Friday, June 29, 2012
Kevin R. Davis
Have you been paying attention?
Chardon, Ohio, High School shooting. Pittsburgh Medical Center shooting. The Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Fla., shooting. Beaumont Texas Courthouse shooting. Oakland, Calif., Oikos University shooting, where shooter One L. Goh gunned down seven people. Or the latest Hattiesburg, Miss., shooting where Scott Taylor walked into Cucos restaurant and shot five people.
These mass shooting incidents have happened just this year with countless other officer-involved shootings taking place also. Where do they happen? They happen everywhere; from coast to coast and all the points in between. They don’t just occur in big cities, but rural counties, townships and villages too.
In the next five minutes of your shift or the next call you take, you could encounter the hyper-violent criminal or the violently deranged suspect. They might be targeting innocent citizens—or even you.
I have a question for you: Are you up to the task? Are your skills, attributes and abilities sharpened to a fine point giving you the capability to stop a seriously violent criminal offender intent on your—or an innocent citizen’s—demise? Are you trained in your firearms to effectively—right now—win an ultra-violent deadly force encounter?
I write this piece as the local news has announced that my friend and officer Ben Campbell from the Copley, Ohio, Police Department will be receiving the Top Cops Award from the National Association of Police Organizations in Washington, DC. on May 12. Campbell stopped Michael Hance during a shooting spree in that city which left seven dead.
After the shooting, Campbell commented to me, “I have a whole new respect for training!
I was on autopilot the whole time.” Being on “autopilot” translates to the fact that the skills he needed to use (in this case, his skills with a police carbine) must be ingrained—or included in his muscle memory. Put simply: In this dire situation, he reverted to his training.
The training you’ve received must be up to the task. It must be recent, relevant, realistic and contain sufficient repetitions. It must also be conducted in an open-loop environment where you’d be forced to react and respond to what’s in front of or behind you.
The Training Conundrum
Let me be brutally honest here: Training that’s offered by most LE agencies doesn’t always properly prepare us to face hyper-violent suspects. Most training conducted by agencies is more related to passing a qualification course or meeting state minimums than it is to actually preparing you to win a life-threatening encounter.
Also complicit in this are some state-run LE academies. The academy in my state resembles a driver’s license bureau like bureaucracy instead of a state-of-the-art officer survival training center. They’re a required “paper trail” school, i.e. the kind of school or course the state mandates you attend to get your ticket punched, vs. going to actually learn something.
Think I’m being too harsh? I’ve dealt with this academy over the years, and I can say it has specialized in long breaks and early class days taught by burned-out instructors who have had little-to-no street experience in the last 20 years. The instructor programs are even worse. A recent firearms instructor course serves as a perfect example. In three days, the students, most of whom have never shot revolvers prior to the class and weren't instructors on any other firearms, were blessed by the state to be qualified instructors. This organization recently reduced the state-mandated qualification course from 60 rounds to 25, even though they know that most police agencies only shoot the qualification course each year and nothing more. What’s the result? For many police officers in the state, it’s less rounds fired each year on the range.
There are exceptions. There are some great trainers and training programs at local, county and state agency academies. Check around and you’ll soon see what trainers are professional and progressive, and what trainers are retired.
My own opinion is that the private sector does a much better job of training officers than LE academies for the most part . If these bureaucracies had to compete, they would have shut down years ago. That said, what should you do to train?
Answer: Train on your own. With just a little investment, you can train with some of the top names in LE training. Save your quarters and soon you can advance your ability to stop hyper-violent criminal suspects in their attempts to hurt you, your partners and others.
Training vs. Practice
I’ve often said, “Training is the gift you get from someone else, practice is the gift you give yourself.” In order to successfully build a solid muscle memory, you must engage in sufficient repetitions. This equates to time on the range, in the gym and in the quiet of your own home developing and honing your skills.
Striking a heavy bag with empty hand blows, kicks or baton; engaging in dry-fire pistol work, such as the presentation of the pistol to the target; or even combining empty hand work on the bag with pistol draw strokes—these are great ways to perfect your skills and make you harder to kill. Why not increase your personal fitness while at the same time performing repetitions in worthwhile skills? Job-related fitness can be improved in a much more realistic fashion.
The point: It’s your life. Why not increase your odds at winning by investing some of your time perfecting your skills?
It’s You, My Brothers & Sisters
Then New York Times reported on April 9 that the killing of LEOs has increased even though violent crime has fallen. Cited in their coverage is 2011’s 25 percent increase of officer murders by suspects in 2010. These killings took place across the country in agencies large and small. According to the New York Times, various contributory causes are reported. These include officers encountering a suspect who, unbeknown to them, had previously been arrested for a violent crime; officers specifically targeting high crime areas; officers who have been laid off or furloughed or not replaced. Reporters Michael Schmidt and Joseph Goldstein quote Chief J. Scott Thomson of the Camden, N.J., Police Department whose agency was cut nearly in half, “It’s that much more difficult to create an environment in which criminals do not feel as emboldened to assault another person, let alone a law enforcement officer.”
Ultimately, it’s you that either reaps the benefits of your training or suffers the fallout of a deficit. Many of the things listed are out of your control. For instance, regardless of how many officers your agency is down, you still need to safely do your job. It’s vital, however, that you learn as much as you can about the people you are stopping, field interviewing or actively seeking. Knowing your enemy
is a vital part of your survival.
In these lean economic but exceedingly violent times against law enforcement, regardless of who pays for it, you must train. Training is the lifeblood of police work. At the epicenter of your training is the question you must ask yourself: Are you up to the task? After an honest internal assessment, are you really up to winning an ultraviolent confrontation? Could you, at this very instant, stop and control an actively resisting criminal intent on hurting you or another?
Intentions are great. It’s nice to know that you have the heart of a warrior and will to, as Col. Dave Grossman says, “Rush to the sound of the guns!” But getting there’s only one part of the equation. Being effective after you arrive and dominating the encounter, that’s another part entirely—one that’s better answered after being properly prepared. We can never predict what our encounter will look like but we can state, with certainty, that our skills, attributes and abilities will be put to the test. Are you up to the task?