Seizing control: Stopping violence against cops, starting with yourself

Let’s face it — an officer who appears unsure and timid most likely has a greater chance of being assaulted


The clichés are abundant. “Cluster killing.” “Active shooters.” “The lone wolf.” “Suicide by cop.” So, so many others. These clichés are catchy and they all attract various authors, articles, and training opinions. But I, for one, am tired of the clichés. I am tired of so many officers getting shot and brutally assaulted as others try and make sense of the violence.

Here is the simple truth: “Evil men roam this earth and evil men do evil things.”

Starched Collars, Academic Studies
I appreciate the recent call by the DoJ to conduct research to identify the reasons why the increase in violence against cops is occurring. The problem is, it will take some time (if not years) to develop and implement. The stone cold truth of what it will take, if we want this violence to stop starts in City Hall. The man in the suit running the city will need to start making those unpopular decisions.  That suit will need a strong back bone and an unwavering commitment to support the concept of law enforcement in order to support his officers (and their police departments) against the trend of cutting budgets, layoffs, staffing shortages, and ignoring training and equipment problems.

When the “suits” in this country make this transition then our police agencies can get the unpopular bullet proof glass in the station lobby, issue the unpopular “assault” rifle (as those suits call them) with every handgun, purchase level III ballistic vests and helmets for every officer, issue a TASER with every badge, and stop cutting the training budgets so every officer can get the proper training.

If these starched collars can pull their heads out of the sand then we can make a serious attempt to reduce the violence against our uniformed men and women.

Another observation that concerns me is that the latest generation grew up watching the popular television series “COPS” and other police shows. It seemed like the 90s glamorized police work. This isn’t necessarily all bad however — a generation of kids grew up watching these cops always winning their battles. But this generation may have volunteered for this job with a clouded perception of an over glamorized profession. In the 70s and 80s men and women took the oath when pay was horrible and it was cool to hate the cops. These men and women volunteered because they truly wanted to fight evil.

Today we have a mix of the two types wearing the badge. Some do it for the glamour and some do it to fight the good fight. The glamour cop — you know who you are, you don’t wear your vest, you avoid training like the plague, you post yourself all over the social networks in uniform, you never volunteer for any specialty assignment because it is more work, you drive slow to calls where you might get hurt as other cops go flying past you to watch your partner’s six — is doing himself (or herself) a disservice, and most importantly endangering other cops. Do us a favor, remove yourself from the Warrior ranks and find a more suitable profession.

Situational Awareness, Command Presence
Whether you’re responding to patrol runs or simply speaking to a citizen, a heightened state of situational awareness can greatly maximize your chances for survival. This alone won’t stop active aggression however — your reaction to an attack plays a key role in the outcome.

When an officer loses the heightened state of situational awareness they are more vulnerable to attack. Simply because making correct tactical decisions when confronted with an assault requires you to process through the OODA Loop. That may only take a fraction of a second, but that may be all your adversary needs to strike first. At a minimum, such a state of mind can contribute to factors which could lead to a violent attack. Let’s face it — an officer who appears unsure and timid most likely has a greater chance of being assaulted.

When you respond to a domestic situation you gather as much information as possible before you arrive, you wait for back up, you grab your baton, check your TASER and enter the home with your hand on your gun. When you speak to the involved parties, you stand in a combat stance, speak with authority, watch your partner with your peripheral vision, and your hand grips the pistol grip and readies to unlock the retention strap in a split second. If you don’t do these things, well, you are the person I was speaking of earlier.

We have programmed ourselves through training to react this way at a domestic call. This type of response is a heightened state of “situational awareness.” When you leave that domestic call you may drive down the street and park in a parking lot to type your report and you then let your heightened state of situational awareness dissipate. Just about that time some dude approaches your cruiser and it appears he needs directions. You roll down the window and ask the guy, “How can I help you?”

Almost every time it’s a non-confrontational conversation. However, you grew up watching those television shows and you never saw a guy pull a gun out of his pocket to murder the unsuspecting, willing to help cop, so you just sit there unprepared for a possible attack and answer the mans questions. That could be your last conversation.

