One word is best.
As much as I like the:
You look familiar. You got any warrants?
method, last night I defaulted to ‘No’ when I was approached last night by a female panhandler in the Publix parking lot. Because I keep my head up, I saw the encounter coming.
“Something, something, car, homeless.”
“Okay.” She then walked away.
I didn’t say it in an ugly way, just very firmly. The power of a firm ‘No’ is very strong.
I also had my pepper spray in hand in case things went any further.
Telephone [in the United States] –is an internationally popular game, in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Although the objective is to pass around the message without it becoming misheard and altered along the way, part of the enjoyment is that, regardless, this usually ends up happening.
Often, a message that starts out like “My uncle shook hands with the Mayor once” eventually turns into “President Reagan’s grandmother slept with Batman for years” or something equally mistransmitted.
Telephone game issues plague the firearms training industry and are a problem. Several occurrences of it have been brought to my attention just this week. One of the most important things I’ve learned in the training industry is to assume everything that anyone tells me secondhand is wrong. Whenever possible, I go back to the source or vet the information through several other sources, if necessary.
Items that are most vulnerable to mistransmission are intellectual, statistical, or theoretical concepts. These include items such as:
- Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes
- Statistics from ‘the FBI’
- Legal issues
- Hick’s Law without the power law of practice refutation
- My personal favorite, Col. John Boyd’s work, aka ‘the OODA Loop’
What first brought this to my attention this week was reviewing an article a friend wrote about Situational Awareness. In my review, I pointed out that Cooper himself said that even while he was actively teaching, the Color Codes were being grossly misinterpreted. He explicitly stated that they are NOT a system of Situational Awareness but rather stages of Mental Preparation and triggers for Personal Defense. Upon mentioning this to my friend, he said:
And I think it says quite a bit about how misunderstood the concept is that you’re literally the only person to point out that Cooper never intended the colors as situational awareness levels, but rather mental preparedness. Out of a dozen people giving me feedback.
Cooper’s writings on the subject are readily available on the Internet with just a small amount of research. In Volume 13, No. 1 of his Commentaries, he says:
The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life.
He elaborates on the meaning of the Color Codes in no less than six of his Commentaries over the years. All his Commentaries are available on the Internet. There is even a video of his entire lecture about the Color Codes available on YouTube.
He makes a point at 15:20 in the lecture about the distinction explicitly.
In the course of doing the review, I came across a blog post that purported to explain Cooper’s Codes. While the cursory overview given wasn’t awful, the post stated that the Codes were contained in the ‘Awareness’ chapter of Cooper’s book Principles of Personal Defense. Unfortunately, there is no such chapter. Principle One in the book is Alertness but no mention of the Color Codes is contained therein. False memory at work.
In that sense, the Color Codes are similar to Boyd’s work, which has been mostly butchered into unusability by the training community. Not an hour after making my comments to my friend, I came across yet another recently published article about ‘the OODA Loop’ that grossly oversimplified Boyd’s work. The ways I have seen Boyd’s work grotesquely misstated are legion. We can easily portray the oversimplification of John Boyd’s work in a graphic.
One article last year by a member of a well-known and regarded training company claimed that Boyd had developed ‘the OODA Loop’ during the Korean War to counter the ‘shocking losses’ of F-86s at the hands of Mig pilots. In fact, Boyd’s first mention of ODA [only one O] was in 1976 after he had transitioned to strategic acquisition planning and no longer even flew aircraft. Estimates of the kill ratio in Korea for the Sabre jet has dropped from 10 Migs for each Sabre to 5.6/1 but this isn’t a ‘shocking loss’ statistic in the slightest. Clearly, the author hadn’t done one bit of research on the topic but was just regurgitating a distorted and false memory.
Despite the readiness of information in the Internet age, there is often a tremendous amount of intellectual laziness within the training community. Doing research isn’t as much fun as shooting. Hearing someone regurgitate important concepts in a class or even a side conversation and then failing to go back to the source to vet and understand it is poor scholarship. It would get a college freshman an F on a simple term paper. If we in the community can’t even get a passing grade on a college term paper, should we be teaching people how to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones?
Let’s turn to the research and vetting issue from the standpoint of the practitioner. Someone who wants to defend their own life and the lives of their loved ones ought to be able to get that passing term paper grade, too. When you hear something ‘important’ attributed to a third party, don’t accept it at face value. Research it on your own and find out what was actually said or published. It’s rarely hard and usually doesn’t take much time. You may be surprised at how different the two versions are.
