“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Valid excuse for no blogging the next couple of days, as I'll be pulling about 48 hours straight work...
back for comments etc after that.

A few lesson notes

So, as I've discussed, been spending a bit more time than normal between the regular range and doing a lot of force-on-force active shooter training for our department. Most of it has been pretty well received by folks, but some of them have been either not taking it seriously, or else just full of stupid & that makes for a long frustrating day. But, it's part of the job #1, and part of what I consider my duty to pass on to others what has been taught to me over the years. The downside is that most of it is teaching time for me, as opposed to hands-on getting to play myself; the upside is that it has given me a chance to not only work on some of my own skills & thoughts during those times I am a role-player for the scenarios, but also to watch what has worked and what hasn't for other folks throughout the various events. Thought I'd take a little time to share some of those thoughts with others out there, and invite comments back if anyone has some to share. Please note, there isn't a single thing in here that is some stunning new revelation or that will sweep the tactical world by storm - anyone who tells you that their knowledge is all new & exciting and unbeatable is working to sell you a load of something... Rather, it's just been a good chance for me to slow down & apply some of these things in different ways, or to reinforce what works and what doesn't for me. Not just intended for police either, but for those who carry arms for whatever reason. For references refer to practitioners and analysts of interpersonal combat from say about 10000 b.c.e to the present...

Anyway, in no particular order:
  • Speed, aggression, surprise. They win the day. Figure out what you are going to do as quickly as possible, and execute said plan as best you can. Having played both sides of the equation now I have seen both ways in action (or inaction) - individuals or groups that hesitate, that go too slow & cautiously or that cannot make a decision are invariably on the losing side of the battle. On the other hand, even if you know it's coming, the team that uses controlled speed and controlled violence of action can quickly overwhelm the other side by the momentum of events. If you wait for "the perfect moment" you will rapidly be overtaken by events.
  • Get off the X. Movement (particularly lateral movement) keeps you alive - people standing still are quickly identified as threats and eliminated; people moving in a straight line are only slightly harder to pick up and engage. However, when the target is moving laterally, even if they are quickly identified it is much harder to rapidly and effectively engage them - often to the tune of several seconds (and numerous rounds fired) longer.
  • Pay extra for the guns that come with those little protrusions on top that some call "sights". I say that jokingly, but every single session I have observed this problem, even with seasoned officers and shooters. They become very focused on the target, on what the bad guy is doing, and they waste rounds (and frequently hit innocent bystanders) in shooting without aiming. Folks, this is the reason the vast majority of shots fired in real life miss - people get caught up in the moment and don't aim. That whole "instinctive fire" thing that some folks preach is a load of crap - if it's farther than a body's length away then used the gorram sights. Remember, you are responsible for that bullet from the time it leaves the barrel until it comes to rest - wherever that may be. On the other side of this coin, once people do use their sights they usually are relatively accurate at most combat distances.
  • You shot more rounds than you think. This applies in terms of a number of things - reload when you can, as opposed to waiting for that bad feeling of the weapon running dry; be aware of the fact again that you are sending more rounds downrange that you are responsible for. Importantly as well, when it comes to the whole "after action" thing - be careful not to speak too soon. It is perfectly realistic and reasonable for you to say you're not sure how many rounds you fired - trust me, the adrenaline dump happens. I'd rather say that then be stuck trying to explain the difference in stories between "I shot two times," when it was actually six or eight to someone who is looking to make their case in the media.
  • Tunnel vision and sensory shutdown happen. You may hear the sounds/screams/whatever other people are making, but it is not likely you will pick out many individual words. You will may jump at the sound of every shot, or they may not even register for you. Some details of people or clothing or the environment may lodge in your mind while others blur into the background. I've seen people who are normally able to describe events in great detail change in fifteen minutes of a scenario to literally telling me "I'm not even sure how I got here." Train yourself to scan not just the area of the threat, but a full 540 degrees around yourself during an encounter. Yes, 540 - look up.
  • Watch the hands, waistband and face - 90% of the time that's where the weapons are, or the clue that someone isn't who they seem. When that sensory overload happens you see people trying to look everywhere and at everyone at once, and it simply isn't possible. Rather, develop a quick scan pattern for these things and even in a crowd you will start to quickly pick up indications that you need. This will carry over to the sighted fire section though - I've caught an amazing number of pellets and simumition rounds in the hands recently, because we have a tendency to shoot at what we are looking at - and once they start focusing on the weapons then the rounds start going there. Just something to ponder.
  • If there is someone you are likely to be entering these situations with, train together. Whether it is your partner on the beat, or your spouse as a civilian, discuss what you are going to do and practice it. The more you know what you are going to do the fewer surprises will happen. Practice communicating - cops are HORRIBLE at this - we want to tell our life's story on the radio on the way to a call, but put us two feet from each other in a stressful situation and most of them won't say a word. Furthermore, it is much harder to defeat a team or multiple opponents working together - there is a reason wolves hunt in packs. On the other hand, if it's a group that ISN'T working together, then picking them off one-by-one is easier.
  • A great majority of attacks on police these days involve multiple adversaries. Are you practicing for this?
  • Get inside their OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop - apply the above techniques, make your decision more rapidly than they can respond to it, and act. Action beats reaction. Once you fall behind the curve on this one it is almost impossible to recover.
  • Smooth is fast. Practice makes perfect. Everything from how you walk and scan, to how you draw and present your weapon, to how you perform reloads comes back to this. If your range doesn't let you practice draws, reloads and malfunction drills find a place to do so with an empty and double-checked weapon and magazines. Again - every range on any given day has tons of recreational shoots who can show off a nice group size. I want to learn some stuff from the guy who decided to spend two hours of his day practicing just how to reload from concealment.
  • Most importantly, you will fall back on your training and the fundamentals. I can tell by the end of the first scenario who has applied themselves throughout the years and who goes through the motions; the same as you can tell who has bad gun handling habits in five minutes at any gun store. These are the folks you see who pull the rest of the group together, even if they aren't in charge; who can assess the situation and make a decision rapidly, and who apply the brilliance in the basics. These are your warriors. The people who have played the "what if?" game so that when they are faced with a choice of options they have already got something to work with.
Someone, somewhere is training and preparing for their next violent encounter - is it you or the bad guy?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