We must maintain a heightened state of situational awareness in all we do when wearing that uniform. When somebody approaches my cruiser to speak with me, my first instinct is to jump out of the car as quickly as possible, if I have enough time. If that’s possible, then I will speak to the individual as a professional. What that individual doesn’t know is that I am in a combat stance, my hand is on my gun and holster ready to draw, and I’m watching his hands and eyes. I’m in a heightened state of situational awareness. If you don’t have time to get out of the cruiser place the car in drive and put your foot on the brake, draw your handgun and place it in your lap, and watch the hands and eyes of the person talking with you constantly because it’s the hands that will harm you.

Not a perfect situation that you’re facing, but so often these predators are ambushing us when we least expect it. That’s what makes those attacks so hard to prevent. These are only two examples of many possible scenarios that could occur on the street.

Don’t get me wrong. This idea of a constant heightened state of situational awareness won’t stop a person from attacking you, but they may think twice about striking if they feel they may lose the fight. Even if they do strike, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re in a better position to respond and that will increase your chances to survive the battle.

No matter if you’re in a restaurant or taking a suspicious person report, this state of heightened situational awareness needs to embody your every move. The military has done extensive research on situational awareness and they train our soldiers to great lengths. It’s pretty obvious if you’re a combat soldier in a war zone you better be dialed in with a great sense of heightened situational awareness or your dead. How does that differ from the everyday duties of the uniformed cop? The recent past has taught us that evil men will attack us in coffee shops, at the front desk of the police lobby, sitting in your cruiser typing a report and every other non threatening task we do an a daily basis.

Accountability
For the past several years the suits have cut the training and equipment budgets to the point of laughable proportions from a cop’s perspective. The problem is they haven’t walked a day in our shoes and beans are beans to them. Mayors, City Managers, and City Councils all talk the talk but behind closed political doors policing in America is run like a business. That may be one of the greatest contributing factors in this equation and I hope these studies include these factors into their million-dollar research. If you agree that we must conduct ourselves tactically like a combat soldier but with a professional response and a courteous smile then the policy makers need to stop running police departments like a commercial business and run it for what it is. The military runs their branches of service like the war machines that they are. They are well equipped, well trained and have great resources.

Leave it to us to walk that Thin Blue line of violence and professional police service.

We are the peacekeepers — we are the warriors who are willing to combat evil men at the expense of our own lives. We don’t do this for glamour or money. It’s hard to verbalize to a sheep the inner calling we feel when we chose this profession. This is why they will grieve with us when an officer is murdered but behind closed doors they are so willing to neglect their duties to provide us with money, equipment, training and other resources.

Remember Reality
No matter how much money or training you throw at this problem of increasing violence against cops, the reality is if an evil man wants to ambush you, he will. He has the greatest advantage at his disposal. He has the element of surprise. Evil men know police are reactive to confrontations. The way to minimize this advantage is our own heightened state of awareness and preparation. Assuming that everybody you come into contact with may be a potential threat can help you recognize an ambush before it occurs.

As time passes and theses studies draw their conclusions more cops will be assaulted and murdered. The Suits will sympathize with our cause as they offer support but behind closed doors they will continue to think of schemes to save money at our expense.

The great articles of fact-finding will be published and the officer’s tactics and decisions will be scrutinized at great lengths. We will be required to be even greater super heroes than that which is already expected of us.

I once sought a legal opinion from an attorney regarding an officer-involved shooting. After months of delay he finally responded with, “It’s taken me a long time to research this so I could get this correct. I want the officers to have the correct answer.”

Although his intentions were noble, my reply was laughter, and then I said, “Funny, you had months to get this right and my officers had seconds.” This is the world we work in and when it costs us our, life the clichés, finger pointing, and studies are abundant.

In the end, when time has passed nothing will have changed except, that the peace keepers will be ready to battle evil on our own terms.

Stay safe.

About the author

Glenn French, a Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 22 years police experience and currently serves as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and Sergeant of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 14 years SWAT experience and served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

He is the author of the award-winning book “Police Tactical Life Saver” which has been named the 2012 Public Safety Writers Association Technical Manual of the year. Glenn is also the President of www.tacticallifesaver.org.

Glenn has instructed basic and advanced SWAT / Tactical officer courses, basic and advanced Sniper courses, Cold Weather / Winter Sniper Operations and Active Shooter Response courses, Tactical Lifesaver Course and others. Sgt French served in the U.S. Army. During his military tenure Sgt French gained valuable experience in C.Q.B., infantry tactics and explosive breaching operations. 

Contact Glenn French.

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