While reviewing some files in my reading list, I came across this gem. It’s from an article called The best advice for today’s music industry was written 80 years ago
In his closing keynote presentation [at the DIY Musicians Conference] called “How to Make an Extra $100,000 from Your Music Next Year,” Martin [Atkins] ran down a long list of creative cost-saving and money-making suggestions, peppered with commandments like “Don’t be an asshole” and “Whatever the fuck it is, get the fuck over it.”
At the heart of Martin’s talk, though, was this quote:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Dale Carnegie wrote that in 1936, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Martin’s first suggestion brought to mind a comment one of my first bosses in the real estate business made about one of the brokers in our office. “That guy needs to take a Dale Carnegie Course. Twice!”
Dale Carnegie Training has an excellent eBook abstract of Dale Carnegie’s writings available for download on its website. The eBook is called Dale Carnegie’s Secrets of Success. Here’s the link to it. I have two well-worn hard copies, from when it was called Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book, one of which I keep on my desk.
Secrets of Success is recommended reading for everyone, regardless of what you do or your personal philosophy. Those who are churned up about recent political events, on both ends of the spectrum, should take note especially.
What does Dale Carnegie have to do with personal protection? Let’s keep in mind that unlike natural disasters, personal protection against criminality involves a social transaction between two people. Those two people might be:
- You and a Violent Criminal Actor
- One of your loved ones and a Violent Criminal Actor
- A trainer and you
- You and someone you are trying to teach, either formally or informally
- You and someone you are trying to influence to make decisions about personal protection
Since I am a trainer and educator, I’ll address the last two points first. Recently, a trainer and blogger posted a 4,128 word rant about numerous shortcomings an acquaintance of his had. The rant was very pompous and disdainful. Some of the shortcomings related to personal protection and some were general life ‘flaws.’ No doubt the trainer’s object was to give his readers some food for thought about how they might have shortcomings similar to the acquaintance’s. However, Atkins’ first comment, “Don’t be an asshole” immediately came to mind as I read it. The overall tone of the blogger’s post was “this guy’s an idiot and I’m sooooo much smarter and better than him.”
No one likes or is influenced by a pompous asshole. Unfortunately, I see a lot of pompous assholiness in the training community. I’m not immune to being that way, either.
The Be a Leader section of Secrets of Success makes several germane points.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Another aspect of the training community I often see is a lack of connection to the everyday lives that our students live. There are several worthwhile items from Secrets of Success in this regard.
Become a Friendlier Person
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Throw down a challenge.
So, I’m going to throw down a challenge to the training community.
Get a job; a real job where you have to fill out a W-4 when you get hired. Just like the jobs your students have.
Right now is a golden opportunity, no pun intended. The end of the year is a relatively slow time for training and there are numerous seasonal positions available in the retail sector. Target, WalMart, and Sears, among others, are all hiring for temporary positions through the end of the year. If you don’t like wearing a uniform, Macy’s and other high end retailers are hiring and will give you an even better environment to test your hypotheses. Get a temporary job in a retail store for a couple of months. Walk a mile in your students’ moccasins while carrying the heater and all the gear you tell them to EDC. See how it works out for you.
If you get fired (or arrested) for a weapons violation or you decide you can’t carry all that crap while working and interacting with people all day without getting made, you owe me a drink. If you work at least 30 hours a week for six weeks in the retail environment with your full EDC loadout, I’ll buy you dinner. Full time sworn LEOs, 16 hours a week will fulfill the challenge. Totally on the honor system; I’ll accept whatever outcome you tell me you had.
In our Violent Criminal Actors class last month, William Aprill talked about the difference between odds and stakes. The payout odds for my offer are about 5 to 1 in your favor. The stakes; well that’s a different story.
Next time, we’ll discuss the relevance of people skills to The Deadly Mix and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 2015. Until then:
How do you do ‘situational awareness?’ You can’t ‘do’ a noun.
First of all, let’s distinguish between training and practice. My definition of training is something you do under the guidance and supervision of someone else. Practice is something you do on your own to maintain or hone skills you have or are developing.
Although Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes (White, Yellow, Orange, and Red) are the most popular way to describe states of awareness, I prefer to use the NRA format. As a sidenote, Cooper did not include Black as part of his system and actually objected to its inclusion.
The NRA format is described in the Personal Protection In The Home course and book. Military and police personnel tend to use insider jargon to describe things. Jargon is both a shorthand and, linguistically, also a way of excluding outsiders from the group. Shorthand can be useful in some circumstances but to a trainer exclusion is not, so I prefer the NRA terms.
