Thursday, November 3, 2011
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new pre-attack posture going around out there: suspects vigorously ripping off their shirts. Officer survival programs have always included pre-attack postures, such as the target glance, the “no look” rule, the furtive glance and the 1,000-yard stare. We’ve always had body-language cues too, including adjusting clothing repeatedly and dragging one foot or only moving one arm while walking. These, along with the “security pat” to reassure the thug that their piece is still where they put it, have always been clues that you might be dealing with someone who’s packing.
Clothing cues of a concealed carry include a jacket or shirt that hangs unevenly, a collar pulled tightly at the neck, clothing that’s inconsistent with the weather, a shirttail that’s totally or partly out, unnatural bulges around the waist and, of course, removing a jacket when you and Mr. or Ms. Wrong make eye contact. But unlike the jacket being removed, the shirt coming off has now become the newest form of advertisement for “I’m gonna kick your ***.” Let’s review these pre-attack posture danger cues, and look at what they should mean to you from an officer-safety standpoint.
Ripping Off the Shirt
In some ways, removal of the shirt can be seen as a good thing. It lets you know that the suspect probably doesn’t have a weapon on his person because the whole performance includes baring one’s chest. And while he really means “Here I am, let’s get it on,” it affords you a quick look at his chest, waist, arms and hands.
There’s a great video being used to promote Taser International’s Taser Cam that’s gone viral in cop cyberspace; it shows this newest form of pre-attack posture. From what I can glean from it, yelling at the top of your lungs aids in the removal of the shirt. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, and ripping off your shirt makes your voice louder. Either way, it’s a danger cue.
The Target Glance
Always be mindful of the target glance. Although it’s sometimes very subtle, it often precedes a physical attack. Most aggressors will want to get a glimpse of where they want to strike just before they do it. It might be a specific part of your body, the knee for example, or it could be broader in scope and area, such as where you’re actually positioned relative to the assailant.
The “No Look” Rule
This is the direct opposite of the target glance, but still provides a good clue regarding the attacker’s goal. Whenever you’re interacting with someone and you start to get that “no look” facial change, be careful. Their gaze might be up in the air, off to the side or even downward. It’s not so much where they’re looking, though, it’s what it means that’s important to you. The look most likely means, “I’ve shut you down, man.” In other words, “I’m not listening.” When they give you that non-verbal look of non-compliance (and that’s exactly what it is), you can bet a physical attack isn’t far behind.
The Furtive Glance
This is almost a target glance, but it’s not quite as obvious. Not only is it a pre-attack posture, it can also be an indicator of where the attacker may not want you to look or pat down. During vehicle stops, watch to see if the driver looks toward the console. They may be giving you a hint about where their stash (or their knife or gun) is. During street corner Terry stops, a driver may briefly glance toward a trashcan, a rock, a tree or even toward a buddy nearby. Any of these glances could be a tip-off.
The 1,000-Yard Stare
Made famous by the Vietnam War movie, “Full Metal Jacket,” the 1,000-yard stare is best described as a blank, expressionless stare. Actor Vincent D’Onofrio’s stare while gripping his M-14 loaded with 7.62 mm rounds has become the iconic visual image of “the lights are on, but nobody’s home.” Aside from the violent, exaggerated shirt rip, this is probably the most obvious indicator that trouble has arrived. Get on the radio and call for backup. Beware! In this situation, violence is likely imminent and there can only be one winner … you!
Body language cues are great indicators of concealed carry, but you have to be aware and look for them. They’re not always obvious.
Clothing, and the way it’s worn, can also provide clues about a possible threat’s intent. Always make sure to be aware of body, and clothing, language when interacting with possible threats. Everything from eye contact, or lack thereof, to the way a shirt is worn can provide a hint to the type of threat you’re facing.
That’s it for this short primer on pre-attack postures and concealed weapon detection. Print it out, pass it around and stay safe.
Concealed Weapon Tip-Offs
1. A shirt hanging down unevenly
2. A shirttail totally or partially hanging out
3. A collar pulled up tight
4. A heavy jacket worn during hot weather