Monday, May 20, 2019

Why repetition is your friend when it comes to holster positioning

Each time you start your shift, make sure your duty belt and equipment within is in good working order.
Is your holster located in the sweet spot for your draw to be at its best? When you put your duty belt on, the location of your pistol should be your primary concern, since it is the most important piece of equipment on your belt. A shift of an inch or two in the location of your holster can result in a grip that is higher or lower on the back strap than you want.
If you are not sure where your sweet spot is, here is a tip: Close your eyes and, with no duty belt on, reach 10 times to where you would grip your pistol. On the tenth time, look to see where your hand is. This is your natural draw position.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1 simple strategy for dealing with a driver who refuses to give you their license

What do you do when a driver refuses to give you their license during a traffic stop?
A variety of dash cam and cell phone videos posted on the internet show officers handling such refusals with varying levels of success. All too often we see car windows smashed and the driver dragged out by force. While the force and arrest may be legal, there is an easier way to achieve a safer outcome.
Trooper Kirk Hensley and members of the North Carolina State Patrol employ a strategy I have also used over the years
In order to understand the situation, you have to realize the overriding issue at hand is control.
The control begins with you. You take control the moment you turn on your lights and the driver pulls over. Your demeanor and word choice play a large part in determining the outcome of the stop. Polite professionalism should be your goal on all interactions unless or until the situation dictates another approach.
By mentally rehearsing and role-playing your response to a non-cooperative driver, you gain control by having a practiced response. The alternative is trying to develop a plan while under stress, which often leads to poor outcomes.
The driver may attempt to wrestle your control away by not cooperating, hoping to send you into a tail spin of poor choices and actions that will make them look like victims and you look like the aggressor.
Their refusal may include a demand for you to summon your supervisor. Again, this attempts to take away your control by suggesting you don’t have the ability, knowledge or authority to do what you are doing. This request can have a negative effect on officer demeanor. No officer likes the implication that they don’t know how to do their job. All too often when this request is made some officers become visibly agitated. The driver has now gained control because their actions have evoked a change in behavior and emotion in the officer.
Understanding this battle for control enables you to devise an appropriate response.

YOUR RESPONSE TO A REFUSAL

When the driver refuses to provide the necessary documents or a full name and date of birth so you can run your checks, you can create the illusion the driver is in control. Do that by explaining you are required to obtain those documents. You then tell them you are going to go back to your squad car and, when they are ready, they can provide the requested information.
Return to your car and notify dispatch of the situation and request backup. The driver will realize the only thing keeping them on the scene is their actions. In other words, they are in control of how long the stop takes. Officers trained in this method indicate they achieve a high level of compliance in a short period of time.
Note that backup is requested in case the strategy fails and you need to take the next step to get the driver to comply.

HOW A DRIVER MAY RESPOND

At this point, the driver can respond in several ways.
If they exit the vehicle, watch carefully to see if they have their documents in hand. If they do, you can make the decision as to whether you request they get back into their vehicle and approach them again, or direct them to the front of your squad where you can continue with the stop.
If the driver motions you up indicating they have the documents, you have the same two options, each has their advantages and disadvantages.
If the driver decides to drive off, you now have a pursuit and your policies will dictate how that is handled.
If the driver gets out without the documents in hand, you have to make a decision as to their intent. You can direct them to get back into their car and meet them as already discussed, or you have the option of putting your car into reverse and creating distance if the situation requires.
Remember, on every stop, you have the P, D or R choice:
  • Park and deal with the situation;
  • Drive out or around the situation;
  • Reverse and create distance.
Too often we get locked into parking since it is our most used strategy.
Note: If you work in an area where backup may take time to get there and this approach doesn’t work, you will have to ascertain if it is better to wait for backup or attempt to take the driver out of the car yourself. Trying to extricate a driver next to a roadway presents all kinds of obvious hazards. Remember, when you work by yourself and no backup is available, you have the option of breaking contact with the driver and waiting for another day when the odds are in your favor.
To paraphrase Sun Tzu, the greatest warrior wins the battle without having to fight. By having this strategy ready to deploy, you take away the resistant driver’s control without them even realizing.