- Unaware (Doi, doi, doi, doi, doi, doi, doi; as we used to say in Chicago)
- Aware (I know who and what is around me and what is going on)
- Alert (Something has caught my attention and makes me uneasy)
- Alarm (Something is definitely wrong in my right world)
Wearing earphones and listening to music automatically put us into the Unaware state. Constant talking on the phone does the same thing, as does concentrating on watching your dog take a dump. If you want to be Aware, you have to be mentally present where you are, not in a musical venue or someone else’s location. Sorry, there’s no way around that.
Tom Givens of Rangemaster mentions two things he thinks are relevant to situational awareness.
1. Who is around me?
2. What are they doing?
To those, I would add three more:
3. Where am I?
4. What is going on? (Not necessarily at this moment)
5. Points Of Likely Concealment (a component of Positioning to be discussed later)
When walking or running, we have an excellent opportunity to practice our situational awareness and positioning. It’s also a good habit for your safety.
You know how they say running is good for your health? In my neighborhood, it can save your life.
–old Chicago joke
To start the practice regimen, the default position for your eyes is on the horizon. It’s true that when walking or running we have to look down periodically to watch out for dog turds and other hazards on the ground. However, most people walk around like they’re continually playing the game “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Having the eyes down makes it very difficult to see anything outside of the Near Phase of Social Space, in terms of proxemics. The boundary between the Near and Far phases (~7 feet) of Social Space is where untrained people will tend to make their final Force decision (Critical Distance). Being fixed on that point makes it impossible to do any information gathering prior to having to react. It’s a failure to follow Items 1 and 2 and a self setup for disaster. There is a discussion of proxemics and its implications in an earlier blog post Situational Awareness and Positioning (part III).
To get into the information gathering mode, something I do when out is to read every sign or anything that has words on it. I do this whether I’m walking or driving because it keeps my head up. As Tom says, most drivers stopped at a traffic signal tend to watch the signal with rapt fascination as if they expected it to start to sing and dance. Reading everything around you keeps your head moving and your mental focus outward.
There are many apartment complexes and residential subdivisions along my walk route. There are also numerous small cross streets with street signs. I make it a habit to read each of these signs every time I pass them, even though I’ve read them hundreds of times before. This accomplishes two things. First, it puts me in an outwardly directed mental state. Second, it makes sure I know exactly where I am at all times; Item 3 on the list. If I had to call 911, being able to say “I’m at the entrance to the Wyndham Hills apartment complex on Nesbitt Ferry Road” or “I’m at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Sequoia Trace” gives any responders a good idea of where I’m at. I also read the address number of every mailbox I pass. This gives a precise location if I’m not near a complex, cross street, or subdivision. Don’t depend on the GPS locator of your phone to give your exact location; it may not.
As I approach and pass the complexes and subdivisions, I look as far as I can past the entrance. What I’m looking for is outgoing traffic and any changes or construction. This is mostly just mental exercise for Item 4 but has helped me avoid being run over by distracted soccer mom drivers on several occasions. Heavy construction equipment near the entrance can also be a Point Of Likely Concealment, Item 5, for criminals, especially at night.
Graffiti is another thing to look for. The appearance of graffiti where it didn’t exist before can be an indicator of a new gang presence. The presence of beer cans is another detail worthy of note. The detritus of cans tossed out the windows of drunken drivers’ cars is not that much of a concern, unless you’re in their path. However, a quantity of cans noticed in a single location over a period of time is. That could be an indicator of nighttime party spot that is best avoided.
Another thing I look for is Small Dead Animals (SDAs) and Large Dead Animals (LDAs), as we called them when I was in the City Planning program at Georgia Tech. Once again, this is mostly mental exercise. However, as the deer presence in my area has increased, I’ve had occasion to call Public Works several times to report dead deer that were hit by cars.
Checking out the drivers in cars waiting to turn when you approach an intersection is mandatory. Any doofus who has their turn signal on and is talking on the phone or texting is a potential assassin. I never make the assumption they’re going to see me and not run me down when I get in the crosswalk. That’s not to say the ones who don’t have their turn signal on won’t try to kill you, either.
Of course, we want to scrupulously follow Item 1 and be aware of other persons around us.
- Walkers and joggers
- People in their yards
Engaging the normal people is something I always try to do. Just saying ‘Good Morning’ helps engender a small sense of community. Be aware that it’s also a good way to seem like you’re part of the neighborhood, even if you’re not. This technique is used extensively in surveillance work and criminals use it too. It’s also fun to wave at people you don’t know and have them wave back. They go home thinking “Maybe that person knows me but I can’t remember who he is.” This is also another technique for establishing a false neighborhood identity. Workers can be fun because they’re often working in obscure locations and require active work on my part to locate and identify them.
