Photo credit: John Wills
I am a young Chicago cop with a bullet proof mentality, working the streets and loving every second of it. Most of my street smarts have come as a result of "OJT," on- the-job training. The 13-week academy provided me with little in the way of tactics and officer survival. My partner and I pride ourselves on quick response to any radio assignment, especially crimes in progress and people with guns. This afternoon shift finds us on patrol, looking for anything and everything, when the radio crackles with this all call: "Woman with a gun on the third floor..."; the address is just several blocks away. We flip on the lights and siren and rocket toward the location.
As we pull up and jump out I think to myself, "Great, we're the first ones on the scene!" The two of us race up three flights of stairs to the apartment; the door is open a crack, I shove it open and rush in. Much to my surprise and chagrin, I am eye to eye with an old lady sitting in a rocking chair; she holds a double barrel shotgun that is pointed in my direction. Why neither of us shot each other seems only to be a product of divine intervention. We eventually diffuse the situation with no one getting hurt or killed. But I quickly understand the meaning of the phrase "fatal funnel."
That reckless entry that I made occurred in 1972, yet I remember it as vividly as if it had happened only yesterday. Why? The answer is because we have a tendency to remember incidents and experiences in which we have done something poorly, been hurt, or almost been hurt or possibly killed. Think about it...do you remember when you aced a test, or performed a task in training almost perfectly? Probably not, but you do remember when you failed at something, or put yourself or someone else in jeopardy.
That being said, let's talk about making the entry. Unless you are part of a SWAT or tactical response team, dynamic entries are probably your worst option, since they put you in an extremely vulnerable position. They should only be used when other alternatives seem unwise. A typical dynamic entry involves surprise, speed, and violence of action. In addition, these entries should include advanced intel, positive breach, and some type of diversion or diversionary device.
A slow and methodical approach includes the following advantages:
- