Tag Archives: Chinese Whispers

Chinese Whispers and the FBI (Part I)

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,
  • Ambush,
  • 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.

Vet your sources

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.