In the midst of the hullabaloo recently, a major historical even has been largely overlooked.
On February 28, 1997, a huge shootout took place in North Hollywood (Los Angeles) California. On one side were two heavily armed and armored bank robbers. On the other side were hundreds of Los Angeles Police Officers. The shootout lasted about 45 minutes and estimates of the rounds fired go to almost 2,000. In the end, both robbers were killed and numerous police officers were injured, fortunately, none fatally.
In a short CNN video presentation, Rick Massa, former LAPD SWAT Officer who was on the scene, commented:
“If this were to happen today, this would be over before SWAT would get there. As a result of the shooting, there are rifles in all the police cars, in all of the stations, all police officers are trained with assault rifles, to be able to handle this type of a situation.”
However, the recent events have shown us that’s not true at all. Changing tools and tactics don’t really change policing. As with any large group or organization, culture and people are the agents of change
What do you teach the students in your classes, Claude?
That question was posed to me recently by an older gentleman at my gun club.
I teach them how to handle guns safely and how to hit the target, Ray.
He looked at me quizzically when I said that. He’s a competent shooter who can hit a six inch plate at 50 yards with a handgun. I could tell he didn’t understand so I told him a story.
I received a call a while ago from a range I used to teach at, which has subsequently burned down. The call was from the guy working the counter where they sign people into the range. “Can you come down right now and give a lady with a snub nose revolver a lesson right now? She will pay you and she’s willing to wait for you to get here.” It was 20 minutes away so I grabbed my gear and went.
The lady had a very nice 2 inch Model 15 Combat Masterpiece. She had purchased it at a gun shop when her husband died. This was her second visit to the range to ‘practice.’
A friend of mine emailed me the following question.
Claude, what device do you use to make a digital audio recording? How do you transfer the digital recording to your computer?
I had mentioned to him the recording I recently made for an Enhanced Standard version, i.e., not so easy I could pass it blindfolded, of the State of Ill-Annoy Police Qualification Course. I made the recording for dryfire practice but I could use it for livefire, too.
One of the few apps I have on my phone is an audio recorder called Mini Recorder Free. I have a Windows phone but the app is also available for Android. It’s very easy to use and records the input as MP3 files.
First, I look at a course of fire and write a script for the recording. When I’m happy with the script, I record the narration of the course of fire, usually as one file. Where the beeps are supposed to go, I say ‘beep beep’ as a place marker.
Then I record the beeps from my CED 6000 timer by putting the microphone next to the timer. Each of the different times is recorded as a single set of beeps. I can insert each beep file multiple times into the narrative, where that’s appropriate.
I connect my phone to my computer and copy the narrative and beep files to the computer. Finally, I edit them together with Wavepad Sound Editor, which I downloaded from the Internet. Undesirable noises get edited out and I standardize the spacing between the stages so there’s enough time to re-holster, change hands, or do other preparatory work for each string.
Since I don’t have a 15 yard range in my apartment, I create reduced scale targets to use for dryfire. I create the targets by scaling them with Excel.
A reduced scale target also allows me to conceal my target when I’m not dryfiring, which is something I believe in very strongly. The 12 shot drill is on the back of my wall hanging.
On some of my recordings, I substitute a gunshot sound for the start beep. It just depends on how involved I want to make the recording. For my dryfire recording of the LAPD Bonus Course, I downloaded an audio file of the actual course being shot on the LAPD range. I had to clean that one up a lot but it’s fun to dryfire to because there’s all the range noise, LAPD Rangemaster commands (which sound like a subway conductor), sounds of empty magazines hitting the ground, and gunfire in the background. That’s as close as I can get to an actual range experience in my living room dryfire practice area.
A few of the recordings stay on my phone to use when I’m traveling. I also keep a PDF of the target on my phone so I can print it if I forget to take one along. It fits on one page so it’s easy to print in a motel business center. ISP 7 foot target
At this year’s Rangemaster Tactical Conference, someone mentioned wrapping a zip tie with a piece of colored duct tape on it as a safety insert. It’s a great idea and I’m using that now along with the Rogers Tap-Rack-Trainer. A round can’t be chambered with the tie in place. No disassembly of the gun necessary to put it in and it’s easy to take out, too. A bag of 8 inch ties costs about $2. The zip tie isn’t a snap cap, though, so keep that in mind.
The audio recording of the ISP Course I created is available as a download for 99 cents on my CDBaby store if you don’t feel like doing all that. There are a number of other recordings of interest, too.
