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Limitations of the solo-officer 'dual force' tactic

Part Two: The most obvious disadvantage to solo-officer “dual force” deployments is that humans just don’t perform multiple tasks well at the same time, especially under stress

In part one, the concept of “dual force” was described and loosely defined. Some of the advantages of this tactic were examined within specific situations. To reiterate a point made in part one, this article is not intended to advocate for or denounce against solo-officer “dual force” tactics — only to explore some of the positives and negatives of it. It is up to the individual officer on scene at the time of the event to choose the force option/tactic that is reasonable.

As a field supervisor I have seen some good applications of “dual force” that turned out very well and I have seen some bad applications. Rather than throwing out the baby with the dirty bath water, let us continue to explore the idea while weighing its strengths and weaknesses.

Most officers realize the most obvious disadvantage to solo-officer “dual force” deployments. Human performance limitations do not allow us to perform multiple tasks well at the same time, especially under stress. An officer that is in an excited state may make the incorrect decision on which force option to deploy simply by choosing the wrong hand. This problem can be exacerbated when the force options that are deployed in a “dual force” tactic have similar muscle/body mechanics for their use. An example would be an officer that deploys his pistol and his TASER device at the same time. The officer may be thinking “fire the TASER” but instead accidentally fires the pistol by “squeezing” the wrong hand.

Inter-Limb Interaction is the involuntary contraction of an individual’s hand and finger muscles under stressful conditions (for more on this you can check out this link). There are different situations that can cause an Inter-Limb Interaction including:

1.) Sympathetic Squeeze Response
2.) Startle Response
3.) Loss of Balance Response

Taking the same situation in the previous paragraph, the officer is thinking “fire the TASER” and actually does fire the probes from the TASER device. In this case due to the Inter-Limb Interaction (Sympathetic Squeeze Response), the officer also fires the pistol at the same time.

The downfall to either of these situations can be enormous in the cost of life and liability to the officer and/or agency. Taking the example above again there are at least two outcomes that can be disastrous. If the officer were to shoot a suspect with his pistol without deadly force factors present, the officer may face criminal, civil and administrative sanctions. If the officer were to only fire the TASER when the officer was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, there could be a serious officer safety concern if the TASER was ineffective or the officer fails to hit with both probes with a solid connection.

There are several other analyses to be made depending on the mix and match of force options deployed but due to word count limitations it would be nearly impossible to discuss all the variations in a single article.

As ‘Dirty Harry’ might say, “An officer needs to know his/her own limitations.” In this case, an officer must understand the limitations of the solo-officer “dual force” tactic before using it. One key to knowing and understanding the tactic is practice and examine it through training. Find out which force options may work together and under what circumstances. Another key is to have an understanding of basic human performance limitations. A wise training axiom reads, “It is important to know what you can do, but sometimes it is more important to know what you cannot do.”

There are some training points that are critical to discuss whenever a “dual force” tactic is used or suggested. Here is a short (non-exclusive) list:

The best application of “dual force” involves two officers deploying the different force options. Based on the disadvantages listed just in this article it would be hard to argue this point.
It is not intended to be used as simultaneous draw of two different force options. A different force option should only be considered after some careful thought and consideration. Officers should consider taking a “tactical breath” to regain some forebrain processing before deploying the tactic. Considerations should include:
     o What do I do with the “other” force option already deployed?
     o Can I safely and effectively control the outcome if I accidentally discharge the “wrong” force option?
If the situation calls for a firearm, draw your firearm and concentrate on the imminent deadly threat. Many trainers have reported seeing officers in training and in the field deploying a “less lethal” force option in addition to a deadly force option in order to be “able to try” a less intrusive means of force. Taking thoughts away from the deadly threat could very well lead to the officer being killed or severely injured. This is no time to be thinking “dual force.”

“Dual Force” is a controversial topic with advocates on both sides of the argument. As with most law enforcement tactics, it is hard to give a definite answer to the lasting question of, “Should law enforcement officers be allowed and/or encouraged to use solo-officer ‘dual force’ tactics?”

What are some of your thoughts? Have you used (or observed) a solo-officer “dual force” tactic? How did it work?

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