“Failure to conduct a debrief”

We often associate the term “debrief” with tactical teams only – but debriefs should be an integral part of patrol operations, tactical teams, K9 teams, warrant service teams, and other teams involved with tactical operations, high risk patrol encounters, warrant services, significant training sessions and/or reality-based training scenarios.  Failure to conduct a proper debrief can get you in trouble. 

A debrief following a tactical operation or a high risk patrol encounter is essential and should be mandatory because it serves as an invaluable source in determining lessons learned from the incident so that good performance continues, satisfactory performance improves, and poor performance is not replicated.  This practice also applies to significant training exercises and reality-based training scenarios.

“Successful or not, every tactical [K9] operation yields fruit in the form of lessons learned.”  -Charles ‘Sid’ Heal from his book “Field Command” 

We often tend to repeat the mistakes made during a K9 deployment or the mistakes of others when we fail to conduct a debriefing of an incident, acknowledge the lessons learned, and share the information later with our team members including, but not limited to, other handlers, K9 staff, trainer, and support personnel (backup officers).

Debriefs can be informal depending on the seriousness of the incident and could possibly be held briefly in a nearby parking lot afterward.  Or, debriefs can be more formal and held in the station’s briefing or conference room.  A supervisor should ideally facilitate the discussion whenever possible.  If a debrief involves a critical incident – the debrief may be delayed if legal representation and privileged communications are necessary.

More important than a debrief is conducting a proper debrief.  The right questions must be asked and answered and all personnel should be honest and held accountable for their thoughts and actions.  What happened? What did you do? What went right? What went wrong? What did we learn? What training or policy issues should be changed or addressed as a result of this incident?  If you had to do it all over again, what would you do? And, as a follow up later on; What training subsequently occurred and/or what policy issues actually changed as a result of this incident?

If you are not conducting debriefs of your K9 deployments and reality-based training scenarios – or not sure if you’re doing it properly – I recommend contacting someone on your tactical (SWAT) team (or a neighboring agency team if you don’t have a team) to assist your process and provide some guidance for a short time period. 

You can read a short article I wrote titled “What is a tactical debrief?” that lists some other fundamentals of the debriefing process by clicking here.

Take care, be safe and debrief your incidents honestly and thoroughly….

Bill Lewis II

This “reason” was originally shared on March 18, 2015.

“Trouble” isn’t always related to incidents or predicaments that directly result in lawsuits, claims or discipline. Often times, our actions or inactions that are missed, deliberately overlooked or downplayed may lead to nothing or can later lead to mistakes or bad incidents with minimal to serious repercussions.  A reason we get in trouble can be minor or simple at first glance – or even serious – but a combination of these factors can often have disastrous consequences.   

These “reasons” are provided periodically as a collection in-progress based on actual incidents and real attitudes as well as feedback received at HITS, the CNCA Training Institute, and the “Canine Liability 360” classes.  As Gordon Graham says, “We haven’t found new ways to get in trouble.” So, as the list progresses, you may or may not read something familiar to you that you have personally experienced or seen others encounter. If you encountered or heard about it, did you learn from it?