Legal Law

Does your training reflect reality?

I was browsing through my rather impressive library recently when I realized that my literary tastes are a bit…dark. I wish I was talking about darkness, like in vampires or medieval times or even your basic murder mystery. No, I mean I have books on ancient martial arts, terrorism, firearms, police officer survival, edged weapons, stalking and rape prevention, etc. Then, of course, I have the weird doomsday thrillers. If my house was ever searched, I’m sure I’d end up on the Department of Homeland Security’s watch list. I can refer to volumes on how to make improvised explosives, how to launder money, and even how to choose an armored car to protect the family in a violent world. You might think I’m a bit paranoid at first glance, but not exactly…

Since the early 1980’s I have been a police instructor tasked with training officers on how to survive on a dangerous job using dangerous tools. Officer survival has become an obsession of mine and I decided early on that the best way to pass on this knowledge was to actually have the knowledge. All cops have seen their share of violence and danger. We’ve all witnessed horrific crime scenes and long ago stopped shaking our heads in amazement that people could treat others with such bizarre and creative forms of mayhem. I enrolled in numerous armed and unarmed response classes and became an instructor in too many programs to list here.

A few years ago, I put together some thoughts on what I thought were the personal protection skills needed to help police and civilians survive. It was simply listed in three categories: Awareness, Avoidance, and Defense. I believed then, and still do to some extent, that if you were in that ‘orange’ condition, you could anticipate most dangers and avoid them. If not, there were some basic things that could be taught, bought, or supplied to help protect us. It never ceases to amaze me how crime and violence always manage to evolve, keeping us (good and protective) out of balance. Just when you think carrying a gun with you offers a great measure of security, a zealot intentionally flies a plane into a building. Just when you think your martial arts training dollars were a good investment, we find ourselves in a world of mutants who don’t respond to pain the way they’re supposed to. I won’t even get into suicide bombers at this point in my comments. So where are we headed with our survival training today?

At one point in my police career, I was a member of our SWAT team. We trained for every conceivable scenario we could think of. We generally learned some lessons from the failures and successes of other agencies. We never really let ourselves down, because we were well trained, you see. If we could envision a mission, we would purchase the necessary equipment and seek training. We became a paramilitary team that could solve most problems with firepower, skilled negotiators, or just patience. Today, there are not enough hours in the day or days in the week to cover all threats. However, it is still hoped that we will have an appropriate response prepared.

Realizing that 99% of our contacts do not involve the judicious use of deadly force, agencies began emphasizing so-called “less lethal” techniques and technology to save them from liability. We’re still waiting for Star Trek phasers to hit the market, but until then we’re forced to use what we’ve got. Let’s start with a practical description of what the term “less lethal” means. These are tools and techniques that are developed to help us gain control of a violent person with a low probability of causing death or serious injury. Death can happen, but we can honestly say that we try to avoid it.

There are many unarmed defensive tactics programs that claim to provide the practitioner with the necessary skills to confront violence with love. Sorry for my sarcasm, but that is not reality. Pressure point tactics have always been suspect, but they gained favor when politicians saw them as humane and less likely to cause a lawsuit. It was dropped when we were able to convince bosses that violent people had the ability to ignore pain and really didn’t appreciate our honest efforts to gently persuade them to stop their antisocial behavior.

Batons, Maces, Pepper Spray, TASER, Long Range Impact Weapons (Beanbags, SAGE Guns, etc.), Kubotans, and Tools were tested, issued, and remain as options. All of these tools, along with Verbal Judo communication skills, remain in our arsenal and can be accessed when appropriate. However, they can only help us if we have them when we need them. They all require hands-on training and, more importantly, the right mindset to employ them when needed. So, in law enforcement parlance, we have a use of force continuum (or matrix) to choose the correct level of force to use against a specific level of threat.

During a recent training session I did with private security personnel, I realized that all those options were amazing for the class and almost for a student, they preferred martial arts and firearms. I’m not talking about the years of discipline, the ‘know yourself before you can defeat your enemy’ type of martial arts. I’m talking about the Ultimate Fighting Championship stuff you see on TV. Empty-handed destruction, or shoot them! Not a very large arsenal for personal or legal protection. Being so unprepared means that much of your game plan is dependent on luck. I prefer to play the lottery.

With the help of some colleagues in the executive protection field and some uniformed security officers and private investigators, I conducted a short survey to see if there was much emphasis on less-lethal equipment and training in the private sector. The results were predictable, but also raised some concerns. These are some of the responses I received. (I’m still getting the answers)

1. Have you received less lethal training? 80% yes

2. What type of defense training?

a) Unarmed Defensive Tactics-80%

b) Pressure Point Tactics-40%

c) Friction lock sticks – 60%

d) Pepper spray-80%

e) TASER-0%

f) Long range impact weapons (sage guns, bean bags, etc.) -0%

g) Kubotan/ Persuade-40%

h) Nunchucks – 10%

i) Other less lethal tools-60%

3. Was the training documented and retained in your records? 40% yes, 60% no

4. Did you ever use techniques or tactics that you were taught? 40% yes, 60% no

5. Have you ever used deadly force? 10% yes, 90% no

My unscientific reading of these results would indicate a need for training in less lethal techniques and technology. Approximately one in five security professionals have little or no training in conflict management. This concerns me because a large majority of them also feel the need to get their Concealed Weapons Permits.

This is a very unscientific poll and was used to generate debate; however, the majority of those who responded were former or current law enforcement officers. Although no concrete conclusions can be drawn from these responses, it does point to the need to add additional tools to our toolbox. The difference between a street fighter and a pro is the amount of time we spend weighing the consequences of our actions. Whether it’s protecting a client or a family member, we must always keep the bottom line in mind; physical, psychological and legal.

Does our training reflect reality? Or does it simply reflect an illusion?

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