Monday, June 26, 2017

5 things cops need to know about PTSD

An estimated 10 to 30 percent of first responders will have some type of traumatic stress injury during their career

When I was in the academy I never heard anything about the psychological effects of a police career, and now at least we have started to have a conversation about this threat. The continued stress of a 20-plus year career — with the daily ups and downs — slowly wears away at our psyche. Add in a major traumatic incident such as the death of a co-worker, child, or someone attempting to take your life and you will likely feel the backlash of trauma. It is estimated that between 10 to 30 percent of first responders will have some type of traumatic stress injury during their career.
Awareness is the key to managing traumatic stress. June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day — as a matter of fact, the Senate has designated June as National PTSD Awareness Month. In preparing for this article, I read the Senate Resolution designating this day. It was initially created for military veterans, but like raid tactics, medical techniques, and equipment that has been so readily adopted by law enforcement agencies and its members across the country, PTSD Awareness Day needs to be adopted as well. 
PTSD is just as real of a threat to law enforcement officers and other first responders as it is to military members. Like any other injury sustained in the line of duty, it is not automatically the end of a career or your life; but to maintain both of these things you must be aware, prepare in advance, and seek immediate care if things are becoming unmanageable.
Here’s what we need to be aware of: 1.    It’s normal: Like every other system in your body, the mind will do what it believes is necessary to maintain itself. Unfortunately as the brain tries to protect itself, the manifestations can have some adverse effects. The backlash from the traumatic incident may result in anger, memory issues, sleep disruption, depression, or any number of other stress responses.

2.    Early intervention results in a better outcome: If you are bleeding from a GSW, do you want to see a doctor now or a month from now? Rapid assistance from a professional counselor or peer support team members is more likely to lead to more rapid recovery.

3.    Knowledge is power: Knowing the signs and symptoms can help us identify traumatic stress injuries in ourselves or others. We need to recognize that something is wrong before we are aware that we need help.

4.    We can (and should) intervene: We wouldn’t let our supervisors, subordinates, or co-workers, take on an armed subject by themselves if we had the option of being there, even if we were never requested over the radio. Someone dealing with the fall out of post-traumatic stress needs us to be there even if they didn’t call for us.

5.    There is no single answer: What works for me may not work for you. Each of us manages stress in our way and while some may benefit from one type of therapy others may need a different kind. The key is to handle the stress and not let it control us.
Someone you know will benefit from your awareness and that someone may be you. Traumatic stress injuries can be just as dangerous as physical ones and are more likely to occur to someone at your agency. You don’t have to have all the answers; you just need to know that the stigma of mental health issues is harming first responders. If your department does not have a mental health plan for officers and dispatchers, be proactive about getting your administration on board. Find local resources now before they are needed. 
Get help via the mobile-friendly 1st Alliance site, which just launched 1st help. It can anonymously help you find PTSD assistance in your area. 

About the author

Jeff McGill is a 20 year veteran of law enforcement having been assigned to Patrol, Street Crimes, Sex Offenders Unit, Gang Intelligence and as a U.S. Marshal Task Force Officer. He now works full-time in training. Jeff is a state certified law enforcement instructor, teaching legal, firearms, first aid, law enforcement medical trauma care and reality based training. He has a Master’s degree and is currently a full-time Doctoral student in Criminal Justice concentrating in Organizational Leadership. Jeff is a founding member of 1st Alliance and co-author of “The Price they Pay.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Civilian self-defense vs. police excessive force: It's not that simple

Resisting officers is becoming more prevalent and socially acceptable by certain groups

Does a person being detained or arrested by a police officer have the right to self-defense if the person feels the officer is using excessive force? The answer to this question as written is obviously "no," but with the current climate of resisting officers becoming more prevalent and socially acceptable by certain groups, the question needs deeper exploration.
The follow-up question that is not as simple is: "Does a person have the right to self-defense if the officer uses excessive force?" Notice the subtle difference in the two questions: The first includes the subject’s subjective belief while the second is more generic and definitely needs clarification if asked.
First, it is important to understand that every person has the ancient and esteemed right to self-defense in general. But even this does not fully answer the question
In California, there are several pertinent penal code sections that shed some light on the not-so-easy topic that some want a simple yes or no answer for. The Model Penal Code, developed in 1962, eliminated the right to resist an unlawful arrest on two grounds. First, there were better alternative means of resolving the issue; second, resistance would likely result in greater injury to the citizen without preventing the arrest. By 2012, only 14 states allowed a citizen to resist an unlawful arrest. These states are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The first section is an unknown section to those it applies to, California Penal Code Section 834a. This section clearly places a statutory duty and obligation upon a person to not physically resist an officer’s arrest.
Note that the section does not specify lawful arrest as a condition but only arrest. I believe this is due to the fact that the lawfulness of an arrest is not to be argued in the street but in a court of law. If the subject feels like the arrest is unlawful, there are other remedies that the subject can seek. In a civilized society, resorting to force or violence to argue the validity of an arrest - during the arrest - is not acceptable.
The next section is directly related to the first. California Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) is the punitive section that covers the situation when a subject resists an officer in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office, including trying to arrest a subject. From these two sections, it is clear that there is no right to physically resist or assault an officer during an arrest.

