Gizmos, widgets, and real equipment
The other day while packing up from a great hunting trip I realized a large amount of the cool stuff I had been buying over the last year or so to make killing deer and antelope easier had remained in camp while the same old stuff I had used for decades made the hunt? The truth is that most of the new items were ancillary and did not replace older pieces of equipment that had served well in the field. This principle holds true in the law enforcement community as well. If some gizmo looks cool, but replaces nothing on your belt and requires you to change the way you do your job, you need to give a great of thought before getting it.
The truth is, many agencies refuse officers attempts to create "Batbelts" because of the lack of control in the training with unique equipment and the fact it may alter the way departmentally approved and trained equipment is worn or used. Officers have died trying to draw weapons from holsters whose attributes were altered because of a poorly placed baton or flashlight holder. Even if some new, slick, cool, fancy, polymer, science fiction looking piece of equipment is allowed to be carried on your belt you have to decide if it truly adds value to your belt...does it help you win? If it does, than train, train, train until it becomes automatic and you must train to recognize when the instrument is to be drawn...the proper context. In Risk Management this is called "unconscious competence" and is the level to which you should train with anything your life depends on.
Science is telling us bad guys point and click their guns and tend to hit heads without any formal training, they don't put stuff on their weapons, they don't have super fancy lights or widgets they just have the barebones bad guy attitude and equipment and now the FBI says in studying the career criminal they shoot more times a year than we do! The fact that 2007 has been such a terrible year for law enforcement deaths should have us turning to the issues of training that can give us the edge over our adversaries: assailants and accidents.
Before you put any new equipment on your belt, body, or weapon ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does this new item replace an essential old item? If it does train like you life depends on it since it might and eliminate the old item.
2. Does this item change the way you use other tools? Does is effect the draw or use of the other items?
3. If this piece of equipment is redundant to something you already use without thought or training, in other words, unconsciously, but aren't going to remove; then think long and hard about getting it.
4. What do the practicing police trainers say about the new toy you want? Selling something is a great skill and cops love anything that gives us an edge, but does this new gizmo give you and edge for the kind of work you do. Something a Tactical Officer might use regularly could get and patrol officer injured or killed since they work alone, don't train to the level of the Tac Officer, and often in different environments that don't allow the same type of coordinated effort at Tactical Team would work in.
5. Don't attach something to your firearm until you know what advantage it gives you, how it will change your weapon's weight and balance, change its draw, or require you to alter your visual patterns. External changes however minor can make a big difference!
6. Finally, KISS is still the principle to bet your life on...not more "things" but better skills.
Often, the answer to getting yourself the advantage over an assailant is the same one your Little League or softball coach gave you when you were a child: "practice like you want to play!" We have reached an era of wonderfully effect but specific equipment that can make a tactical difference in the right environment, but the patrol officer, deputy and trooper still need a basic tool belt and high level of confidence, faith in their skill, and belief in their mission to give them the edge!
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