U.S. Marshals Become Leader in Modern Police Training

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In April of 2022, Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director at Force Science, was invited to Mesa, Arizona, to evaluate the U.S. Marshals’ latest High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension – Human Performance training. Dr. Lewinski was not disappointed, “The Marshals’ training was exceptional. They’re not only building excellent tactical officers, they are using the latest evidence-based learning strategies to build excellent decision-makers.”

Force Science has long recognized that the most effective police training will reflect the interdisciplinary, integrated, and varied nature of policing. Dr. Lewinski observed, “Like other highly skilled clinical professions, top law enforcement trainers will integrate expert knowledge [e.g., medical, tactical, legal] with expert performance and expert decision-making. The Marshals have done just that.”

High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension Training

As officers of the U.S. Marshals Service (the federal government’s primary agency for fugitive apprehensions), Marshals arrest tens of thousands of fugitives each year.1 To mitigate the risk in these potentially violent encounters, the Marshals Service developed the High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension Training (HRFA).

Started in 2012, the HRFA evolved to include Entry Training, Vehicle Tactics, Active Shooter Response, Medical Training, Tactical Firearms Training, Operational Planning, Breaching, and Ballistic Shield Use. Since its inception, the HRFA training has been credited with improving officer safety and saving lives.2

High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension Training – Human Performance

Not satisfied with the status quo, HRFA trainers continued looking for ways to improve their courses. Following their Force Science Certification training, a team of HRFA trainers recognized the opportunity to transform the HRFA into one of the country’s most effective tactical training courses.

Brent Broshow, Assistant Director, United States Marshals Service, explained, “We’ve always known that high-risk fugitive apprehension can require officers to move, shoot, and communicate. Those continue to be critical skills, but we expect and demand so much more. Deputy U.S. Marshals and task-force officers must also be highly skilled in de-escalation, persuasion, and operational planning, which could reduce the chance for a violent encounter in the first place.”

Assistant Director Broshow continued, “In our latest HRFA course, we wanted to focus on the human performance aspects of learning, decision-making, and performance. That meant developing and integrating physical skills, winning mindset, and expert decision-making under stress.”  “We understood from our Force Science training that repeatedly exposing students to a variety of scenarios, during which they had to make fast decisions, would be a key to developing expert decision-makers. But we also knew, in order for that training to be valid, it had to apply to real-world scenarios and reflect the reality of human performance. To accomplish that goal, we were careful that our scenarios and responses considered the action/reaction time studies conducted by Force Science – like the speeds of assaults, the speed of prone suspects, and the officer-safety lessons learned from the car stop study.”

Critical Thinking and Winning the Encounter

The High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension-Human Performance (HRFA-HP) course was designed to improve outcomes by improving decision-making and performance. Their course overview details the Marshals’ sophisticated approach to achieving these goals:

“HRFA-HP was designed to identify and enhance the individual officer’s skills and overall performance under stress. The student will understand the importance of a winning mindset and be exposed to how the human body processes information and performs under stress. The student will be immersed in stressful scenarios and given mission-specific tasks to complete. Instead of being exposed to the scenarios once and then debriefed, the student will engage in numerous repetitions of the same scenario. The objective of this is to allow the student the opportunity to critically think about their response and then employ a more effective solution to the problem for the next repetition. The end goals of the course are to enhance the student’s responses to stressful situations and then imprint those solutions into the student’s subconscious mind. In effect, minimizing their response time under stress and winning the encounter.”

Human Performance and Learning

Dr. Lewinski believes the Marshals are exactly right in their approach to training, “Under stress, with limited information and time constraints, decisions are unlikely to be based on slow, rational decision-making processes. Instead, officers are making fast, intuitive decisions based on past experiences, including training experiences. The Marshals have developed a program that exposes students to repeated scenarios, each requiring dozens of decisions. They are learning to look at the right place, at the right time, for the right information. The result is a tremendous deposit in the students’ reservoir of experience that will be used in real-world decision-making.”

Dr. Lewinski continued, “The strength of the Marshals’ program isn’t just their decision-making focus. They have integrated the medical, tactical, and communication requirements to successfully navigate high-risk apprehensions. More than that, they have implemented opportunities for students to evaluate their performance and decisions, discuss these impressions with other experts, and become active in their own learning process. This is not only a critical component of learning, but it also creates a culture of debriefing that results in lifetime learners.”

The Keys to Building Great Decision Makers

After observing the High-Risk Fugitive Apprehension training, Dr. Lewinski is convinced that the Marshals’ latest training effort is some of the most sophisticated in the country: “It is clear that the Marshals have incorporated training strategies aimed at developing and sustaining great decision-makers and performers.” “When we evaluated the Marshals’ program against our top 10 observations of effective training, we could see how the Marshals’ have quickly become leaders in modern police training.”3

  1. https://www.usmarshals.gov/duties/factsheets/fugitive_ops.pdf []
  2. https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/21-065.pdf []
  3. https://www.forcescience.com/2019/06/clinical-law-enforcement/ []
4 Responses
  1. Joel Takeuchi

    This training sounds awesome and highly applicable in diverse law enforcement activities. Is it available to other agencies and/or task force officers? Any contact info or a link to a training calendar would be much appreciated.

  2. Stacia Hylton

    I want to thank my team that work so hard to develop this exceptional program in 2011 to protect the Deputy U.S. Marshals and Task Force Officers who risk their lives everyday to protect the communities from dangerous fugitives and unregistered violent sex offenders. We were determined to get the necessary elements built into training to reduce the risks by creating high intensity drills with live fire to mimic the most challenging high risk situations that were playing out in the streets. These drills not only furthered the skills of the deputies, but instilled a survival capability for any circumstance the teams may encounter on the streets. Our medical training is among the top in the country. Thank you to the men and women who continue to serve and put the lives at risk each and everyday. My gratitude to the HFFRA teams who worked endless hours with me to make this a success- know these efforts have resulted in numerous saves. Thank you to those who continue to build this program and share it in the law enforcement community. Stacia Hylton, Director (ret.) US Marshal Service

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