If we get carjacked, as long as you and I can both get out of the car, they can have it; I have insurance. But if either of us can’t get out of the car because we get hung up in the seat belts or something, turn your face away from me and close your eyes because I am going to start shooting. I don’t want his loathsome blood-borne pathogens to get in your eyes.
–my personal policy/Standard Operating Procedure, as related to a former girlfriend who lived near Murder Kroger in Atlanta
A California man shot the carjacker of his van Friday as the carjacker drove away. The carjacker died shortly thereafter and the shooter was arrested for Murder. Once the threat of Death or Serious Bodily Injury has passed, the time for gunfire has ended.
“Nice people lock their doors.” –my mother
“Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle. The moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer’s use of deadly force.” —LAPD Manual Volume 1 Section 556.10 POLICY ON THE USE OF FORCE
Policies, SOPs, or whatever you wish to call them are simply committing to memory, or writing down, actions that you have thought about ahead of time. For some reason, the word ‘policy’ evokes a great deal of resistance on the part of people I talk to about it. Not thinking about things ahead of time is probably the most Serious Mistake Gunowners Make and I will have to add that to the next edition.
In a crisis, the conscious mind has an extremely short life span, probably less than a second. Once the conscious mind expires, either training/practice or the amygdala will take over. Trying to make up a plan on the spot is an extraordinarily difficult task.
Perhaps the inability or lack of desire to think ahead is the reason for the popularity of the OODA Loop. Relying on the OODA Loop implies that you can out-think the situation in the moment. This is just being lazy and an excuse for not thinking ahead. No plan survives the test of combat, as the saying goes, but it is ALWAYS easier to modify a pre-existing plan than to make one up on the spot.
Fighter pilots have been at the forefront of developing policy and procedure for ‘in the moment’ encounters. Their creations over the past century have shown increasing sophistication as they have evolved.
- Dicta Boelcke, a list of principles, was formulated during WWI by Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke, a German fighter pilot and squadron commander. It is interesting to note that he was killed when he violated one of his own dicta, never close in on a single combatant when others are also pursuing it.
- Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Thach recognized the superiority of Japanese fighter aircraft in the early days of WWII. To counter them, he developed, using matchsticks on a tabletop, the Thach Weave as a defensive maneuver. Then he tested the maneuver under conditions simulating the disadvantages US Navy fighters would face.
- No Guts, No Glory, a USAF training document, was written by Major General (then Major) Frederick C. Blesse shortly after the Korea Conflict. It was an explanation of his experiences flying F-86 Sabres against MIG fighters and how to defeat them.
- Colonel John Boyd wrote the Aerial Attack Study, which is the most comprehensive manual on fighter combat ever written, in 1959. In it, he methodically worked out all the possible attacks and counters a fighter could make in relation to both bombers and other fighters. His study was heavily based on a thorough understanding of the flying and weapons capabilities of both US and Soviet aircraft.
In every one of these documents, specific principles, procedures, and pitfalls are worked out in advance. Speed of decision in tactical situations is achieved by picking from a list of possible options to best solve an unfolding incident rather than trying to ‘think faster,’ which is physiologically impossible. The distinction between ‘thinking faster’ and picking from a menu of possible decisions escapes many common taters about the OODA process. Boyd’s description of the process is much more involved than generally assumed and explained using a simplistic circular diagram. That circular graphic does no justice to the concepts that Colonel Boyd developed.
In order to make decisions in advance, it’s necessary to think about likely scenarios, at least, ahead of time and decide how to solve them. This includes the legal ramifications of your possible actions. Thinking ahead is a key component of avoiding becoming a victim or incurring a Negative Outcome in the criminal justice system.
John Johnston and I will be discussing this timely topic in more depth on Ballistic Radio tonight. Ballistic Radio is available over the Internet.
Pointing guns at people you have no intention of shooting to force compliance with your demands is poor business.
–Ed Head in his article Pistol Provocation
I agree with this statement and feel it can be even further amplified from the perspective of training people how to Control a Confrontation. The statement can be, and has been, misconstrued by the inexperienced into “I believe that the first time any bad guy should know you are armed is when he sees the muzzle flash.” As a philosophy, reluctance to display a firearm without firing is a mistake. The majority of criminals are looking for a victimization not a fight. The display of a firearm by the intended victim, along with the obvious intent to use it if necessary, is an indicator that the victimization has the potential to turn into a fight. That’s not what economic predators are looking for.
