Reality-Based Training as Technical Document: A Case Study of Cultural Construction in the Seattle Police Department
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Reality-based training (RBT) is a relatively new and understudied training mechanism used by law enforcement agencies. RBT uses scenario-based learning to invoke stress in the trainee, prepare the trainee for responding under stress, and ensure cultural cohesion. RBT has been in use at the Advanced Training Unit of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) since 2004. Despite such training, the SPD is under internal and Federal investigation for numerous violent incidents with citizens; where anything from racial slurs to excessive force were used in the SPD response to the individuals in question. Given the SPD's history of clashes with the public and the recognition that such incidents are "a problem of culture," a study of RBT offers insight into the constructions of such a training document as RBT and informs the circuit of culture in effect in the SPD. In this dissertation, I address the gaps between the RBT document and the SPD culture via a case study of RBT in the SPD. This study includes open interviews, ethnographic observation of training, survey of participants (both trainers and trainees), and contextual inquiry via police ridealong. Collected data inform the circuit of culture within the SPD. The circuit of culture suggests that understanding an artifact's representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation is essential in studying and understanding a cultural text or artifact. The circuit of culture aids me in answering the following research questions: how are officers trained in RBT? How is RBT evaluated? How do SPD leaders create that training? How does RBT affect officer culture? How does RBT utilize rhizomic learning within the context of the scenarios? The result of my study reveals communication gaps between leadership and trainers, trainers and trainees, and the SPD and the public. Ultimately, the training model is understood differently within the SPD culture. Better use of the RBT document would include a less prescriptive learning model that incorporates rhizomic learning scenarios, user feedback, and regular changes to the content of the RBT scenarios.