General George S. Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” He recognized that the most important factor to making a decision is time. How much time is available before the circumstances will change for the worse? One second, one minute, one hour, one day, or one week? General Patton knew that there was not much time in war before decisions had to be made, but when not in the fog of war, sometimes time is on your side and sometimes it is not.
In developing the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model, the exact same constraints regarding time were evident. Hence, the React Phase became the most critical component of the entire model because good decision-making hinges on a person’s ability to quickly assess, on limited information, if a significant decision must be made and, if so, how much time is available to make it in?
Within the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model are 3 distinctive loops. Each of these loops serves a specific purpose in the process of making safe, sound decisions. This blog is going to reference the 3 loops within the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model in terms of how they apply to a police officer’s decision-making. These loops could just as easily be applied to any other profession which requires making decisions during moments of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and anxiety) where time is the critical factor.
Let’s explore these 3 loops . . .
Predict-React-Evaluate (P-R-E) Loop (SITUATIONAL AWARENESS LOOP): This is the smallest of the loops, but one of the most vital when it comes to keeping officers safe. Predict-React-Evaluate is not used for making decisions of significance, but it does serve the purpose of maintaining a state of situational awareness. The P-R-E Loop is a continuously running loop within an officer’s mind which keeps him or her aware of their current circumstances and is searching for the next opportunity to make a decision of significance.
In an article shared recently by Patrick Van Horne, co-author of “Left of Bang”, Dr. Mica R. Endsley defined situational awareness with three levels: Level 1: Perception of Elements in Current Situation, Level 2: Comprehension of Current Situation, and Level 3: Projection of Future Status. In essence, the P-R-E Loop includes the same levels, but in a slightly different order of occurrence. (Towards a Theory of Situational Awareness in Dynamic Systems; Human Factors; 1995)
To keep an officer from being behind the curve, Predict requires the officer to consider possible circumstances, threats, outcomes, and solutions that may be relevant to the situation at hand. As the officer continues into the situation, they must React by receiving feedback from the actual circumstances they encounter which either confirms or negates their predictions. It also offers updated information, primarily sensory in nature, to add to their next P-R-E Loop. If there is no need for a decision of significance, then they proceed to Evaluate the differences between the Predict/React Phases and return to Predict what may come next. This continual loop of Predict-React-Evaluate provides the officer with a state of situational awareness.
The best of the best officers can do this continually throughout a shift without giving it a second thought. It is the P-R-E Loop that creates situational awareness and leads to good officer safety. On the other hand, when the P-R-E Loop is not being used continuously, that is when officers are complacent and apt to find themselves in ill-advised situations.
Just a Few Examples:
- Driving in traffic making observations of possible traffic violations.
- Approaching a call for service location and exiting the patrol vehicle.
- On a foot patrol in a crowded public area.
- Many, many more.
Predict-React-Investigate-Decide-Evaluate (P-R-I-D-E) Loop (PATIENT DECISION LOOP): The largest loop of the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model encompasses all 5 phases of the adaptive decision-making model. The key factor in utilizing the P-R-I-D-E Loop is that the officer recognizes that time is on their side. There is time to gather new information regarding the decision at hand before needing to make a decision. Because there is more time available and additional information can be gathered, this loop should generate the most developed and effective decisions, but at the cost of time.
The first two steps remain the same, Predict and then React. When recognized in the React Phase that time is available, the officer can investigate the situation further to uncover previously unknown details. Invesitgate could include determining the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the incident. If an officer finds that they are in an unfamiliar situation, they also have time to gather new information from department policies/procedures, state legal statutes, a trusted source for advice, or any other resource that may have relevant information regarding the circumstances. There must also be a level of understanding that the officer will never be able to gather all possible information, but they must try to accumulate as much as they can in the time they have available to them. Once all the new information regarding the situation is brought into consideration, the mind very quickly begins to apply its prioritized knowledge filters while beginning to formulate a decision. As all relevant experience, skill, and knowledge is applied to the situation, then a decision will be forth coming. Upon reaching Decide, deliberate action must be taking to put the decision into motion. As with all of the loops, the final step is to Evaluate the decision and then continue into the next loop.
Just a Few Examples:
- Making the determination if a crime has or has not been committed during a delayed report call.
- Making an arrest decision while on a domestic dispute call.
- Conducting a collision investigation and deciding which driver gets the citation.
- While part of a contact team with no stimulus present to push the need for entry.
- A detective using multiple P-R-I-D-E Loops to determine the best course of action for an investigation.
Predict-React-Decide-Evaluate (P-R-D-E) Loop (URGENT DECISION LOOP): The P-R-D-E Loop is used to make decisions in the highest stress, most time critical moments. In this loop, an officer is primarily relying on their previous experience to formulate their decisions. There is just not enough time to use a skill that has not been fully developed or academic knowledge that has never been applied to a real situation. It is within this loop that muscle memory, recognition-primed decision-making, or statements like “my training just kicked in” are used to describe how these types of decisions are formulated. More than anything, human beings trust their prior experience and in these types of situations that is true ten-fold.
The steps of Predict and React occur as they normally would; the React Phase recognizes the situation for what it is and notes that a decision must be made quickly. It must be accepted that because these are high stress moments, incomplete or poor predictions and reactions can occur if training to handle high stress moments has not occurred. Due to the limitation of time, the Investigate Phase is skipped because Decide needs to occur as soon as possible and it must be with the information present. Upon making the decision and the necessary deliberate action occurring, the Evaluate Phase becomes an extremely vital component to a successful P-R-D-E Loop. Rarely will a single decision bring an end to a high VUCA situation. Evaluation of the decision must occur promptly because most likely another critical decision is probably about to be needed.
Just a Few Examples:
- Shoot or don’t shoot situations.
- Clearing an intersection while driving Code 3 to a call.
- Making entry as part of a crisis team.
- Choosing the appropriate level of force to use during a situation.
- Negotiating with a suicidal subject to not take their life.
- Immediately starting C-C-C on a subject that is not breathing.
While each of the loops within the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model have been written about in isolation, it is importance to recognize that in reality these loops are occurring simultaneously at many different levels. A single call for service could have hundreds of significant decision loops and thousands of smaller less significant decision loops. It is for this reason that officers that are known to be good decision-makers, especially under stress, are so valued in the law enforcement profession.
Now that the individual components and the loops of the PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model have been defined, in the next blog we will discuss how law enforcement leaders can best use this information with their officers. No matter the department, developing sound decision-makers is vital to leading an organization into 21st century policing.
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Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!