per CNN dear leader's "approval ratings are sky high"


must be talking to different people than I am.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hot & tired

Had a nice "lessons learned" post planned from all the teaching lately, but the partner and I have been working hard in very hot weather the past few days, and got home late from a homicide scene early this morning. With a full day of range instruction in the heat today.

So, posting will wait for rest & hydration.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


5150 life - you shut things to private before I could send an email - hopefully you read this and can drop me a note!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cloak and dagger

So I was listening to my copy of Under Wraps tonight as I cleaned up dishes etc, and was greatly enjoying the 80's cold-war espionage memories...

Which then led me to remembering some fun times playing this game:

Hmmmmm think it's time to watch some Burn Notice and catch up on things as I do school tonight....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A haunting rendition.

From Bayou Renaissance Man - I have to agree with him, this beautiful version of 'Il Silenzio' (more commonly known as Taps to most Americans) brought back a lot of memories of lost friends. Enjoy the music this young lady has gifted us with.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just another radical to watch out for...

Active Shooter Musings

Yes, still alive here - things hopefully going to start calming down this week, so I can even get back to some blogging and other "normal life" things.

Continuing a discussion started over at Spartan Cops... kind of a police/shooting focused post, so if you're bored with that sorry! I know I've hit on it a bit before here, but feel like something more in depth today.

A good chunk of my time lately has been involvement with our department's active shooter training cadre. For those not familiar with the term "active shooter" is referring to situations such as Columbine, Virginia Tech etc. where one or more suspects are on a scene actively killing people - it's not a normal hostage, assault or whatever call, as the goal of the suspect is to cause as many deaths as possible.

