When Seung-Hui Cho walked into Norris Hall at Virginia Tech last April, he was committed. He had prepared and equipped himself in anticipation of his murderous assault. Reports were that he worked out daily for six months in preparation. He was practiced with his semi-auto pistols, firing a reported 4,000 to 5,000 rounds. He was rehearsed and he was ready. Within nine minutes he had killed 30 people, not including the two victims shot and killed earlier.
Simple question: Are you half as prepared to stop a suspect(s) intent on bringing death and destruction on innocent victims? And it's not enough to be just willing; are you prepared? Prepared and practiced at using violence to stop a suspect from killing or seriously wounding you?
Be brutally honest with yourself, are you skilled, competent and capable of stopping a committed assailant from carrying out their deadly mission? Committed, practiced, intent, prepared and violent --that describes many of today's criminal offenders, but does it describe you and your preparations to thwart their actions?
Columbine High Schoolkillers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did not just walk into that high school on the spur of the moment with no forethought. They were practiced with their firearms, and had methodically planned, prepared and practiced their assault.
When Steven Kazmierczak kicked in a door and opened fire at Northern Illinois University, killing five and wounding sixteen before killing himself on February 14th of this year, he was not unprepared and unplanned in his attack. Whether it's a demented individual like the above or a 15 year old crack cocaine dealer with a .40 cal and no regard for human life, the threat is still the same. These are twisted, violent individuals obsessed with killing and perfectly willing to wreak havoc against the person charged with stopping them--you. How much sweat equity have you paid in your training to prevent your own blood and that of innocents from being spilled?
These preparations are not completed overnight. Stopping violent criminal suspects and attackers takes more than a stout heart. George Orwell said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." You see, violence in our line of work is a job requirement. Yes, communication and mediation skills are important, but preparations to commit violence to stop a violent suspect and possibly save life (including your own) are vital. And yet as a trainer I am constantly confronted with officers who are ill prepared to save their own life, let alone stop an intent suspect attacking someone else.
When Was the Last Time?
You practiced your pistol draw? Swung your tactical baton? Performed a hand strike or kick? Worked on your handcuffing? When did you last live-fire your pistol? Was it during department qualifications? If so, did you pass "clean" or were you required to re-shoot a stage or stages? Are you capable of delivering fight-stopping multiple hits to the upper portion of a realistic target? Can you do this while moving off-line? How about force-on-force training--when was the last time you engaged in Simunition or airsoft training against another human being where you had to interact, communicate and respond to the actions of another? Work the night shift? When was the last time you practiced manipulating the pistol and flashlight or controlling the actuating button or switch?
Or are you one of those officers who make excuses for poor performance and insist that although they blow pistol quals, are out of shape, or are not skilled in their suspect control techniques, that they'll do better in an actual incident. Poppycock. The mean streets have proven that you will never exceed the level of your training. Let's stack Cho's preparations for killing prior to his rampage at Virginia Tech against your preparations the last six months. Although I will concede that comparing an obsessive mentally ill suspect with a police officer is unfair, have you prepared at all? How much total time have you dedicated to saving your life and the lives of others in the last six months? If you don't know, why don't you?
Tough questions, but ones that need to be asked now...today, and if necessary, steps made to correct the deficits. Don't kid yourself or your loved ones by maintaining that you're prepared when in fact, you are not. We live or die based on the decisions we make--not just on the street but also those decisions to train and prepare. Or not.
There is no time like the present to begin your corrective actions. With a small investment of time and effort, you can dramatically increase your ability to control and dominate your environment and win out against violent assault. If you wanted to increase your drive in golf or a tennis swing, you would seek out instruction and practice. A monthly or weekly bucket of balls in preparation can be enough to improve performance in either sport. Why not a box of ammo fired through your pistol? If you spend time in pursuit of improving any leisure activity, why not spend a half hour a week with a heavy bag, either empty handed or with your baton to improve your striking capabilities? By a low cost investment in an airsoft pistol and some training conducted in the comfort of your basement or garage, you can do much to hone your skills. Then, master the night with practice in low or subdued lighting with and without the flashlight. Yes, you should have leisure activities and sports that are not law enforcement-related, but the ramifications of losing on the course or court are not death or serious bodily injury.
Fram , the manufacturer of vehicle oil and air filters, had a popular commercial years ago. A garage mechanic with a towed vehicle in the background would say, "You can pay me now or you can pay me later." The implication was that by investing in regular low-cost vehicle maintenance you can reduce the likelihood of expensive repairs. When applied to law enforcement what will it be: sweat or blood? Pay now or pay later.