Chinese Whispers is the game in which a short message is whispered from person to person and then the beginning and ending stories are compared. Often what begins as “I like that girl’s dress” ends up as something like “her Grandmother slept with Batman!”
The FBI released its annual report Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report on October 17. LEOKA will eventually be the starting point for numerous Chinese Whispers in the firearms and law enforcement communities. Whispers will circulate about statistical data such as distances of ‘gunfights,’ lighting conditions, weapon disarms, etc. Often, these claims will not even be based on current data but ‘commonly cited information,’ ‘well known statistics,’ or other such dubious sources.
What can we actually learn from LEOKA about how to be safer? The best single source in the Report is the Summaries of Officers Feloniously Killed and a recent addition, Selected Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments. Rather than relying on tabular data, which is interesting but not instructive, reading the Summaries provides us clues about circumstances, positioning, and actions. The FBI uses the term ‘The Deadly Mix’ to describe the combination of officer, offender, and circumstances. Reading the Summaries can give us insight about how that mix occurs and its outcome.
The circumstances of incidents in LEOKA are categorized as:
- Disturbance call,
- Arrest situation, including pursuits
- Civil disorder,
- Handling, transporting, custody of prisoner,
- Investigating suspicious person/circumstance,
- Unprovoked attack,
- Investigative activity,
- Handling person with mental illness,
- Traffic pursuit/stop,
- Tactical situation.
While LEOs have interest in all the categories, Private Citizens can learn from incidents such as Investigating suspicious persons/circumstances and Handling person with mental illness, too. For those who think intervening in others’ affairs is a good idea (I do not), looking at the incidents in the Arrest category is a worthwhile exercise to see how easily things can go bad.
The West Virginia incident in the Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured is an entertaining, if somewhat macabre, example of just how weird and unpredictable the life of a police officer can be. The rookie involved certainly got a baptism of fire that day.
On January 1, a lieutenant and a patrol officer with the Lewisburg Police Department were both shot during a traffic stop at 4:20 p.m. The 36-year old veteran lieutenant, who had 15 years of law enforcement experience, and the 20-year-old patrol officer, who been on the job for 1 month, were both wearing body armor when they stopped a man driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen by a law enforcement agency in Texas.
More about LEOKA in the next Part.
“when pride arrives, logic [leaves].” –Samurai Rising
I would say the same is true of fear, which is one reason I don’t care for the “I was in fear for my life” mantra. When we in the industry teach fear to our students, I am concerned we are setting them up to make bad decisions.
Many people find it difficult to dryfire every day because they don’t have access to a firearm. Airline pilots and business people whose job require frequent air travel have a hard time of it. There are different ways of dealing with it.
The first would be to practice every day you do have access to your firearm and start counting. Doing that means you wouldn’t have a consecutive progression of the 1,000 Days but you would still get in 1,000 Days, it would just take longer.
Another approach would be to broaden the focus of your practice, as I mentioned in Part I. That’s one reason I entitled this series 1,000 Days of Practice.
Other skills appropriate to personal protection could be included as part of your mission statement for the 1,000 Days. This wouldn’t be 1,000 Days of Dryfire but it could be 1,000 Days of Personal Protection practice. Many of the most important Personal Protection Skills are soft skills that don’t require equipment to practice. Some that come to mind are:
- situational awareness
- the decision-making process
- incident analysis
- wargaming and decision exercises
- proxemics, and
- human communication and interaction
The memory aid I use for personal protection is RADAR.
- Ready – being prepared, mentally and physically
- Aware – eyes on the horizon, ears not plugged up
- Where am I?,
- Who is around me?,
- What are they doing?,
- What is going on?,
- Points Of Likely Concealment
- What is wrong in my right world?
- Decide – based on your decision criteria
- priorities, and
- the situation
- Act – do what you need to do
- Ready Again – be ready for your plan to need adjustment or the police to arrive.
Dryfire is one component of the Ready stage but it’s certainly not the only one. Understanding the criminal mindset and their methods of operation is also key. How about spending a few minutes periodically reviewing criminal victimizations that occurred to others and wargaming how to either avoid or deal with the situation? I have taken this so far as to go on a field trip to the location of a particularly bad incident and actually observe the lay of the land.
There are games that smart cops used to play to tune up their situational awareness. How common they are anymore, I don’t know. For instance, when in a waiting area, look around the room, then close your eyes and try to describe everyone in the room; clothes, height, weight, etc. That would be Aware practice.
Or, let’s say you encountered something that caused your to Alert and then realized it wasn’t a problem. You could mentally wargame what you thought the original problem and your solution. Take it all the way through to Ready Again, including your interaction with the authorities afterward.