Let’s consider the Policy (556.80) of the Los Angeles Police Department for DRAWING OR EXHIBITING FIREARMS.
Officers shall not draw or exhibit a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm in conformance with this policy on the use of firearms.
Stated as a positive action when adjudicating Use of Force incidents, the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners generally uses language similar to the following, when the Drawing/Exhibiting was ruled justifiable.
The BOPC determined that all personnel had sufficient information to believe the situation might escalate to the point where deadly force may become necessary. Therefore drawing the weapon was in policy.
Armed Citizens need to practice two Presentations; 1) Challenge and 2) Shoot. I use the term Presentation in a broad sense because the pistol might be in a container other than a holster, for instance, someone at home may have a pistol in a container or safe. The principle still applies. While some trainers would say this violates Hick’s Law, the fact is that the effect of Hick’s Law has been proven to dissipate when training in the various options has been undertaken.
Challenging should be done from a Ready position that does not involve pointing the pistol at the aggressor, just as Ed states. If the necessity to shoot arises, the pistol is then brought on target and fired.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no time difference between bringing the weapon onto target to fire vis-à-vis having the weapon already aimed at the target. Nor is there any demonstrable difference of starting out with the finger on the trigger v. off the trigger.
My experience is that very few gunowners practice the Presentation to Challenge nor firing beginning from a Challenge position. This is a major weakness in their skill sets. Challenging can easily be practiced at home with an inert (blue) gun. Anyone who is serious about improving their skillset should own a bluegun of their real defensive gun.
There is a caveat to this doctrine. A friend of mine lives and works in Central America as a security consultant and trainer. His counsel to me is that, in his experience over the past three decades, Latins rarely find the presence of a pistol unsettling “unless they are looking down the bore.” With the heavy influx of Central Americans into the United States lately, this may be a consideration.
Thinking ‘I’ll solve it when I get there’ has gotten a lot of people killed.
My friend and I had a serious disagreement over his tactics. “The cops, Gunsite grads and others, who’ve contacted me over it agreed with what I did.” Contrary to the feedback my friend received, the comments I received were universally negative toward his post-escape actions.
This then leads to a further issue involving his friend, who was in the car with him. What do you do when someone else makes a tactical decision that involves you? I frequently mention that anytime we are with another person, the complexity of decision making goes up seriously.
You, as a passenger or bystander, can be put in a situation by someone else quite easily. Sometimes, it is a situation with possibly severe negative outcomes. Many times in ten years of Force on Force exercises, I saw how easy it is to get dragged into situations and Courses of Action not of your choosing. Not to mention the many times I have personally gotten sucked into situations that I later thought “Wow, I’m glad I got out of that one in one piece.” Other people can get you killed, without asking your permission.
Let’s examine some of the possible options. Even when we are with friends and family, our options remain. Some of them are Flight, Withdraw, Fight, Submit, and Negotiate. We are conscious beings and capable of making our own decisions. Just because someone else makes a decision to place themselves in jeopardy, doesn’t mean we have to go along with it. Nor does it mean that even if we choose to participate we necessarily have to do it in a way that entails maximum risk.
Let’s examine a case from the LAPD files as an example.
Officer Involved Shooting 030-05.
Officer A was watching television when he heard his wife shout that someone was out front. Officer A’s wife also believed she told her husband the people outside were vandalizing the family vehicle.
Officer A, with his pistol held alongside his leg, moved across the front lawn of his residence to obtain a view of the individuals [he suspected of vandalizing his car] in the street. Unknown to Officer A, his wife had followed him from the residence to the curb of the street.
Two things occurred here. 1) Officer A elected to go outside to Confront the vandals. It is unknown whether this was habit as a Police Officer [LAPD discourages its Officers from taking enforcement action off-duty unless life is at risk] or because he felt compelled by the presence of his family. 2) His wife followed in into the Danger Zone, perhaps due to family bonding aspects or because she felt it was appropriate for her to confront the vandals herself.
Officer A directed his wife to return to the residence and to call the police.
Once inside the residence, Officer A’s wife instructed another nephew to call 911. She then returned to the street with her husband [.]
The wife continued to be sucked in the dynamic of the situation, perhaps because of her husband’s presence outside. If he had remained inside and called the police himself, it is less likely she would have gone outside, especially the second time.