I don’t mind walking past low-lifes but it’s important to be mentally prepared to deal with them and fail the interview. Someone once said that I give my students permission to be rude; that’s totally true. There’s a difference between rude and mean, though. In my vernacular, being rude relates to enforcing my boundaries. Being mean is encroaching on someone else’s boundaries. That can set you up for trouble. If you don’t like the look of them, though, there’s nothing wrong with crossing the street or changing direction to avoid them. Don’t hesitate to turn on your heel and go back the way you came if that seems appropriate.
Earlier posts about Situational Awareness
- Practicing Awareness
- Practicing Awareness – Part II
- Situational Awareness and Positioning Part I
- Situational Awareness and Positioning Part II
- Situational Awareness and Positioning Part III
- Situational Awareness and Positioning Part IV
- Situational Awareness and Positioning Part V
- Situational Awareness in Social Settings
As the real Dr. House mentioned at the Hebrew Hogger last weekend, it’s better to have an option to avoid a situation than to have a tool to get out of a situation.
Hey Professor, I’m doing a security gig at [a large function] for an event involving [a number of people]. [Some dignitaries] will probably be there. The night before they want me to give a quick security briefing on awareness and what to do if Big Sarge needs to handle the threat. U got any bullet points or words of wisdom I could share that they will remember?
–A retired Army buddy of mine who now works high end security details
Use the same skills as in any social setting (looking for contacts) with an additional focus. Does someone or something seem out of place? “What’s wrong in my right world?” Have some faith in your intuition.
Practice surveillance detection, especially when leaving. Remember that ordinary crime occurs around events, as well. Identify safe areas along your route in advance. Ask for security assistance if you’re uncomfortable with the situation. Have some faith in your intuition.
Watch for targeting indicators; paralleling, hard focus, forces surrounding, etc.
Stay aware of exit locations. If you will be in a fixed position for a while, e.g., seated at dinner, identify the nearest exit to you, just as on an airliner. Note exits near restrooms immediately upon entering the venue. We tend to be distracted when we need to visit the restroom so it’s best to identify these in advance. Consider non-traditional exits, such as through kitchens or maintenance areas, if necessary.
Beware of the possibility of secondary devices; clear the area completely if there’s an incident. Go back to your hotel or residence immediately, don’t hang around the venue.
Discard unattended drinks. Once it’s been out of your control, get a new one.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore it, explore it. Alert others, preferably security, about issues. Have some faith in your intuition.
Increase and decrease awareness as the situation requires. E.g., increase awareness when going to or leaving the venue since there will be less security presence outside. Don’t try to be on ‘red alert’ all the time. It’s neither possible nor mentally healthy.
Ditch high heels if you have to move quickly.
Fleeing is preferable to hiding under a table if an incident involving small arms occurs. Gunshot wounds from a distance tend to be survivable. Close range executions are usually fatal. Determine a nearby point that offers cover or concealment and move quickly to it. Assess the situation and then repeat the process to escape.
Note locations of fire extinguishers. They are useful in case someone is on fire following a bomb and also as an improvised weapon. If you are on fire, drop and roll to put it out before running.
Sidenote on using improvised weapons:
There is no need to challenge or warn an active killer! That is only for TV and the movies.
Get behind him [her], focus your attention on the back of the head and,
without warning, smash it as hard as you can with the fire extinguisher
or whatever you have. Continue to nail them until they stop moving.
Then run away to safety.
If there is an incident, accept being separated from your party. Leaving the area and finding shelter should be your primary emphasis, not looking for others, unless they are small children.
Look for things or people that you may enjoy, as well. The object of terrorism is to change our society for the worse. Don’t let it do that to us.
Here is a PDF of these comments for anyone who would like to use them. Situational Awareness in Social Settings handout
Then I guess it will just be time for him and me to be with Jesus.
Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics related a mind-boggling story recently about one form of mindset. He posed questions to some friends in the context of encountering two burglars in their home. The concept of giving scenarios and asking people questions about their anticipated reactions is often far more effective than pontificating about what they ‘need’ to do.
The friends are a couple who have a 10 year old son. The wife is a petite woman who is a practitioner of boxing; good for her. What Caleb did was to posit a scenario of initial violence and asked her what she would do. She replied she would fight them. Since the scenario was two burglars whose combined weight was three to four times hers, he continued escalating the scenario in his questions. In the event her resistance was overcome by the two burglars, the sequence of escalation he gave was:
- her being badly beaten in the fight,
- her being raped,
- her child being raped,
- both of them being murdered.
