Ambush: Don’t Be A Target

Shots fired! Officer down! We’re taking rounds from somewhere, but we don’t know where! It’s a set up. Take cover! Send help. Now!

Ambush. It’s a nightmare scenario for police officers, and it’s a nightmare that’s difficult to predict. It’s also a nightmare that’s nearly impossible to avoid, because when people call and say they’re in trouble, well, the police have to respond. It’s what they do, and the bad guys know this and use it to their advantage.

However, there are some things officers can do to protect themselves. Like assessing all situations before plowing in head first. But that’s just plain old common sense. The best avenue for safety is to think like the bad guys. Be creative. How would a crook set up an ambush? What are some scenarios that would lure a police officer into the spider’s lair?

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Well, this should all come as second nature for a cop. After all, police officers ambush bad guys all the time, and they’re quite good at it, too. But, most officers probably never considered that ambush is one of their best tactics.

Let’s compare a crook’s ambush plan to a police officer’s plan of attack when arresting a dangerous suspect. Any similarities?

1. Good guys –  Police officers gather intelligence on the suspect before moving in.

Bad guys – Study the habits of their police officer target before making a move.

2. Good guys – Before attempting to arrest a dangerous suspect try to get him alone, away from partners.

Bad guys – Before attempting to kill a highly-skilled police officer try to get him alone, away from his partners.

3. Good guy – When making the arrest always be in charge. Go! Go! Go! Stay on the offensive.

Bad guy – Don’t wait for the target to make a move. Be aggressive. Go! Go! Go!

4. Good guy –  Get the suspect on your turf and terms. Maintain control of arrest/take down location.

Bad guy – Get the cop off balance. Take him out of his element. Call 911 and report a crime in a deserted area. Maintain control of kill zone.

5. Good guy – Always find and use cover. Stay protected.

Bad guy – Stay hidden. Never expose your location.

6. Good guy – When the time is right go with all your might. Take ’em down fast and hard.

Bad guy – Cut him no slack. Take him out, fast.

So, you see, a cop’s arrest planning and execution is quite similar to a crook’s planning and execution of an ambush. Cops should definitely use this “inside” knowledge to help protect themselves against an attack.

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What’s the best defense against an ambush?

1. Always assume that someone could be waiting to ambush you. Don’t take a risk to save time, or because it seems foolish to take an extra precaution. Being teased by fellow officers is much more appealing than having your kids grow up with only memories of a parent.

2. Habits are costly. Never stick to a routine. Change the route you to take to work/home. Don’t eat at the same restaurant every day. Don’t sit in the same booth. Don’t stop at the same coffee shop on the way to work each morning. Don’t jog the same path after work.

And never, ever sit with your back to the door. Always, always, always sit where you can see all entrances and exits. If possible, have a quick look at everyone who enters. Note their body language and demeanor.

3. Don’t enter locations/situations with only one way out. Always have a retreat strategy and plenty of backup.

4. Look for things and places you can use for cover BEFORE you need it.

5. Go with your gut. If that extra cop sense tells you not to go, then don’t. Wait for back up. A cop’s instinct is usually on the money, so believe in it. Trust your gut and trust your training!

Finally, it’s not your job to be a hero. Your duty is to protect the public. Besides, a dead hero is never anything more than, well, dead.

Let’s see how well you do with a common scenario that officers often encounter. Good luck, and remember the tips above.

Scenario:

The call is at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. The caller, a Mrs. Munster, reported that her husband has been feeling a little green with jealousy and has threatened her a gun several times during the past few days. In fact, he’s waving one around right now. She tells the dispatcher to please hurry before he kills somebody.

Officers respond. A neighbor meets them at the curb, telling them she heard lots of screaming, yelling, glass breaking, and what she thought was a gunshot. The patrol cops thank the neighbor and ask her to go home where she’ll be safe. They knock on the door. Ms. Lilly Munster answers (she has a black eye) and says her gun-waving husband is now calm and is in the bedroom watching his favorite television show, COPS. She says everything is okay and then invites them inside to have a look. But she seems nervous. Very nervous.

What should the officers do? Immediately go inside to speak with Mr. Munster? Wait for back up and then storm the house? Order Mr. Munster outside? What about Mrs. Munster? What happens to her?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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*Obviously, officers cannot predict and/or prevent every bad situation. But using caution, training, and common sense are crucial elements of living to see another day.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Las Vegas Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, who were killed by ambush this week as they were inside a restaurant eating lunch.

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The 41st Police Academy Graduates: Another Officer In The Family

Graduation from a police academy is a moment in life that is forever ingrained into an officer’s mind. The event marks the end of a grueling period of study and intense physical training. And, it’s the beginning of an exciting and rewarding career. For many, that career is the dream of a lifetime.

