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LASD video on Active Shooter response by civilians: some comments

by George on February 5, 2015 07:31

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department put out a very good video re: surviving an active shooter.  It has good information for those family members and friends of ours who are unarmed and facing this threat.  While it likely won’t happen to any individual person, one of these events happens about every 3 months in the US.  That means that it could happen to any one of us or our family members.  If you expect that it could happen, you are more likely to be able to react differently than those who sit or stand there in disbelief, staring like a deer in the headlights.

This video provides a blue print so that you/your family members/friends can PROBLEM-SOLVE YOUR WAY THROUGH IT.  The police will probably not get there in time to save you or anyone else—it will be up to you to save yourself, your loved ones, and others.  Get out if you can safely (try to put something between you and the bad guy as you move and don’t relax until there is no possibility of being harmed).  Barricade and hide if you must.  Prepare mentally and physically to fight if that is your opportunity to survive.

Whether it is an active shooter or a terrorist attack, whether we like it or not, this is our reality.  This is a good and short tutorial that will help you survive this vicious, deadly attack:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMf8SksLqkk.

For armed professionals, some critical points about the response depicted in the video:
  • Each of the dramatized events takes place in a “gun-free zone.”  Firearms are the best way to stop a person with a firearm.  Carry your firearm off-duty so that you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and those who cannot or choose not to protect themselves.
  • The LASD is apparently still doing the discredited and ineffective team formation response of waiting for four deputies to cell up prior to entering--single officer initial entry is more effective.  It’s been estimated that for every 15 seconds of delay in the law enforcement response, one person is shot and murdered.  The movement of four officers will be incredibly slow and more innocents will be harmed as a result.  Officers must be permitted to make entry as soon as they arrive through multiple entrances—this gives them the ability to control hallways, and hallways control the entrance and exit to every door to that hall.  Firearms are distance weapons giving officers the ability to control the entire length of most hallways and deny mobility to the suspect.  Even a limited penetration to the mouth of each major corridor by an officer with a rifle will deny the suspect mobility and access to additional victims.  Depending upon the circumstances and the officer’s confidence, officers should move to the last reported location of the suspect (or to the sound of gunfire).  At the very most, teams of two officer moving through the structure provides mobility and a timely response. 
  • Yelling, “Gun, gun, gun!” is not helpful in making a decision to shoot or not—decisions should be based on threat behavior and not solely the presence of firearm.  Now that California’s illegal concealed weapons laws have been struck down, California joins most of the states where sane gun laws enable law abiding citizens to lawfully carry and defend against violent assault.  The presence of a gun is not the sole indicator of threat.  Off-duty officers and legally armed citizens may have their handguns in-hand.  Responding officers must be looking for “threat behavior.”  Watch the video again solely for the actions of the gunmen.  Videos of actual events and eye-witness accounts show the suspects calmly stalking their victims.  These suspects are insecure, bitter, and powerless people who are dominant for the first time in their lives.  They move as if they own the world, dictating the events according to their fantasies.  Many are unhurried, as if enjoying every moment of this newfound supremacy.  This is very different from an off-duty officer or legally armed citizen’s “tactical behavior.”  Tactical behavior is obvious in its careful approach, use of cover/concealment, and its caution.  A legally armed person carefully moving toward the sounds of shots being fired or holding a position of cover (a corner or some type of barricade) is likely not a person of interest.  Officers should safely challenge (from behind cover and preferably from a triangulated position) the armed person to determine their intentions, then quickly transition back to moving to the suspect’s location.
  • Stop yelling when you should be hitting the suspect.  In the video, the suspect is standing over a group of people and pointing his weapon at them.  This suspect is presenting an imminent threat to life.  In the time it takes to yell “Gun!” three times, he can fire three or more shots.  Then the officers’ (in this case, deputies’) reaction-response delay will likely allow the suspect one to two more shots before they can make a decision to shoot.  If there is an imminent threat to life, the suspect has crossed the “deadly force threshold” and is subject to being immediately shot.  In this case, given the carnage the deputies had walked through and all of the facts known to them at the time, the proper response for the first deputy would have been to shoot in defense of life rather than to yell.
  • Enter a room only if you have to: it is far more preferable and efficient to fight from the door.  Making entry gives the suspect an even chance to shoot you.  If you seek a fair fight with a murderer, you have already lost.  A fundamental tactical principle is to fight from a corner.  Fight from the corner (the door), stay as small as possible, and shoot the suspect surely enough to hit with every round—speed of fire is not the objective: only hits count. 
  • We see firefighters/EMS being escorted into the crime scene to treat the wounded: problematically, Rescue Task Force methods in this configuration are slow, impractical, and inefficient.  How much time has evolved between the onset of injury (the first through the last persons being shot) and the first EMS contact in this situation?  If one really considers that when the shooting is over, the dying continues as long as the wounded continue to bleed (actually, until the trauma surgeon has addressed the life-threatening wounds).  The Rescue Team concept follows the same discredited formation concept that has proven to be worthless in intervening actual events due to the time it takes to gather sufficient personnel and to move to the threat.  Numerous questions have not been resolved in the Rescue Team concept: (1) How do the firefighters and police escorts find each other in a timely manner within the chaos that eats up radio communications? (2) Who assigns and tracks the teams of officers and firefighters in the pandemonium early in an event when functional Command Posts often take more than 15-20 minutes to get set up and running? (3) Rescue Teams move into “hot zones,” not “warm zones.” This Rescue Task Force concept calls for fire/EMS to move into a “warm zone” that has been twice cleared and deemed to be warm by law enforcement, yet requires ballistic protection for the fire/EMS personnel.  If EMS personnel require ballistic vests and helmets to enter and first contact the wounded, they are moving in a “hot zone” and are by definition imminently “at risk.” (4) Rescue Teams require a “twice cleared entry corridor and victim scene prior to entering.” How long in this chaos will it take to verify that the scene where the victims are located has been twice cleared by officers before the Rescue Teams are permitted to make entry?  Who will verify it? How long does it take to set up a functioning Command Post in these situations? (5) If EMS personnel are expected to stabilize patients in place before transporting them to the Casualty Collection Point (CCP) where they will be triaged and transported to definitive treatment, the Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) protocols are bypassed and definitive treatment is delayed, resulting in salvageable wounded unnecessarily dying. (6) Where is all of this ballistic equipment stored on the trucks and who is accountable for its tracking and replacement? (7) Following initial training, how much training time per year will be required to maintain the firefighter/EMS personnel’s currency in efficiently linking and then moving with an armed team?  These and other questions have not been addressed regarding the Rescue Team concept (for a more thorough discussion of the problems of a Rescue Task Force protocol of this type, see http://blog.cuttingedgetraining.org/post/Internal-Casualty-Collection-Point-or-Rescue-Teams-Integrating-Police-and-FireEMS-Within-the-Active-Shooter-Response.aspx.  

The answer is an integrated approach to the response involving the police and fire/EMS staying in their own swim lanes of expertise.  Police respond to the shooter while fire/EMS stages.  The police set up an internal command post which will quickly evolve into a secure CCP.  The second wave of officers, typically within five minutes of the first response, respond to Fire Stage where a police field sergeant and a fire lieutenant or Battalion Chief establish the Unified Command Post.  At some point, the Internal Command Post will have sufficient personnel to handle suspect mitigation efforts.   Law enforcement resources are diverted to other tasks including force protection of firefighters.  Two engine companies combine personnel and MCI equipment on to one engine. Within minutes, a team of firefighter/EMS is escorted into the secure CCP by armed officers (a Rescue Task Force) without the need for ballistic protection.  Even before the Rescue Task Force begins moving to the CCP, officers on the interior have been performing basic life-saving and moving the wounded to the secure CCP while suspect mitigation operations by other officers are on-going.  Fire/EMS performs their MCI protocol and the wounded are transported to a definitive care facility by order of severity of their wounds.

Time and safety must dictate the manner of this response

Time in a Active Shooter event is the enemy of life-saving.  The more time a suspect is permitted unfettered access to victims, the more gunshot wounds he will be able to inflict.  There is a saying that is as harsh as it is the grim reality, "Every gunshot wounds eventually stops bleeding." The longer a gunshot victim is allowed to bleed, the less likely that life will be saved.  Every effort in this highly chaotic, highly threatening, and extremely complicated response must be weighed against the unforgiving taskmaster of time. Problematically, the need for an exigent response to the wounded must be reasonably weighed against the threat to the lives of those responding to this event.  Acceptable casualties are not a part of the police or fire mission.  Nothing about entering a building where one or more people are shooting other people is safe.  It must be a balanced response.

The multipl-officer contact team concept, seen being trained nationwide since 2000, is a failed tactic.  The FBI says that 160 Active shooter events occurred in the USbetween the years 2000-2013.  Many authorities believe that only one of these events (the LAWA airport shooting) was concluded by this tactic.  Others cite up to four events that were positively influenced in some manner by these events.  Taking the highest number, this means that in only 1.025% of Active Shooter events did this tactic make any difference in the outcome.  Something else must be done other than waiting for other officers to arrive, forming up into a four (or more) officer cell, ponderously moving down a hallway.  

The answer is a single, first arriving officer moving individually to an ingress point, then stop, look, and listen--then briefly communicate. If it is safe to enter, move to a corner permitting the officer to command a hallway.  If the officer hears or is told of the location of the suspect (e.g., gunshots, victims or witnesses pointing or yelling, dispatch communications from 9-1-1 reports, etc.).  The officer then makes the decision to hold and control the hallway, to penetrate deeper toward the suspect location moving from cover to cover, stopping to look, listen, and assess, or to wait until a second officer arrives and to move together, bounding toward the suspect's location.

Each officer's entry and movement is dictated by that officer's individual comfort dictated by his or her perception of individual skill, the context of the scene they see before them, and the individual's confidence that the situation can be addressed in a safe manner.  Some officers will move deeply into the structure by themselves while others will hold only at the initial ingress point.  Neither of these officers are superior to the other but, rather, reflects the differences in the aptitude and perceived capabilities of each individual.  

The point is, the only solution to the dilemma of time working against the victims of the suspect is leaving the decision to enter and move up to the individual officer.  With officers rapidly responding through different ingress points, dominating hallways by rifles, and moving toward the suspect's location, there will be natural linkups as officer continue moving to the (last reported or apparent) suspect location.  This provides a much greater likelihood of a rapid conclusion to this event. 

Hugs and Justice

by George on November 29, 2014 07:15

 By now, most people have seen this photo of 12 year old Devante Hart hugging and being hugged by Portland, OR, Police Sergeant Bret Barnum at a Ferguson protest rally in Portland, Oregon on 11/28/14.  
 

The young man waPortland sergeant and protestor hugs holding a sign reading, "Free Hugs."  Sgt. Barnum came up and spoke to him for a few minutes, just like he might any 12 year old.  Young Mr. Hart began tearing up, and when Sgt. Barnum asked him for a hug, we see the results.  Two human beings, one in a uniform who stands ready to give his life for this young man if needed, and another who is willing to step across the divide created by a belief about the police.  

The only reason this is shocking to some is that they have bought into a narrative that does not fit reality.  It's a shame that this is international news or that people think it unique.  Yes, there are a few bad apples in law enforcement who are brutal, and more than a few are callous, arrogant, or rude.  Using a small minority of jerks or thugs to paint the whole of law enforcement with a broad brush is just as wrong as taking a small portion of any community or organization and extrapolating that misconduct to the whole.  

A study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 70% of professional standards complaints  are internally generated.  Seven of ten complaints about officers are generated by other officers.  Officers who engage in misconduct of any kind--including using excessive force or improperly treating people--are routinely disciplined and terminated.  I've assisted in terminating the employment of officers, and helped prosecute two.  

However, for the most part, the officers nationwide I have known for more than 30 years are simply trying to do a job and routinely act in what can only be described as in a quietly heroic manner, day after day, week after week, year after year.  When called upon, they have also acted with valor, and sadly, I have personally known seven officers who have been murdered and several more who were killed on the job.  And I've defended many in my more than two decades of defending officers all over the nation as an expert witness.  

Justice was served in Ferguson, Missouri.  Not justice for Officer Wilson or justice for Michael Brown.  Justice is not for any individual.  What most people want when calling for justice for or against any single person is revenge.  Or vindication of their beliefs.  Or justification for their personal narratives of how this world works.  Those who call for justice for a person demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of what justice means and how our system works.

Justice is a process.  Justice is blind and based on provable facts.   In this or any incident, whatever our personal beliefs and desire for an outcome, the process, however imperfect it might be, works.  It sifts through the morass of the known facts and compares it to the laws on the books.  It balances the rights of the accused against what can be proved through physical evidence and credible testimony.  In the end, like the outcome or not, both Wilson and Brown received "justice" under the law.  That is what the rule of law provides: a certainty of process to every person. That is the only value the US justice system provides that is unique in all the world.  If that system is broken through a desire of justice for someone or for some outcome, what it means to be an American is diminished.  It it happens enough times, that value will become nil and justice will be abandoned for anyone.

So in Portland, it's good for most people to see two people recognize the humanity in the other and each step across the great divide that has been growing and growing for the last few years.  For some of this, this photo is not surprising.  

Are You a Cop or a Crook?

by George on August 18, 2014 11:13


“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.”  George Washington.