There are many different ways to approach the 1,000 Days and tailor the focus to your personal needs and circumstances.
I’ll be going through a more in-depth explanation of RADAR, including some decision exercises, in the Violent Criminals and You class that William Aprill and I are teaching next month. William will be giving his extensive presentation on the criminal mindset and how differently criminals think.
Watching the end of The Bridge Over the River Kwai last night, something occurred to me. There should have been a contingency plan that if the British Major Warden fired the two inch mortar, it was the signal to blow the bridge early. Granted, that would have removed much of the Hollywood drama but it’s food for thought, nonetheless.
Situations and operations don’t always go according to plan, which is why it’s good to have contingency plans. Going to guns is actually a contingency plan. When we display or fire our weapons, it means that our plan to follow our other priorities has failed. In my particular case, those other priorities are Avoid (barriers are a component of Avoid) and Escape.
Even if we find it necessary to use force to resolve an issue, we need to have contingency plans, both technical and tactical. Malfunction clearance drills and reloading are just technical contingency plans for dealing with stoppages (unintentional interruptions in the cycle of operations). Displaying the weapon may not intimidate the villain into leaving. Given the appropriate MAY and/or SHOULD, the tactical contingency plan in that case is to actually employ the weapon, whatever it may be.
And sometimes weapons don’t have the desired effect. The Seattle couple who tried using wasp spray to repel a home invader found it to be ineffective. Then the husband went to an impromptu contingency, hand to gland combat, what the FBI calls ‘personal weapons.’ When that failed, the wife was forced into a second impromptu contingency, getting a large kitchen knife and hacking the invader to death. Sidenote to anti-‘Assault Rifle’ folks, note in the table that knives are used for more homicides than all long guns put together. The important thing was that the couple didn’t give up; sometimes you invent contingencies on the fly, as they did.
Contingency plans don’t have to be elaborate.
As long as all they’re doing is robbing the [convenience store], I am going to act like a CPA from Akron and be a good witness. But if they start searching people, making people get down on the floor, or forcing people into a back room, my wife knows to get away from me because I am going to start shooting.
—Evan Marshall, on off-duty incident planning
Note in the above contingency plan, family members are aware of the plan, as well. Your family and associates should know what you plan to do also or the situation could become even more complicated. If the Major had fired the mortar at the two colonels without telling the Lieutenant what the plan was, the Lieutenant might have misinterpreted that as covering fire and still waited for the train.
A contingency plan stated by a very savvy friend of mine is one that everyone should keep in mind. I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating.
When they get the duct tape out, it’s time to make your move, ready or not. Nothing good comes of being tied up with duct tape.
Contingency planning is an inherent part of wargaming and developing our personal guidelines for using force as part of our Personal Protection plan. What do I, or we, do if the planned Course of Action doesn’t go according to plan?
Please accept no advice or references with regard to personal protection without vetting it directly from the source. That includes anything I say. I try to cite where I get my information but anyone can be mistaken. There is no shortage of misinformation floating around and not all of it comes from gunshop commandos.
Already this morning, not one but two examples of why this is important have been brought to my attention. Another was made apparent last night.
In the first example this morning, a friend and client of mine shared some utterly incorrect advice that was given to her by a local law enforcement officer. My response came from my old website.
Only accept legal advice on firearms and/or self-defense from the POLICE or OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES OR OFFICIALS if it is in writing on official letterhead signed by a sworn senior supervisory official of that department in his or her official capacity or a current official document of that department bearing the department’s insignia and signed by the current head of the department (Chief of Police, Sheriff, or Special Agent In Charge). Verbal (not in writing) advice from law enforcement personnel may be in error and will have NO standing in a court of law.
It is rare that you will ever get anything in writing and signed by a senior official of the PoPo. There’s a reason for that. The police rarely know the nuances of the law and frequently do not keep up on changes in the law. Last night’s example was the result of a Sergeant using an outdated legal codebook when developing a briefing. His Captain, a friend of mine, fortunately reviewed the briefing prior to it being given. When asked to cite his references, the Sergeant pulled out a five year old codebook. The section he was citing had been changed.
If you want legal advice, go to a legal expert or read a book by a legal expert, such as Andrew Branca or Massad Ayoob. Don’t ask the police. They probably don’t know as much as you would like them to. This also applies to firearms training.
2. This morning I read an article in one of the online NRA Journals that referenced “FBI Crime Statistics.” Whenever you hear or read something that cites “the FBI,” assume it is the result of a game of Chinese Whispers.