The lady’s reply to the escalation of murder was the above quote about ‘being with Jesus.’ She apparently had accepted that as an outcome. However, her husband, who was listening to the conversation, did not find that acceptable. At the time of the conversation, they owned no weapons, other than perhaps a butcher knife. While butcher knives can be used to defend one’s family, especially when wasp spray doesn’t work, it’s unpleasant and quite messy. The questions and subsequent conversations led to a better understanding of their options and possible decisions for defending themselves.
A few days later, I related the story at dinner to another friend. His comment was “people with that kind of mindset really don’t understand what the events leading up to ‘being with Jesus’ are going to be like.” The beginning (assault) and end (being with Jesus) can be grasped but the process in the middle is much harder for people to understand. The Petit family murders are an example of just how horrible the process can be. I’m not sure if Caleb had the Petit murders in mind as he was talking to the couple but his sequence of events was very similar to the horrors the Petits were subjected to.
It’s hard for good people to understand the depravity that exists inside many criminals. That’s the main reason I teamed up with William Aprill for our Violent Criminals and YOU course. The more decent a person is, the harder it is for them to grasp just how evil and FITH some criminals are. A mental health professional is in a better position to describe that than a trainer who teaches physical skills. It’s also why we’re offering a discount when bringing a family member; family members are part of the decision process.
My friend at dinner also made the comment “Two days sitting in a classroom is a long time and might be tiresome.” That’s understandable, which is why William and I are teaching in alternating two hour blocks of instruction. I’ve taken many many weekend classes and I know hearing the same voice continually for 16-20 hours can be a chore, regardless of how engaging the instructor is. Splitting it up will help keep things from being monotonous in our class.
He and I also talked about teaching decision-making. For a long time, I have had reservations about how the industry teaches decision-making. He’s been to a Force on Force class I was a role player in for many years, so I asked him “In the crawl/walk/run training progression paradigm, where does Force on Force fit?” “Run” “How many repetitions of decision-making did you get in those eight hours of training?” “Six or seven”
His answers reflect my reservations about our current methodology. Giving students a few ‘Runs’ with a simulated gun in a FATS machine or with live role players does not represent a particularly effective adult teaching methodology, in my opinion. What we essentially do is throw someone in the deep end of the pool a couple of times and then call them a combat swimmer. ‘What’s wrong with that picture?’ as the saying goes.
To improve on this, I have devised a process where students will get dozens of repetitions of decision-making with the full range of the personal protection options available to them in a few hours. The patent application for the process is not yet complete, so I’m not at liberty to disclose more than that. I can say it will be an experience unlike anything else in the industry. Because the full range of options will be available, the process is NOT limited to gun owners. Excluding the full range of options is a major weakness in our current methodologies and my process corrects that. Family members may have a different opinion about what the appropriate options and decisions are, at least for them.
Mindset and decision-making; think about them hard, regardless of what training you choose or choose not to take. My research into Negative Outcomes has made me realize how much more important they are than the weapon or caliber debates the gun community loves to indulge in.
I have a friend who will kill you with a .25 Lorcin and there’s nothing you’ll be able to do to stop him.
–a well-known and respected trainer
I hadn’t planned on having a real life example of Know the Rules in relation to Decision Making but sometimes life gives us opportunities. In this case, it didn’t concern legal rules but social rules.
Out on my walk this morning, I had an interesting encounter with a future criminal, perhaps several potential criminals. It brought to mind something that I mentioned in my guest lecture at The Complete Combatant last weekend. Know the Rules, including the rules of the criminal interview.
The setting was a typical suburban area with sidewalks on both sides of a two lane arterial street. Three middle school aged boys were walking toward me on the sidewalk. There’s nothing unusual about that, although the time was a little late to be going to school. They were twenty to thirty yards away from me. When I first saw them, they had just passed the traffic signal on the corner I was walking toward.
As soon as I saw them, I identified them as Green shoes, Red shoes, and Brown shoes. This is a habit I got from Jimmy Cirillo, as he mentions in his book Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights. I don’t even know if it has any general value but it’s fun to me. A variation of the technique worked very well for me during one stage of an IDPA Championship that had a multiple moving target array.
As they walked along the sidewalk, they stepped aside in the bank driveway and had a pow-wow. Right away, I knew something was up. Secretive pre-contact activity is a clue. Then they got back on the sidewalk and started walking again.