 

Violence is an inherent part of your job.  When you step in front of any person on the street, you carry the full authority of the government behind you.  When you lawfully tell someone to do or not do something against their will, it is a command in the name of the People who employ you.  That person is required to reasonably comply.  If you respond with objectively reasonable force based on everything you know at that moment about the suspect, the circumstances, and the suspect’s threatening behavior or attempt to flee, statistically, it is overwhelmingly likely that your quantum of force (the type, duration, and the likelihood of the injury of that force), will be reasonable and ultimately justified under the law.  This includes shooting an imminent threat who dies or is injured as a result, even when it is later discovered that he was actually unarmed and you were mistaken about his actual threat.  Absent intentional misconduct, the shooting of a suspect is almost always ruled to be criminally justified.  

Although rarely it is not justified.  And therein, as the Bard says, lies the rub.

 

A justifiable shooting…and then the problems begin…

When can this go awry?  Police labor attorneys often advise officers, especially those involved in shootings, to refuse to give statements to criminal investigators.  Unfortunately more officers are beginning to abide by this counsel.  We’re seeing cases where an officer’s administratively coerced statement (per Garrity) is also being withheld from prosecutors rather than reviewed and later turned over to the DA.  In fact, based on their labor attorneys’ direction, some officers are now refusing to provide public safety information to the first arriving supervisor without demanding they be compelled under Garrity to provide the statement or that they wait until legal representation is present on-scene.

When asked why they are counseling their police clients not to speak to first arriving supervisor or later to investigators, their attorneys often state something to the effect of, “Nothing bad can come from not talking to the police (or D.A.).”  This is good advice if you were acting criminally.  But you weren’t.  You’re a cop.  It is vital to examine the wisdom of this logic coming from a criminal defense attorney who normally represents people who are criminals and have been arrested for their criminal acts, but is now advising a police officer.

 

Cop or a Crook? Different Strategies

If you protected yourself (or another person) by reasonably responding to your reasonable perception of imminent deadly threat, you are the victim of an attempted murder.  The law provides for the justifiable homicide or the justified shooting to defend against an imminent threat to safety by a suspect.  The law permits you to make a reasonable mistake of fact, and it permits you to reasonably fire more rounds than were actually needed based on your perception of need and human factors limitations.

Immediately following a shooting, it would be legal suicide for a murder suspect to speak freely to the police.  However, you are a cop, and you have vital public safety information regarding the crime scene(s), outstanding suspects, direction of shots, and the identification of evidence and witnesses.  This time-sensitive critical albeit limited information not only serves the public, but it serves you as well.  The crime scene will be protected, evidence preserved and collected, and witness statements recorded.  Additionally, other officers and the public will be protected by providing outstanding suspect descriptions and direction and mode of travel.  All of this will help to prove your version of this shooting, and direct the investigation toward the truth of the facts (which is good for you).

What possible good can come from a good guy not providing public safety information and some type of statement to investigators, either an interview, or, minimally, their coerced administrative statement, later to the prosecutor?  In some cases, not providing it leads directly to the officer being prosecuted for what was an ultimately justifiable shooting but is now left to a criminal jury.

Put yourself into the District Attorney’s shoes:

  • There’s a police bullet(s) inside a dead guy and no explanation from the involved-officer about how it got there—and more importantly, why the officer put the bullet(s) into the dead guy.
  • There is a witness, often a friend or family member of the deceased, who claims the officer brutalized the decedent in some manner before callously and intentionally shooting him to death.

Since the evaluation of force is always from the officer’s perspective, absent that officer’s reasonable perception of the situation and the facts known to him at the time, as the District Attorney, you would have no choice other than to criminally file on the involved-officer.  At the very least, the shooting may not be determined criminally justified, and may remain open indefinitely, hanging over the officer’s head for years.

What benefit comes from explaining your understanding of the events, whether through submitting to a criminal interview or, at least, providing your administratively coerced interview to the D.A.?  Thoroughly articulating your perceptions and state of mind helps the D.A. arrive at the legal conclusion that your perception of imminent threat was reasonable and that any reasonable officer would have responded in the same manner.  While it is always a good rule-of-thumb to invoke whenever Mirandized, there is generally no good reason not to comply with a Garrity compelled order to provide a statement that will be eventually provided to investigators. 

 

Bottom Line

Most union attorneys are expert with labor contracts and employment law.  Depend upon their advice in these matters is what you pay them for.  They may also have some criminal defense experience or, at least, were taught about criminal defense in law school.  But most are not well-versed in police post-force event needs.  And criminal attorneys?  Applying criminal defense logic to a reasonable police force response is improper and fundamentally inappropriate.  The involved-officer is the victim of a violent crime who responded with lawful and objectively reasonable force.  The officer is not the perpetrator and a crook’s defense strategy is incongruous with the officer’s role in the event.

The reasonableness of a police force response is judged from the perspective of the involved officer(s).  Following a criminal attorney’s advice to “take the Fifth” doesn’t serve your needs as an officer who was a victim of a violent crime.  Giving a limited public safety statement protects not only other officers and the public, it also begins the process of protecting yourself by pointing the investigation to the facts and evidence of the case.  If Mirandized in any situation, the smart money says to invoke your right to remain silent.  That said, there is absolutely no reason not to comply and to later provide a Garrity-compelled administrative statement.  When interviewed, provide your own audio-recorder to have a record of your testimony.  You and your attorney can review it and then formally release it to the D.A., allowing the criminal investigation to resolve.

You’re a cop, not a crook.  You acted reasonably, and, even if it is later determined that you made an honest mistake, the outcome is almost universally positive.  It’s probably a good idea not to follow the lawyer’s advice meant for the guilty.  Tell your story when the timing is appropriate, explain fully why you believed your or someone’s safety was in jeopardy by the guy you shot, tell the truth as you remember it, and the let DA will do his or her job.

Internal Casualty Collection Point or Rescue Teams? Integrating Police and Fire/EMS Within the Active Shooter Response

by George on August 16, 2014 09:55

Active Shooter events will likely be with us forever.  If it is not the mentally ill seeking a sense of aggrandizement or revenge, it will be the Salafist bent on the world caliphate (and, unfortunately, our Mumbai and Beslan experiences are coming) or some other form of terrorist act (or act of war).  In the past, the response has been seen solely as a law enforcement response.  It was law enforcement’s job to get to the scene as early as possible to stop the suspect from harming any additional victims.  After the scene was determined to be completely safe—often taking more one-hour—firefighters and/or their EMS counterparts were then permitted access to the victims who had been bleeding and dying from the moment of being shot.

Recognition is growing that the Fire Service with its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) capabilities brings life-saving skills that are just as necessary to preserve life as that of stopping the suspect’s rampage.  Active shooter incidents now become a “Public Safety” response, integrating the police and fire/EMS services into an efficient and highly effective reply to any criminal mass casualty incident.  How Public Safety responds to this high casualty incident means the difference between life and death for not only those victims who have not yet been shot or injured, but also for those who are wounded and facing life-threatening injuries.

In any response method, time has proven that the less complexity a method involves, the more likely it will work.  Simplicity equals reproducibility.  Complexity creates friction, and friction is the enemy of operational success.  Likewise, a system of response that is highly intuitive and requires personnel to operate within their existing skill and knowledge sets is more likely to be successful.  A response method should be selected based upon its initial degree of training difficulty and expense, as well as the intensity and cost of sustainment training necessary to maintain the capability of personnel to effectively respond.  

 
Two Primary Response Methods

There are two primary methods of integration being implemented across the country:  The use of a secure Internal Casualty Collection Point (CCP) in a “warm zone” inside the structure, or the use of Rescue Teams (RT, sometimes referred to as a “Rescue Task Force”) to bring the wounded out of the structure to a CCP in a cold zone.  

  •  Internal CCP:  This is a proven life-saving option where the wounded are quickly moved to a secure area within the structure for purposes of quickly assessing and categorizing (triage), rapid control of bleeding or clearing of air passages (treatment), and delivering that person to a definitive medical care facility (emergency surgery in an operating room) as quickly as possible (transport).  Fire personnel, escorted by armed police as security, enter the secure CCP and implement their Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) protocols to process and transport the most critically wounded as quickly as possible to life-saving care. 
  • RT:  The team consists of 2-4 police officers and 2 paramedics who are trained to move as a team into a cleared hot zone (although proponents of the RT state that the team operates in a warm zone, the requirement of ballistic armor and moving through cleared but unsecured areas argue against that assessment).  As the team encounters wounded individuals, the paramedics stabilize and then transport the injured person in a tactical manner to a CCP that is secure, generally outside of the structure.  The team then re-enters the structure, tactically clearing its way to the next victim where the team’s efforts are repeated until the structure is cleared of wounded. 

Time is the enemy of the Active Shooter response.  The more time the suspect has privacy and can safely hunt his victims, the greater number of casualties there will be.  And the longer it takes to get the wounded to definitive medical care, the more who will suffer a preventable death.  Both methods operate under the same time constraints:  some of the wounded will die no matter what type of medical intervention they receive.  Most of those who will inevitably die will expire within minutes of being shot.  Others who are seriously injured may die from uncontrolled blood loss even though they might be saved by early surgical intervention (e.g., the TSA agent who was murdered on November 1, 2013 at Los Angeles International Airport).  Others can tolerate delays of hours before their injuries are life-threatening.  It is the group of the seriously injured who will benefit most from life-saving represented by the efficient and effective integrated police-fire response.

 

Internal CCP, or Rapid Response & Treatment Method (R2TM) Dual Priorities

The R2TM response employs an integrated response of police and fire/EMS to achieve simultaneous dual life-saving priorities:

  • The rapid response by police to mitigate the imminent threat to life of the suspect(s).
  • The mitigation of the wounded through the safe and rapid introduction of fire/EMS personnel into the scene to begin early Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) protocols resulting in the rapid transport of the injured.

How the R2TM response works

The R2TM program operates under the concept of a time-limited response.  Upon notification of a criminal mass casualty incident in-progress, on-duty officers immediately respond and make entry, swarming the structure through multiple ingress points.  These officers, singly and in small teams of two or three (as officers begin arriving simultaneously) quickly move toward threat indicators (shots, victims fleeing, etc.), generally to the last reported position of the suspect.  The intent is to mitigate the threat of the suspect, to control corridors and key architectural access points, and limit the mobility of the suspect(s), denying access to additional victims.

Fire personnel simultaneously stage nearby.  Two crews merge into one apparatus with their MCI trauma gear.  The first arriving apparatus delivers two fire lieutenants and six to eight firefighter/EMTs/paramedics.  Depending upon the initial intelligence as to the number injured, this can expand to another—or even several—apparatus with combined crews. 

What is at first a very limited number of responding officers who are moving toward the indicators of threat or the last reported position of the suspect(s) typically becomes a wave of officers who are responding from more distant beats and nearby jurisdictions.  This typically occurs within 5-7 minutes of the first officer entry.  This late-arriving wave of officers transitions from suspect mitigation to victim life-saving tasks. 

  • A police supervisor takes and secures a Forward Operating Base (FOB) within the structure.  Security is established by up to three officers.  The FOB permits better utilization of interior resources prior to the establishment of the Unified Command (UC).  The FOB supervisor coordinates responding officers, directing responding officers to either make entry or, when there are sufficient numbers of officers involved in suspect mitigation efforts, to respond to Fire Staging.  It is likely the FOB will transition into the Casualty Collection Point (CCP).
  • Responding officers not already involved in suspect mitigation efforts now report to fire staging to act as “Fire Security Teams.”  These security teams will provide security during ingress of fire personnel into the CCP.
  • A hasty Unified Command is created by the linking up of a Battalion Chief and Watch Commander or shift supervisor.  This occurs at the Fire Stage location.

As the location of the suspect is narrowed down, some officers pursuing mitigation efforts will become redundant.  These as well as additional officers entering at this point transition their focus of efforts to life-saving efforts for the wounded.  As soon as the location of the CCP is declared by the FOB/CCP supervisor, they begin moving the wounded to the secured CCP in the warm zone.  If there is uncontrolled bleeding, the officers may tourniquet the wound before dragging or carrying the patient to the CCP.

Firefighters, escorted by armed officers, make entry into the CCP, ideally within 10-15 minutes of the first officer’s entry.  Ambulances are brought forward even as suspect mitigation efforts continue, protected by the officers on the security teams.  Fire implements its Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) Protocols, a process they are expert in and require no additional training to perform well.

