Blue Line

Features Holding the Line
Using out-of-the-box thinking for developing occupationally-specific programming

August 12, 2020  By Michelle Vincent

As police officers we know training is key. In today’s climate, training is not only what we fall back on but what we will be evaluated on should our split-decision actions be questioned in an inquiry. With that being said, what kind of training do we actually practice? We have our annual requalification, which in most organizations involves defensive tactics, firearms training and thematic scenarios — often developed as a result of serious mishaps experienced throughout the year. Perhaps unconventional thinking in the development of our programming would be the missing ingredient.

Every year organizations grow and develop new training to ensure their members are working with leading-edge information. In turn, they hope this will minimize organizational liability and also improve efficiency and the safety of their members, both sworn and civilian. Using unconventional thinking in relation to programming may support the kind of top-notch training leaders are seeking.

Many of us, as sworn and civilian members, work outside of organizational time clocks in order to network, meet, train and explore additional tools and programming — many of which have the flavour of unconventional thinking. We do this so that we might support our policing family in being the best we can be. We understand there are organizational restraints and time-related challenges that prevent sending members out for these varied types of training, networking and collaborating. However, we also applaud and appreciate those members who do volunteer their time for this.

I have seen some amazing programming introduced nationwide in our policing services, from writing for resiliency workshops to intensive reintegration programs, to a complete overhaul in culture change. As I continue my doctoral research, my creative juices grow and flow in this area.


One idea on unconventional thinking — in relation to programming — that came to me was this: I considered how many of us have sought out mental healthcare whereby the psychologist used cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a form of treatment. From a very basic perspective, CBT involves reframing thoughts that do not serve us. An example is: while attending a domestic where we are required to lay a charge, a thought that might go through our mind is: As a result of legislation and the mandatory charge laid, we are causing greater angst and discord for this family…

This can feel heavy on us. Reframing this thought might include going through what will benefit the family as a result of the charges laid. They are likely to be engaged with various resources that will support their mental well-being as well as their relationship. If we hadn’t engaged with this couple, their circumstances may have escalated to a more serious incident.

Personally, I am a big believer in having this as a skillset. This is because perception is reality and it is key in our experience of the world. CBT is delivered online, which shows us how simple it can be to apply on our own and it can even be delivered right through our police training for personal use. Developing programming with CBT components, such as adding a program for our members to practice various written scenarios — to rewrite an experience with a completely different perception — may empower them to appreciate the control we truly have over our minds.

There are two take-aways in this article:

  • If you are that go-getter who works outside of your organizational timeclock networking, researching and training because you know it will make you a better member, keep doing it. The business of empowering our world with positive energy is conducted one person at a time. What you are doing is and will continue to be contagious.
  • Think outside the box and encourage your organization to do the same. If COVID-19 continues to teach us anything, it is how much we can accomplish when we think unconventionally.

Change is always an opportunity if we choose to see it as such.

Find this column in the August/September issue of Blue Line here.

Michelle Vincent is a retired police officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders. Email her at

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