I’ve received dozens of e-mails lately — from all points on the compass — containing a variety of comments about two recent incidents where it may appear there has been failure of a TASER to stop an individual. In fact, in both of these instances, the simple truth is the tool didn’t get deployed effectively and just didn’t stop the intended target. Before I go any further, you should check out the two videos in the sidebar to the right. Go ahead, click and watch — I’ll wait here for a few minutes.
This is neither a condemnation of the officers involved nor the tool used, but proof that our job is done under great stress and usually with great ambiguity. Sometimes we are fighting for our lives and sometimes we are simply to control a subject who just wants to escape. The problem is, we never know the ending of the story until the incident is over!
That ambiguity makes every contact a potentially deadly one. This is why we constantly reinforce in the Street Survival Seminar that the anticipatory mindset an essential mental state. While in the Centennial Bridge incident the violent assailant is ultimately killed, and in the other incident the subject merely runs away, none of the officers involved were certain about the threat they faced until the incident unfolded. Just like you during almost every citizen contact you make!
The common issues faced in both incidents are obvious: a subject acting strangely, a camera’s eye observing the officers’ actions, verbal commands yielding mixed results, and in the end, both suspects applying a spontaneous surge of force — one with aggression aimed at the officer, the other aimed at flight. You can easily add a multitude of other ambiguities faced by the officers such as citizens present, and the locations themselves which present their own issues that at some level must be considered by the officers.
For the average citizen watching these events, it is a good lesson on the threats and complexity of use of force incidents that our law enforcement officers face at every turn. For you, these incidents are great chances to do a series of crisis rehearsals as you prepare you for how you would handle similar situations. Your homework assignment is to watch each incident and visualize how you would have reacted.
In reviewing these videos one of our instructors remarked how this was an example similar to the movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” when Eli Wallach remarks after gunning down a would-be killer, “If you’re going to shoot, shoot, don’t talk!” We can apply that to all our use of force options, when it’s time to act, act! And use overwhelming force to win quickly when we are overcoming resistance. We never want to look like a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” during a physical confrontation. Winning is the only rule, and we use reasonable force overwhelmingly, which reduces risk to the subject as well as the officer.
If you carry a stun gun on your duty belt, remember that while it is simple to use and has a high efficacy rate, we all still must do our “reps.” Mental reps are as effective as physical ones, so regularly visualize yourself in these types of incidents. Picture a subject behaving inexplicably, since EDP’s don’t normally carry signs saying “watch out for me.” Imagine the presence of witnesses and cameras, and think about the difficulty in determining the level of force due to the ambiguous cues being given by the subject. And always finish with you winning.
For all you Supervisors and Commanders, these videos provide a great in-service training opportunity to reinforce your department’s use of force policies and help your officers, deputies, agents, and investigators reduce their reaction time. Use these to instill confidence in your officers’ responses even though the crisis they face may be a completely novel and totally different event. This reduces the agency’s liability and even more importantly, the legal and physical liability to our brothers and sisters who have to face these situations every day!