The CCP concept is a functional option for many practical reasons:

  • Police and fire remain in their respective skill and experience swim lanes.  There is very little cross-training required.  Initial training focuses on a slight paradigm shift for officers.  While traditional police Active Shooter response training has solely focused on locating and stopping the threat, police are quickly trained on requirements for establishing an effective CCP for fire/EMS to conduct their MCI.  Other than this nod to extra-police duties, the disciplines—and their training—remain intact.  Police mitigate the suspect’s threat (verify he is down by suicide or third-party action, shoot him, verify he has barricaded or has fled).  Police conduct security efforts to protect fire personnel as they transition inside to the warm zone/CCP and as they conduct their MCI protocols.  As we’ve seen in incident after incident, officers carry and drag the wounded when EMS is delayed—the CCP concept formalizes this naturally occurring behavior, requiring armed officers to transition the wounded to the CCP.  While suspect mitigation efforts are on-going, firefighters enter the warm zone (without the need of ballistic protection) and conduct their MCI.  Protected by police security teams, ambulances pull up to the CCP entrance to receive the wounded ready for transport and are transported to a definitive care facility.
  • It is intuitive.  Once the concept is explained to line, supervisory, management, and command personnel, the concept becomes intuitive, lessening the degree of training perishability that is inherent in any response method.  As solutions become more complicated, perishability increases, creating a greater need for recurring training and greater budget expenditures.  There are no formations to learn and forget for either the police or fire.
  • The CCP concept is proven.  The early establishment of the CCP is a proven concept in military combat operations and permits rapid triage, treatment, and transport for the wounded.  If 18-year olds in combat can understand and function with this concept, police officers will easily function and make it work.  The 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords along with the six dead and 12 additional wounded is an example.  A married doctor and nurse already on-scene immediately set up triage, and because the location was in a parking lot, fire personnel and ambulances had immediate access to the wounded.  Congresswoman Giffords was operated on within 53 minutes of being shot, saving her life.The early establishment of the hasty UC is likely.  Unified Command between police and fire is facilitated and established as early as the two field command elements can respond to the Fire Stage location.  This is an established priority for this response method.
  • Unified Command is not required for suspect mitigation efforts, the CCP to be identified, or for patient transfer to the secure CCP.  While Unified Command is vital to the success of the overall response, it is not required for suspect mitigation efforts, the formation of Fire Security Teams, establishing a Fire Stage (where two fire companies merge with all of their MCI gear into one apparatus), or  establishing a secure CCP.  The UC is not critical to initial police life-saving efforts until the release point where fire is permitted to make entry into the CCP while protected by the security teams.  The UC gives fire permission to make entry, complying with fire protocols within the Incident Command System (ICS).
  • The Incident Command System becomes a function of facilitation rather than an obstacle to life-saving.  Initiall responding officers make independent entry into the structure singly or in twos or threes.  As additional officers arrive there becomes an obvious point where additional personnel are not necessary to suspect mitigation efforts.  Some who are inside the structure will turn to patient transfer to the CCP.  Others arriving at this point will become part of the Fire Security Teams.  Fire personnel have already staged and completed their integration of crews and equipment into the primary response apparatus.  It is only now that the ICS catches up with the incident and the need for command and control is exercised in releasing the security teams and fire personnel to make entry into the CCP.  By now the hasty UC, consisting of a Battalion Chief and a police supervisor or Watch Commander, is up and sufficiently oriented to make the call.

Where problems are experienced within the R2TM/Internal CCP method is primarily due to training scars from prior response methods requiring the thorough searching of every nook and cranny of a structure before concluding that is clear and "safe."  Training must stress to officers that their job is to create a reasonably secure "warm zone" rather than a safe "cold zone." 

 

How Rescue Teams Function

The Rescue Team (RT) functions under the concept of a time-limited response.  Officers make entry, either through rapid response (one or more officers interdicting the suspect(s)) or by formation.  Officers then locate the wounded and twice sweep a corridor leading to a CCP on the exterior of the structure, searching and clearing each room and access to the corridor.  The Unified Command Post (UCP) is notified that the corridor is clear and ready for patient extraction.

Officers and trained and equipped firefighters/EMS report to the UCP.  Teams of two firefighters who are specially trained in small unit movement and equipped with ballistic protection (helmets and vest) are assigned to a team of two to four officers.  Multiple teams are designated and prepare for entry.  As soon as the UCP is notified the corridor has been twice-cleared (now considered a “warm zone”), the RTs move to the structure and make entry.  Each RT moves as a team utilizing specific trained formations that change given the architectural layout, possible threat area, or some kind of obstacle.

RTs encounter patients and treat them in place, stabilizing them, and then drag or carry them while guarded by their law enforcement counterparts.  After moving the patient to the exterior CCP, the RT returns, moving in formation, to the next patient.  At the CCP, firefighters/EMS perform their Mass Casualty Incident protocols the patients are transported in order of the severity of their injuries.

While Rescue Teams may function once they are finally established and begin operating, however, there are a great deal of unanswered questions and problems surrounding this concept that has been tried and failed in the past:

  • RTs bring EMS skills to the point of wounding.  For a patient who is bleeding severely from multiple gunshot wounds (GSW), having two paramedics, each having an MCI backpack filled with medical equipment, is surpassed only by the patient already having arrived at the trauma center.  However, Mass Casualty Incident protocols were developed to efficiently process multiple trauma patients into the definitive care system as quickly as possible.  Delaying transport to a trauma center by two paramedics “staying and playing” causes other patients to be denied these EMS professionals’ help.  The critically wounded are best served in this instance by minimal EMS intervention and rapid transport to a trauma operating room.
  • A limited number of RT-qualified personnel will be available at any single incident.  A number of agencies boast they have at least one, and sometimes two qualified RT firefighters on every shift in their city.  Those personnel, first, must respond city or county-wide to the incident.  If there 20 patients, 8 immediate and 12 delayed, how long before all 20 are triaged with one or possibly two teams operating in the incident?  Triage cannot efficiently occur if patients are being encountered individually by EMS first responders.  The question should be, “How can we efficiently transition patients into the MCI process?”  The only answer is to get them quickly into the CCP for MCI processing into the Trauma Center. 
  • RTs serve no function that responding officers do not, and officers accomplish the same task much more quickly and with fewer resources.  Other than the control of arterial bleeding (which officers are capable of controlling with tourniquets), patients are best served by their rapid transfer to the CCP and into the MCI process.  Studies demonstrate that any delay in the arrival of a patient to definitive medical care results in a lower survival expectation.  Patient survival depends upon a systematic triaging and transport based on medical need rather than individual diagnosis of wounds and stabilization at the location of wounding.  Officers are already operating in the hot zone within the building.  Officers, singly or in pairs, can more easily and quickly transfer patients to the CCP than can a slow moving tactical formation.  This natural police behavior requires no direction by higher authority as evidenced in many incidents where officers take the initiative to move patients to EMS personnel rather than wait for fire and EMS to be released into the scene.  Every minute waiting for command direction is another minute the victims are bleeding out.
  • RT personnel linkup procedures are unclear.  In many RT scenarios, the team members are already in kit and linked up, and appear at the ingress point of a building.  Where did the eight teams of four officers and two paramedics each find each other, get assigned into teams, and who assigned them to make entry within minutes of the first officers entering?  In the midst of the chaos and urgency of an actual event, escort officers and RT firefighters must respond from their respective locations (their stations, the field, from home), have a rally point (the Command Post once it is set up), receive assignments, stage until the CP is informed that a particular corridor or area has been twice swept, and then make entry when released by command.  This is unlikely to happen in the early response stages.
  • Command Posts (CP) often require a prohibitively long delay in being set up.  How long does it take in the real world before the average CP is established and, importantly, functioning?  The CP not only must be established, but the personnel manning the CP must quickly get up to speed and orient to an overwhelming amount of information, enabling them to then process detailed intelligence from interior officers.  Someone in the CP must then divert their attention from gathering and analyzing the information to attend to forming and releasing the RT to respond.  This takes time the wounded do not have.  Without a functioning CP, the RT cannot come into existence and cannot be dispatched.
  • The RT model assumes there is clear and early communications between the interior units and the CP.  The RT model assumes RT personnel will be on-scene and linked up early in the incident response.  It also assumes that communications with interior units and the CP will be established early and will be clear regarding the status of the operating area in which the RTs will operate.  An RT will not get the go-ahead to proceed without clear communications regarding where they are needed and their route of travel.  If communications are confused or the radio repeaters shut down due to call volume (a common occurrence), insertion of the RT must be delayed.  The RT’s dependence upon early and clear communication from interior units is a major vulnerability to this concept.  Hinging this much on such a fragile variable is not tactically nor strategically wise.
  • When communications inevitably go down or are swamped, how are the RTs controlled?  These incidents typically put a heavy demand on available radio frequencies.  It is not unusual that radio repeaters shut down during the midst of suspect search operations for many seconds or even minutes.  Sometimes the structures themselves block radio communications and hamper operational tempo and coordination—especially in top-down management environments.  RTs require strict coordination from the CP while these incidents by their very nature subvert clear communications.
  • Command and Control of RTs may be impossible due to the confusion and information overwhelm experienced in these situations and problem with communications.  RT models permit teams to enter a section of a building only after the corridor(s) and adjacent rooms have been twice-swept.  Given the mass confusion as well as the contradictory reports and misinformation over the radio (“All units, reports of a second suspect, description to follow.”), as well as the information overwhelm that will initially be presented to the Command Post, how will the CP: 1) Be established in time to be a factor in the wounded’s survival?  2)  How will the CP assign team members to teams in a timely manner?  3) How will the CP determine what is a warm zone and what is not with any degree of accuracy?  In the interior of many buildings it is easy—and common—to become disoriented to the cardinal directions.  How will the officer be certain that the “west corridor” is properly identified?
  • It takes too much time to sweep and clear an area twice before permitting the RTs to enter.  From the moment the individual is wounded, he or she has been bleeding out.  Some of these people are running out of time.  They have no luxury for the time it takes to sweep and clear an entire hallway and each room leading to it, the same number of officers could have secured the hallway and transitioned all of the wounded to the CCP.
  • RTs are resource heavy.  Even the leanest RTs require two police officers and two RT-qualified EMTs/paramedics.  In an incident where five teams are needed due to the number of wounded, where will the ten equipped and trained firefighters come from?  How long will it take for them to report to the scene when off-duty?  It must be remembered that within 20 minutes of the first responding officer, it is not unusual for public safety traffic jams to lock up every surface street for blocks—late arriving firefighters/EMS may have to walk for blocks to the get to the UCP before being assigned—after they respond to their station for their turn-out gear.
  • RT members require ballistic Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).  This PPE represents a large budgetary expense:  minimally ballistic vests (sized to each individual), ballistic helmets, and ballistic eye protection.  Some teams are each being kitted out with TEMS backpacks.  Maintenance and storage issues soon arise.  Where on the truck is this PPE carried year round (especially when each vest and helmet is fit to an individual)?  Who maintains it?  Who tracks the expiration dates of the PPE for replacement?  Due to the lack of incidence, this PPE may be carted around for the duration of that firefighter’s career and never be used.  As promotions, injuries, and retirements occur, additional ballistic PPE will be required for the new RT fire members.
  • RTs are actually responding within a “hot zone,” not the advertised “warm zone.”  As in HazMat responses, the hot zone requires special PPE for the technicians to perform inside the affected area, while support personnel in the “warm zone” do not because they are not presently endangered by the environment.  The need for ballistic PPE for the firefighters in the RT argues against the classification of “warm zone.”
  • RT personnel must have frequent recurring training.  Fire personnel are not trained in police tactics and small unit movement.  This is a new skill involving very low-frequency, high-personal threat activities where the likelihood of an individual actually being called upon to perform these tactics is far less than the chance of any individual officer getting into a shooting on a particular shift.  Nothing in the firefighters’ daily work tasks will reinforce this training.  As such, it will require intensive initial training.  The perishability of this training is high and team members must maintain this skill for the duration of their career with frequent—and expensive—sustainment training.  Additionally, as interest wanes or promotions, injuries, and retirements occur, new team members are required to be trained and equipped.
  • Formations are slow and impractical.  Transitioning patients to the CCP for MCI processing is time-critical.  The more people needed to respond to a single location for assignment, be granted permission to enter a twice cleared area, move to the location of a wounded individual, stabilize that individual, and then move back to transfer that person to an external CCP, the more friction there will be, hampering rescue operations.  Four (or six) individuals moving in rigid formations and collecting one patient at a time to transition to a distant CCP is not only inefficient but is time consuming while people are bleeding unattended and in need of a surgeon.

 

Time matters

As Sgt. Craig Allen said, "US law enforcement wasted more than a decade training officers to respond to an Active Shooter in formation and have nothing to show for it.  It's time we move in the direction of life-saving and abandon formations."  This includes formations in any form. 

The concept of early interdiction of the suspect combined with the early establishment of the CCP and transitioning patients through the MCI protocols into definitive medical care as rapidly as is safely possible is a less complex, more intuitive method of response.  It is fast enough to mitigate the most common incident: the lone gunman in a gun-free zone with complete access to victims.  It is also flexible enough to respond to the threat of multiple suspects acting in multiple locations.  And it requires far less recurrent training because there is little cross-training—officer and firefighters are asked to perform their everyday tasks within the model:

  • Police:  Respond to a man with a gun/shots being fired call. 
  • Police:  Provide security against assault.
  • Fire/EMS:  Respond to a medical call with multiple trauma victims.
  • Police and Fire/EMS:  Help people who have been victimized and injured.
  • Police/SWAT:  Perform a final clearing of the structure.
  • Police:  Evacuate and reunification.
  • Police:  Investigate the crime(s).

Rather than recreate a failed tactic and instituting a complicated method requiring expensive equipment that might never be used as well demanding extensive recurrent sustainment training as well, success is more likely when employing a less-complex, more intuitive method.  The integration of police and fire is a life-saving concept that should be adopted and made as simple and as intuitive as possible.  This is best achieved when the police are tasked with police duties and fire with fire duties, and the two disciplines work together to achieve the overall goal of the Public Safety response:  life-saving.

 

My thanks to Jeff Gurske and Roberto DiGiulio for their contributing to the content of this article.

My Problem with Concealed Appendix Carry

by George on August 14, 2014 12:11

A recent argument for the advantages of the inside-the-waistband (IWB) Concealed Appendix Carry came across my virtual desk.  The author did a good job making his case for carrying a concealed handgun inside the belt at the belly.  There are several distinct advantages to carrying the weapon at the front of the waist rather than at the side or rear on the gun-side.  And I won’t carry my concealed handgun in front of my waistband.

My problem with the Concealed Appendix Carry involves the NRA’s Firearms Safety Rule #1: don’t point a firearm at anything you aren’t willing to destroy or kill.  Pointing your weapon at your nether region when you draw or holster your handgun is inviting tragedy.  And everyone I’ve ever seen when holstering or drawing from the front waistband, including me, directs their muzzles at their important parts.  So I don’t do it.  Maybe you might want to reconsider your carry options. 