WHAT IF THE OFFICER IS USING EXCESSIVE FORCE?

So back to the question: What if the officer is using excessive force? Some experts will point to other statutory laws to support their view that a person can resist if they feel the force is excessive. They look at California Penal Code Sections 692 and 693.
While these sections are self-defense protections for citizens primarily related to situations outside of "police brutality" claims, some experts will claim the public offense (crime) is related to an assault/battery under color authority type of crime. Note that in section 692, the resistance must be in response to the actual commission of the public offense.
An officer’s force response in the grand majority of arrests falls far from this standard and the published statistics bear that out as well. It is a rare circumstance when this assault/battery under color of authority actually occurs and an officer is charged, not because of some great law enforcement driven conspiracy but because it rarely happens. 
Section 693 requires that even if the officer were committing a public offense (crime), only that "self-defense" force that is sufficient to prevent the offense may be used. In other words, the subject may only use force to simply stop the assault/battery under color of authority and never any more than that.
Quite honestly, physically resisting an officer that a subject "feels" is using excessive force is a dangerous game of chance in most cases. If the force is found to be reasonable (as it is in the majority of cases) but the subject continued or increased his resistance because he believed the force was excessive, that subject will not prevail in his claim of self-defense and most likely exposed himself to more injury.
In order for a claim of self-defense to be valid, a finding of excessive force must be made by the trier of fact first. That is the jury (jury trial) or judge (bench trial). The excessive force must be to a degree that the trier of fact would believe it is excessive, not just the subjective belief of the person in the field resisting the officer at that moment. Only after a finding has been made that the force was excessive can the "self-defense" actions of the subject be excused as not being a criminal act. In other words, the physical resistance can be "forgiven" as self-defense only if the force is found to be excessive after the fact and not the other way around.

REASONABLENESS IS VIEWED FROM OFFICER'S PERSPECTIVE

Another way to examine this is to understand that the evaluation of the reasonableness of an officer’s force response must be made from the perspective of the officer and the totality of the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time. It is not made from the perspective of the subject. It would be impossible for the subject to fully understand the officer’s perspective and therefore impossible to determine if the force is excessive.
I do not believe the majority of society is willing to accept the idea of a subject with a mere singular and subjective belief (and honestly a self-serving and in most cases an uninformed belief) that somehow an officer’s force response is excessive and therefore the subject has the right to defend him/herself with force. This thinking is clearly a "putting the horse before the cart" type of rational. If society were to accept this thought, every person being arrested in the future could freely physically resist with impunity from criminal culpability on charges of battery on an officer by simply stating, "I felt the force was excessive."

About the author

Ed Flosi is a retired police sergeant from San Jose, California. Ed has a unique combination of practical real world experience and academic background. He has worked several assignments including Field Training Program, Training Unit, Narcotics, Special Operations — K9 Handler, Research and Development and Custody Facility Supervisor. He has qualified as an expert witness in state and federal courts in police practices/force options and is the Principle Instructor for PROELIA Defense and Arrest Tactics. He has a Master of Science degree from California State University Long Beach. Ed is a Certified Force Analyst through the Force Science Research Center.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The safest place to be in a vehicle ambush attack