I made an immediate decision. Although I had both a pistol and pepper spray on me, this was unlikely to shape up as a situation where those would be the appropriate tools. “If he pulls a weapon, I’m going to grab it from him or grab his hand and twist his arm to give him a radial fracture.” In any criminal encounter that I can’t avoid, my primary objective has evolved into “I’m going to fuck you up. Win, lose, or draw, you’re going to have to go to the Emergency Room.” Then those difficult and uncomfortable questions by the police begin.
As we closed, Mr. Green shoes, the largest, made the approach. Mr. Red shoes and Mr. Brown shoes looked younger and were noticeably smaller. Green shoes was clearly the Alpha in the group.
His initial approach was so tentative I couldn’t hear what he said. That set the tone for the interview. Clearly, he wasn’t practiced at his craft, so I could have a little fun with the situation.
“Excuse me?” was my response. This was in a decisive firm voice. Something criminals are looking for is indecision. If you don’t display it, they frequently don’t know what to do. As I said it, I started to rub the palms of my hands together. This isn’t an unusual gesture but it pulls the hands up into a low fence position.
“Do you have any money? I’m going to …..”
Before he could even finish, I cut him off. “No, I don’t” and put my left hand up to accentuate the point. The hand up would have allowed me to block or divert a weapon if he had produced one. Then, I immediately started back on my way and left them in the dust. Once again, decisiveness is key. I.e., ‘this interview is over.’ I kept an eye on the shadows to make sure they didn’t follow, which they didn’t. One of the reasons I like this walk route is that the sun is at my back and throws the shadows where I can see them.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Green shoes will graduate to full-fledged robbery, either strong arm or armed, fairly soon. Probably in less than a year, he’ll go for it. He was just getting accustomed to his skills, much in the way boys play catch before they start actually playing baseball. Since I didn’t interact with Red shoes or Brown shoes, I have no opinion about their future plans.
When I walk, I don’t walk around in la-la land listening to music, talking on my cell phone, or being task fixated watching my dog take a dump. My head is up and my eyes are on the horizon. Consequently, I saw them at a distance and had time to adjust my Awareness and mental DefCon appropriately. This is also a good approach to driving, rather than being visually fixated on the rear bumper of the car in front of you.
Having my hands in a low fence position would have allowed me to respond much more quickly than if they were at my sides. I prefer a low fence in general because I live in a mostly normal world. The high fence is actually a superior defensive posture but it’s weird looking and off-putting if you usually deal with benign people.
Being decisive is important to controlling the situation. If you can maintain control of the situation, you can often walk away without conflict.
Items for improvement
I let Red shoes and Brown shoes get behind me while I interacted with Green shoes. They were both small and I have no doubt I could have easily nailed either of them. But if they had weapons, the situation could have become much different. I need to practice getting into a position where I can see them all.
Taking a short ‘breather’ a few steps after breaking contact would have allowed me to maintain surveillance on them and be sure they had continued on. Or turning off route and going into the bank parking lot. If their moving off had been a feint, watching them or eluding them would have precluded them from bum rushing me from behind.
For whatever reason, the eggs I made when I returned home tasted even better than usual.
The attacks in Paris by Radical Islamists have captured the attention of the world and obviously people in the United States. Over 100 people were killed and several hundred more were wounded. Along with many people, I mourn for the casualties of these horrific and barbaric events.
In the aftermath, numerous articles are being written about surviving active shooter events, etc. In addition, some folks are saying they’re going to make some massive changes in the way they socialize. It’s always good to examine our vulnerabilities. However, let’s look at things in perspective.
In 2014, the estimated number of murders in the [United States] was 14,249.
In 2014, there were an estimated 741,291 aggravated assaults in the [United States].
There were an estimated 84,041 rapes (legacy definition) reported to law enforcement in 2014.
The FBI definition of Aggravated assault is:
An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.
As my colleague Tom Givens has mentioned, one reason the murder rate has declined in the past few years is because of the advancement of emergency medicine. People who would have been murder statistics a few years ago are often aggravated assault statistics now. That doesn’t mean their bodies and lives haven’t been changed forever because of the assault.
While it’s popular to believe that most murders are committed by gangbangers killing each other and we should just say ‘good riddance,’ that’s not necessarily the case. Where the data is available, the Bureau statics indicate that strangers or unknown persons accounted for 57 percent of murders.
When considering clearances of violent crimes, 64.5 percent of murder offenses, 39.3 percent of rape offenses (legacy definition), 38.5 percent of rape offenses (revised definition), 29.6 percent of robbery offenses, and 56.3 percent of aggravated assault offenses were cleared.