 

Advantages of Concealed IWB Appendix Carry

As explained in the article, with some modifications, the immediate advantages of the Appendix Carry are:

  1. Greater protection of the weapon.  Whether it’s in a crowd or a suspect attacking your weapon, there are biomechanical advantages to protecting your handgun if carried in the front waistband.  In a crowd, you need not fear someone bumping into steel as is common when carried on your gun-side hip because people don’t normally collide at belly level face-to-face.  If there is a disarm attempt, you are stronger pressing the weapon into your body in front of you than you will be if it is at your side.  Additionally, your torso will fold forward during this effort, creating a mechanical block of both your hand(s) and your torso to removing the weapon.
  2. A more covert deployment.  Because there is less tell-tale physical motion in drawing the weapon—the gun-shoulder rising and/or the gun-elbow floating out to the side—it may be far safer to draw in a situation where the larger motion required to draw the handgun from a gun-side carry is likely to provoke fire.  Additionally, the non-gun hand’s effort to lift and clear the shirt is far less noticeable.
  3. Easier to deploy in a fight, either standing or on the ground.  If deadly force is needed when locked up with the suspect, either on your feet or, especially if grappling, the Appendix Carry permits safer and quicker draws than traditional gun-side carry positions.  Note: In this single point, I disagree.  Teaching defensive tactics for more than 30 years and Tactical Duty Knife classes since 2000 where officers are trained to draw weapons in deadly force situations during intense physical conflict, there is no real problem with drawing from a gun-side carry position (other than the suspect fouling the draw in some manner).  However drawing from an Appendix Carry can be problematic based on the context of the fight and the body position of the officer.  If the officer’s torso is curled forward from effort or simply by positioning, then the Appendix Carry is a much more difficult to draw for the same biomechanics that make it superior for weapon retention—the torso blocks the draw from the holster.  Additionally, if the suspect fouls the draw as or after the weapon leaves the holster and the weapon is pressed against the officer’s belly, the officer is now a five to eight pound trigger press from being disemboweled (Rule #1). 
  4. The Appendix Carry is faster than any other carry position.  There is no question of its speed compared to other concealed carry positions.  Because of its more central positioning, there is less travel time for both hands.  The non-gun hand lifts the shirt on the midline and the gun hand moves naturally forward to the grip.  It is much faster than gun-side carry where the non-gun hand must travel across the body to lift the shirt while the gun-hand (and shoulder) must make larger, longer moves to first reach the handgun, then lift it far enough for the muzzle to clear the holster.
  5. The Appendix Carry is easier to conceal.  Unless obese, the Appendix Carry is less likely to print through a shirt, especially if the shirt is untucked.  It’s not even close to other waist carry options for concealment.

 

Appendix Carry and the Possibility of Unintentional Discharges

The first firearms rule we all learn is to point the muzzle of a weapon in a safer direction.  That means that no matter if it fires either intentionally or unintentionally, no one—including the shooter—will be inadvertently injured.  I’ve learned this after a long life: having any firearm pointed at any part of me is not a good idea.  Pointing it at a region of my body that is critical to survival is worse.

When I was in 7th grade wood shop, the first day our teacher, Mr. Burroughs, told us to look at each of the machines in the shop.  He said each machine had an “automatic cut-off feature”: any part of our body that machine touched, it cut off automatically.  Having never matured beyond junior high school (so my loving wife tells me), I think of the muzzle of any weapon in the same fashion: any part of my body or anyone else’s it points at, it shoots off.

The IWB Appendix Carry puts the muzzle to an area that contains your femoral triangle as well as your…parts.  The femoral triangle is the area from your pubic bone (actually, inguinal line) down the inside front of the leg to approximately four inches below, and includes your femoral artery, vein, and nerve, as well as your great saphenous vein.  A gunshot wound to this area is extremely dangerous and a very real threat to life.  A contact wound to this area, where not only the bullet but the muzzle blast and gases enter into the wound, will likely blow this area apart (at least internally), creating an even greater survival challenge.

If an unintentional discharge occurs when holstering or drawing, it could result in a fatal wound.  If that round happened to miss the vital femoral triangle, it still will likely hit and destroy some or all of the shooter’s reproductive organs.  In either case, taking a self-inflicted round to the femoral region or to one’s package is not a good way to begin a gunfight—or end a day at the range or home or station.

 

Many Dismiss the Possibility of Their Having a UD

Dismissing the possibility of an unintentional discharge (UD) when pointing a firearm’s muzzle at your package or femoral triangle is disingenuous and arrogant.  Every time a handgun is handled, there is a possibility of a UD especially when drawing and holstering.  Discounting that, saying, "Just keep your finger off the trigger and it won’t go off," is absolutely, 100% correct.  It’s also prideful.  And wishful thinking gets people killed.  Arrogance, like alcohol, and firearms gets folks hurt.

Thinking that one is immune to UDs presupposes you will be perfect each and every time you handle a weapon.  Perfection: that quality of being free from all flaws or imperfections; completely faultless.  That means perfect awareness; perfect action; perfect control.  No mistake.  Ever.  There’s a real hitch in that get-along though:  we aren’t perfect, we’re human beings.  And that goes with our weapon-handling.  "It'll never happen to me.  I always keep my finger off the trigger," is betting your life you are just that good—every time, no matter what is about to, is currently, or has just happened.  That's why the first rule is about keeping the muzzle in a safer direction and is the most important failsafe.  If the weapon goes off unexpectedly/unintentionally, no one is injured.

I’ve watched experienced guys to include “operators” on the range—where everyone is supposed to be super safe—dig at their holsters with the muzzle of their weapons.  And not just once, but repeatedly poke and prod around with the weapon angled into the gut until they can finally get the handgun holstered.  One mistake and the contact shot would functionally eviscerate them.  A contact shot to the femoral would likely be non-survivable.  A contact shot to one's package might make one hope it was non-survivable.

Fundamentally, the IWB Appendix Carry automatically points at parts when holstering (and while drawing).  With guys I’ve brought this up to, they swear they never do that, that they actually suck in their gut and point the weapon forward as they holster.  They even demo their belly-dancing moves accompanying their holstering.  Yeah, that’s all good until they don’t, which is all the time except when they’re lying to themselves and explaining how they never do what I just saw them repeatedly do.  Video can be a great learning tool and irrefutable proof.

 

Conclusion

I’ll continue to carry on the waistband at 4 to 5 o’clock (or carry a snubbie .357 in my pocket holster), knowing full well that I will be slower to draw, that it is more difficult to conceal, that it is harder to retain (which is why I always carry my Benchmade Model 810 on my non-gun hand side), and all of the other reasons given as to why the Appendix Carry is superior.

And while I'd like to believe that I am conscious and on top of my game each and every time I handle a weapon, I refuse to assume that I will be perfect and absolutely focused each time I handle a handgun, especially in those times when I am under threat and have other things to do.  One of the very few benefits of being in my dotage is that my arrogance has taken a sufficient number of hits over the years.  I've acted unthinkingly enough times that I understand there can be fierce consequences to being intentionally blind through pride. Instead of thinking, "It'll never happen to me," I think, "If things go wrong, what’s likely to happen?"  After all, Murphy is a loyal friend that I’ve always tried to ditch, but he’s stuck by my side my whole life.  Since I've adopted this less arrogant thinking, I believe I've been safer with my weapons.  Now to work on the other areas of my life where arrogance is blinding me to the fierce consequences of my unthinking actions.

Emotionally Integrated Training

by George on August 5, 2014 13:46

Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle or the fear of death.
—George S. Patton, General, US Army

 

The late Louis Awerbuck taught that surviving a gunfight is 95% luck.  You just can’t control the suspect’s skills, cunning, or the stray bullet that has your name on it.  You may react perfectly, tactically moving as you empty a magazine into the suspect’s vital areas, inflicting mortal wounds with each round.  But in his dying reflex, he may fire and fatally wound you—and, unfortunately, all ties in a gunfight go to the suspect.

Control in a gunfight is limited.  Within your purview of control are only the preparation of the skills and knowledge you bring to the fight, your decision-making within the law to respond early enough to make a difference, and your ability to control your emotional reaction to the attempt to murder you.

The mechanics of hitting a target is important.  Skill development involves a moderately reliable level of accuracy on a square range rather than focusing only on tight groups.  Teaching officers deadly force policy and the laws of defense of self and others should be a mandatory component of every training session—not just reading the policy or law but actually digging into what it means.  Ease in the application of the law and policy combined with the early recognition of the deadly force threshold can be gained by applying the gained through force-on-force drills and scenario training.  However, this preparation alone is apparently insufficient given the low rates of hits on suspects in many close-range shootings.

Fundamentally, the ability to reliably put bullets through a suspect who is attempting to murder the officer is as much about controlling emotions and overcoming fear as it is about skill alone.  Perhaps more.  All deadly force training and, indeed, all force and tactical training must address the emotional component of responding with force to prepare the officer to meet the combative needs of the job.  

 

Freeze, Flight, Fight

The survival strategy of "Freeze, flight, or fight" is inherent in all mammals.  Prey animals freeze because many predators key on movement.  Like our mammalian counterparts we, too, demonstrate the same survival strategies.  Everyone freezes to some degree when the unexpected happens—think meerkats at the first hint of alarm.  It takes time to orient to the new situation.  We tend to stop moving, hold perfectly still, and look in the direction of the alarm. 

The next natural response is flight, or fleeing from danger.  Fighting tends to be the last response of prey animals and is also the natural last response of untrained non-sociopaths.  Training can change this, but only if the training is relevant to its application in the real world of threat.  Effective police training creates the ability to quickly transition through the freeze state into the fight.  This rapid reaction is necessary for many of the threats that officers face in the street that are in-proximity and unexpected.

Highly experienced military operators say surviving a gunfight is more about controlling emotions than it is about raw shooting ability.  How we train officers through the entire range of skill responses, both on the range, in scenarios, and in the mat room creates the possibility of rapidly transitioning through the freeze and flight responses and into the fight stage where it becomes possible to prevent injury and death.  And it is not simply more reps or more rounds fired downrange that constitutes a trained individual.

 

Transitioning through the fear 

Having sufficient experience to automatically respond to imminent threat means you have had the good fortune to have lived through enough threatening situations that your dominant survival response is to fight.  For the rest of us mere mortals or the inexperienced, training must assist us in transitioning through that fear response to a functional level of skill competency. 

First, recognize that freezing in the face of sudden danger is not a character issue.  It is an emotional issue that must be over-written by a more positive or, put better, a more effective emotional response.  A tiny portion of the brain, the amygdala, acts as the first filter of external stimulus entering the brain.  Even before we consciously recognize something, say, a thin, long, coiled shape on the ground as we turn a corner, the filter of our amygdala causes us to jump back and away well before our rational brain recognizes it to be a coiled hose rather than a dangerous snake. 

The amygdala is the first filter we have to quickly alert us to danger.  It is not reasonable nor is it rational.  It simply interprets a possible danger and sends an alarm to which the body reacts.  It creates emotional integration and learning through association (associative learning)—it is a key part of how our memories embed and are retrieved from long-term memory.  It is able to learn through reward (pleasure or not being injured) and punishment (injury or unpleasant consequences).  In the training environment, the training of our officers’ amygdala response prepares them to transition through the fear and better apply their skills when responding to sudden threat.

 

Mimicking:  training the transition from freezing to fighting

In the training environment, it would be immoral to place officers into a situation where they might actually die to retrain the amygdala.  All training, including the best scenario experience, has some degree of falsity—everyone knows they are not actually going to be shot or stabbed by the suspect/role-player.  How can we override the emotionally-based fear response that degrades actual performance if we are unable to duplicate the fear they must face in real life?  Pushups and running sprints don’t do it.  Being yelled at by up-range instructors won’t either.

We do this by mimicking the body’s fear response.  Emotional responses (via the amygdala) create changes to the body’s systems.  Fear causes physical alterations to cortisol levels in the blood, heart and breathing rates, blood distribution, vision and hearing, muscle tone, and ability to digest food.  It can result in the bladder and/or bowels involuntarily voiding.  It also creates psychological changes in pain tolerance, attentional focus, cognitive flexibility and adaptation, as well as memory and perceptual distortions.  When we become truly fearful, our emotional response changes our physical body and mind, affecting our ability to apply the skills we have so carefully built.  

What does sudden fright—the type that officers experience when they’re suddenly assaulted by a suspect who is close to them—look like?  It looks like a “startle reaction,” simultaneously eliciting the following:

  • Your eyes go wide and your pupils dilate to gain as much light as possible and jerk your head to face the source or direction of that surprise or threat.
  • You gasp, taking in a sharp intake of air.  This is the body preparing for flight or fight.  Most people will hold their breath following the initial gasp (remember: stillness).
  • Your body moves, orienting your chest to that threat as you take an athletic stance (much like a linebacker, with your dominant-side foot back a bit), your body has a slight lean forward from the waist.  Your body actually drops a bit, lowering your center of gravity.
  • Your hands tend to come up to face level, palms out, your non-dominant hand slightly forward.  
  • Your shoulders rise, moving up and forward while your chin sinks a bit to better protect your extremely vulnerable throat and neck.

