May 20, 2023

An important new step in the evolution of ICAT


PERF members,

This was an exciting week at PERF, as it marked the opening of our new National ICAT Training Center in Decatur, Illinois. This facility, built with the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, will now serve as a home base for PERF’s ICAT training, and we’re offering train-the-trainer sessions at no cost through the end of the year. If you want your trainers to be taught ICAT this year, you cover the travel costs to Decatur and PERF will cover the training.

Attendees gather in the training center auditorium for the grand opening presentation

Most of you are familiar with the history of ICAT. In 2015, PERF published Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force, which found officers receive relatively little training in de-escalation and crisis intervention. Later that year, we brought a group of police leaders to Scotland to study how police there respond to individuals who are armed with knives or other weapons besides firearms. Because the vast majority of police officers in Scotland do not carry firearms or TASERS, they need to rely on their communications skills, tactical positioning, shields and other less-lethal devices, and teamwork to safely resolve these types of challenging encounters.

“I remember thinking that we had visiting police chiefs with 25 years of experience; could we give them some thoughts, discussion points, and help them discover potentially different ways of doing business?” Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson said at the ICAT Training Center grand opening on Wednesday. “At the end of that week, it was a big, fat ‘yes.’ We learned as much from our American colleagues as I’m sure they did from us. We had a really informative week.”

Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson

Several members of the delegation that travelled to Scotland attended this week’s grand opening and shared their recollections of the 2015 trip. “One of the fundamental things that stood out for me, and still stands out for me, is communication,” said Baltimore Deputy Commissioner Sheree Briscoe, whose agency was one of the first to implement ICAT. “Just the way they were engaging with the citizenry and each other, and the effective communication that allowed them to walk away with both the officer and citizen safe after a very intense critical situation.”

Baltimore Deputy Commissioner Sheree Briscoe

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Tracy, who was part of the delegation to Scotland, had 25 members of his agency trained in ICAT at the Decatur facility this week. Tracy, the first outside chief hired to lead the department, said officers needed to learn it was okay to give time and distance to people in crisis. “Officers needed to learn how to back away and keep their egos in check,” Chief Tracy said. “It’s okay to back away and give room to a person who we may have previously approached.”

St. Louis Metropolitan Chief Robert Tracy

“My big takeaway was that when you watched how they recruited, they weren’t recruiting the fastest runner, or who could do the most pushups, or who could do the most pullups,” said Volusia County, Florida Sheriff Mike Chitwood, another member of the delegation to Scotland. “They were recruiting for people who had reasonable thinking skills. They can teach everything else. But they wanted to know that they were hiring people who could think on their feet and put the sanctity of human life at the forefront of everything they did.” Sheriff Chitwood hired PERF to study use of force in his agency, then implemented ICAT and saw a sharp reduction in use-of-force incidents.

Volusia County, Florida Sheriff Mike Chitwood

After returning home, we spent several days observing the training and operations of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), which regularly handles challenging situations and interacts with individuals in crisis. The ESU operates using many principles that have become a foundational part of ICAT, including slowing situations down, making use of time, distance, and cover, and communicating with the subject.   

In 2016 PERF published Guiding Principles on Use of Force, which features 30 recommendations for improving police policy, training, tactics, and equipment. To put those recommendations into practice, PERF convened a group of 60 experts in police training and tactics at the NYPD training academy. The group, which included representatives from agencies across the country and Police Scotland, spent the week developing the initial ICAT curriculum. ICAT training began later that year, and since then, hundreds of police agencies – large, mid-sized, and small – across the country have adopted ICAT.

Several of the speakers at this week’s grand opening helped bring ICAT to their agencies and noted some reasons for its success:

  • Burlington, North Carolina Lieutenant Shelly Katkowski attended the 2016 conference where the initial version of ICAT was released, then implemented it in her department. “I was a sergeant in the training unit at the time, and I went [to the conference] with the captain for patrol, the assistant chief for patrol, and two officers who worked under me,” Lt. Katkowski said. “So I had support and knowledge above me to help with implementation from the top down. They knew the expectations of the trainee and sat through the training themselves. Command staff and upper management knew what officers were expected to do and held officers accountable to those expectations.”

