An officer is searching a warehouse for a burglary suspect after an alarm call to the business. The officer has his pistol drawn and held at a low ready position. As the officer wedges a corner he makes visual contact with the suspect about 30 feet away. The suspect does not appear to be armed but the officer rightfully feels that he should stay “on gun” while giving the suspect verbal commands to get on the floor. The suspect fails to obey the officer’s orders and instead walks directly and deliberately at the officer with his empty hands raised. The suspect yells at the officer, “I’m going to kick your ass!”
The officer does not feel it is reasonably justifiable to shoot the suspect at that moment based on the totality of the facts known to him. He perceives the suspect’s most likely attack to be a physical assault and wants to transition to a non-deadly force option (TASER device, OC spray, impact weapon).
The suspect has not been completely cleared for weapons at this moment and could easily draw a concealed firearm that was undetected by the visual search of the officer. For this reason, the officer does not feel comfortable in holstering his firearm and putting himself behind the time-reaction curve.
There is no singular and absolute correct answer in this scenario. In this situation there are several reasonable and tactically sound options for the officer. Some of the solutions however will be better than others.
The Dual Force Tactic
In this situation, the officer may choose to deploy a tactic known as “dual force.” The concept of “dual force” is not a new tactic in law enforcement. The idea is to have two different types of force options ready to immediately deploy against a suspect. The actions of the suspect will determine which force option is to be deployed. In the above described scenario, if the suspect were to draw a previously undetected firearm it would be most correct to respond with deadly force. If the suspect were to continue his advance with his empty hands raised while making verbal threats it would be most reasonable to use a non-deadly force option to stop him.
This article is not intended to advocate for or denounce against “dual force” tactics, only to explore some of the positives and negatives of it. It is up to the individual officer on scene at the time of the event to choose the force option/tactic that is reasonable. I am commonly asked about my feelings regarding “dual force.” I reply that while the best application of “dual force” involves two officers deploying the different force options, there are some rare situations that may call for a solo officer to use the tactic.
It is generally agreed upon that there is no concern with two officers deploying a “dual force” tactic if the situation calls for it. Indeed, many agencies train their officers to use tactical communications between officers so that different force response options are immediately available. The training issue comes to into focus when a solo officer uses the tactic. Solo officer “dual force” deployment will be the focus of the remainder of this article.
Examples for Consideration
The advantage to any “dual force” application is the availability of different force option choices depending on the actions of the suspect. The choices might be based on the intrusiveness of the force option (deadly force v. non-deadly force) or tactical consideration (distance). An example (not saying this is the right answer) based on intrusiveness might be an officer that draws his firearm initially in response to a suspect about 40 feet away slowly walking towards him with an edged weapon. The officer is unable to retreat or to increase the distance from the suspect.
Just as the officer is preparing to shoot, the suspect suddenly and completely stops his approach at about 20 feet and blankly stares at the officer but does not drop the weapon. The officer does not holster his firearm because the suspect could suddenly change the pace of the attack requiring the officer to have to shoot quickly but makes a conscious decision to lower the muzzle away from the suspect. The officer draws his TASER device with his non-gun hand, and deploys probes immediately dropping the suspect without having to use deadly force.
Another example (again, not saying this is the right answer) of a “dual force” tactic based on a tactical consideration might be an officer that is confronted by an unarmed suspect wanting to physically assault the officer. The suspect is about equal in size and strength to the officer and is about 10-12 feet. The suspect makes his intentions known by saying, “I’m going to knock you out.” The suspect clinches his fists and begins to walk towards the officer.
The officer draws her baton with her right hand in preparation for the attack. The suspect notices the baton and refuses to close the distance but continues to challenge the officer at a distance that would be ineffective for baton strikes. The officer draws her OC spray with her left hand and applies a direct hit to the suspect’s face while moving on an angle. The suspect is temporarily blinded by the OC Spray but charges in the direction of the officer. A second application of OC spray would be impractical since the first application scored a direct hit. While moving off-line, the officer strikes the suspect with the baton causing him to fall to the ground and submit.
If all goes well — and there are several things that can affect that “if” — the officer in either situation might be heralded as a hero and/or a great tactician. In part two we will explore some of the disadvantages of “dual force” and look at training considerations.