Winning Against Extreme Violence

"They're out there!" Like a line from a scary B-movie about violent creatures bent on the destruction of the good guys, "they" (violent criminal suspects) are indeed out there--ready and willing to attack and kill us--unless we prepare and train.

This year has not been kind to law enforcement. Officers killed in action by violent suspects have exceeded years past going back to the 1970s.

Craig W. Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund states, "we are now seeing a spike in fatal shootings of officers...cases which have generally been declining in recent years." The NLEOMF reports that "preliminary data indicate 101 local, state and federal law enforcement officers were killed between January 1 and June 30, 2007, an increase from the 70 officers who lost their lives during the same period of 2006. The last time the mid-year total was that high was 1978, when there were 105 officer deaths. By year-end that year, 213 officers had been killed in the line of duty. In 2006, the year-end total was 145."

America's Most Violent

Recently multiple officers have been shot and killed by hyper-violent offenders. Armed with police-equivalent weaponry and no hesitation to shoot, these offenders must be the new paradigm that we need to train for. As trainer Tony Blauer states on the theory of "presumed compliance," "Don't presume the suspect will comply; presume they will not comply."

Examples of hyper-violent offenders are the prison gangs that inundate the corrections system. Whether it's the Mexican Mafia, Nazi Low Riders, MS-13 or the Aryan Brotherhood, these suspects train and school at prisons, the modern equivalent of Gladiatorial schools, are intensely violent whether on the inside of our most secure state and federal prisons, or out on the street when they are released upon society. Recently while watching the History Channel(tm) I saw a special about the Aryan Brotherhood (AB). With a motto of "blood in/blood out" (referring to the requirement to commit murder to get into it and being the victim yourself if you try to quit), this gang has wreaked havoc and mayhem on the penal system. Michael Thompson, according to both the History Channel and a video from National Geographic you can view on, was one of the worst of the AB. Thompson, by his own admission, has killed 22 men inside prison walls. Says Thompson, "I'm probably one of the most violent individuals you'd ever meet in your life. No brag, just fact, it's that simple. I'm not the kind of man you want to underestimate." Truer words could not be spoken, but how do you prepare to meet and defeat these suspects when you come into violent contact with them?

No Opportunity for Surprise

Predators like Thompson and others of his ilk are sociopaths that live out a parasitic existence on society. And although you can't (and hopefully wouldn't want to, if you could) think like a sociopath, you can develop a warrior mindset and condition your awareness and perception abilities to their fullest. Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear talks about survival signals, those subconscious gut instincts that tell you something is amiss, even though your logical conscious mind is insisting that everything is okay. We need to understand and listen to this sixth sense cop instinct, and enable it by constantly scanning our environment and be aware of what is going on around us. What is that suspect telling you when they are not responding to your commands? What is that body language telling you about his state of readiness and attack preparation? What is the stance and attitude of those suspects on the street telling you as you approach to check them out? In poker, from what I understand, a "tell" is a subconscious action that a player manifests that you can read to your benefit. On the street, what are the "tells," and how can you read them? Remember, as someone once said, "Life is a 360 degree live-fire environment."


Predators and the hyper-violent bring an intention to win, regardless of the method to an altercation. They intend to walk away, possibly bruised and bloodied, but the victor of an incident, regardless of what method they need to employ to win. Imagine an atavistic being, such as an inmate, that is willing to design a shiv from Styrofoam cups and secrete this in his rectum on a daily basis, until such time as he has the opportunity or the need to employ it. At the critical moment, he will eviscerate another human being with it and then decapitate the dead man, just to make a point. Now put that same individual out on the street with access to military weaponry like an AK-47, and you have a killing machine capable of extreme violence. Whether it is a homemade knife, an assault rifle or his bare hands, the hyper-violent will kill all the same, if you give them the opportunity. You must cultivate your intention to win by understanding the level of violence suspects are capable of and training your butt off in preparation of a one day encounter. You must manifest this readiness, preparedness and skill at arms, for a suspect must think that it is not worth the risk to try you.


Law enforcement must get out of the qualification mentality when conducting firearms training. Shooting for department or state annual qualification is a minimum display of proficiency. It is not training and it does not prepare officers to win gunfights. We must approach this training like we are preparing for a fight for our lives--for indeed we are. Law enforcement agencies must conduct force-on-force training for their officers. This is no longer a luxury--it is mandatory. Extremely violent suspects have the benefit of experience on the battlefield of the street. They've used violence before, and although their training may be rudimentary, they have experience that most officers lack. By "pressure testing" your skills against a living and breathing adversary, you are feeling those physical, physiological and psychological reactions that will take place in a real incident. You are gaining experience in the arena of violence which, like it or not, is what law enforcement is ultimately about.

Law enforcement must field the proper tools for dealing with the hyper-violent. Agencies must field patrol rifles to enable their officers to have a fighting chance against intensely violent suspects. Whether the suspect is across the hood of a car, across the street or across a field, patrol rifles are the means by which well-trained officers can deliver fight stopping accurate fire. Note: Training is the key! Putting a patrol rifle in the hands of an untrained or poorly trained officer is negligence, pure and simple, and is the recipe for disaster!

Use of Force

Law enforcement has hurt itself over the last few years by imposing artificial boundaries on use of force in the guise of "continuums," which create the artificial restrictions that the Supreme Court cautioned about in Graham v. Connor. Instead of improving officers' decisions on use of force, these continuums have created hesitation in our officers and legal paranoia about getting sued. Truth is, most of these poppycock continuums, and especially those that have been absorbed into agencies use of force policies, create a situation in which an officer could have a perfectly good use of force from a legal standpoint, but may violate a department policy. The days of continuums have come and gone; get rid of them.

Trainers John Bostain, Jonathan Madore and Liz Argo, from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) have said, "we need to train officers what they can do, not what they can't do." Furthermore, we need to understand that there is a "range of reasonableness" based on the totality of the circumstances that the Supreme Court talked about in the Graham decision. By training our officers to their utmost, we ensure proper actions and proper use of force decisions.

The Battle of Your Life

Armies don't emerge victorious from the battlefield when they show up with no skills, poor equipment and no intention to win. These are victims, not victors! Preparation to win against the most violent in our society takes time and effort. It is not easy! The actual encounter will take everything you have for you to emerge victorious--and training for these types of encounters requires you put forth time and effort.

Throughout history, valiant men and women have stood up against marauding hordes of barbarians and won. The barbarians and threats to our society now stand at the gates of the cities and towns we protect. There are no shortcuts to success, there is only hard work and toil in our preparations, and eternal vigilance. To win the battle of your life, you must know your enemy, have an intense intention to win regardless of the circumstances, train like your life depends on it--because it does, and truly understand the legal aspects of use of force. You must, because "they" are indeed out there...