O2 Bottle, Wrestling and Restraints: A Lesson On “Unofficial Training”

Unofficial Training
Does it exist and does it have an impact?






kip pd

Kip Teitsort, Founder DT4EMS

Several officers were sitting in the briefing room getting ready to start their midnight shift. Most of the officers had multiple years of service on the job. There was however, one rookie in the bunch. The rookie looked young for his age and was still considered the new guy at the department; he had only been on his own for a few weeks, fresh off of FTO. He was a good kid, eager to please command staff and to earn the respect of his peers. He was the quintessential Blue-Flame.

The rookie sat quietly as he listened to the seasoned officers talk about different topics including where to meet for dinner, who had which patrol sector for the evening, just general small talk passing time before the official briefing.

The topic of discussion somehow shifted to how the proverbial dirt bag/bad guy/suspect would make comments on how “I’d kick your ass if you didn’t have that badge on”. The rookie had never experienced that statement yet, so he listened carefully to how the senior officers had handled such an incident in the past.

Almost every officer in the group made comments on how they removed their badge, tossed it aside, and told their respective suspect “well, now’s your chance” and how the suspect would back down and not make the same comment again.

As Murphy would have it, the rookie arrests a suspect for Driving While Intoxicated. During the booking process every time the rookie would ask the suspect a question, even the simplest question like asking his name, the suspect would reply with “Fu%$ You!” The rookie informed the suspect that the booking process was merely administrative, but the rookie was clearly becoming agitated.

Out of nowhere, the suspect says…….. “If you didn’t have that badge on, Id kick your ass!”. The rookie, who wants nothing more than to be accepted by his peers, slowly reaches up, unpins his badge, and casually flips it onto the desk. The rookie casually states… “Here’s your chance”. All the while the rookie thinks he is doing what is right. He had no training for this type of incident in the academy, so he simply did what the senior officers said they did in the same or similar situation.

The rookie had received training on how to order a suspect to do something like “Stop Resisting”, and how to ask permission to do something like “May I search your vehicle” but he never received formal training on the what to do if is cop “authority” was challenged during the booking process.
Another officer enters the room and the suspect is placed into a holding cell. The officer completes the booking process on a more “sober” suspect just prior to going on shift that morning.

The rookie goes home, showers and crawls into bed. A few hours into slumber, his phone rings. It is the Chief of Police. The Chief tells the rookie he needs to speak with him. The rookie hurries into the department expecting to receive accolades for the way he handled the situation. Instead the rookie is met with a chief who did not appear happy.
The chief asks the officer about time in service. The rookie replies “one year”. The chief slams his hand on the desks and yells…. “Are you trying to destroy in one night what I have spent 17 years building?” The rookie is completely confused as the chief begins to describe how everything that happened the night before was on video and the rookie’s behavior was unacceptable. The rookie sat in the chair, stunned. After all, he only wanted to earn command staff’s approval and the respect of his peers; he only did what others said they had done in the past. The chief placed the rookie onto probation, any more mistakes and his law enforcement career was over.
The chief then posed a question, “Why didn’t you just place the drunk guy into the cell, wait and book him when he was sober?” It hit the rookie, like a sledgehammer to the face; now realizing the correct way to handle this type of situation, what he did was wrong.

The rookie never uttered a word , until now, he learned this behavior from listening to his peers. …and he never made that mistake again. That rookie was me, Kip Teitsort.

I share this story to bring up the importance of training for the situations EMS/Fire actually faces on the job. Ignoring the fact violence exists in EMS/Fire and the ED simply leads to improper, unofficial training. Every station has heard the comment of “whack ‘em with an O2 bottle” or using some other rescue tool as the answer to all self-defense problems. This station type unofficial training is no different than what I learned sitting in the briefing room.

Since EMS/Fire did not receive appropriate training for the violent situations they face, many have learned via osmosis from law enforcement. This training is not usually in a formal classroom setting, but unofficial training by hearing officers talk and watching them on a scene. The fundamental problem with this type of learning is the focus of why and officer does what they do versus why EMS/Fire does what they do.

An officer deals with custody and control. They have laws that govern when they can use force and training for when particular levels of force can be legally applied. EMS/Fire and ED staff work under patient consent so what happens when a person doesn’t consent? We see staff acting like cops and trying to use force or “pain compliance” style cop techniques to obtain control. EMS/Fire and ED staff must learn to recognize the difference between a patient and an aggressor/attacker.

Worse yet, an EMSer may learn from hearing others in EMS/Fire or the ED talk about using an O2 Bottle to the head as the only means of self-defense. This Blog post proves statements like that are rampant. JADED
As the image below shows, at times staff treat patients like attackers and vice-versa.

When there is no formal training on a subject, people rely on what they have learned based upon their own past training and experience. Think about it… what if you or your staff member was a former military member, an amateur or professional MMA fighter, a former bouncer in a bar? The previous training or experience obtained was great for what it was designed for. But what if some of their skills were used inappropriately while on the job in medicine- with no recognition of the difference between a patient an an attacker?

When faced with a violent encounter, staff will respond, how they respond will be based upon their training or lack of it.

Watch how these firefighters handle a situation that escalated quickly.


Staff will respond
If you are administrator, don’t allow unofficial training to ruin what you have worked so hard to create and as an front-line staff, don’t allow the unofficial training to leave you unemployed or worse, in jail.


Equal Force