FBI information is so rarely cited correctly that your can generally assume what is being said about it is more likely to be wrong than right. Personal Defense Network published my article What Do FBI Statistics Really Say About “Gunfights”? It’s worth reading.
When it comes to using force or training/practicing to use force, either lethal or non-lethal, you have to know what you’re doing. That means doing your own research, not relying on someone else to do it for you. At the very least, do an internet search for “use of force [your State]” and find the statutory code for your State.
ATLANTA – A freshman at Fort Valley State University was stabbed to death after he came to the aid of some female students who were being harassed and groped by a man outside the school cafeteria, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said Wednesday.
When someone is engaging in socially unacceptable behavior, it’s hard to tell how far they’re willing to take it. Unless you passed that Mind Reading 101 class with flying colors, you have no way of knowing.
And pulling your gun on someone who is ‘harassing and groping’ might not work out too well, either. This kind of situation is so touchy and nebulous that there’s not much upside and a great deal of downside.
Self-inflicted gunshot wounds and unintentional spouse/child/sibling shootings happen much more often than people think. So do Negative Outcomes from interventions.
If you insist on thinking intervening is a good idea, be smart about it. Years ago, I heard a struggle and shouting going on in the hallway of the apartment building I lived in. Even 25 years ago, I kept a large can of unpleasant chemical called Phaser by my front door. It was a can of CS gas the size of a small fire extinguisher. My plan was to open the door and hose everyone outside down with gas because I had no way of knowing who was whom and what was going on. When I opened the door, it turned out to be two Atlanta police officers trying to get the bracelets on some low-life. So I let them finish the job, without hosing them down, and then went back to my book.
Verbalization is for pre-fight situations. Once a struggle has begun, the time for talking is over. I didn’t plan to say anything to whomever was in the hall, I was just going to let them have it. But I did have enough decision-making sense to abort my plan when I saw who was involved. Subject identification is always necessary.
Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
I’m not a particularly religious man but there’s a lot of wisdom in that saying. It’s been true for thousands of years and probably will be for thousands more.
Campus Police Chief Kenneth Morgan (left) and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge J.T. Ricketson at a May 4, 2016 press conference about the murder.
The concealed carry permit holder was trying to intervene in a domestic dispute, trying to disarm the fleeing shooter, trying to do [t]he job ordinarily reserved for police.
The man leaves behind a wife and three now fatherless children.
“Getting shot while intervening in affairs that are not yours” is an item I will now have to add to my list of Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make. Having your wife widowed and your children orphaned for someone else’s issues definitely qualifies as a “Negative Outcome.” So many things can go wrong in an intervention that it’s almost never a good decision, regardless of what ‘sheepdogs‘ might think. Sheep dip is probably a better general analogy.
‘He went into protective mode. He’s a father, he’s protective by nature,’ [the deceased man]’s pastor, Marc Lowrance, told reporters Monday. ‘And he thought he could help everyone involved, and tragically it went a different way.’
[He], Lowrance said, ‘sacrificed himself for this family, much the way he sacrificed himself for strangers today.’
The above comment accentuates why we need to think about and plan for events in advance. Think about what’s most important to you, your family or a stranger? Make your decisions in advance accordingly.”In every encounter, there is an element of chance.”
I often say “The conscious mind has a lifespan of one shot.” That’s not only the shot you fire but it can be the round fired by someone else. A common saying in the training industry is “You won’t rise to the occasion but will rather default to the level of your training.” While this is almost always used in the context of skills, it is equally applicable to decision-making. In that sense, this man’s death has similarities to the man killed trying to stop two active shooters in the Las Vegas Walmart in 2014. In the absence of decisions proactively made in our best interests and the best interests of our families, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.
The worst part of the whole situation is that he sacrificed himself for nothing in the situation. The shooter had finished his violent act, which inflicted a non-life threatening wound, and was trying to leave when Mr. Antell intervened and was killed trying to stop him. The best way we can honor his sacrifice is to make sure it doesn’t happen to us.
Mindset and decision-making are intimately related. One of the phrases we use for having made a decision is ‘I’ve made up my mind.’ While not a formal topic, the concept of mindset and decision-making was a clear subcurrent of thought at the 2016 Tactical Conference. While this wasn’t a formal topic, per se, it was a theme that ran through several presentations and side conversations. As my friend Mark Luell put it, “This [my life and my family] is important to me and I won’t let you take it from me.”