‘Cleared’ means someone was arrested for the crime, not necessarily even convicted. Fully one-third of murders in this country don’t even result in an arrest. Nearly half of aggravated assaults don’t even result in an arrest. Almost two-thirds of the reported rapes don’t result in an arrest. If you become the victim of a violent crime, there’s a good chance the only ones affected will be you and your loved ones.
Relatively speaking, our chances of being criminally victimized are massively higher than becoming a casualty of a terroristic attack. Over 800,000 people in this country had their lives changed forever last year by ‘ordinary’ crime. That’s what we need to maintain our focus on.
- Are all your doors and windows locked at night and do you keep your security system on all the time?
- Do you always make people aware you’re in the house when they knock?
- Have you ever opened your door to someone without checking the peephole to see who it is?
- Do you walk or run with your earphones in while listening to music?
- Is there a safe or lockbox in your car to put your pistol in when you can’t take it in with you to the courthouse?
- Do you make a short security halt to observe the parking lot when you come out of a store?
- How often do you text or check Facebook on your phone while you’re in a transitional environment like a parking lot?
- Do you ever park your car in the closest spot to the door of a store without regard to who’s around or what kind of vehicle you’re parking next to?
- You know all the little security violations that you make. Eliminating them is probably more useful than starting to carry an another magazine of ammo.
Another thing to consider is our usage of automobiles and just how much danger we place ourselves in when we drive. Being in a motor vehicle may well be the second most statistically significant voluntary danger we face, exceeded only by going to the hospital.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, US car crashes killed 22,383 vehicle occupants in 2013 and injured 2,099,000.
Tactical firearms training is a lot of fun. Tactical medicine classes are very informative and might be more useful than a firearms course. But when was the last time you took a Defensive Driving Course? Some insurance companies offer online versions for free. Most insurance companies lower your premium for taking the DDC. In my state of Georgia, the class is 6 hours and costs less than $40 if you don’t have to take it because of getting a ticket. You put your life in danger every time you get in your vehicle. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your family to become a safer driver? The Situational Awareness tuneup will carry over into other areas of your life, as well.
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest horror of the week that the Lame Stream Media shoves down our throats and we then propagate among ourselves. Let’s use it as a reminder to examine all the safety risks we face. The latest event is probably way down the priority list if we dispassionately look at the many dangers we face every day.
Up until now, Friday Fundamentals has focused on mechanical issues. This issue is going to focus on mental processes. An incident that was in the news recently drives the discussion.
“It scared me absolutely to death,” said Sherry McLain. She was loading groceries into her car this past Saturday in the crowded Walmart parking lot on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.
That’s when a strange man approached, surprising her, and she pulled her revolver. “I have never been so afraid of anything in my whole life I don’t think,”
There are a number of problems here that led to her arrest.
- Her level of fear was irrational. Witnesses and surveillance cameras confirmed that the man simply spoke to her from 10 feet away.
- Being startled and being legitimately rationally afraid are two entirely different things.
- She doesn’t understand the difference between setting boundaries and enforcing boundaries.
- Because she doesn’t understand the difference, she didn’t comprehend that when we are defending ourselves, there’s a hierarchy involved. First, we set the boundary and then we enforce it, not vice versa.
- As a result, she now has another issue; the criminal justice system. She was arrested for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Based on the current information, I doubt that will go well for her.
Let’s make something clear at the outset, when you pull a gun on someone, you’re threatening to kill them. It doesn’t matter whether you say a word or not, you’re threatening to kill them. Some people apparently don’t understand that and the gravitas it carries. You better have a good reason for doing so. Irrational fear is not a good reason. Simply being startled is not a good reason.
The question of how this might have been avoided brings us to the issues of controlling fear, setting boundaries, and enforcing boundaries.
Controlling fear is a complex topic that is not often discussed in the training community. If anything, the community tends to promote fear, “I was in fear for my life” having become almost a mantra. The woman in the incident invoked it but the police were unimpressed. The difference between reasonable fear and irrational fear is frequently left out of that discussion. It’s somewhat pathetic that there’s better literature in the competitive swimming community about how to control fear than there is in the self-defense community. Learning to control fear is a process beyond the scope of a single blog post. It behooves those who carry deadly weapons to do some research on the topic.
The next issue is boundary setting and boundary enforcement. This is a process more easily trained than controlling fear. Boundary setting and enforcement are simply elements of a process. All we need to do is understand the process and practice it.