Last week, Denene and I had the pleasure of attending a police academy graduation in Northeast North Carolina. And to make the event even more special for us, our nephew was one of the graduating cadets.

You’ve all heard me preach about the differences in law enforcement agencies and procedures throughout the country. And, well, police academies and their procedures and rules also differ throughout the country. North Carolina is no exception. In the Tar Heel state, most police officers receive their academy training in community college public safety programs, such as the program where our very own Writers’ Police Academy takes place.

In the North Carolina system, officer-candidates pay their own way, registering for and attending, a college Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program, and many recruits do this before they have a job with a police agency. They do so hoping a chief or sheriff will recognize their abilities and hire them, and many do. Our nephew is great example of how this works. A sheriff hired him when he was halfway through the academy training, which also meant his new boss picked up the tab for his training, and he began paying his new employee a salary while he finished the academy.

In other states, officers are hired by a department and are then sent to the training academy where they’ll receive the required certification to work as a police officer. By the way, a sheriff may appoint deputy sheriffs who can work, including making lawful arrests, for up to one year before attending any training whatsoever.

Anyway, back to the nephew’s graduation…

The 41st Academy, consisting of several jurisdictions, began as a class of 21, but only 5 made the cut. That’s right, 16 cadets didn’t make it to the end, dropping out for various reasons—failed academically, couldn’t take the pressure, couldn’t handle the physical training, failed the driving or firearms testing, etc. As a result, as with all police academies, the 41st was left with the best of the best.

Each police academy class elects a class president. Deputy Phillip Massey (far left) was the president of this academy class (Deputy Massey is also our nephew). It is the job of the class president to keep morale high and to motivate his/her fellow cadets.

The formal ceremony began with an honor guard’s presentation of the colors (state and U.S. flags).

Waiting to march in. By the way, Deputy Massey was represented by four generations of family members—his parents and sister, his grandmother, uncles and aunt, and his 104-year-old great grandmother, were all seated in the audience.

Receiving the certificate from academy officials (BLET coordinator, Dean, President, and academy staff). Awards were also presented for top driver, top shooter, and highest academic achievement. The achievement awards brought back fond memories. I was top shooter in my academy class (I won’t tell the score but it was somewhere between 98 and 100), and I graduated with a GPA of 99.63. Sounds like a great average but even with that score I wound up third academically, out of a class of dozens.

After speeches and words of encouragement, the ceremony ended with the retrieval of the colors…

…and with five brand new, certified police officers ready to hit the streets.

The four deputy sheriffs and one city police officer began their four month field training program last Monday.

Deputy Massey received the Top Driver Award and the “class president” certificate.

The second graduation was over, Denene and I started in on Deputy Nephew…”Always wear your vest…Don’t take any chances…Don’t trust anyone…Be Careful…Stay alert…” Phillip rolled his eyes and politely smiled as we made our way through the been-there, done-that checklist, and I understood as only another cop could.

Anyway, congratulations 41st, and stay safe guys.

*A note to our grandson…don’t get any ideas. The world also needs plumbers, carpenters, doctors, teachers, and writers—hey, that’s a great idea. Writing about cops and robbers is much safer…

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The First Cut Is The Deepest: Stabbings Are Not Fun

There’s a common sentiment among cops and other people whose business sometimes forces them to “place their hands” on another person. And that opinion is generally that they’d rather be shot than stabbed or cut. I, too, agree.

You see, bullet wounds are normally quick, and they’re inflicted from a bit distance, whereas  wounds caused by edged weapons are sometimes prolonged by an attacker’s repeated strikes. And, the attacker is always close enough for the victim’s senses to become involved, making the experience very personal.

When a victim is stabbed, they often feel the blade as it first punctures the skin. And, since I’ve been stabbed a couple of times, I can relate. You know the sensation you experience when opening a package of meat (chicken, hamburger, etc.)—the “pop” that occurs when the material first yields to the pressure that’s used to tear the plastic wrap? Yep, that’s sort of what it feels like.

And then there’s the interaction with the attacker. He’s often close enough that his victims are able to detect his personal odors, such the lingering smells of cologne, shampoo, soap, his breath (onions, tuna, stale beer, etc.). He may grunt as he stabs and slashes at the victim. He may even talk or mumble to his prey as he inflicts the wounds.

A stabbing victim’s natural reaction is to hold up their hands, attempting to block the incoming blade. That’s why victims of edged weapon attacks are often found with wounds (defensive wounds) on their palms and forearms.

Civilian stabbing victims (those people who are untrained in defensive tactics) often give up after receiving a couple of wounds. Cops and people trained in martial arts, or even street fighters, probably will not. In fact, their survival training would most likely kick in, therefore, they’d fight even harder at that point. That’s if they even realize that they’d been wounded. In fact, the will to live and to do the job that they’re trained to do is what keeps many officers alive.

