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How cops can avoid an “unprovoked attack” ambush

An ambush of any kind is the most dangerous threat you will ever face on the street – even the strongest and most alert officers are at risk


Up until a few years ago, the FBI broke down police ambush killing category of its Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) statistics into two categories: entrapment/premeditated and unprovoked attacks. Now, the LEOKA ambush numbers are strictly under the entrapment/premeditation category. Unprovoked attacks, which I always labeled as impromptu ambush, are a separate number. In my training I continue to combine the two numbers to make them consistent as part of a long timeline analysis.

Entrapment/premeditated ambush attacks

Entrapment/premeditated ambush attacks are the most difficult to defend against. Let’s face it, if our adversary is organized, a little planning will probably get them one or more kills before responding officers realize the nature of the threat and change response tactics. The bad guys know we tend to respond one at a time as part of a staggered response, as we respond from the four compass points. To counter a well-planned premeditated ambush, or worse yet, one involving multiple shooters, a strong field leader will have to take command by radio and physical presence and STOP more officers from stumbling into the kill zone. With officers down in the kill zone the urge for arriving officers to attempt a rescue will be overwhelming.

Note that I use the term kill zone to describe an ambush attack. When ICS/NIMS became mandatory training, firefighters insisted we drop kill zone in favor of the term hot zone. I suggest we use hot zone for most critical incidents but resurrect the term kill zone for a man-made attack, like an ambush or active shooter event. The threat from a criminal actor is even greater than a hazmat spill, for example. A criminal shooter can change the zone based on our response, chemicals or fire can’t.

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