 The reciprocal of that process also holds true: mimicking the physical response to sudden threat—the startle response—activates to some degree the amygdala’s emotional fear response.  Emotional reprogramming can take place by mimicking the body’s reactions to fear.  By taking in a sharp gasp, suddenly opening your eyes wide, while jerking your shoulders up and forward and quickly lowering your center of gravity, most people experience a slight to moderate cortisol (adrenaline) reaction.  While some officers are too salty to try this, the large percentage quickly identify that there is an element of validity to the concept of duplicating in training the emotional environment where skills application intersects with the existential fear experienced in the street.

For example, in our range training, we ask you to close your eyes and imagine the face of the last person you thought was going to kill you.  Every cop with a few weeks of street experience can conjure up this person's face.  Rather than paper targets, this is the person the shooter is shooting in response to their imminently threatening actions.  We then ask each person to explain or demonstrate what that imminent threat is doing to cause him/her to shoot the suspect.  Upon every initiation command of "Threat!" (short for "imminent threat," or that action by the suspect to which the officer is legally justified to respond with deadly force), the officer is directed to take a quick, sharp intake of breath, jerk his shoulders up and lower his center of gravity.  This physical action creates an emotional tie (and a small adrenaline cocktail dump) to the response (hit the threat).  The mind associates sudden threat with moving, drawing, and hitting the suspect rather than freezing as a survival strategy.

Same-same in Defensive Tactics.  During some of our drills, we will have the coach (not the "suspect") begin a monologue in a low, menacing voice of how this coach wants to kill the officer and how they're going to do it.  At first, many officers react with fear (strange how in a safe environment with someone that officer KNOWS won't harm them, yet the brain reacts with a degree of survival emotions and fear).  Just this monologue often causes the officer to speed up or become inappropriately intense.  So instructors begin to coach these officers to calm down, to breathe, to focus on their skills as the coach continues his/her threats.  Soon the officer is able to over-write previous programming and work comfortably with the coach.  Then we change coaches’ instructions to produce a low, menacing, animal-like growl.  We see officers instantly ratchet up in intensity, eyes-wide, breathing faster than the physical requirements demand even though there's no change in the intensity of the coach working with that officer.  Again, instructors coach them to breathe, to work at speed, to continue to problem-solve and function effectively.  When the officer is able to calm down and work through the growling, we then have the coaches begin shrieking insanely.  Officers often instantly seize up emotionally and physically, and are again coached back to effective emotional response—and reasonable physical response.

 

Scenario “failures”

Incorporating this emotional integration into all aspects of training pays off in scenario training where, if the officer hitches up, we hit the pause button, and talk privately about not only what that officer is seeing but, as importantly, what he/she is feeling.  If the officer is unable to identify his or her emotional response (or unwilling to share it), the instructor then describes what it looked like from the outside, how that emotion is negatively affecting the officer’s performance, and how to take the steps to counter it.  We then rewind and continue to replay the event where the emotionally charged hitch occurred, with the officer taking that sharp intake of breath and bodily reaction to simulate being startled, until the officer signals that he/she can continue on without undue or negative emotional reactions.  We then rewind and play forward toward success. 

Sometimes we are forced to go back to our force-on-force exercises or even back to our drills to get the proper emotional reprogramming.  For instance, one very experienced officer from a very busy large city was excellent in DT and fearless in contact simulations.  On the range, he was very competent, handling his live-fire weapon competently while gaining solid hits.  However, during force-on-force drills using Airsoft pellet weapons (face/eye protection with long-sleeve t-shirts only) prior to scenario exercises, he literally melted down.  The first time the “suspect” drew his weapon, the officer literally pirouetted, non-gun hand curled around his head, and emptied the magazine by blindly shooting behind him in the general direction of the suspect while being pelted by the suspect’s “bullets.” 

The exercise was halted and he removed his protective mask.  He was breathing as if he’d run a world record mile up stairs.  His face was pale and he really couldn’t articulate what had just happened to him.  We removed him from the exercise and talked about what he experienced.  Embarrassed, he literally had a blank spot in his memory.  Other than he knew he had been hit a lot, it hurt, and that meant he was dead—he had no clue what his physical response was.

Helping him to emotionally reprogram is the key.  This officer’s response was not due to a lack of skills or deficiency of character.  It was due to an overwhelming and inappropriate emotional programming.  So we went back to the foundations of programming a positive physical response within his emotional experience.

  • Intellectual foundation.  This is a combination of reinforcing his understanding of "Early Orientation Markers,"© or what threatening behavior looks like and how the body moves when the suspect is obtaining a deadly weapon or about to initiate an assault.  It covered in depth the legal/policy basis for response.  It also provided tactical suggestions such as movement and why that is often beneficial.  Emotional reprogramming also included a discussion about mimicking the body’s startle response in training and why that was important. 
  • Drills.  Drills including seeing a “suspect”/coach access a hidden firearm dozens of times with the officer mimicking the startle response and moving appropriately.  As soon as the officer was successful, the next step was to have the coach draw and fire where the officer had been standing just a moment ago.  That was sped up until it was “at speed.” 
  • Force-on-force drills.  With the coach self-initiating a hidden draw, the officer gasped and moved.  At first, the coach was tasked with firing around the officer (behind or in front) as the officer successfully moved and hit the coach.  At one point, the officer became lackadaisical and arrogant in his movement because he wasn’t being hit.  The coach was quietly directed to hit the officer twice if it happened again.  Two sharp hits to the officer reinforced the need to remain focused.  After that happened, the officer was properly motivated and continued to move and hit.  Finally, the two combatants were directed to work “at speed.” 
  • Scenario exercise.  The officer was able to complete the scenario satisfactorily. 

Cops aren’t machines, even though most of the training they undergo treats them as if we just need to give them the correct number of parts in a specific sequence and all will come together in a combative environment.  Human beings are far more subject to their emotional programming than many care to admit.  Every person has some aspect of his or her life where their emotional fluency hampers their effectiveness.  When this negative emotional programming intersects their ability to competently respond with their skills on the street, it endangers their lives and the lives of officers and citizens.

Creating a training environment where each officer is able to condition themselves to operate competently through drills where the normal emotional response is tied to the proper physical reaction assists them in responding competently in dangerous, high-risk situations.  By simulating the physical response to overwhelming emotions, officers are better able to function and win.

 

How Not to Shoot Off-Duty Officers: The Other Side of the Coin

by George on July 14, 2014 07:28

In an earlier blog-entry, I wrote the article, "How Not to Get Shot Off-Duty by Other Officers” (pubished in "The Police Marksman", March/April 2014 issue).  This is the companion piece to that article, examining how patrol officers can maximize their own safety through tactical principles while decreasing the likelihood of shooting another officer.

You’re responding to a call of a man-with-a-gun with multiple 9-1-1 calls.  Out of your patrol car, you’re moving toward the reported location behind the house when you suddenly hear some shouting and then a series of gunshots and believe they’re from the alley just a few feet from the corner of the fence you are moving along.  Slicing around the corner, you see a male with a handgun in his hand, his back to you, shouting something you can’t understand.  Another male is down, holding his belly, slowly rocking back and forth as blood pools beneath him.  Just as you take in this information, out of the corner of your eye you see your uniformed backup officer step around the corner a few steps, directly into alley.  He’s wide-eyed with his rifle aimed at the armed subject’s back.  You’re about to tell him to get back behind cover when he calls out, “Police!  Freeze!  Drop the…!”  The armed subject turns his head and shoulders, his face hard with surprise, the handgun swinging in your general direction as he moves.  You and your backup officer don’t see the badge hanging around his neck…

The problem of uniformed on-duty officers intentionally shooting an armed subject who later turns out to be an off-duty or plainclothes cop continues to plague law enforcement.  A large responsibility for this problem falls on the armed off-duty officer by failing to recognize the peril he is in from responding officers, especially when he turns toward armed officers.  The responding officers believe that an unidentified individual is a criminal involved in a shooting in-progress or just-occurred.  A badge may be even visible, worn around the neck or clipped to their belt, or even held in their hand.  Even though visibly displayed, badges are not be seen because the officers’ attentional focus is locked on that firearm as it is moving or lifting toward the officer.  Problematically, there is nothing about that badge that is sufficiently salient or conspicuous enough to rip their attention away from the firearm that is now threatening them.  They fire in what they believe to be in defense of their lives, and, too often, two or more cops and their families are smothered in tragedy. 

Training programs have been developed focusing on the responding officer.  These programs revolve around recognizing badges and essentially slowing down the deadly force response to apparent threat.  This may be an ill-considered attempt to rectify a problem that probably should be directed more to training officers in safer off-duty conduct as well as how to more safely arrive at the scene of a shooting or the presence of a firearm.  Slowing an officer’s response to a perceived threat involving a visible handgun is counter to an officer’s safety. 

That said, there are steps that responding officers can to confidently respond to an apparent imminent deadly threat while providing them with a method making it less likely to fire upon an off-duty or plainclothes officer. 

 

CHANGE THE BASIS OF DEFENSIVE FIREARMS TRAINING 

As a trainer, it is a highly useful and beneficial goal to train officers to recognize a deadly force threat and to respond with little need for thinking about how to fire their weapon.  This is performed through stimulus-response training.  As the officer learns to associate an imminent threat with a proper response (fire accurately until the threat is over), that response starts out as, “Threat?  Yes—Shoot!’  As training progresses, the response becomes, “Threat-Shoot!”  A well-prepared officer will exhibit a “Thr-Shoot!” response.  In the split-second, high threat world of surviving the typical close range gunfight where the suspect is first to move and almost always gets the first shot (according to the FBI), an unconsciously competent, nearly automatic response to a perceived imminent deadly threat is a life-saver.

Many officer survival and firearms training programs emphasize recognition of the weapon as the trip-wire for response.  “If you see a gun, shoot him.”  “If you see a knife, shoot…”  It is also common in academies as well as in-service training to use the command, “Gun!” as the drill execution command (the military command of “Fire!” has no relevance to policing; neither does the current “cool-guy” command of “Up!”).  Upon hearing, “Gun!” officers initiate their string of fire.  This translates as “Gun = shoot.”  Problematically, this range execution command is the same as the street communication between officers of “Gun!”  In the street, this is a warning that there is a firearm present but should not be an initiation signal to begin firing.  The use of the same word for two incompatible purposes—to fire or to inform—creates internal and potentially fatal conflict within an officer. 

TRAINING POINT:  Deadly force should be a behavior-based response rather than a simple response to the hardware an individual possesses.

Training should provide what we call "Early Orientation Markers,"© providing threat pattern-matching capabilities for officers.  By training officers in what threatening behavior looks like, how the body moves when the suspect is obtaining a deadly weapon, the officer is likely to make better decisions. 

While this discussion is not intended to be a primer on deadly force standards, the individual officer’s reasonable belief the suspect’s actions, based on everything known to the officer at that moment, is creating an imminent (about to shoot) or actual (the subject is firing) danger of being killed or seriously injured is required. The mere possession of a deadly weapon absent any other indication of on-going or imminent threat is difficult to justify.  If the suspect is simply armed, the officer likely needs more information to shoot.

Training should emphasize the concept of “threatening behavior plus reasonable belief of capability equals deadly force response.”  While a suspected criminal subject with a firearm turning rapidly with the weapon would reasonably justify shooting that person in self-defense, there are other behaviors that might be evaluated if there is time.

For example, identifying expected criminal behavior after a shooting is valuable information.  There is a difference between criminal use of a firearm and police or legally armed citizens’ defensive use of a firearm.  Fleeing after a shooting (or quickly robbing the victim) is likely the most common reaction for a criminal suspect. 

Off-duty officers, on the other hand, will likely be acting, well, like cops:

  • Armed and holding someone at gunpoint with the suspect holding up his hands or putting his hands on his head.
  • Standing over someone who is proned out.
  • After shooting somebody, guarding that person until help arrives. 
  • After shooting someone, holding the suspect’s associates at bay by pointing his/her handgun and shouting at them to “Stay back!” or “Get on the ground!”

Another example of behavior-based response in very threatening circumstances is the first responding sergeant to the Trolley Square Mall shooting (an active shooter event on February 12, 2007).  An off-duty officer disrupted the suspect’s attack, exchanging gunfire with the suspect.  The sergeant stated he did not fire on the armed off-duty officer because of the officer’s behavior—though the plainclothes, off-duty officer was armed with a weapon in-hand and was maneuvering in a tactical manner—the sergeant instantly recognized that this armed individual was not a problem. Simply put, the off-duty officer was not acting in a criminal manner that prompted his needing to be shot.  That sergeant’s instant evaluation in a high-threat environment is the behavior-based decision-making that must be reinforced in training. Our job is to create in our officers a capability of evaluating threat behavior very quickly: “Is the behavior I see right now like a criminal (threatening) or like a cop (protective even though tactical)?

Fundamentally, it is not solely hardware that creates the justification and need to shoot, but the person’s actions, whether armed or not, that creates a reasonable and imminent fear of serious physical injury and provokes a police deadly force response.

 

TACTICS CREATE TIME, TIME EQUALS BETTER DECISIONS

Many tactically minded cops complain that many of their co-workers are not “tactical.”  Why is this so?  I would submit the reason lies in “prescriptive training” (a how-to list that is unique to each type of incident).  It’s impossible to remember every step in a unique list that is just one of dozens or hundreds of lists.  Eventually, many officers’ response becomes standard—they show up at a call.  And since no one has killed them yet, they keep doing what they do because they misinterpret luck for skill.  Pulling up to the reported location, stepping out into the open where people are or have just been shooting at each other, and letting everyone know that you have arrived before you have identified who the problem might be—or even what the problem is—affords little time to do anything other than react to a perceived threat.  And that may turn out to be an off-duty cop, forgetting that you have no idea who he is, who is justifiably shot because of his reaction to your presence.