An early conversation I had was about our Mindset as Americans. The focal point of our conversation was an article in The Atlantic Monthly. The article described the difference between US soccer competition and soccer in the rest of the world. A key dissimilarity is that in the US, our children typically spend much more time playing and less time practicing individual skills. We’re eager to confront and control/dominate early as part of our culture in a way that is less common in the rest of the world. The common attitude of “I’ll shoot someone who’s in my house” is rooted in this piece of our American Mindset. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
The article’s comment about developing individual decision-making skills resonated with me. I continue to be less sanguine that Force on Force training is the panacea it’s thought to be in the training industry. If we don’t teach people the process of decision-making and then just throw them in the deep end of the pool, how helpful is that in teaching them?
“The thing that makes elite players is decision making,” Lemov told me. “They need to integrate not just how to do something but whether, when, and why.” He sees parallels to the difficulty many American students have solving problems independently. “If you give [American] kids a math problem and tell them how to solve it,” he said, “they can usually do it. But if you give them a problem and it’s not clear how to solve it, they struggle.”
John Hearne’s presentation FBI Research: The Deadly Mix got me wondering if being a nice guy is just another form of trying to control the situation. Granted, it’s a different approach to control but maybe it’s just a matter of tone and style rather than substance.
Two of Tom Givens’ presentations had an undercurrent of decision-making. Deciding whether or not our personal protection equipment is ‘needed’ during the course of our daily lives is a serious choice. As Tom puts it, the only failures in his student incident database are the result of ‘forfeits,’ i.e., the victim was unarmed and therefore unable to resolve their problem. Being unarmed was a decision that didn’t work out well in those cases.
John Murphy provided me a video I had previously seen that relates heavily to decision-making. The officer’s action in the video demonstrates the clarity of his decision and how unhesitatingly he applied it.
Those of us who have actively been at this for decades have a very clear idea of our options, their consequences, and how to appropriately apply those options. Choosing options and being clear in your own mind about when and where to apply them is a critical part of the personal protection process.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When an Albuquerque couple caught a man burglarizing their garage, they asked him to stop.
When that didn’t work, they pulled out a rifle and a handgun, and held him at gunpoint until police officers arrived.
The above story is referenced in this month’s issue of The Armed Citizen®, published as part of the Official Journals of the National Rifle Association. It is also available in the online version of The American Rifleman magazine. A similar story is published at least weekly and available online at the American Rifleman.
The Armed Citizen® is very worthwhile reading because it describes actual incidents that armed Americans face when dealing with criminal predation. Reading the columns shows the difference between real life and the ludicrous ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ figbars of their imaginations that people frequently cook up.
For space and copyright reasons, The Armed Citizen® only publishes a summary of each incident, which the NRA does not copyright. The NRA summary of the above incident goes as follows:
Two New Mexico burglary victims used a rifle and a handgun to keep a thief under wraps until the police arrived. One of the Albuquerque residents came home and noticed a stranger loading items—including a generator the homeowner recognized as his—into a vehicle. He approached the alleged thief and asked him to stop, but the bad guy scoffed at him. The man went into his house, armed himself and his wife, and the two confronted the suspect, holding him at gunpoint until the police arrived. (Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, N.M., 11/21/15)
It’s useful to backtrack and find the original article. In many cases, there’s a lot more detail in the original story. Sometimes there is a wealth of information that we can learn from and think about our own situations ahead of time.
There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
The Albuquerque Journal article even includes video from the bodycam worn by the arresting officer.
What can we learn from the article and bodycam footage in this case? What questions are worthwhile to ask ourselves while we have the opportunity of cool reflection? Are there decisions we can make ahead of time to keep us out of trouble? Here are a few points to consider. There are probably more.
The couple has the alleged burglar at gunpoint. So far, so good. Let’s consider, however, that they were no longer on their own property at that point. Depending on the state you may be in, once you leave your own property, even by a few steps, the rules (Know the Rules) can change quite a bit. Let’s pose the question “What if the perp takes off running when the officer arrives?” Shooting him in the back at that point probably wouldn’t be a good decision, even in Texas. Remember that YOU have a good idea who the good guys and bad guys are, but the Officer has to sort that out. Don’t assume the Officer has all the pertinent information (Understand the Situation) or that he or she even believes the information given so far. It’s not like a false report has never been phoned in.
It appears on the bodycam footage that the Officer goes between the perp and the couple to handcuff the dude. The woman lowers her pistol as the Officer moves in; good for her. Unless you’re familiar with Contact and Cover procedures, how you’re going to react when the PoPo arrives is best thought of ahead of time. Given that it’s a physical skill, (Have Adequate Skills) maybe even a little practice is in order. Given the circumstances, the woman probably didn’t even have a holster on. What are you going to do with your heater at that point?