Up til the late 1990's the standard police response to high-risk events like this had been to set up a perimeter, contain the scene and wait for SWAT to arrive and resolve these things. Columbine changed that dynamic for everyone, with agencies realizing that the best thing to do is immediately enter and engage teh threat, in order to save as many lives as possible.

Up until recently my department was like most in that we provided some classroom training for everyone on what to do in this situation, discussed some of the options, and left it at that. Policy was written in place on what to do, and we pretty much relied on the individual to do their own preparations. Some "what-if's" and discussion took place on the various shifts and such, but nothing really formal was in place beyond that. Fortunately for us we had not been faced with an actual situation calling these skills into play, as I'm not really sure how as a whole we would have preformed - not a criticism of my department or the individual officers, just a comment on the level most agencies are honestly at with this.

Last year some of our forward thinking upper members started looking at this in conjunction with some other training, and working with the ALERRT program we developed lesson plans and a training cycle for the department as a whole. This involved not just classroom time, but more importantly scenario based force-on-force training located in some of our local schools and businesses. Obviously it's taking time to get several hundred sworn officers through this, which is part of why I have a full plate. Then it will be setting up ongoing training every year to try and build on some of these new skills for everyone.

Anyway, the thoughts I've had after a month of this so far...

Overall the training is going over well. Most people have been very supportive of both the concept and the information we are getting out there. A few people who are still a bit overwhelmed by the idea of entering that kind of scene, possibly alone; and some others who are a bit resistive to new tactics and techniques - but that is to be expected anytime you have a group facing change. It has been very refreshing to hear the number of officers who make comments about the realism of the training and that they feel more prepared having done so.

Two big issues I've noted... not criticisms of the officers involved, more just a note on what is likely to happen in a real situation, things for you to be prepared for in yourself, and what to expect from others. As officers or armed citizens who are present on one of the scenes we absolutely owe it to ourselves and everyone else to treat this seriously.

- There are a HUGE number of people who absolutely freeze when the first shots of fire go off (we are using blanks to set up certain of the scenes, for the obvious addition of sound and realism to the moment) - even though they know it's coming, even though they know it's training and not real, there is a definite "oh shit" moment when that loud sound echoes inside the building and the body reacts. The eyes get big, breathing and heart rate increase, and you start to get that tunnel vision and stop paying attention to some of your other senses. And yes, this happened to me as well the first time - pretty much everyone does it to some extent - the only difference you see is how long it lasts. Training and experience and practice can reduce it to a very short time before you react, whereas the lack of the same can have you sitting there in the hallway for a long time... I hate to say I've even seen two people so far who when it happened started to run back out of the building before they were stopped - and this was training! Which means, I hate to say, there will be officers who do the same thing on a real call - or who don't even show up.

- The second big issue I see is the tendency we have developed as officers to do what I call "sir'ing people to death." We set up a few of the scenarios where:
  • The suspect has already shot people (often in view of the officers who are responding, and
  • The suspect is still very visibly armed, is refusing to comply with commands, and is in fact stating an intention to continue and moving towards areas with new victims
We put the responders in this situation, and they are wasting a great deal of time giving numerous commands to drop the weapon, not move or whatever - instead of engaging the threat and ending things quickly. Case law and common sense both easily establish something like this as a case where deadly force is more than justified, and we stress both in the classroom phase. But, when the moment comes to pull the trigger, a lot of people are taking a long time to get to that moment.

This comes from two things in my opinion. Number one comes down to the fact that for most people in today's society taking a life is not a natural thing - we have centuries of religious and cultural training which has taught people that it is "wrong" to kill another, and it is a big mental step to do so even in a simulated environment and even when they know they are doing the right thing. I'm sure that the fact that it is a live person scenario is a lot of what adds to this as well - it's not some video game character or static target, but something that the mind "realizes" is another living, breathing person. Thus the hesitation. For more on this topic as well, read any of Col. Grossman's work or attend any of his seminars - you will definitely come away enlightened.

The other reason for the hesitation has to do with how we train cops throughout the use of force and general police work, and with what they see on the TV and read in the papers. From the first moments we remind officers that the decision they make in an instant could be judged in the courts for years. News stories are quick to jump on the sensation of any use of force, or possibly bad shooting and spread it far and wide with all the public commentary attached. Even if your use of force is clearly justified you can bet on a complaint, and even clean shootings still end up with the offender's families suing the officers and departments for civil damages. Cell phone cameras, in car video, school and mall surveillance systems - it seems that everyplace you go you are being recorded (welcome to 1984), and should you be involved in that active shooter scene there is a good chance some of it is showing up on tv later... So, we've now added that second mental block to officers, where instead of concentrating on tactics and staying alive, they are now thinking through whether or not this shooting will pass muster in the nebulous court of public opinion...

We have spent so much time in the past twenty years teaching skills such as "verbal judo" and training our officers to talk their ways out of situations, deescalate conflict and trying to break the whole pattern of brute force policing which had grown over the years that we have gone to the other extreme. When it does come time to go hands on, or to step it up even to lethal force, too many of our newer, more educated but less worldly officers haven't made those mental connections yet... It shows in training, and it will show on the street.

Anyway, this is already getting a bit longer than planned, but just a few of my thoughts. I may do another later on the bad guy side of the coin, I haven't decided yet. For those of you in law enforcement I STRONGLY suggest that you seek out training like this if your agency will let you, and if they won't you need to start lobbying them strongly - not for liability reasons, but out of the moral obligations of our job. If you are an armed citizen do your best to find a corresponding amount of training on your side - unfortunately a lot of these programs are law enforcement only, but similar force-on-force and tactical courses are available from a number of reputable locations. In either case, you need to also do your mental "what if's?" and make some plans in advance - that way if it ever happens, you are at least somewhat ready with a direction to go.

Do what you can so you aren't the one stuck frozen in the door...

Monday, April 13, 2009

One last link in lieu of content of my own...

Crankyprof solves a lot of congressional issues with just this plan...

Somebody's already making the t-shirt...


Ranger up always did have a good sense of humor!


Marko has a nice bit of commentary on who started the mess too.
Kind of reminds me of the bully on the playground who goes running to the teacher when his victim actually hits back...

Well done

Not my work on the picture, but felt it fit...

Hoo-yah gents, well done.

original artwork done by The Sniper - credit due there, not here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rough week

Have a lot going on - similar to recently, burning the candle at both ends and went ahead and started a bonfire in the middle... Work, more work (a chunk unplanned), school, and oh yeah - I think I have a family that needs me. So, no posting for a few days - I'm alive, but swamped.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tartan Day

from Bad Example, some great moments in Scottish history:

1326 - The game of golf was invented in Scotland, followed shortly thereafter by the invention of the word "DAMMIT!"

1410 - Drinky MacDrunkard discovered how to make single malt scotch. He was then beaten to death by his neighbors when they found out they had to wait 12 years before they could drink it.

1453 - Kurt MacCobain invented the plaid flannel kilt and followed it up with his hit song "Smells Like Distilled Spirits"

1570 - Godawful MacScreechy conceived the idea for a new musical instrument after getting drunk and accidentally setting fire to his cat.

Read the rest at the link.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Time wasted

Normally I hate "Monday-morning quarterbacking" other police calls, particularly when it's something where the full details aren't out yet. Unfortunately, in this case I feel the need to make a few comments.

Forty minutes before making entry.

I have to say that again.

Forty minutes.

That is completely and totally inexcusable in today's world.

Twenty years ago we trained officers on a hot call to set a perimeter, call out SWAT and wait things out. Statistically it was a successful strategy, and it minimized both officer and civilian deaths.

Columbine changed all that - we started realizing that in situations like this speed is of the essence. We have spent the past ten years trying to get this message out and teach police to deal with the situation immediately, even if at risk to themselves. Innocent lives simply cannot wait for us to surround a building, wait for a tactical team to get called out, geared up and then make an entry at some point down the line.

