An exchange I had yesterday with a POlice Use of Force Instructor reminded me of a quip by a JAG prosecutor I knew years ago.
Some people have 22 years of experience and some people have one year of experience 22 times.
One of my professors in college had taught the exact same math class for 10 years. She used the same overhead transparencies all 10 years. They were scuffed up and she had to write over parts of them to make them readable during our class. That’s the style some subjects are taught in many fields. Concepts are frequently not updated with fresh information. While mathematics doesn’t change much, social sciences and the law can and do change rapidly.
In the exchange with the instructor, I mentioned a recent case that seemed to invalidate his opinion. I even gave him the search string to bring up the case. Rather than doing one minute of research on the case, he trotted out an appeal to authority meme. “I’ve been a cop for 22 years and I teach Use of Force.” I’m afraid to even find out what he teaches his clientele.
In any field, staying up to date is an excellent idea for anyone. For instructors, it’s absolutely mandatory. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with a stated opinion but there needs to be some fact finding and analysis to support the disagreeing opinion.
Thirty-five years ago, at approximately 6:30 pm on May 25, 1983, Lieutenant Commander Albert Schaufelberger, USN, was assassinated by Communist insurgents in El Salvador. He was the Deputy Commander of the US Military Assistance Group there.
Lieutenant Commander Schaufelberger was picking up his girlfriend and had established a predictable pattern. Although his vehicle was armored, the air-conditioning was not functional, and he had removed the driver’s side window. There was speculation that the A/C had been sabotaged. As he waited in his car for his girlfriend, three men exited a Volkswagen Microbus and approached his car. One stopped his girlfriend from approaching, one established security for the ambush, and one ran to the driver’s side window. He then shot Schaufelberger in the head four times with a revolver, killing him instantly. The assassination team then got back in their VW and left.
Complacency kills. RIP Lieutenant Commander Schaufelberger.
A further analysis of the assassination is here. http://jko.jten.mil/courses/atl1/courseFiles/resources/Albert_Schaufelberger.pdf
“This is the first year since I have been tracking that 100% of vehicle thefts occurred in unlocked vehicles. Not a single car window was broken to steal anything.”
I learned my lesson about this when I was 17 in Chicargo. It only took one occurrence for me to get the message. One response to Greg’s post on Facebook was:
In that 3 month period my next door neighbor had his UNLOCKED car broken into IIRC 4 times.
Locking your doors is part of what’s called Defense in Depth. Sure, some criminals could still get in but the harder you make it, the more of them will just go somewhere else.
And please don’t leave firearms in your car, either, even if it’s locked. Your car is not a holster, as Pat Rogers put it. If you sometimes have to go into places where you aren’t allowed to have your firearm on your person, get a lockbox or safe for your vehicle. The ‘truck gun’ concept is a load of Horse Hockey.
Bringing worthwhile content like this to its members is yet another reason I’m a member and fan of the Network.
This email arrived from a friend today. Things like this are why I do what I do.
Yesterday I was filling my vehicle with gas at my neighborhood Shell station and out of the corner of my eye I saw an unkempt person lurking around the building and heading to the gas pumps. I lost sight of him for a moment due to vehicles entering and exiting the station. Suddenly, he was on the other side of my pump, headed in my direction.
My first visual image was Claude Werner, hand up, saying I can’t help you, followed by me doing the same thing, as I moved around the corner of my car to get an object and distance between the fellow and me. He did not even finish his opening line, he turned and looked for someone else to approach.
Claude, you taught me well! Thank you very much!
Note that this was a decision made in advance (to be aggressively uncooperative) and then chosen as a response in the moment. That’s the best way.
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