It’s important to understand that we set boundaries with communication and barriers, not with tools. The communication can be either verbal or non-verbal. The most obvious form of barriers are the homes we live in, assuming the doors and windows are closed and locked. If a criminal fails to respect the boundaries we set, then we use tools, in this case weapons, to enforce the boundaries. We don’t use tools at the outset to set our boundaries.
One of the biggest issues we have as a society is that we have forgotten or gotten out of the habit of saying NO! That can be done either verbally or non-verbally. Training to say NO! should be a primary lesson in every class on personal protection and people should practice it on a regular basis. Simply raising an outstretched hand and shaking the head can accomplish a lot. Keep in mind that a great deal of communication is non-verbal; we can use that fact to our advantage.
A proper sequence that would have kept this woman out of trouble might be as follows:
Recognize that being startled is not the same as being afraid. She was startled because she was task fixated on loading her groceries in the car, i.e., she had not one bit of situational awareness. Most people are like that. In this sort of a situation, looking around before you get to the car, as you arrive at it, and then after loading each bag goes a long way toward avoiding being startled. Positioning the car for safety helps too. In the sense of color or awareness codes, she was in White or Unaware.
If she had been in Yellow or Aware and seen him approach, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and raising the hand in the ‘stop’ gesture. That’s the first step in setting a boundary. Her mental state at that point could be described as Orange or Alert.
And yes, at this point, we could invoke the boogeyman of ‘The 21 foot rule’ that Dennis Tueller himself says has become terribly misconstrued. But the circumstances where a criminal runs up to someone in a WalMart parking lot and slashes their throat are far less common than ‘incrementing,’ which is a standard way for criminals to operate. Whether those throat slashings are in fact, reality or figbars of overactive imaginations remains to be seen.
If the person continued to advance, a default verbal response of ‘Stop, don’t come any closer’ clearly sets the boundary. Any decent person would stop at that point. If the person doesn’t stop, it’s an indicator that something nefarious is developing. The mental state shifts to Red or Alarm. Once the intent of the other party becomes more clear, then we can make a decision about which tool we want to employ to enforce the boundary. We can also determine what barriers we might employ in the process. That, too, is a discussion for another time. The boundary setting and enforcement decision process is what’s important in this particular case.
Another thing to consider is that any time we get a gun out for defensive purposes; be that from a holster, purse, nightstand, safe, or whatever, there’s a possibility it’s going to be fired, either intentionally or unintentionally. The more scared we are, the higher that possibility. Therein lays one of my chief objections to brandishing, which is what the lady did; the possibility it will culminate in a Negligent Discharge.
Since thinking about the ‘worst case’ is something many people like to do, let’s examine the possibility of a Negligent Discharge in this situation. Say the woman had an ND as she pointed her revolver at the man or the other people present. It’s probably a good thing for all of the parties involved that she had a revolver and not a striker fired autoloader. If her irrational fear had caused her to have an ND, what would be her eventual statement in court? Something to the effect of “He asked me for a light, I was scared so I drew my pistol, I had an Accidental Discharge, which resulted in a death. It was an accident.” Most likely, she’d go up the river for Manslaughter. Fortunately, that particular Negative Outcome didn’t happen. What did happen was the Negative Outcome of ‘Police Involvement,’ to wit, getting arrested.
If this lady had understood the awareness and boundary processes and then used them properly, she probably would have gone home instead of getting arrested. That’s something for all of us to consider.
Annually, the FBI publishes the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. A key part of this report is the written Summaries of the circumstances surrounding the death of each Officer Feloniously Killed.The FBI provides a concise account of the individual incidents where an Officer(s) was killed.
One of the things I have been unhappy about when training LEOs is finding out how few read the Summaries. I ask every LEO class how many have read LEOKA and almost all the hands go up. But when I ask how many have read the Summaries, almost all the hands go down. While the tabular data in LEOKA is interesting, the Summaries give much more insight into the circumstances of how Officer deaths occur and provide context on how to avoid becoming a victim Officer.
In order to make these Summaries more accessible to the Law Enforcement community, I’ve recorded the 2013 Summaries as audio narratives on an audio CD. Each Summary is narrated individually for your listening convenience. In addition, audio narratives of a number Officer killings not reported by the FBI are included. For supervisors, playing a few of the Summaries at roll call could be a sobering way to put your Officers in the right state mind for their shift. For individual Officers, listening to a few of them on the way to work may help you get mentally tuned up.
The LEOKA Narrative audio CD can be purchased on my webstore. There’s also a link at the top of my blog.