Tactical response should not be reserved only for high-risk calls.  Training and peer-pressure should emphasize a tactical response to every call to create habits of behavior.  Habitually responding to every call in a tactical manner creates a beneficially automatic pattern of performance that, by definition, makes you safer on the street.  Employing tactical universally applied principles makes better sense than attempting to follow a prescriptive list. 

Employing a principle that is universal—it can be employed in a broad spectrum of incidents—creates a continuity of response that makes sense and becomes habitual.  Doing something the same way call after call, especially when it becomes reflexive and standardized behavior, automatically creates safer behavior.  Safer behavior can be defined as giving the officer more time to assess a subject’s compliance or threat levels and then to beneficially react to possible assault with less surprise. 

TRAINING POINT: Habitual tactical response employing the Universal Tactical Principles© creates time to make better, safer decisions.  In the case of responding to a shots-fired or man-with-a-gun call, some of the Universal Tactical Principles© are:

  • Superior Numbers: work in the “we” mode, not the “me” mode.  Employ backup routinely.  If more officers might be needed, call for help early rather than during an emergency. 
  • Surprise: invisible deployment. Officers deploy on-scene unobtrusively and reveal their presence at a time, place, and timing to their advantage. The subject(s) should be surprised to find an officer contacting them, rather than anticipating where and when the officer will appear.
  • Optimize distance.  Stay as far from the suspected problem as you can and still be able to conduct business. Distance equals time and, as Clint Smith says, “Time equals marksmanship.” While the “optimum” distance is a subjective matter that must balance efficiency and effectiveness with safety, generally the farther you can get from a weapon problem, more time will be available for you to make safer decisions.
  • Corners: minimize exposure.  Working from behind corners (a foundational tactical principle), become as small a target as possible. Cover stops bullets and the effects of bullets (ricochet and spall from the backside of the material) from harming you. Concealment prevents observation but permits bullets to pass through.  All approaches to high-risk, weapon-related calls should be from corners to corners.  All contact with armed/possibly armed-subjects should be from behind a corner.
  • Keep subjects in a narrow field of view.  If you are part of a multiple-officer response, your objective is to contact the subject(s) from positions providing a wide triangulation for you and your fellow officers, giving you intersecting fields of fire as well as a narrow target.  When combined with the Universal Tactical Principle of “invisible deployment,” this method of contact creates an instant, extreme vulnerability for the suspect.  Essentially, it “flanks” the suspect and gives him wide and diverging angles in order to get firing solutions on each officer—a very difficult and unlikely proposition.
  • Hands kill cops.  Hands operate weapons.  Visually clear the subject’s hands as quickly as possible as early as possible.
  • Communicate clearly.  One officer gives commands.  This prevents conflicting orders (“Don’t move!”  “Get down!”  “Come here!”).  Stop yelling at people.  This creates communication that can’t be understood.  Worse, it also projects fear, not only giving the perception of being emotionally out of control but contributing to it.  The rule is: one shout to get their attention (e.g., “Police!”); then speak to the subject loudly enough to be heard.
  • Make the subject come to you.  In all cases, call the subject to your position, even if it is a few steps.  This gives you several advantages: 1) You are able to gauge the subject’s compliance; 2) It establishes your authority over the subject; 3) You are able to take the subject away from his ground (with its possible advantages or weapons) and bring him to yours.
  • Put resisting or threatening subjects to the ground immediately.  When in doubt, everyone goes to the ground.  It is far safer to have one or more subjects on the ground, face down with their hands empty and placed where you want them than it is for them to be standing with their hands up.
  • Move your weapon quickly, aim certainly, hit and put the suspect down.  Survival in a gunfight should not be based on volume and rate of fire.  Surviving a gunfight is about hits.  Tactical response gives you time, and time permits a certainty in aiming.

While some may counter, “This is just another list to remember,” it is actually a practice of response that functions throughout widely diverse tactical circumstances.  Each is employed as needed.  Acting upon each principle provides you with more time to evaluate the situation and to react to the threat-based behavior rather than simply the hardware.

By basing your response to all calls (including those “routine” non-threatening calls that turn into scary-OMG-I’m gonna-die! calls) on threat recognition provided by Early Orientation Markers© gained through the habitually employing Universal Tactical Principles© and creating decision-making time, the likelihood of mistakenly shooting another officer decreases.

While the off-duty officer needs to adopt a safer mindset of assisting responding officers to identify his or her status, so, too, is there a need to respond to all calls for service through habituated tactical principles.  Force response is always behaviorally based.  Responding with deadly force is especially so.  Having the time afforded by habituated tactics to assess whether or not the armed subject is acting like a crook or a cop may save the life of an off-duty officer. 

Pre- and Post-Shooting Actions for the Legally Armed Citizen

by George on June 25, 2014 08:19

As national leaders in firearms training as well as international firearms trainers, we are often asked by legally armed, prepared citizens about protecting themselves from the legal system in the event of a shooting.  The reason for this post is to assist you with understanding your obligations and rights in legally carrying a defensive firearm.

We have the right under the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution to keep and bear arms as citizens.  That right is not granted by the Constitution, but is recognized as an inherent right of a free citizen.  Laws have been passed by most states regulating that right.  Whether or not we agree with those regulations, as legally armed citizens we abide by these restrictions.  In all but five states, this requires residents to obtain a concealed carry permit for loaded handguns to be carried in any condition other than openly in a holster (I’ll not go into why we should not open carry should among the more timid of our citizens other than to say it is rude to unnecessarily frighten frightened people and it is tactically stupid to give up your advantage of surprise to a criminal who just might shoot you or disarm you because of your frivolous and immature display of your weapon).

In the event you are forced to shoot someone, there are steps you must take to protect you legally that may possibly prevent you from being prosecuted. 

NOTE: This is not intended as legal advice—consult an attorney before acting on or depending upon any of the following.

 

PRE-EVENT

Learn your state’s self-defense laws. 

  • Look them up.  Read the laws on self-defense yourself.  Each law has the elements it requires that you must satisfy for your shooting to be ruled justifiable.
  • Go to a law library (generally located in your county’s courthouse) and ask for help in researching self-defense case law.  Reading case law is the best way to understand what the courts require for you to explain and what limitations are placed on citizens in self-defense situations.  Case law provide context.  You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand what the courts say about self-defense and defense of others.
  • Take a class--or several--from a reputable local or national instructor.  Hint:  Just because the instructor is a police officer, former officer, or former Spec Ops member of the military doesn’t mean he or she understands civilian self-defense law.
  • Depending upon your state law, deadly force is generally permitted when you have a reasonable belief that your life or someone else’s life is in actual or imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury based on the totality of the facts known to you at the time.  This means that another reasonable person would believe, based on all that you know and reasonably believe, that the person you shot was actually attempting or was about to attempt to murder you or injure you so badly that you could not continue to defend yourself or even flee.  In some states, you are required to retreat and have your back to the wall (no other reasonable option) before firing.  Again:  Know your state’s law!
  • Never shoot anyone who is running away.  Only cops are permitted to do that under very limited and specific circumstances.
  • Don’t shoot someone who is stealing from you (as opposed to robbing you).  Stealing is the act of a thief.  You can buy new stuff but cannot justify shooting a thief over the loss of your stuff.
  • A “robber” is someone who deprives you of property through force (physical violence or use of a weapon) or fear (brandishing a weapon during a robbery in a manner causing you fear for your safety), threatening your life or safety.  An armed robber’s actions, causing you to believe he is armed or pointing a deadly weapon will generally qualify as putting you in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury—the basis for self-defense. 
  • Never draw your firearm or point it at someone you do not have a reasonable belief that you are likely to be forced to shoot.  Brandishing (handling a weapon in a reckless manner and creating fear in a reasonable person) or “scaring” someone with a firearm if not justified by the circumstances is a crime.  In some jurisdictions, reaching back and touching your weapon like you might draw is considered brandishing.  If a reasonable person would believe, under all of the circumstances at that moment, that you are in a potential self-defense situation, and you believe you are about to be assaulted in a manner that would lead to deadly force, it might justify drawing your weapon and even pointing at a person in an attempt to prevent the need to shoot.
  • ALWAYS immediately report the incident to the police and explain his threatening actions and behavior in extreme detail forcing you to draw your weapon to prevent being attacked.  You want to be first reporting it and not attempting to explain what happened a couple of days later to an officer who has a warrant for your arrest for brandishing.  If his actions were frightening enough for you to draw your weapon, he needs to be reported to the police.  Not reporting a serious incident or leaving the scene without reporting is seen as the act of a criminal.  Be the first to call 9-1-1.

Obtain Legal Insurance.  We suggest you become a member of the “Armed Citizens Legal Defense Fund.”  The Defense Fund provides members with a $10K legal retainer for an attorney when you are involved in a self-defense shooting.  This fine organization also provides training videos on deadly force and the aftermath.  We know Attorney and firearms instructor Marty Hayes who runs the defense fund well.  He is a good man and provides a very valuable service for a modest price.

Develop your skills.  Our best advice:

  • Practice shooting often.  Ammo is expensive.  Funerals are more expensive.  Nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities are beyond expensive.  Hitting the wrong person when you are attempting to save your life is insanely expensive, and worse, you’ll have to live with yourself knowing that you hurt or killed an innocent person.  Go to the range.  Practicing your shooting skills does not require burning through a mountain of ammo.  It requires conscious practice of the fundamentals of hitting:  Grip your weapon with a locked wrist; ignore the wobble as you concentrate on the front sight; and get that surprise trigger press as you press and end with perpendicular pressure on the trigger.  Then find your front sight before looking at the target (follow through).  Practice your malfunction drills and reloads until they are habits. 
  • Practice, practice, practice from a good concealment holster.  Buy a red or blue gun (a non-fring plastic replica) and practice with it from your concealed position—yes, tuck your shirt in each time before you draw, just like you carry.  Training is where you develop the problem-solving skills when you make mistakes.  If you leave figuring out how to regrip your handgun when you have a handful of shirt or your front sight getting caught in your waistband or shirt during the one and only time you are drawing that weapon to save your life, it might not go well for you.  And never practice your draws with your loaded pistol except at a live-fire range.  
  • Get professional training from a reputable instructor.  No matter how much training you’ve had, more is always better in growing your skills and keeping them crisp.  Be sure to document that training if you are not presented with a certificate.

Act responsibly while armed:

  • Be mature: keep your weapon concealed to retain your tactical advantage.  Carrying a loaded weapon is not cool; it is a grave responsibility. 
  •  Don’t drink alcohol at all if you are carrying concealed.  Period.
  • Stay out of conflicts with folks in public while carrying.  If an argument develops, leave even if you are in the right—and forget about having the last word.  If things get ugly and you are forced to shoot in self-defense, you want to be 100% squeaky clean in the lead up to this incident.  Don’t give anyone an opening to question whether or not you are the good guy in this incident.  If you let yourself become part of the problem you then need to shoot your way out of, the civil jury will later decide what percentage you contributed to the problem and hammer you.  A firearm on your hip means you have no opinion about anything in public.
  • Intervene in a problem only if you believe there is a threat to life—call the cops instead. If you’re armed, intervening in a fist fight or domestic dispute may result in a shooting or being disarmed and getting shot.  If you are seen as contributing to the shooting through your actions pre-event, it will make it more difficult to prove you were the victim of a deadly assault.

 

IMMEDIATE POST-SHOOTING ACTIONS

If someone forces you to shoot them, immediately call or have someone call and report it.  Everything you say is recorded.  It is vital that you begin to establish your status as the victim of a crime, who responded in self-defense or defense of others, in the first call for assistance.  

Tell the 9-1-1 call-taker:

  • My name is (First and Last Name).
  • A (man/woman) armed with a (type of weapon) just forced me to shoot him
  • I need officers and an ambulance to respond to (the location—if you don’t have an address, describe the buildings or area).
  • I am the victim and I look like (give them your description: Gender/race/height/weight/hair color/eye color/clothing).
  • I am still armed.  What do you want me to do?

If there are outstanding suspects, give their descriptions as well as their direction and mode of travel (E.g., “There were two males who also had knives.  One was a white male, 15 to 20 years old, tall and thin, with blond hair wearing a black hoodie sweatshirt and orange running shoes.  The second as a black male, 18-25 years old, tall with a medium build, black short hair wearing a gray hoodie as well.  Both were on foot, running northbound on Second Street.”

If someone is injured, ask for emergency medical assistance (ambulance) to be sent.  

  • If it is safe to do so, holster your weapon.
  • If it is safe to do so, immediately engage in life-saving efforts of staunching blood flow with direct pressure, tying off excessive bleeders with expedient tourniquets (cinch a belt above the wound in a limb and tighten it until it stops bleeing), and, if necessary, perform CPR.  Also recognize that this person who just attempted to murder you or someone else may transmit some blood-borne pathogen that will sicken or even eventually kill you.  Use emergency precautions such as gloving up before contacting blood or body fluids.  Make a decision now about whether or not you are willing to risk performing rescue breathing on someone given the dangers of disease transmission.


SURIVING THE INITIAL POLICE RESPONSE 

Think about what the police officers who are dispatched to this call are responding to.  What they know for certain:

  • There is a firearm involved.
  • At least one person was willing to shoot another person.
  • Regardless of what the dispatcher tells them over the radio or computer, that person may be willing to shoot police officers.