TESTING DEFENSE TACTICS

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an eight-hour program on vehicle defense tactics which was sponsored by the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors. This block of instruction focused on how to effectively fire from a vehicle, exit the kill zone and exactly what parts of contemporary vehicles represent true cover. We were also afforded the opportunity to fire a few different rounds utilized for law enforcement applications at vehicles and to assess the results.
Many diverse materials make up modern vehicles, including various types of metal, plastic, rubber and glass. It’s probably a safe bet that today’s cars are smaller and lighter than the heavy metal American-made cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We were all curious to see exactly what, if any, protection a vehicle could provide against incoming fire.
First, let’s consider glass. Many people fail to recognize that angled, windshield glass is a formidable obstacle. Windshields are made of laminated glass and a bullet impact will cause it to crack and spider web, but not shatter. Windshields often play havoc with bullet performance and results could include jacket/core separation, deflection from the point of aim and inconsistent expansion qualities. Side windows are made of tempered glass and a single bullet impact will typically cause them to shatter.
During the seminar, a few different handgun, rifle and shotgun rounds were fired at vehicle windshields and doors. A target was placed on the passenger seat to determine if the rounds fired deviated from the point of aim. It should hardly be a surprise that all the rounds fired penetrated and struck the target. Both a non-bonded 9mm jacketed hollowpoint and a .223 Remington soft point exhibited signs of jacket failure, but still struck the targets. Handgun rounds featuring a bonded bullet, rifled slugs and a .223 Remington round traveled true to the target without any issues.
Firing at an open door did produce some surprising results. A casual observer might consider that the sheet metal of a car door wouldn’t be much of a barrier, but there is a lot more to the door than meets the eye. Car doors contain windows, electric motors, locks, brake stays, lift mechanisms, as well as inner panels and arm rests.
In the test, four different handgun rounds were fired from a distance of 10 yards at a door open approximately 45 degrees. Rounds included two examples each of 9mm and .45 ACP, with both bonded and non-bonded bullets. A single example of each round was fired at the open door.
The most surprising result was that none of the handgun rounds penetrated the door. This was by no means an exhaustive test nor am I suggesting that car doors are bulletproof. But based on this informal test, and what we’ve witnessed in actual police action shootings, even the best handgun rounds are “iffy” penetrators on car doors. On the other hand, both the .223 Remington rounds and 12-gauge rifled slugs  easily penetrated the door.

TAKEAWAYS FROM TESTING TACTICS

So what can we learn here? While not true cover, a door might provide some limited ballistic protection in a frontal attack. Exit the kill zone, stay low and move to better cover at the rear of the car and beyond. Doors provide absolutely no protection from centerfire rifle rounds and shotgun slugs. But this cuts both ways. If you absolutely need to get inside a motor vehicle by punching through a door or windshield, rifled slugs have no peer. For rifles, consider one of the popular barrier breaching rounds from the major manufacturers.
If you have to shoot through the windshield while sealed behind the wheel, a well-designed bullet will punch through the glass, track true and expand when it strikes the threat. Again, premium quality rounds specifically designed for law enforcement applications are readily available and performance is light years beyond what it was a generation ago.
True cover in a vehicle remains the engine block and brake drums. But taking a good defendable position behind them can be difficult. If and when possible, move to better cover away from your vehicle. At the very least, your vehicle could provide you with a measure of concealment.
Have a plan, should you come under attack when in a vehicle. Get yourself in a defendable position as soon as possible and take the fight to the assailant. That might include firing through the side windows or windshield. When working with a partner or backup, those timeless concepts of cover and contact still ring true. Define those roles and make sure somebody is watching the immediate area, as well as what is beyond. Stay switched on to stay safe.

About the author

Captain Mike Boyle served 27 years with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Law Enforcement. Mike was responsible for all aspects of pre-service and in-service training and also supervised the internal affairs section of his agency. Mike has also been an assistant police academy director and continues to participate in both recruit and instructor level training. He is a certified instructor in multiple uses of force disciplines including handgun, shotgun, rifle, SMG, impact weapons and unarmed self-defense. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Officer safety in the modern age: 10 critical lessons to live by

