I recently visited with the instructors and attendees at a Force Options Instructor Course being held at about an hour away from my San Francisco office. One of the instructors — Officer Ian Cooley of the San Jose Police Department — passed along fodder for about 10 PoliceOne columns in the span of about a half hour.
In sum, Cooley uses tactical concepts and principles — in conjunction with an understanding of the human brain’s performance limitations and survival stress reactions — and a concept he calls ‘pros and cons’ as the bases of his thought process. That’s a heavy-duty troika.
For me, one of the key takeaways from Cooley’s instruction the other day was an acronym you can apply to myriad situations you encounter on patrol.
CCDAE: An Acronym for Officer Safety
“A little list of tactical principles I have is cover, concealment, distance, angles, and escape routes,” Cooley said. “You can apply those in any situation. Whether you’re a police officer or in the military, you can’t argue with those concepts.”
Cooley is absolutely right. This is not news. These five elements are critical to officer safety and are taught in one form or another pretty much everywhere. They bear repetition and contemplation:
• Escape Routes
Cooley explained how using those basic tactical principles in combination can help prevent a violent encounter — and subsequent use of force — from ever even happening.
“Mr. Miyagi asked, ‘How do you avoid a punch?,” Cooley offered. “‘Don’t be there, Daniel San.’ Well, there are plenty of situations where certain things aren’t going to happen simply because I’m not going to be there,” Cooley said.
“I’m going to solve this problem from distance, and I’m going to have some cover between me and the subject. I’m going to think about escape routes — both for me to seek a better position and to eliminate the suspect’s ability to escape. By using good, basic concepts and tactics, we’re able to avoid a lot of things.”
Just using distance alone in a contact, you take away the confidence of the bad guy — a bad guy is far more likely to try to attack as the distance between you decreases. Start putting together various elements of that acronym, and you’re vastly increasing your position of advantage.
Fasten your seatbelts, my friends, because here’s where we start removing car doors from their hinges.
Applying CCDAE to the Traffic Stop
“On a car stop, I pull everybody out of the car. I don’t walk up on any car, because I’d have no tactical advantage at all. None! I don’t care if I walk up on the driver’s side or the passenger’s side. What tactical advantage do I have?”
Cooley walked out into the open space at the center of the U-shaped formation of classroom tables and pantomimed such an approach — his hand on his hip as if on the grip of his gun, snaking his shoulders and neck to peer into that little triangular window by the rear pillar, or through the rear passenger windows.
“Doing this — using this little side thing — what tactical advantage do I have? If there’s a one-percent-er in that car who wants to get it on, he’s going to dictate how that goes. I’m too close. Action beats reaction. He’s going to act first and my brain is going to have to catch up. Three quarters of a second to identify a stimulus, another three quarters of a second to begin to react.”
Applying CCDAE to the car stop, he explained, you’d take position behind your squad, and call the subject(s) out of their vehicle.
Cooley then went back to the podium, got behind it and said, “I don’t want to be up in the grill of a guy who wants to shoot me. I use my cover, my concealment, my distance, my angles, and my escape routes.”
To drive the point home — and probably for a few laughs — Cooley then took an extremely nonchalant stance. He plopped his forearms on the podium, pantomiming a gun in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Gesturing the puff of that cigarette, Cooley said, ”If he wants take a shot at me from fifty feet away, let’s do it. I’m trained. I know I can shoot pretty decently. I’ve got cover, I’ve got distance. I can see his angles and escape routes...”
Now, I try to never use the word never, and always avoid the word always, but the abovementioned strategy for traffic stops seems pretty darned sound to me. Without doubt, though, it’s a tool for the kit. Hooah?
Problem Finders, Not Problem Solvers
Something Cooley frequently says in his classes is that “tactics and techniques are tools used within the parameters of the tactical concepts and principles.”
He added, “Use the tactics and techniques you like that work for you. There is no ‘one way,’ but remember, if you create a tactic to solve a problem, you may create a new problem. There are pros and cons to every decision — just understand what your problems are and what you are willing to risk. I want to encourage solving issues before they happen if possible, it’s better to anticipate and be a problem finder prior to any potential incident, as opposed to a reaction-based problem solver.”
Mull that stuff over a bit. Talk about it with the other officers on your shift. Consider how you can use CCDAE on just about any call you get. Add your thoughts in the comments area below. And above all else, stay safe out there my brothers and sisters.