The perp was released on his own recognizance the same day and then arrested again a few hours later for armed robbery. What if instead of going after someone else, he came back to the house he burglarized? It’s not hard to tell he’s a nitwit. Keep in mind that criminals don’t think the way we do. What state of alertness and readiness are you going to be in, post-event? If an entryway to your home has been damaged, are you going to stay there? What if your weapons have been taken into evidence? Do you have backups, not necessarily at your home?
Peeing on the fence isn’t much of a strategy. We have a lot of information available that we can use to put together at least a rough plan for circumstances that are foreseeable. And it’s not like we have to make it into a heavy duty wargaming exercise. There are typically five or six incidents referenced in The Armed Citizen® each month. There’s one or two a week listed online. Five minutes thought per incident still works out to less than an hour per month.
The Armed Citizen® database of all incidents ever reported is available on the NRA-ILA website.
The decisions we make almost inevitably determine the outcomes that result. Good Decisions lead to Positive Outcomes and Bad Decisions lead to Negative Outcomes. We all know that decision making is difficult in a broad array of situations. Having a framework for decision making can be helpful.
Skill development and to a lesser extent, ‘situational awareness’ are the most often taught or talked about aspect of personal protection. In the broad scheme of things, though, those are only a couple of aspects to the process of not being criminally victimized. Ultimately, skills and awareness are just inputs to our decision making process. The decisions we make are what will determine the outcome of any encounter.
It’s trendy now to view Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop as if it is a model that can help us ‘think faster,’ i.e., make tactical decisions more quickly than our opponent. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. The O-O-D-A Loop is a representation that describes in a strategic sense how one party thinks during the course of the decision process. That is a far cry from being a usable decision model or even framework. Colonel Boyd never mentioned O-O-D-A as a tactical decision model, nor do I believe he intended it as such.
Those who wish to look to Colonel Boyd for a decision model would be best advised to read his Aerial Attack Study. Over 50 years after its publication it is still considered the manual for fighter combat. The Aerial Attack Study describes a decision process almost completely the opposite of the way most common taters describe the O-O-D-A Loop. By performing an in-depth analysis of the situations fighter aircraft could encounter, Colonel Boyd described exact maneuvers and counters our fighters could use to defeat the enemy. That’s a better framework for defining tactical decision making.
This post is the first in a series describing a conceptual framework for decision making. Several other people contributed thoughts to it and I thank them for their input.
Know the Rules and Have Adequate Skills were proposed to me as inputs to good decision making by my friend LTC (Ret.), JAGC John Taylor. In addition to them, I include Understand the Situation.
If we overlay these two sets of inputs, a graphic would look like this.
Finally, to make Good Decisions, we need to consider two levels of focus:
- Tactical – doing things right, our techniques and procedures
- Strategic – doing the right things, what is in our and our family’s best long term interests
What rules do we need to know?
- Use of force
- Use of deadly force
- Employer policy and cultural peer pressure are corollaries to the legal
- Other rules
- Firearms and other weapons’ safety rules
- Our personal core values
- Rules of ‘the interview’ (between predators and prey)
- Difference of criminals’ psychological rules from our own
- Changes from the (your) past
Knowing the legal rules bears some discussion. There are several excellent books about the legalities of using deadly force, such as:
The Law of Self Defense
However, there isn’t much material about the use of non-lethal and less-lethal force. This leads to some confusion in people’s minds about tools like pepper spray. One common tater opined that pepper spray couldn’t be used legally unless the victim had already been physically battered and the battery was continuing. While this might POSSIBLY be true in some States where citizens, or perhaps subjects, exist in an almost perpetual state of arrest, it’s certainly not true in most of the US, where the citizenry remains free.
As an example of relative importance, most law enforcement officers will never apply deadly force in their entire careers. On the other hand, they will use some kind of physical force on a regular basis. As private citizens, there are only a few situations that justify the use of deadly force on our part. Having the ability to employ some form of non-deadly force is an option that needs much more serious consideration than it is generally given.
Note also that of the ‘Other rules,’ only the Safety rules for firearms are commonly taught. Although the balance of the Other rules aren’t thought of, they will definitely be inputs to our decision making.
Since it’s probably the first thing we should consider, we’ll go into Know the Rules in more depth in the next installment. Far too many people don’t consider the Rules very much, especially the Other rules.
There’s a Safariland holster blowout sale on my webstore. Glock 17 and S&W M&P holsters at prices you can’t afford to pass up.