Eventually, a scuffle between the vandal and Officer A’s wife ensued and Officer A separated them. The vandal then approached with an ambiguous weapon and Officer A fired a warning shot into the ground. This resulted in the vandal fleeing.
Here’s what the Board of Police Commissioners ruled.
The BOPC found Officer A’s tactics deficient warranting administrative disapproval.
Basis for Findings
…Officer A elected to confront the subjects… The BOPC observed that Officer A’s tactical decisions left him with few tactical options and placed him at a tactical disadvantage… The BOPC would have preferred that Officer A had remained inside his residence, stayed with his family, [and] personally notified the local law enforcement agency … The BOPC was also concerned that when Officer A exited his residence, his wife accompanied him outside.
The BOPC determined that Officer A’s tactics were seriously deficient warranting administrative disapproval.
The evidence later disclosed that the vandal was ‘armed’ with a dinner fork. While Officer A received only ‘administrative disapproval’ for firing the warning shot, I have little doubt that an Armed Citizen in the same circumstances would have been charged with Aggravated Assault.
Let’s now return to the brainstorming v. wargaming issue. Brainstorming by Officer A gave a rudimentary Course of Action of going outside and Confronting the vandal. I’m not sure that any brainstorming by his wife was involved, other than to accompany him. Wargaming might have resulted considering alternate Courses of Action for either or both of them. He might have elected to Remain In Place and call the police. Even if he went out to Confront, she might have elected to RIP. Even during the Confrontation, after considering all her options, she might have decided to RIP after she had returned to the house, instead of re-inserting herself into the situation.
If my friend’s friend had done some wargaming, he might have considered, and perhaps chosen, some different options. It would be presumptuous of me to say what he was thinking when he chose to join the Pursuit. However, his options were: Pursue, Submit, Withdraw, Flight, and ultimately Fight using deadly force. If he agreed with following the criminals, then the option he chose was Pursue. Fortunately, the situation did not escalate to the Fight option but this has to be considered as a consequence of the Pursuit. If he did not agree with the decision to Pursue, then he chose the Submit option, only he was submitting to my friend’s choice. ‘To take no action is to take an action,’ as the saying goes.
He could have said “I’m not going with you over to their vehicle. Let me out of the car.” That would be the Withdraw option. If the car got into motion before he could say anything, he could have gotten out of the car when it stopped behind the criminals and then he could have moved off. That would be Flight. And if the criminals produced guns, he would have been forced into the Fight using deadly force Course of Action, which at that point is not an option but a necessity. The military term would be Decisively Engaged. Decisive Engagement means we have no other options left, which is never a good position to be in.
All those options have consequences. Withdraw or Flight could have serious repercussions on their friendship. Pursuit, under the wrong set of actions and reactions, could result in an unpleasant encounter with Law Enforcement. Fight using deadly force carries the possible consequence of death, which would affect not only him but all his loved ones and associates.
The choices we make are based on our personal moral values and ties to others. But they should be made with a clear understanding of what our options are and also the possible consequences thereof.
I would have said “I’m not going with you over to their vehicle. Let me out of the car.” But that’s just my choice, you’ll make your own.
In every encounter, there is an element of chance.
–John Hall, head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit during the Miami Massacre timeframe.
A friend of mine had an encounter with some apparent criminals a few days ago. Fortunately, he was able to escape the initial encounter. However, he then made the all too common mistake of initiating a pursuit of said criminals ‘until the police arrived.’ In fact, he pulled in right behind their car in the parking lot after the initial incident had concluded and the criminal had walked away from him. Then the criminals began their withdrawal by driving away and he followed them. Fortunately, the police eventually arrived and placed the criminals under arrest. It all worked out OK; this time.
However, I think the incident bears some analysis. The format used by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners is a good model for our purposes here.
In every case, the BOPC makes specific findings in three areas: [A] Tactics of the involved officer(s); [B] Drawing/Exhibiting of a firearm by any involved officer(s); and the [C] Use of Force by any involved officer(s).
The initial incident was resolved without any Use of Force by my friend so [C] does not apply. During the initial encounter, he was approached by the criminal with an impact weapon, to wit: a tire iron. In response, my friend drew a J frame revolver that he kept below the line of sight of the criminal. I think that was a perfectly appropriate [B] response.
Let’s look at [A] Tactics.