Lt. Shelly Katkowski conducts scenario-based training in the new PERF National ICAT Training Center

  • Rutgers University–Camden Police Chief Kevin Lutz spearheaded ICAT implementation in his previous agency, the Camden County, New Jersey Police Department. “Chief Scott Thomson gave me a lot of autonomy to choose the right people to help deliver the training and sustain it over time,” Chief Lutz said. “It wasn’t necessarily just the SWAT officers or just the street cops; it had to touch every part of the police department, and that included our union.”
  • Sergeant Justin Witt was instrumental in implementing ICAT in the Louisville Metro Police Department. “It was important to get cops to realize that you can slow down and you can use these other tools that ICAT talks about,” Sgt. Witt said. “And then we had to change the culture of training. We were very heavy-handed. Most of our training was based on skills – OC, baton, and shooting. We didn’t do a lot of decision-making activities and we definitely didn’t do a lot of scenario-based training. So we had to change the mindset and culture of the training academy, and the department followed.” Louisville’s ICAT training was independently evaluated by a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati, who found that ICAT was associated with a 28 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents, a 26 percent reduction in citizen injuries, and a 36 percent reduction in officer injuries.

PERF has held ICAT train-the-trainer sessions and informational meetings across the country over the past six years, but we have never had our own space to conduct ICAT training. That’s why this week’s opening is so important.

Thanks to the generosity of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, PERF now has a dedicated facility for ICAT instruction. Howard Buffett previously served as sheriff of Macon County, Illinois, which includes Decatur, and was part of the PERF delegation that travelled to Scotland in 2015. After ICAT was developed, Buffett asked me if PERF needed a state-of-the-art facility to deliver training. He is now leasing the training center to PERF for one dollar a year!

“I’m proud to be able to participate in something that addresses some of the biggest issues that our police officers face in today’s world,” Buffett said. “You have leadership at the top and it develops the agency’s culture. Then training makes sure that culture can be implemented in the community.”

Howard Buffett addresses attendees at the grand opening of the PERF National ICAT Training Center

(As an aside, Buffett has also been providing generous support to rebuild Ukraine. Click here to view a video featuring photographs he’s taken during his eight trips to the country to provide support over the past year.)

The Decatur facility has everything you could want in a modern training center, including:

  • An auditorium with stadium-style seating for 144 students.
  • A 108-seat classroom with state-of-the-art technology.
  • Eleven scenario-based training venues spread out over 22,500 feet, including a convenience store, fast-food restaurant, hospital emergency room, mobile home, place of worship, residential apartment, retail store, school classroom, tavern, warehouse, and railroad station with a train car.

Ralph Thornton, a retired sergeant from the Camden County, New Jersey Police Department, conducts scenario-based training in the new PERF National ICAT Training Center

  • A separate training venue that mirrors a correctional facility, including prisoner intake, day room, recreation area, and eight prisoner cells.
  • On-site virtual training capabilities, including VirTra simulators.

Mock hospital emergency room at the new Decatur facility

Mock classroom

Mock place of worship

Mock warehouse

You’re all invited to send trainers to Decatur to participate in a train-the-trainer session. The sessions will be offered at no cost through the end of the year, though participants will be responsible for their travel expenses. We currently have space available in our June 15-16 session, and we will post additional training dates on our website in the coming months.

Instructor Christopher Sullivan conducts scenario-based training in the new PERF National ICAT Training Center

I know some would prefer to bring PERF to their agencies, so you will still be able to hire PERF to train your trainers or your entire department in ICAT. This will include a follow-up visit for quality control to ensure model fidelity and assist with any implementation challenges. For more information, contact Jason Cheney at [email protected] or (202) 454-8331.

Lead ICAT instructor Dan Alioto addresses the training center’s first graduating class

The first graduating class of the PERF National ICAT Training Center, May 18, 2023. Students represented local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies across the country, and some came from as far away as Hawaii and Canada.

Thanks to everyone who travelled to Decatur for the grand opening and to all those who have played a role in bringing ICAT to this point. I want to close with a really hopeful perspective that Clearwater, Florida Chief and PERF Vice President Dan Slaughter shared at that ceremony: 

“I see this next generation of cops really taking it to a whole new level. I’m really excited to watch what the profession does in the next 30 years, because the people I’ve seen in this profession are compassionate. They care. They want a positive outcome. It’s not all a game of ‘cops and robbers.’ It’s about having a productive outcome not only for themselves, but also for the citizens and people in crisis. So I’m really excited to see it.”

Clearwater, Florida Chief and PERF Vice President Dan Slaughter

I hope this training center helps teach that next generation of cops.