“Of every 100 men they send me, 10 shouldn’t even be here, 80 of them are nothing but targets, nine of them are real fighters – we are lucky to have them, they make the battle. Ahhh, but the one … one of them is a warrior and he will bring the others home.” — Heraclitus (Greek Philosopher, 500 B.C.)
In the Police Academy movies, the over-gunned buffoon character was Officer Tackleberry. Real world officers who carry extra guns or a “go” bag stuffed with loaded magazines and battlefield medical supplies run the risk of being teasingly nicknamed Tackleberry.
But, competent Tackleberrys are the ones who will make the difference in the threats we face.
The book Building a Better Gunfighter is more than a book. It is a unique accomplishment.
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All Manner of Threats
Today’s threat potential may be a criminal who plans to ambush the Deputy Sheriff who arrested him last week for domestic violence. Still worse, we might face teams of trained terrorist active shooters like those who hit Mumbai, India.
When I heard the news of the Sikh Temple active-shooting event in Oak Creek (Wis.) last August, I contacted my friend there, retired Fire Chief Jerry Hammernick.
Jerry told me his brother, a retired Sergeant from Oak Creek PD, said if he could have picked one officer to end the active shooting that day it would have been Sam Lenda. Officer Lenda, a 32-year veteran of Oak Creek PD carried the nickname “Tackleberry” because of his long-time reputation as a shooter and firearms trainer.
It was Sam Lenda who put the shooter down that day. Providence provided the warrior they needed that day in Oak Creek: The One.
On the Sunday morning of November 29, 2009, Maurice Clemmons walked into a coffee shop where he ambushed and killed four uniformed police officers of the Lakewood (Wash.) Police Department.
On the second night after the Lakewood killing, Clemmons and his accomplices staged a second ambush, leaving a stolen car running along a Seattle street. Seattle PD officer Ben Kelly spotted the stolen car and the suspicious pedestrian who was approaching his car from behind.
Ben instantly recognized Clemmons and, when the killer refused commands and reached for his waistband, Kelly shot and killed the would-be ambusher. In an email conversation a few days later with Ben Kelly’s Sergeant, the Sergeant told me if he could have chosen the member of his squad to confront Clemmons that night, it would have been Ben Kelly. Providence provided the warrior they needed that night in Seattle: The One.
Let ‘em Call You Tackleberry
In my “Building a Better Gunfighter” seminar, I discuss the need for such standout warriors in modern law enforcement, how to develop the requisite skills yourself, and how to replicate those skills in those you train. I recently rolled out a new leadership seminar I call “Led by a Lion,” which carries on the philosophy of “The One,” stressing the leadership skills you need to assemble and lead teams of officers into today and tomorrow’s threats.
Let ‘em call you Tackleberry if they like, because when the ___ hits the fan, you are The One they’ll look to for help!
Some of the proudest days of my career were spent as a Patrol Deputy in sparsely populated Hot Springs County, Wyoming. Not counting the Sheriff, who spent most of his time in the office, our total patrol staff was... three.
The Undersheriff pulled a regular patrol shift, along with a fellow Deputy Sheriff and me. What made those days so much fun was that all of us were The One.
We were all shooters. We all packed extra ammo onboard, as well as a supply of food, water purification, and other survival gear.
We were each physically and mentally prepared to handle whatever came our way from a gunfight to winter wilderness survival. Like all cops, we had our day-to-day disagreements, but when the fan got messy, I’ve never worked with a tougher, more locked-and-loaded team.
I hope you work the street/road with a crew as good as I had with our “Three Amigos.” The Undersheriff has crossed over to the other side now, and I trust the hunting there is good. The other deputy and I are starting to show the wear and tear of some hard miles, me much more than him.
Be The One in your outfit. Train hard. Spend your own money for gear and schools if you must. Be aggressive on the street. Make the contacts and sniff out the activity. Be the first there with the most when your fellow officers need help: The most skill, the most stuff, and the most positive can-do attitude.
It’ll be the best professional days of your life, whether you are part of a team of three or three thousand!
About the author
Dick Fairburn has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming, working patrol, investigations and administrative assignments. Dick has also served as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst and as the Section Chief of a major academy's Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident training program. He has a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration from Western Illinois University and was the Valedictorian of his recruit class at the Illinois State Police Academy. He has published more than 100 feature articles and two books: Police Rifles and Building a Better Gunfighter.