Pulling in right behind them means he turned the initiative over to them voluntarily. I.e., he placed himself into the reactive phase (Observe, Orient, Decide) of their OODA cycle rather than them being in the reactive phase of his OODA cycle as was the case during the initial encounter. That’s BAD tactics.
We can use this situation as an example of the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. Brainstorming means my friend developed a rudimentary Course of Action. He stated: “If I roll down this window, I’m going to have to shoot him.” Eventually, he chose to move his vehicle as an alternative. In other words, he considered what two of his options were and that’s about all. That’s brainstorming.
Wargaming the incident means we include the adversary’s options, your response to their options, and the possible consequences.
Some of the options available to the criminals upon my friend pulling up behind them were:
- Withdraw, which is what they chose
- Fight, either using deadly force or a lesser force level
Let’s wargame those criminal options:
If they had chosen Flight, meaning at high speed, does one then continue the Pursuit? You wouldn’t think so but there is an instinctive reaction to pursue upon an adversary’s Flight. I have observed this many times and the pursuers denied they did it until shown the video. If that happens unconsciously, then you also become a lawbreaker; speeding, reckless driving, etc.
The criminals chose to Withdraw, which then resulted in a low level pursuit, entailing no legal violations. I think this illustrates the point I made about Flight, we may choose the Pursuit option unconsciously.
What about Confront? Up to this point of the pursuit, the criminals had not committed any chargeable offense that would stand up at trial. There was enough reason for the police to initiate a Probable Cause stop, which then resulted in arrests for unrelated offenses. Prior to the arrival of the police, the criminals stopped several times and my friend stopped behind them at some distance. What if the criminals had chosen to Confront my friend about following them? Say one of them had gotten out of the car and walked purposefully toward my friend’s vehicle.
At that point, he would have had to make a decision about how to react. He could have driven away, remained in place, drawn and displayed his weapon, or perhaps used deadly force. All of those possible reactions have possible unpleasant consequences. Let’s say he tried to drive away and the individual got in front of his vehicle. That’s a potential vehicular homicide and would be very hard to defend. Say he draws his weapon and the criminal calls the police for Man With A Gun threatening me. Aggravated Assault is a felony charge. Even if you beat it, it’s unpleasant, lengthy, and expensive. You don’t get to carry a gun during the entire course of the legal proceedings and may have to surrender all your firearms until the conclusion.
Shooting the individual could easily turn into a total mess.
- “Why did you shoot the man?”
- “He did something suspicious in a parking lot a distance away, so I followed him.”
- “But why did you shoot him?”
- “Well, he stopped his car, so I stopped my car behind him. Then he got out and walked purposefully up to my car window. I felt threatened at that point, so I shot him.”
Let’s say the criminals chose to Fight, using lethal force. My friend assumes these people were ‘gangbangers.’ Worst case scenario is that both of them pile out of their car with AK rifles and start hosing down his car. A Springfield .45 pistol and J frame revolver aren’t going to be terribly useful in that situation. And he would have been in the reactive phase of the OODA cycle, so there would probably be a lag about even moving the car to Escape. Even during the Escape, the car would have to pass by, at close distance, two individuals shooting at it with autoloading rifles. The potential for becoming a casualty, along with the friend who was in the car with him, in such a situation is very high.
So that is the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. As you can see, the wargaming process can be quite involved. It’s easier to do it ahead of time based on the experiences of others. Then if you have to do some wargaming on the spot, you already have some models to choose from rather than develop them on the ground at the time.
My feeling about the situation he encountered is rather different than his. My reaction to the initial encounter probably would have been similar to his. However, once I have escaped from a criminal, I am not reinserting myself into the situation. If I do choose to keep an eye on the situation, it will most certainly not be within the effective range of gunfire.
I was given the opportunity to shoot a SCCY CPX-2 pistol today. The pistol has been of some interest to me because of its small size, double action only mechanism, and relatively low price point. Many people are price constrained about what they can buy, so inexpensive but serviceable pistols are always of interest to me.
In the past I owned a Kel Tec P11, to which the CPX-2 bears a strong resemblance. I thought the P11 had promise as a pocket pistol for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The trigger was so bad that I could never get a split under .50. And it had the annoying tendency to not ignite +p ammo, which made no sense to me but was a well known problem at that time. Finally, I gave up and sold it to someone who really wanted it.
So the SCCY had to have a lot better trigger than the P11 to fill the bill for me. The only real way to test that is to shoot it. Through an unexpected coincidence, a meeting was arranged with the local representative, who met us at Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range with several pistols. He had a number of guns in a large laptop bag, just like I am prone to use as a range bag. He explained some of the features of the CPX-2.