 The cops responding to this call are amped up and scared.  These are types of calls where officers are routinely murdered.  If you do anything that can be remotely interpreted as a threat to their lives, they may justifiably respond with deadly force and you may be severely wounded or even killed.  Be very careful in the next few minutes until the officers are satisfied they are safe.

The initial contact with the police is generally the most dangerous—it is up to you to safely navigate this first contact.  They have a process that permits them to more safely gain control over a scene, lock it down, and then figure out who is a criminal and who is a victim.  By shooting in self-defense, you have just entered into that process and it is in your best interest to cooperate fully with the police as they attempt to safely handle this call.  Pay attention to everything you do—feeling bad about shooting another human being, going into shock after having almost been killed, or being apprehensive of the subsequent legal process has to wait—you need to physically survive the first contact with the police without yourself being shot by an officer who misinterprets your action.

  • Unless there is a continuing threat and a real possibility of needing to shoot again, holster your weapon before the police arrive.
  • If it is not safe to holster your weapon, be prepared to drop it to the ground the moment the first officer arrives.  If you don’t want to scrape and ding your weapon by dropping it on the concrete, don’t carry it.
  • Never disturb the crime scene.  Do not collect personal property from the ground or elsewhere.  Everything in the immediate area is evidence and it will be used to either prove or disprove your version of the events. 
  • It is likely you won’t know the officers are on-scene until someone in uniform is pointing his or her own firearm at you and yells, “Police.  Drop your gun!”
  • NEVER turn toward an officer with a firearm in your hand!  If you do, you are likely to be legally shot for creating the perception of imminent danger to the officer.
  • You can tell when the cops are scared because each of them will be yelling orders.  Often, those orders are contradictory, e.g., “Don’t move!” “Get down!”  “Turn around!”  If you are getting contradictory orders, freeze while keeping your hands absolutely still and yell slowly, “What do you want me to do?”  One of the officers will begin to understand the problem and get the others to be quiet, then take charge of you.  Do what the officer tells you and comply by moving deliberately.
  • In the police officer's world, hands kill cops and pockets and waistbands hold weapons.  Put your hands only where they tell you and only there.
  • Do everything the officer tells you.  If you are ordered to the ground, get on the ground even if it is wet and muddy or covered in snow.
  • You will likely be handcuffed.  Relax, don’t resist, or attempt to talk them out of it.  There will be plenty of time to explain and to talk with the police after the officers take control of the scene and feel safe enough to begin their investigation.
  • You will be thoroughly searched.  Don't take offense.  Yes, at this point you are being treated like a suspect because the officer doesn't know the facts.  Let the officer do his or her job so that the investigation can begin.  It will help the officer (and help show you have nothing to hide) if you point out, "Officer, I have folding knife in my (left/right) (front/back) pocket, as well as a spare magazine of ammunition in my (left/right) (front/back) pocket." 

 

THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS

Once things settle down and the investigation begins, a police officer will begin speaking to you about the shooting.  You are being lawfully detained and are not free to leave.  You may or may not remain handcuffed at this point.  You are required to give them your name, address, date of birth, phone numbers, etc., when asked. 

At some point,  they will begin to ask you questions.  Tell the officer no more than the following information about the incident and your decision-making:

  • “I thought I (or the person I was defending) was going to die when that guy came at me with the gun/knife/club/etc.”  (Translation: I am the victim of a deadly assault).
  • “I had no choice.”  (Translation:  I am not the aggressor and I didn’t want this to happen).
  • “I want him arrested” (even if you know the suspect is dead).  (Translation:  I am the victim of a criminal assault and am pressing charges). 
  • “I will cooperate with you and investigators, but I need time to recover and talk with an attorney before you question me.”  (Translation:  I’m not a dirtbag criminal who is lawyering up to escape the consequences of my voluntary actions, but rather a victim of a crime who is rattled having almost been murdered and wants to legally protect myself before giving my statement to detectives). 
  • “Thank you for being here.”  (Translation: I’m not a criminal because criminals are never glad the cops are there.  I'm glad that you are here because your presence means I am physically safe.  I want to assist you in your job.).

By the way, the officer will not dislike you or treat you any differently if you invoke your rights or tell him/her that you need to speak to an attorney. Too many people unaccustomed to dealing with the police (other than traffic stops) are worried that if they don't cooperate and immediately answer all of the officer's questions, it will make it more likely the officer will be displeased with them and go harder on them.  The patrol officer can't go harder on you because he or she is only determined to get the facts of the case.  The more that officer or any officer digs into this case, the better it will be for you.  Remember, this is the officer's job, and people invoke and don't cooperate with the police all of the time. 

The one rule in dealing with the cops is:  Never lie to the officer.  If you think a fact may not look good or be favorable to you, it is better to refuse to answer than to lie or even shade the truth to the cop.  Any lie is going to be found out based on the evidence, other witness statements, surveillance video, etc.  Lies are difficult to keep track of and everything you say will be compared to everything that you will ever say about the incident.  Once discovered, that lie will taint your entire defense and may turn an otherwise justifiable shooting into a prison sentence.  Don't do it.  Tell the cop the truth or don't say anything at all.  

If you are Mirandized, invoke.  You’ll know you are being Mirandized when an officer reads from a card that begins, “You have the right to remain silent…”  When they ask if you understand all of your rights, you answer in the affirmative.  When they ask if you would like to speak to them at this time, your answer (again) is:

  • “I will cooperate with the investigation after I’ve spoken to my attorney.  I thought I was going to die” (Or, “He was going to kill me/another person.”).  I have to speak to my lawyer before answering any more of your questions.” 

Then say nothing about the case.  Until your shooting is ruled to be justified by the DA/Prosecutor, the police and legal system are not your friends.  Every word you say must support the facts of your case and carelessly speaking to an officer who is not recording your exact statement may be misinterpreted and used against you.  You have nothing further to say to the police until you talk to an attorney, rehearse the facts you know with your attorney, and then give your statement to detectives a couple of days from then.

  • Do not prattle on about the shooting because you are full of adrenaline.
  • If they arrest you, be quiet.  Don’t talk about it in jail.  Inmates are definitely not your friends.
  • If they let you go home, be quiet…you may speak only with your spouse, attorney, licensed clergy, licensed psychiatrist or psychologist (not a counselor), or licensed medical doctor (M.D.).
  • Everyone else you tell your story to until the D.A/Prosecutor clears you of criminal charges becomes a potential witness against you.  Be smart:  be quiet.


JUSTIFYING YOUR DECISION-MAKING

Citizens too often believe they just need to say they were scared and that he had a gun, and then all of the rest will fall into place.  While this can still happen in some places in the US, it is increasingly unlikely.  It is naive to think in this day and age that just because you believe you were justified will mean that your community, the media, and the justice system will automatically agree.  It is probably best to hope for a smooth process where the shooting is ruled to be "justified" while expecting that you will likely have to prove to a jury that you were justified.  Taking this approach means you can realistically prepare for what is needed and what you will probably experience.  Being surprised at being "treated like a criminal," that an adverse and on-going media reaction occurs, and that you are forced to stand trial means you are likely to make mistakes along the way that just might ensure an adverse result.  

The aftermath of a shooting having a positive ending is all about your ability to humbly and comprehensively describe why you had no other choice other than to shoot someone who was about to kill you/someone else or harm you so badly you could no longer defend yourself or others.  You will need to put the listener (police detective, District Attorney/Prosecutor, and, if need be, each juror) into your shoes and looking through your eyes at the event.  Talk about facts and explain why those facts made you fearful and concerned for your safety.  Explain from the perspective of the suspect being the actor and you being forced to react to his/her threatening actions.

It will be vital you include your training and experience.  This means all of your training as well as those incidents you are familiar with that lead to your reasonable belief you needed to defend yourself or others with deadly force.  This permits others to understand more of your state of mind.  And it is from your reasonable state of mind that you will be judged according to the reasonable person standard ("Would another person in the same or similar circumstance, given that person's training and experience, respond the same way or make similar decisions?")

The laws in most states permit citizens, like the police, to make reasonable mistakes.  If you do mistake a cell phone for a gun, you are going to want to convince the detectives and the DA that anyone in your shoes would have made the same mistake.  Essentially, the DA/Prosecutor is looking for any reason why this was not a “reasonable shooting.”  A reasonable shooting ruling results when you are able, based on the facts of the case and your articulation of your perceptions and beliefs, to convince the DA/Prosecutor that any other reasonable person would have done the same thing you did.  This is why you must have the best lawyer and go over your statement using only the facts you know (and never permit your lawyer to talk you into shading the truth—they are used to dealing with lying criminals who are volunteers in the legal system, not stand-up citizens forced to defend themselves as victims).

 

ABOUT THE MEDIA

The shooting will be a big deal for a while in your county.  Hopefully it won’t blow up to become national or international news (e.g., Zimmerman shooting Martin in Florida in 2012).  The media is not your friend and they can become your enemy.  Hopefully you can duck the media bullet.  If not, avoid a “No Comment“ comment—it makes you look like you have something to hide.  If you are contacted by the media before you give your statement to the District Attorney/Prosecutor, explain that you cannot give a statement until that is completed. 

After your official statement, if you cannot avoid them without making the media hostile, avoid speaking about specifics—you are a criminal defendant pending trial.

  • Remain focused on the fact that you were the victim of a criminal attack, that you felt your life and safety were in danger, and that you had no other choice than to resort to deadly force to protect your life/the life of another.
  • Tell them that all of the facts of the case will come out in your criminal trial and you will give a full interview following either the DA's/Prosecutor's/Grand Jury's decision (to indict you or not) or the jury’s verdict.
  • Never give a statement without your attorney present and follow his or her instructions.

 

FINAL WORD

Carrying a weapon fundamentally means that we are taking responsibility for our personal defense and the defense of others if we choose.  It also means that we are taking responsibility for each and every consequence of introducing a loaded weapon into any situation.  Shooting and possibly killing another person is not something anyone takes lightly. Preparation for carrying that weapon should not be taken for granted and neither should the eventual outcome of either the shooting or the legal process taking years that can extend from a grand jury hearing to a criminal trial to a civil trial.

Being a prepared and legally armed citizen is more than simply legally carrying a loaded handgun.  It requires each of us to understand when we can lawfully shoot, to act calmly, responsibly, and reasonably within society, to make legally sound and defensible deadly force decisions, to hit what we are aiming at, to then act in a manner making it safe for the responding police to contact us, and to be able to comprehensively and truthfully articulate the basis of our decision to shoot another person.  If we are the victim of a crime that results in terribly injuring or killing our attacker(s), we must prevent being secondarily victimized by the legal system because we fail take the steps to protect ourselves.  Understanding what the process needs from us to justify our actions and to be found to have been reasonable in our decision-making and actions is our responsibility as well.

 

NEED TRAINING?

CUTTING EDGE TRAINING provides nationwide training to beginning shooters through experienced shooters seeking advanced combative skills.  If you or your shooting club would like to host a training course, contact us.  We will be happy to bring our world class training to you to assist you in preparing to meet any threat to you and your family.

Cover? It’s All About Context

by George on June 24, 2014 07:49

We all should use cover in a gunfight.  Problematically, rather than routinely contacting subjects from cover, most don’t use it until there is a real possibility of shots fired or a gunfight actually erupts.  When there is an exchange of rounds and you’re not initially hit, especially if there is a chance gunshots will continue, you will likely seek to put something to stop the bullets between your soft body (along with all of its parts) and the shooter’s muzzle.  How you might best employ cover to save your life is dependent upon the context of your gunfight.

When discussing what actually constitutes cover, we’d have to go into a discussion of a second topic that requires context:  bullet caliber, weapon and distance from which it is fired, bullet design, and the material type and thickness of the cover being used, not to mention the difference in material thickness to protect against one round hitting the cover or several bullets striking the same material within a small area.  For our purposes, let’s just agree that cover is any material and thickness that protects against fire and the effects of fire (backface spalling, or fragments that chip off the cover at the same speed the bullet strikes the face of the cover and can be lethal for up to three feet or more) from a particular weapon at a particular distance.  Because there are so many factors in what constitutes actual cover, we are probably better served by considering everything to be concealment (a material that hides one from observation but has little to no ballistic protection, e.g., a wooden fence or car door) and tailoring our tactics to it. 

The use of cover is one of those tactics that everyone has an opinion about.  Their way is the only way.  “Always keep back from the corner.”  “Never move up to cover.”  “Always…”  “Never…”  The truth is, every method ever demonstrated on how to use cover is probably “the right way” within a specific context dictated by the situation.  Too often, tactics trainers attempt to force the situation to the tactic rather than the tactic being determined by the situational necessities of the moment.  Tactics are always based upon the context of the fight.