I was once dispatched to a bar where the owner called to say that two bikers were fighting and had pretty-much wrecked his establishment. Once inside, it was clear that one of the behemoths was getting the best of his opponent. So, dummy me, I grabbed the one who was winning the fight. As I did, he pulled out a knife and lashed out at me. Long story short, as I was handcuffing him—he was face down on the hardwood floor at that point—I saw quite a bit of blood spattered all around him. I figured he’d fallen on his knife, so I helped him to his feet (bouncers had the other guy under control), called for EMS, and then begin to search for his wound(s). That’s when someone in the crowd pointed out that it was I who was dripping blood, and lots of it, too.

Apparently, as I reached for and took control of his knife hand, the biker had slashed my right palm, from the tip of my thumb to the middle of my little finger. And the cut was to the bone. In fact, the flesh of my middle finger could be pulled over the tip of the bone at the end of the digit, like a small glove. I never felt it. Well, that is, I never felt it until I saw it. Then it hurt like all get out.

It was the heat of the moment, the will to survive, and the training I’d received, both in the police academy and during the many years of martial arts, that kept me fighting to arrest the thug. But that’s not an isolated incident. That’s what cops do. Many have been wounded far worse than I was, and they continued fight until either the job was done, or until they could no longer go on.

So, when writing your story about shootouts, car chases, and explosives, remember, it’s the edged weapon that make most cops cringe. However, they’ll still dive into a pile of fighting bad guys to do their job. That’s why they’re a “cut” above the rest…

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FATS Training At The Police Academy

Show me your hands!

Drop the gun!

Drop the knife!

Get out of the car, now!

The scenes were intense as experienced police officers from the Triad area of North Carolina gathered together to stop scores of gun and knife-wielding bad guys. The officers were forced to use whatever cover they could find during a few pretty chilling shootouts. In one instance, a deputy sheriff was shot by two armed suspects and the lone backup officer was forced to shoot it out with the desperate cop killers.

Later, crazed gunmen entered a high school and began shooting random victims. Three officers entered the school and confronted the shooters. The actions of those officers saved the lives of numerous teenagers.

Actually, the lives of many innocent people were spared during this day-long mandatory training, because officers faced with several potentially deadly scenarios showed incredible skills, knowledge, and restraint. And that’s what FATS training is designed to do, to teach officers when, and when not, to use deadly force.

All police officers are required to attend regular in-service training to maintain their certification as officers. Last Thursday, I attended officer in-service training at the public safety building on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC). The training consisted of several classes, but I specifically focused on the Firearms Training Simulator (FATS), since that’s one of the workshops we’re offering at the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), in September. In fact, the WPA is going to be held at GTCC, and this was the actual room and equipment we’ll be using.

So, come on in, load your weapons, and prepare for the worst.

During the WPA FATS training, attendees will be assigned a partner and together you’ll be expected to do what it takes to end each of the highly charged scenarios. Suspects may or may not comply with your commands. It’s up to you and your partner to see that they do. Remember, the bad guys are criminals and will do what it takes to escape. Many of them are armed, and some of them will shoot at you!

A suspect fires at the responding officer.

FATS Instructor Jerry Cooper

The Writers’ Police Academy FATS class will be taught by certified instructor Jerry Cooper. Remember, the Writers’ Police Academy is a realistic police academy experience designed to give writers an inside look at actual police training. This is not a typical writers conference.

We will be using real Sig Sauers and Glocks for the FATS training. The weapons have been modified for use with the FATS system. We’ll also be utilizing pepperspray and flashlights (night scenarios) that have been specially designed to work with FATS.

Officers are constantly reminded of their use of force options, even during the live training scenarios.

An officer’s chance of survival during a firefight is 95% if he uses some sort of cover.

When the threat level de-escalates, so must an officer’s level of force. For example, officers may not shoot a fleeing felon. The threat diminished when the suspect chose to run. Instructor Jerry Cooper reminds officers to use non-lethal weapons when appropriate. In this instance, he’s indicating an expandable baton.

A good old-fashioned knee strike may be all that’s needed to bring a combative suspect under control.

Officers are cautioned about sympathetic gun fire—when one officer fires, everyone shoots as a reaction.

A suspect dropped his gun, but was still non-compliant and extremely combative. This officer holstered his firearm and switched to the non-lethal Taser, an appropriate move.

FATS training is realistic and can be very intense, but it’s also a lot of fun. It is our hope that each attendee of the Writer’s Police Academy will leave the event with a better understanding of what it’s like to spend the day as a police officer. This event is designed to make you a part of the law enforcement world, even if it’s only for a weekend. There’s no other experience like this, anywhere. It’s like Disneyland for writers. See you there!

September 24-26, 2010

Guilford Technical Community College

Jamestown, N.C.

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

* Don’t forget to stop by our Facebook page for a peek at the author of the day. It could be you!

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