There has been quite a lot of talk in the comments area beneath a number of recent PoliceOne news articles that specifically point to — or subtly allude to — officers’ situational awareness.
As much as phrases like “check six” and “maintain 360” are repeated over and over again in academy training and squad rooms briefings, things can fall apart quickly when officers are confronted with a rapidly-unfolding, life-and-death encounter on the street.
Sometimes in single-officer situations, circumstances — and the accepted standards of human performance (auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, tachypsychia) — simply make full-360 situational awareness all but impossible.
Even when there is more than one officer involved, we know that contact/cover tactics can disintegrate when the cover officer comes to the aid of a contact officer under sudden attack. Perhaps one of the most-viewed videos in which situational awareness was a hot topic among PoliceOne Members was the video of an attack on a Maryland cop that went viral on the Internet back in early 2012.
Check out the video and then consider some of the training reminders below.
As we have seen in this and other similar videos, things can go bad quickly. Even so, there are some training concepts which — when continually reviewed and reinforced — can mitigate this problem to the highest extent possible.
• Remember that in some situations a witness or “victim” can very quickly become just as much of a threat as the original offender(s) you may be looking for • Whenever you approach pressurized settings, like the scene of a violent gang confrontation or something similar, maintain a high level of situational awareness and be sure your positioning and physical posture are conducive to defending yourself, regardless of who you’re talking to • An interview with a “victim” who suddenly decides things aren’t being handled by the police as he would like them to be can become a fight in an eye-blink • Remain aware of the crowd beside you, around you and behind you and trust your sixth sense if the buzz you’re feeling has the hair on the back of your neck rising • You never know who might decide to pop out and confront you – including the original offender(s) who may be lurking, camouflaged by the chaos
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About the author
This series of columns takes recent situations in the news and uses video footage to start a discussion.