Here are ten lessons learned from generations of law enforcement – ranging from the old west to present day – to help you protect yourself, your family, and your fellow officers. 
1.    Stay in control of your emotions and reduce residual ill-will all around. Taking things personally and acting on those feelings in a negative way when dealing with or handing off a subject to others endangers other law enforcement officers in the future. 
One of the hardest things to do as a law enforcement officer is to stay objective and respond appropriately. It may be hard to do, but it is precisely how you need to train yourself to be. Anger, fear, and cynicism lead the way to overreaction.
2.    Accept that you are a target and make yourself a hard target. Have someone you trust do an assessment of your and your family’s vulnerabilities. On the job, at home, outside doing activities, in the vehicle, parking and anything else that comes to mind. Then take immediate steps to mitigate that vulnerability whenever possible. Look at your routines and reassess them.
3.    Start using Cooper’s color codeThere are people who want to hurt you. Pay attention and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Expect to be attacked. Formulate a plan whenever you going to a call or encounter suspicious people or circumstances. You may be attacked but you should never be surprised.
4.    Pull your head out of your smartphone or laptop. Don’t look at it for more than a few seconds when you are in your vehicle or out and about in a public area where anyone is around you. If it helps, just think of some attacker coming up from behind and blowing your brains out every time you are looking down to do some texting or an email check in public.
If you need to use your laptop or phone, park where you cannot be approached unseen and look around every few seconds. Make it a habit. 
5.    Stop the social club nonsense. As a law enforcement officer in uniform, you have no business sitting in a restaurant booth with four of you chit-chatting. Keep it to a maximum of two to a booth or table. Seat yourselves out of the way of the general traffic flow in and out of the restaurant or cash register area. 
Have the other officers seated far enough away to provide protection if anyone tries to target any two officers. Stand up when people approach you. Officer presence does not have to be threatening to get the point across you are ready.
6.    Upgrade your overall hand-to-hand skills. Nothing inspires confidence and decreases the likelihood of excessive force like being able to defend yourself against just about anybody using just hand-to-hand skills. This confidence carries over into the firearms and other weapon categories. Well trained people with good values aren’t usually the ones getting into trouble in police departments.
7.    Upgrade your performance with firearms — particularly handguns. Learning to fight effectively with a handgun is more than just upgrading your qualification scores. Significant training in gunfight speed reactive shooting with proper tactics results in far fewer rounds fired and far fewer problems with “excessive force” complaints. 
If you are being targeted with deadly force, commit to the fight, stay mentally calm and stay deliberate in your shooting. Every round has a purpose.  Don’t let fear of consequences —legal or otherwise — rule your decisions. Hesitation is a killer.
8.    Start carrying a gun off duty you can shoot as well your duty gun. A gun that’s too small is far harder to shoot quickly and accurately than a bigger gun. Use a proper holster and mag pouches. Wear appropriate clothing to hide it effectively. Think about wearing a vest every time you are outside when living in areas of active unrest. Carry two extra magazines as well as one in the gun. For single-stack magazines, carry three extra.
9.    Remember your values and uphold them — you will live and die by them. Review my articles on “the warrior and the merchant” and “the tactical decision equation.” Now is not the time to withdraw from society — it is not “us against them.” Most people respect you and are on your side. Some will fear you. Anarchists are the enemy — not society in general.
Start learning how to properly use the Tactical Decision Equation. Critical thinking under pressure is trainable and necessary. When you start using the equation you will be able to come up with acceptable options in any situation and be able to justify your actions — both to yourself and to the public. 
It provides a common language between the police and the public that will help the public understand what you were facing and how you decided on your course of action. It is also a tremendous after-action tool to go over your incidents and become a better tactical thinker.
10.    Protect your home and your family. Train your spouse and kids how to think and what to do. Have a plan for incidents in and out of the home or at school etc. Teach them self-defense skills and the use of firearms if they are old enough to learn. Harden their minds to the use of force and teach them how to fight. Feeling helpless is debilitating at any age.

About the author

Ron Avery is President and Director of Training for The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. and Executive Director of the non-profit, Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute - both training institutions dedicated to professional firearms and tactics courses, higher police standards and training and use of force research.

Contact Ron Avery

Friday, May 12, 2017

Conduct professional, safe traffic stops

  1. Remember your training. No traffic stop is routine. When conducting a stop, consider when and where to initiate the stop and the best location for the driver to stop.
  2. Notify the dispatcher. Make sure that the dispatcher knows your location and the stopped vehicle’s license, make and model before making contact with the driver.
  3. Create a safety lane for yourself. Be sure to offset your vehicle behind the stopped vehicle to create a safety lane. Turns tires out and consider a passenger side approach to contact the driver.
  4. Communication is critical. Remember that the first words spoken by an officer may very well determine the tone of the encounter and even the eventual outcome. Similarly, the last words are also very important and may be the basis of a lasting impression of the officer and agency.
  5. Stops at night or low light conditions: Use your takedown lights, and/or spot light to light the interior of the stopped vehicle. Placing the spot light directly into the rear view mirror of the stopped vehicle can help cover your approach.
  6. Pay attention to the verbal and physical cues from the driver. Excessive repetition of requests or instructions by the driver can be an indication of a problem, as is taking a long time to find documents such as driver’s license, registration or insurance card.
  7. Control the stop. You control that vehicle and its passengers for the duration of the stop. If you feel it is necessary, request assistance. Review case law for Brendlin V. California and Maryland V. Wilson as they relate to what an officer can and cannot do during a traffic stop.
Courtesy National Law Enforcement Memorial