The PACT training approach is a hybrid of several theories, practices and techniques from several fields of study. Originally, the technique was developed during the early 1970s by instructors at the New York City Police Academy to reduce the high number of injuries incurred during police interventions in family disputes.

The Police Academy instructors experimented with role-play, but felt the role-plays were unrealistic, uncontrolled and unsafe. Recruits who played family members were superficial in their portrayal and unaware of specific training objectives or goals. Recruits who staged simulated family conflicts also resisted the “police” who attempted to intervene in the role-play, often leading to frustration and turmoil.

Steven R. Hitt

The instructors stopped using role-plays and hired professional actors to portray the family members. They hoped that the actors’ skills would heighten the realism and better focus the recruits training with them. As with role-plays, using actors in police training was plagued with problems. Since actors weren’t knowledgeable of police intervention or skilled in reacting to the recruits, the actors tended to maintain their characters rather than guiding the recruits toward training goals. The lack of feedback for recruits on their actions often caused the exercises to dissolve into frustration. This led to recruits openly combating the actors, and instructors criticizing and ultimately demoralizing the recruits.

The Police Academy instructors then decided that if they could learn elements of drama, they could portray the family members and maintain control, reality and safety from within the simulation. They turned to Ben Termine, professor of theater at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who had studied psychodrama with its originator, J. L. Moreno. Dr. Termine taught the instructors improvisation, characterization and other acting skills, and introduced concepts of psychodrama, such as guiding, pacing and uses of audience participation.

As a result, the instructors recreated family disputes they had encountered as police officers, took on the characters of family members, and integrated into their replications specific training objectives the recruits needed to achieve. This rudimentary model of drama-based simulation allowed recruits to practice their skills in managing complex human interactions and receive immediate feedback from instructors on their efforts. The new method also permitted the experienced instructors to monitor and coach the recruits through their staged interventions, both as actors from within the exercise, and as facilitators outside the exercise.

The technique was quickly recognized as an effective means to train recruits. The Criminal Justice Repertory Players were formed at John Jay College to meet this need. Soon, police departments throughout the Mid-Atlantic States were asking for the Players’ services. The PACT Training organization emerged from this group in the late 1970’s, and was incorporated in 1980. The training technique has continued to evolve as human service agencies and corporations have sought to use this training model for crisis intervention, supervision and management development, domestic violence, hostage negotiations, workplace diversity, and other human dynamics training areas.