The SHOT Show is a wonderment to walk through. You will hear multiple languages from around the world and get to see all the latest and greatest in law enforcement gear (not to mention all the shooting, hunting and outdoor venues if you should wander away from the cop side of the show).
Along with the opportunity to see more guns and gear than you ever knew existed comes the chance to attend the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP).
These classes not only give you an opportunity to rest your legs weary from walking the miles of displays, but they also provide worthwhile learning opportunities. Here’s what I took in from day one of the LEEP seminars.
The Tactical Patrol Officer
I attended the Tactical Patrol Officer class put on by Don Alwes of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA). Despite the ever-present dangers of mass casualty situations, active killer response, large-scale manhunts and acts of terrorism, most departments are woefully short of SWAT members to respond and deal with such situations.
With the knowledge we’ve already gained from incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Mumbai, Aurora and Sandy Hook, the NTOA has started developing a program for officers whose skills fall somewhere between patrol and SWAT. The idea is that officers on the street with a higher level of training beyond basic patrol skills could serve as more effective first responders than the average street cop, while not requiring the time and cost of a full-fledged SWAT cop.
In situations that don’t require the SWAT team or in the intervening minutes until they are on scene and ready, the Tactical Patrol Officer would have the needed training and equipment to fill the gap.
The Tactical Patrol Officer would have additional skills in areas like: tactical pistol and rifle, containment, self and buddy aid, breaching, and less lethal force to name a few. The specifics haven’t been finalized yet, and the NTOA is still looking for input into the concept before rolling out the requirements.
The state of Illinois (along with cities like San Francisco, Phoenix, Los Angles and New York) has already taken steps in this direction. Potentially there could be a three tiered certification — Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced / Master — based on the skills learned.
Don cautioned that the most important step is finding individuals who are willing and able to take the fight to the suspect, stating that it is 10 percent tactics and 90 percent attitude.
For less money and training time than SWAT takes, a department could field more officers with a higher level of training than patrol has, ready to respond to large-scale problems.
Tactical Deployment with High Output Illumination Tools
This class piggy-backed on the concept of the needs for better tactics and training for first responding officers at critical scenes. Bill Murphy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department stressed a team approach to those types of calls, emphasizing that two groups of two officers is more effective and productive than one group of four officers when responding to active shooter/killer calls.
He also analyzed the mindset of officers, stating 30 percent of officers will go towards the sound of gunfire, 40 percent will follow a strong leader into the fight and 30 percent of cops just won’t go. At the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he has found the use of squad tactics to be very beneficial. Moving and communicating when using tactics like bounding overwatch provide better scene safety for officers.
Bill also emphasized the appropriate use of handheld and weapons-mounted lights to improve officer safety in low-light situations. He showed several video examples of LASO utilizing the concept. In a low-light situation, the suspect using the darkness to conceal his position was able to lay down aimed fire at responding officers who were not using any lighting.
In the same scenario, when the officers employed their lights, the suspect would only stick the gun out from behind cover and “spray and pray” for fear of being shot. The lights flashed in the suspect’s face also made it harder for the officers to be precisely located because they were essentially hidden behind their lights.
Law Enforcement State of the Art Aiming Systems
Frank Martello’s years as a SWAT officer, sniper, and trainer were very evident in his presentation. He was a wealth of knowledge regarding the use of sighting systems for pistols, shotguns and rifles. He started the presentation by explaining the inherent weaknesses of iron sighting systems whether they were standard, tritium or fiber optic.
To put it simply, it’s difficult to aim a gun under stress when you are required to look at several different focal planes — front sight, rear sight, target.
He then explained the benefits of optic sights, by first explaining the different types:
1.) Reflex sight: consists of a window with an aiming point project in the viewing window
2.) Magnified optics sight: is the same as a Reflex, with increased power
3.) Dual illumination sight: has two means of illuminating the aiming point, such as tritium and fiber optics
Regardless of which one you choose, the benefit is that the eye only needs to focus on one thing: the target. The illuminated aiming point is superimposed on it. Frank predicts that within 5 years most police officers will have optics on their pistols. The biggest stumbling block now is finding a duty holster that will allow for their carry on a patrol officer’s belt.
In choosing an aiming system for a rifle, shotgun, pistol, or sub-gun, he suggests the following considerations:
- Magnified or Reflex? — There are benefits to both. Magnified optics allow a better view at distance with greater accuracy
- Extreme Reliability — If you’re going to bet your life or someone else’s, this goes without saying
- Variable or Fixed Power — The optics need to fit the weapon and the intended role on the street
- Parallax Free — Since officers can find themselves in just about any position, oftentimes without a good cheek weld on a long gun, the ability to hit wherever the aiming point is in the sighting window is critical
- Waterproof and Shockproof — Because cops drop things, sometimes in water
When all of a department’s weapons have optics, they have a consistent method of aiming, which makes training and applications in the field easier. As Frank said, “If you got the dot, you got the shot.”