While running a recent in-service training session for our department, my partner and I conducted scenario training involving a disorderly man creating a disturbance in a garage setting. All dispatched officers were given the same information and sent to investigate. Our goals for this exercise were proper use of cover, contact-cover and communication. When officers investigated the call, they found a man banging on an interior door with a large club, while holding a revolver which was exposed to their vantage point. The man was focused away from the officers and would not respond until he heard commands. The majority of the trainees took advantage of cover and communicated with each other as to their intent prior to engaging the disorderly subject. Up to this point, the majority of the officers performed as expected–they began to give commands to the armed subject from a position of cover. First, they had the man drop the gun, to which he complied. Then he was ordered to drop the club, which he did. However, unknown to the officers, the subject had another firearm in his waist, hidden from their view. As they gave orders to exit the garage, the subject would draw and fire his concealed weapon, if presented with a target.
An interesting phenomenon occurred in a majority of these training exercises. As the subject complied with orders, the officer(s) would expose more and more of their heads and bodies to him. This left more than a few officers with marking rounds on their heads or upper bodies. I believe this phenomenon can be attributed to the officers relaxing as the subject complied with their orders. The trainees believed that the subject was being compliant, as are most people when confronted by law enforcement officers. As my training partner and I sat down to develop this particular scenario, we never anticipated that officers would expose so much of themselves after the subject complied. We knew that there was the possibility of complacency in police work, but never thought it would happen so quickly during a single scenario or incident. If this phenomenon happened in our 140-person department, I am sure it can happen in any agency to any officer.
An encounter with a subject is not over until the person is in custody and secured. Make sure that your officers are vigilant when dealing with anyone possessing a firearm, because there is always the possibility of secreted weapons or the baiting of a trap. Exercise caution whenever dealing with armed subjects, especially if they are displaying any type of violent or aggressive behavior. Officers should deal with subjects from a position of cover and bring the person back to them into an area that is secure. Never approach a subject on their ground. Remember, this ground has not been checked or cleared. Make them walk backward to your voice. This will give you extra seconds to react, should an assault be launched. If their hands are not visible, have the subject expose them on your terms, one at a time while facing away from you. Hopefully, my department’s officers learned the lesson via the marking cartridge, but I would rather it happen in training than on the street.
About the Author
Peter Assenmacher is an instructor for Firearms, EVOC, Tactics, Handcuffing, TASER, and ASP Baton in Lower Merion Township, (Penn) (firstname.lastname@example.org)