- Very important to me was that it can be dryfired, which some KelTec pistols cannot.
- It also has a second strike capability, which I like. Although the standard doctrine upon receiving a click is to tap-rack, gunowners who are not well regulated don’t know what that phrase means, much less how or when to execute it. Having a second strike capability will allow an untrained user the opportunity to simply press the trigger again and maybe get a bang.
- It’s very easy to disassemble, which cannot be said for the Kahr, another popular DAO compact gun.
- The CPX-2 has a polymer front sight and a steel rear sight, unlike the P11. The rear sight has two huge white dots on it, which are much larger than the dot on the front sight. I dislike this ‘feature.’ If I bought one, a black Sharpie would be the first thing I would put to it.
As an initial benchmark, I shot a variant of the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The course consists of 10 rounds shot at seven yards on a silhouette target. My variation is to use two magazines of five rounds each, one of which has a randomly inserted dummy round in it. Shoot five, reload five, and clear the dummy wherever it happens to show up is how I do the drill. I was easily able to shoot the course at speed with only two hits outside the 10 ring.
Although most personal protection incidents occur within seven yards or less, the need to shoot at longer distances is not unknown. My colleague Tom Givens, has documented several armed citizen shootings at distances from 15 to 22 yards, which represent about 5% of his students’ encounters.
To test the SCCY at distances like this, we set a target at 15 yards and fired a five shot group on the torso. I was able to shoot a five inch group, despite the distracting dots on the rear sight and the indoor lighting. Then I moved the target out to 20 yards and fired a five shot group at the head. Although it was only about four inches, it was centered slightly to the right of the head. I fired another group while really concentrating on the rear notch. This group was more satisfactory, with all the rounds hitting the head in a five inch circle. This exercise confirmed for me why I dislike three dot sights so much.
I finished by shooting five rounds at seven yards Strong Hand Only, followed by five rounds Weak Hand Only. The group was slightly larger but still acceptable.
The pistol’s handling qualities were good and we experienced no malfunctions. The only issue we encountered was with the slide failing to lock back when a friend shot the pistol also. This occurred because my friend doesn’t have the proper grip habit of keeping his thumb away from the side of the pistol.
The CPX-2 has a full size ‘Slide Hold Lever’ and if the thumb is not kept away from it, the pistol is not going to lock open on the last shot. It would also be easy to bump it up if the thumb were positioned under the lever. The rep said a flat lever was available from the factory.
There is also a laser available from ArmaLaser. The laser comes on when the pistol is gripped and requires no manual pressing of activation buttons.
Overall, after 100 rounds, my impression was quite favorable for an Every Day Carry piece. I may get one and try it out in IDPA to see what I can do with it.
A defensive gun use (DGU) by an Armed Citizen is a balance of doing the right things, doing things right, and not doing the wrong things.
Christopher Dorner was a former LAPD Officer who went crazy in February 2013, murdered several people, and eventually committed suicide when surrounded by the authorities. During the manhunt for Dorner, two mistaken identity shootings by police occurred in the Los Angeles area. One shooting, by Torrance Police Officers, occurred near a checkpoint and the other in the vicinity of a LAPD Captain’s home. The home was being protected by a detail of LAPD Officers because the Captain may have been a specific target of Dorner’s.
A recent settlement for the Torrance Police shooting has revived commentary about the ‘trigger happy police,’ etc. I will be the first to admit I wouldn’t want to be downrange during such an episode but there are also lessons to be learned from the mistaken identity shootings. And those lessons don’t just apply to the law enforcement community.
First of all, note that both shootings occurred during periods of limited visibility, i.e., early morning. Humans have a natural apprehension of the dark. Couple this natural fear with the possibility of dealing with a dangerous criminal and our emotional trigger mechanisms can get stretched pretty tight. In the case of the LAPD shooting, the Officers had been on station for several hours already. They had also been recently informed that Dorner had engaged two police officers nearby and murdered one of them.
How does this apply to the Armed Citizen? Think about how you might feel if you hear a crash in your home in the middle of the night. Likely, you will have been awakened from sleep, you will not know what the situation is, and very probably your spouse will be providing you with a sense of urgency to determine and fix the problem. If you are like most people, your interior lights are not on, so you are operating in conditions of limited visibility. Now throw in the possibility of a heightened sense of danger, for instance, having a daughter who has recently obtained a Protection Order staying with you for safety reasons. The possibility is high that you will not have the same sense of ease and self-control you do when you go to the indoor range and casually prepare to practice shooting some rounds at a bullseye target.
