisors could have done better for the next time. As I've said several times before, egos and rank must be "left at the door." If that can't be done, then some of those folks need to be made to understand that we're only trying to better ourselves so we don't add anymore names to the Law Enforcement Memorial wall.

    I forgot to mention, debriefs are also to highlight what was done right, not just what was done wrong. What was done right will also be used for the next incident, which you know is most certainly going to happen because that's the nature of what we do.
  22. Deuce

    Deuce screw you...

    Official debriefs only after SWAT involved incidents.

    After a regular patrol incident? Negative nothing official. Back in the sled and humping calls. Maybe something unofficial like a few guys getting together when it quiets down and laughing about some of the funnier things. But no, nothing with a supervisor.
  23. LA Copper

    LA Copper Subscribing Member

    For the folks who are interested, I'd be happy to show you how we do debriefs out in Los Angeles. I'd be happy to have you on a couple of ride alongs with me and my gang unit. We do about 3 to 4 debriefs a week after certain incidents.

    Come on out for a vacation during the cold winter months back there in Mass. It would be a good excuse to get away, plus you could write the trip off as a business expense!

    If that wouldn't work, if anyone's interested enough, I'll be back there for a couple of weeks for Christmas vacation in case you'd like to meet there to talk about this or any other "cop stuff." Feel free to type me here or PM me.

    How do you define "official?" I've noticed a few others have said the same thing. And why can't a supervisor be involved? Supervisors need to be there so they can learn too.
  24. Killjoy

    Killjoy Zombie Hunter

    Because most supervisors would never admit to a mistake. To point one out borders on insubordination. If you think I'm kidding, I most assuredly am not. Many supervisors confuse "leadership" with "dictatorship", and believe that any admission of wrongdoing on their part will cause them to lose face, when in fact, the opposite is true. The pursuit of a "bias-free"promotion system, where rote memorization of rules and regulations, rather than a candid look into someone's leadership potential on the street, produces supervisors who often know the rules, but not how to lead. Everyone knows that there are officers out there, regardless of rank, that everyone looks to for leadership when the sh*t hits the fan. But are these the guys that are usually promoted? In my organization that would be a big no.

    One example from recent memory is a co-worker of mine who arrived to assist at an armed robbery scene. The armed robber was on foot and perimeter was being created. A handgun was shown by the subject. My co-worker grabbed his shotgun out of his cruiser to help hunt the armed robber down. A few minutes later a PS showed up, saw my co-worker with his shotgun and told him : "Put that away before you hurt someone with it." Unbelievable!
  25. Delta784

    Delta784 Guest

    What I've never understood is why some (certainly not all) supervisors, after memorizing the Iannone tome on police supervision, then go out and violate just about every principle in the book.

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