 

BASICS OF COVER

Whether you treat everything you hide behind as concealment or you have faith that the material you are presently hiding behind can actually stop the bullets being fired at you, there are some universal principles that boil down to understanding angles and corners that can be applied:

  • Plane of cover.  This is the imaginary plane established by the suspect’s position and ability to see beyond the corner of your cover (both vertically, e.g., the side of a fence, wall, or tree, and horizontally, e.g., over a wall, a hood of a patrol car, or under the undercarriage of the car at your feet).  The angle of that plane of cover establishes your “safe zone” and the “kill zone.”  If any part of you is in the kill zone, it can be shot.  Keeping your feet inside the safe zone is foundational to the proper use of cover.  
  • A particular piece of cover’s value can be negated by threat movement.  The value of every piece of cover is dictated by the relative positioning of each of the shooters.  Since the suspect’s position dictates the plane of cover, any lateral (or vertical) movement by the suspect will drastically change that plane—and your vulnerability.  Let’s assume you’re a step and a half behind cover and in a gunfight with a suspect 15 feet away and 90 degrees from the left corner of a vertical cover.  Your plane of cover is 90 degrees and we’ll assume you are properly protected by that barricade.  If he takes four steps to his right (your left) and you don’t move, the plane of cover shifts so dramatically that you are probably fully exposed, negating any advantage of cover.  If he takes four steps to his left (your right), the plane of cover is changed to the point where he is using your cover to mask your fire and observation of him.  In order to more safely re-engage, you will have to reestablish the plane of cover—against an aware and prepared threat.  The same problems occur on a horizontal piece of cover: the suspect’s fore and aft movement, or vertical modifications up and down, will change that plane of cover drastically.  BOTTOM LINE: the farther you are away from cover, the more the suspect’s lateral or vertical movement will affect the protective value of that barricade.
  • Threat elevation negates the value of cover.  The higher the position of the suspect shooting at you, the more it tends to expose your position.  For example, you take cover behind a thick rock and earth wall three feet tall, fifty feet away from a suspect on the roof of a three story building.  Unless you are lying along the wall at its base, most of your body will be exposed to the shooter’s fire.
  • The effectiveness of angle of incidence movement is affected by suspect distance from the corner.  It is a rare officer who has not been taught how to “slice the pie” of a corner.  Formally, this is called “angle of incidence,” extrapolated from Snell’s Law of Light Refraction.  Essentially, by moving past a horizontal or vertical corner of cover employing small degrees or angles of movement, you should be able to glean some indication of the suspect’s position (shadow or reflection) or body part (shoulder, elbow, foot, hair, etc.) before he can locate you.  However, this works well only when the suspect is relatively close to the cover.  The farther the suspect is away from the barricade, the greater the likelihood that he will be able to see you as or just before you can see him.
  • If you can shoot him, he can shoot you.  Aside from simply sticking a weapon around a corner and spraying the countryside, if you are behind your weapon shooting at him, even though everything else is protected, he can still shoot your hands, arms, and head.  To lessen this danger, if the suspect is “shootable” (meeting deadly force standards of behavior) and you find him, seeing his elbow or foot, there is no reason to move farther into the kill zone to shoot him “center mass” as this movement will signal to him to respond with fire.  Instead, shoot that which you can see—the elbow or foot.  Then, if still justified, move to targets that are better suited in stopping him—being hit unexpectedly by bullets is often distracting and possibly disabling the suspect attempting to murder you before he can shoot you is a good goal.
  • Corners are dangerous places.  All corners of cover represent danger: from beyond the corner you can be shot.  When employing cover, another danger is in the form of ricochet off of a hard surface.  This threat is lessened by moving back and away from the cover to allow the ricochet’s angle to miss you) or it may consist of the bullet being able to penetrate the corner of the material that is thinner than the body of the piece of cover (e.g., the diameter of a live 30-inch tree is impervious to almost any .30 caliber rifle round, but the edge of the tree where you operate in a gunfight may not be thick enough to stop a round).
  •  Most individuals without military training will tend to shoot at what they can see rather than through the barricade or object the officer is using.  So it makes sense to stay as small as possible behind cover and to expose as little as possible while shooting or observing.  Problematically, suspects aren’t necessarily good shots.  They will likely hit the cover you’re using, so it’s nice to have real cover rather than concealment.

 

TWO NEEDS, TWO TACTICAL CONTEXTS

All tactics are contextual and how you maneuver to employ the tactic is situationally dependent.  Employing cover is not a one-size fits all exercise.  Contextually, officers tend to employ cover in two situations:  deliberate and hasty.

Deliberate.  The officer employs the cover as a means of protection prior to contacting an individual, in anticipation of gunfire, or as a result of gunfire.  This includes searching for a suspect or attempting to locate the threat’s position employing deliberate angle of incidence movement.  Generally, it is safer and more effective to remain minimally at least one arm’s length from the cover and often up to several steps back from cover while searching.  This makes the danger of corner ricochet much less likely.  Because it is deliberate, the officer is able to maintain a more disciplined posture and avoid giving away his or her location by inadvertently crossing the plane of cover. 

When the context changes and the suspected location of the threat is unknown, for example, “The gunshot came from the west!” it is not a good idea to camp out a distance from the cover until you know exactly where that threat is positioned.  The location of the source of a single gunshot is often confusing.  Any movement must now be predicated upon clearing every angle of incidence of the corner in order to work to the point where the plane of cover can be established.  This clearing will begin at the wall and, as possible threat areas are visually cleared, you then move away from the wall until the suspect is located and plane of cover is established. 

Hasty.  The officer unexpectedly comes under fire from a known location at typical police gunfight distances.  The officer moves while firing toward the cover.  Because there is no time to determine the actual plane of cover by slowly creeping up to it (angle of incidence movement or pie-slicing), the officer instead protects as much of his body as possible by moving directly up on the barricade and concealing as much of his body as possible behind the corner of cover while maintaining fire on the suspect, reaching to or past the corner with the muzzle of the weapon.  This permits the officer to maintain the initiative in the gunfight while hurriedly placing as much of his body behind cover as possible. 

 

BUT WAIT…!

Now is the time dogma begins to rear its head and bark.  Bringing up the hasty barricade position often generates mild to outraged protests:  “We always have to remain at least one arm’s length from cover!  This will prevent us from getting hit by ricochets and prevent someone from disarming us who might be standing on the other side of the barricade!” 

Not really.  Remember the context in which it is employed: you are actively exchanging rounds with a suspect.  Because movement is life—it’s harder to hit you—and cover is a good thing to have in a gunfight, you move abruptly as you respond with fire.  As you get to the corner of the cover, you shove your torso and feet behind the protective material but remain engaged with the suspect as long as you are not taking any wounds.  That also includes any round that is so close that you need to duck behind cover to protect yourself.  Your rate of accurate fire—shooting only as fast as you can hit (which is generally a lot slower than most people practice)—is also of equal value in protecting you.

If we accept that both accurate fire combined with the use of cover are desirable components in surviving a shooting, moving to a barricade while continuing to accurately fire on an imminent threat makes sense.  What does not make sense, absent taking wounds or accurate fire that drives you back from the corner, is to voluntarily move away from the corner of cover and cease firing, losing the initiative.  Stopping your fire gives the suspect respite, a chance to reload, or adjust his position.  He’s no longer under any pressure.  Now to reengage, you will have to pie-slice in angles of incidence against a suspect who knows where you are, has demonstrated willingness to murder you, and will likely be waiting for you to show any sign of your body in the kill zone.  Not a good scenario in typical police shooting distances.  Relinquishing the initiative in any fight gives the other guy the opportunity to bring the fight to you.

Regarding ricochets, while there is always a chance that a bullet may hit the edge and ricochet into you, the difference between it hitting the corner of whatever you are using for cover and directly impacting you is often tenths of an inch.  While that may happen, there is a benefit to the certainty that almost all of your body is behind cover and that only your hands and weapon and as little of your head as possible is vulnerable.  The advantage of this confidence may offset the small possibility of ricochet threats.

Everything in tactics is a compromise.  If, in this context, you were to move toward cover while accurately firing and stop where you think the plane of cover might be while remaining well back of the barricade, in practice, we generally find you, like most officers, will be mostly or even wholly exposed.  It is nearly impossible to concentrate on hitting the suspect, move while hitting, and to precisely determine your position relative to the suspect and your piece of cover.  If this proper alignment happens, it only happens in training on a one-way range.  We see officers in force-on-force training disappear behind cover, losing the initiative and advantage, and then have to fight their way back into the gunfight from a position disadvantage.

As far as a suspect grabbing your weapon if it extends beyond the corner, we must remember context and not base our tactics on unknown ninjas and boogey-men.  This is not a slow incident of angle search where the suspect’s location is unknown and may be immediately on the other side of the door frame within hand’s reach of your weapon.  This is a gunfight.  You know the imminent threat(s), his position, and you are keeping him under observation as you shoot at him.

While it is theoretically possible that someone might remain on the other side of your barricade near the corner you are using as the suspect is shooting at you (with the bullets striking where the ninja/boogeyman is standing), it is unlikely.  Besides, we must train for the usual threat, and not the unusual or possible but improbable threat.  If I’m shooting at a suspect who is shooting at me, and I’m at the corner of cover, I’m not going to worry about a guy on the other side of the concrete block wall grabbing my weapon and disarming me.  If that happens, it will be a combatives problem to solve before resolving my present problem of someone attempting to shoot and murder me.

 

CONCLUSION

The “proper” use of cover is context-dependent.  How it is employed as a protective device is dependent upon many factors, including the type of fight you are in.  If the gunfight begins with you behind cover, remaining back from the cover at least an arm’s distance, employing strict discipline in your posture, leaning into barricade to get your weapon and eyes into the kill zone to shoot rather than stepping into it and fighting from there makes complete tactical sense. 

However, if you are not behind cover when a sudden gunfight begins and you are moving toward cover while hitting the suspect as you reach cover, it makes no sense to disappear behind cover, halting your fire, and then being forced to work your way back into the kill zone as safely as possible to reengage.  Stay in the fight by putting your legs and torso behind the cover and remain at the corner of cover to fight and win.  

Context is all-important in tactics.  It is always the first question that must be answered when someone is introducing a new tactic or skill.  Context is the first consideration in all things, for without it, we are unable to determine if the skill or tactic has any validity at all.  Because so many gunfights begin with the officer away from cover, we must consider how to most efficiently employ it when cover is a hasty tactic.  Moving, hitting, and remaining in the gunfight while almost all of your body is covered and close to the barricade makes sense…in this context.

DT as OJT Rather Than High-Intensity Recurring Training

by George on February 17, 2014 16:18

There is always a lot of complaining by police defensive tactics instructors that officers don't like to train and there is not enough time to train to gain a high level of competency in DT.  They argue that these skills are highly perishable and without frequent and recurrent training, there is no way to build capability in the average officer. 

There are two ways of gaining expertise and overcoming the problem of perishability in high skill training. Sufficient training time and commitment to instill in the schema those highly evolved movements and skills is but one way.  Training time is expensive and many agencies struggle to meet minimum staffing for their shifts.  Intensive, recurring training requires either high budgetary commitment, high personal effort and time commitment, or both.

The other way, within current budgetary constraints (and reality), is to provide training the officers will use every day, thereby gaining OJT (on the job training). If principle-based training is indeed primally hardwired into our human blueprint, then EVERY TIME a police officer puts hands on a subject, that principle-based training is reinforced (in essence, practiced). 

For a simple example, a not-yet resistive but nominally non-compliant subject is not going along with the program and the officer is legally justified to put hands on him.  The officer step in at an angle (Principle of Combatives: Step in angles and circles), takes hold of the subject’s elbow (Principles of Combatives:  Constantly target seek and Always put reasonable weapons to reasonable open targets), and then likely presses the elbow against the officer’s torso (Principle of Combatives: Put body parts to body mass—or closer-stronger).  Now the officer moves his/her body and the suspect must contend with his elbow being affected by not only the officer’s strength but also the officer’s weight.  Greater level of success and effectiveness.

How did the officer know do to this?  Because the officer learned through Universal Principles of Combatives drills that they gain success through grabbing the elbow with both hands and pulling the elbow into their body rather than playing wrist games and control holds with suspect which is generally ineffective against someone of similar size and strength who doesn’t want to play with the nice officer holding his arm.  Soon, everything the officer touches is pulled into their bodies (or their bodies go to the object/limb/suspect body part) as a matter of habit with little or no thought because the officer is stronger and more effective, gaining a history of success that pays off when one day the suspect draws a gun and shoves it into the officer’s chest. The officer immediately defends by slapping and then does what?  Grabs the gun-arm and pulls it into his chest (paying attention to the muzzle direction).  Then the cop solves the problem however that looks for them. 

So every time the officer puts hands on someone to arrest, to control (a false concept, BTW), or gets into a small tussle or big fight, the primal blueprint is reinforced and solved through the Universal Principle of Combatives. OJT serves as a primary training vehicle as each officer problem-solves through the day, discovering what works and what does not for THAT OFFICER.  Work becomes the repetitions necessary for greater mastery and a source for unconscious competence because there’s little to “remember” and perform other than just doing what my body does before big, strong, athletic, uninjured, well-trained men taught me how to fight like them.

Our experience in those agencies adopting the principle-based problem-solving concept is that officers begin to enjoy DT training because it becomes relevant and not a source of failure to them.  Think about your own reaction to classes where the instructor is busy telling you about all of the virtues of his/her program and it just not relevant or practical to your job.  Except you are now forced to make a physical effort where you will be put in pain, be exposed to injury, and be forced to practice complicated procedures you can’t remember how to do within hours or days and will never try against someone trying to injure you. If you failed at something every time, how excited would you be about going to training, getting sweaty and sore and possibly injured?  You’d become a “slug,” a “whiner,” and a “complainer.” 

Instead, when it is relevant and you can gain success that fits your physical, mental, and emotional needs in that very scary situation where not only can you be injured or killed, but your personal reputation as a cop is on the line, then training becomes something you can look forward to. 

If your cops are avoiding DT training or showing little enthusiasm while on the floor, maybe look at the program you are teaching and not at them.  Not a single cop I’ve ever met in 33+ years went into LE not wanting to be well-trained.  We, instructors, turned them away from training.  When we provide relevant training they can be successful with, that changes their enthusiasm.  They actually look forward to training and become willing to make efforts during instruction because they know it will work on the street for them.