Second, the Police do not train very much to work in groups larger than two. This point was made very succinctly by my Battalion Commander when we were practicing riot control in the National Guard. Watch any multi-officer takedown of a criminal and it’s obvious they do not operate with a sense of military coordination. Police Officers spent almost all of their time working independently, not as part of a team. Only SWAT units generally are trained to work in groups larger than two.
What does the lack of teamwork have to do with the Armed Citizen? Just as the Police don’t spend much time practicing teamwork with each other; neither do Armed Citizens tend to spend much time practicing teamwork with their families and friends. The probability that your spouse and/or children are not going to do what you want them to or what you tell them to do is high. So don’t be surprised if an incident involving more than one potential victim turns out to be a complicated problem to solve.
Third, communications among the Officers left something to be desired. In the case of the Torrance Police shooting, the victim had been identified as a non-threat just a few seconds before. Unfortunately, this had evidently not been communicated to Officers right down the street. When I conduct training for couples, one of the main concerns they express is their ability to communicate during a criminal encounter. The couples I work with tend to already be ‘switched on’ so this is an area that deserves considerable emphasis in our personal practice.
All this is not to defend or justify the mistaken identity shootings. The LAPD Board of Police Commissioners found the LAPD Officers’ actions ‘out of policy’ and rightly so. Rather, it is to point out that a defensive gun use (DGU) by an Armed Citizen, just as by a Law Enforcement Officer, is a balance of doing the right things, doing things right, and not doing the wrong things.
When we take a gun into our hands for defensive purposes, we have a goal in mind, that being to avoid death or serious bodily injury. At the same time, there’s a good possibility we are threading our way through a series of physical and emotional obstacles while trying to reach that goal. Just as soldiers whose objective is on the far side of a minefield must work their way through the minefield carefully, we, as Armed Citizens, must be cautious of our paths and moves, as well.
The full report of the Los Angeles Police Department Board Of Police Commissioners is available here.
“He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” — Proverbs 26:17
In my analysis of The Armed Citizen column, two things that I noticed have broader implications than ‘skills,’ although there are both skills and tactics involved in their execution. To me, they are strategic considerations about what to do vis-à-vis how to do it. I’m not hung up on the strategic/tactical terminology, so call it whatever suits you.
Intervene in another’s situation 15%
Hold at gunpoint until police arrive 12%
As many of my friends know, I’m not a fan of intervention in others’ affairs. I won’t say I would never do it, but I would need a really good reason. Even some police agencies, such as the LAPD, discourage officers from taking ‘enforcement action’ when they are off-duty.
Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners’ Findings
Although it is preferred that an off-duty officer refrain from taking enforcement action and instead act as a good witness, the rapidly unfolding circumstances warranted immediate intervention to preserve life.
Therefore, it was reasonable for Officer A to take immediate action to safeguard the lives of the public.
Even when the LAPD BOPC finds an officer’s “use of force to be in policy, requiring no action” in such a situation, it sometimes recommends additional training that the officer must undergo to remedy tactical deficiencies noted.
Board of Police Commissioners’ Findings
The BOPC found that … Officer A (7 years, 8 months service) would benefit from additional tactical training at the Training Division (formal training) level.
In one incident that took place in the Atlanta area 3 years ago, the person who intervened was shot in the back and killed by a seeded backup man in the liquor store. There were a whole series of tactical and marksmanship issues and errors associated with that tragic incident.
In addition to the tactical considerations, Andrew Branca’s excellent book The Law of Self Defense discusses a number of legal considerations about intervention. For example, if a weapons carrier intervenes of behalf of someone who is not innocent in the encounter, then neither is the one who intervenes.
Intervention opens a big can of worms and I’ve never been much interested in fishing. Many years ago, Evan Marshall, a very savvy and experienced Detroit street cop, espoused a philosophy of being a good witness until “they start searching people, making people get down on the floor, or herding people into a back room.” At that point, he felt gunfire was in order. I haven’t come across anything I find more apropos, so that’s the personal strategy I have in mind.
The risk/reward aspect of ‘Hold at gunpoint until police arrive’ is a separate and involved topic that we’ll discuss in the future.