Hell, I've spent a chunk of time in the past two weeks teaching classes on this very thing to our road guys - building on their tactical skills and helping them with the mindset of an immediate, forceful response to an active shooter. Going over the case studies and even showing videos to remind them of what is at stake.

I can't say I know who made the decisions to delay a response in the Binghamton shootings; and I certainly can't say that it would or would not have made a difference. I will however repeat my statement that the decision to wait is completely inexcusable, and the community has every right to be holding people accountable for it. When the initial units arrive within three minutes of a known active shooting call, and then do nothing but wait, a department protocol needs to be reexamined.

So, two messages from this one, in my opinion.

If you are an officer, you need to examine your department policy, and more importantly your own plans for a situation like this. Seek out the training to deal with an active shooter - there are plenty of agencies offering classes, seminars and even help in writing policies and procedures if your agency is balking. Get your mind ready for the day it happens, so that you know what to do. Part of the oath we took means that we stand between the innocent and those that would harm them, even at risk to ourselves. I know the last thing I would ever want on my conscience is the knowledge that someone else lost a child or loved one because I was waiting outside.

If you are a private citizen, you need to have your own mindset and plans in place. If you are legally able to and lawfully carry then you need to be prepared as well. When something happens you may be the only one there who is able to respond in time in order to protect yourself and others - because no matter what the police response, it will still take them time to arrive. If you cannot or choose not to be armed then you can develop your own safety plans. An easy acronym for this is ADD - AVOID the attackers, DENY them access to where you are and DEFEND yourself and others if needed - I have an earlier discussion on improvised weapons for those situations for reference.

Sorry for the rant, but this one particularly annoys me. The fact is that too many of the bad people in society have developed the mindset that the general public will do nothing to defend themselves, and that is acceptable to take out their frustrations by taking as many innocents with them to the end as possible. Until this changes our job as sheepdogs is to be ready for them.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Maybe it's time for my tinfoil beanie...

But more and more I wonder if someone in Riyadh really enjoyed watching The Manchurian Candidate years ago...

Just a few...

Busy week, and behind on school, but things are going well. Definitely burning the candle at both ends and started a bonfire in the middle to make it better...

I did manage to get in a few stops this week & actually do some enforcement again. I'm starting to think that something about my marked vehicle now being a SUV makes it invisible - I've had people do some stunningly dumb stuff I don't think would have happened if I'd been in the old crown vic:

- We started out with the girl doing 95 right past me, and then keeping it up as I sat behind her on the interstate for a mile. With an infant in the car. Blowing past every other vehicle on the road, so not even a chance to pretend you didn't know what you were doing. Oh - and for some reason she was actually surprised that I stopped her & wrote her.

- Another guy doing almost three times the limit in a school zone, past the lights and all, again with me in plain view.

- Then sat behind one on the way home one day who was doing 65 in the 40 zone, whipping in and out of traffic, me sitting behind him the whole way in broad daylight. But I should have cut him a break, because apparently being late for work makes that ok... or so he told me.

But, my winner for the week has nothing to do with the car I drive, it's just stupidity in general:

I worked for a bit of overtime last night looking for drunks and such - no luck with a DUI, but I pulled over one truck that was a bit distinctive and that I thought might be impaired.

The driver tells me he doesn't have his license, and no, he doesn't have any id with him, and it's his friend's truck. No, he doesn't know where his friend is right now. Gives me a name and birthdate and all that, even with an address. Swears up and down to all this, even given numerous opportunities to come clean. I even give him time to think while I go back to the truck to "check stuff" and then ask him again.

Because, unfortunately for tonight's contestant - I'm the guy who pulled him over a month and a half ago, and gave him some tickets then - the time he did give me his real name and id. And I remember him, and how he looks - I double check it through my stuff but yep it is the same guy.

Which I of course confirm once I put the cuffs on him, find his wallet in his pants, and he admits to not only lying about it, but to remembering me as well.

So we turned a simple "driving without a license" issue into that plus a using fake id criminal charge - which means he now will be deported along with everything else, since he is here illegally.