The International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association Annual Conference this year was a whirlwind week of training, connecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. I taught a class called “Fighting with the OODA Loop” — focused on applying John Boyd’s combat strategy to arrest-and-control and firearms tactics — which was well attended and well received.
As a firearms instructor, there is one session I try not to miss, the Deadly Force Expert Panel. Some of the top minds in the profession are selected to lead a four-hour panel discussion. The moderator is Massad Ayoob and the panel included, Dr. Alexis Artwohl, Jeff Chudwin, Ron Borsch, Emmanuel Kapelsohn, John Bostain, John Farnam, Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki, Don Alwes, Kevin Davis, and Chuck Soltys.
The discussion ranged over a wide area of topics — here are a just handful of things that stood out.
1.) Ron Borsch: Remember the Civilians
Ron is considered by most to be one of the, if not the authority, on active killer response, or as he calls them ‘rapid mass murders.’ He started off by telling us the good news: active killer incidents were down in 2013 with only eight incidents compared to 16 in 2012 and 12 in 2011.
In 2012, 10 of the 12 were stopped by law enforcement, with 7 out of 10 being single officer responses. Three out of the 10 were multiple officer responses.
He reminded us that a single-officer response is the quickest and most effective, and that officers and departments need to be training in single officer response tactics.
He also reminded us that historically, two-thirds of these events are stopped by civilians — in most cases, unarmed civilians.
2.) Dr. Alexis Artwohl: PTSD is Treatable and Curable
Author of “Surviving Deadly Force Encounters” and one of the preeminent experts on officer-involved shootings, Dr. Alexis Artwohl offered her opinion on a couple of topics. She warned officers about thinking of themselves as the only “sheepdogs” amongst the sheep.
She referred to the number of active shooter situations that have been stopped by civilians and reminded us to be mindful of our mindset when responding to calls. With the increase in the number of concealed carry permit holders there are more armed civilians who may be on scene by the time we arrive.
She also stated that despite what a lot of people think and say, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has a relatively low occurrence of about 10 percent among law enforcement officers. She cited the psychological evaluations required by departments during the hiring process as one reason for the low occurrence.
She also stated that an officers developing PTSD may be a result of a genetic predisposition. In other words, the officer is just wired by nature towards being affected by PTSD.
She cautioned that the development of PTSD is not an indicator of cowardice or weakness and that we are all subject of physical and psychological limitations imposed by our DNA.
She also emphasized that PTSD is treatable and curable for those affected by it, who choose to seek treatment.
3.) John Bostain: Can You Articulate?
John Bostain — who also presented his class, “Shots Fired, Now What?” to a full house at the conference — emphasized that you ask yourself an important question when dealing with the aftermath of a deadly-force situation.
He used the acronym CYA, which he translates to “Can You Articulate?”
That served as a great reminder for all of us in all of our reports and testimony, not just in deadly force situations.
In a world where “if it’s not written down it didn’t really happen,” thinking about John’s version of CYA is something we should be doing before an incident happens.
We need to have a thorough understanding of the law, of our policies and procedures, and of our training and tactics. Without such deep and detailed knowledge, we’re very likely not going to be able to fully articulate what we saw, what we did, and why we did it.
4.) Emmanuel Kapelsohn: Fewer Unintentional-Discharge Cases
Manny is an attorney, firearms instructor and police advocate. He made several observations related to the types of police involved shooting litigations that he is being involved in. He noted that he is seeing fewer and fewer unintentional-discharge cases.
He attributes that to an increase in awareness and improvements in training. Specifically, officers being aware of those things that can cause an unintentional discharge: falling, grabbing something with your off-hand when carrying a firearm in the other, and a startle response.
He is involved in more cases where officers are shooting at vehicles that are being used as weapons against the police and suggests looking at training and tactics to keep officer safe while still allowing them to do their jobs effectively.
5.) A Handful of Quick “Quotables”
These are just the highlights of the four-hour discussion. When you have great minds like these in the same room for that long a few nuggets of wisdom are bound to be shared. Here are a handful:
• “What comes off the tip of your tongue or the tip of your pen will follow you for the rest of your life.”
• “Use of force is a decision that should have been made before you got the job.”
• “Don’t mistake good cards for brains.”
• “Telling a guy holding a gun to drop the gun — especially when it is pointed at you — does not have a winning history.”
• “You don’t need to be right, you have to be reasonable.”
My Two Cents
During the discussion portion of the session, I was given an opportunity to speak.
In my “Fighting with the OODA Loop” class I asked how many trainers in the room had ever trained how to spot a concealed weapon; about 10 percent of the participants indicated that they had.
I took the same poll of the attendees at the Deadly Force Panel which, I am glad to report, had a much higher percentage which I would expect in a room full of firearms trainers.
As I have written before there seems to be a shortage of training in this vital area of officer safety.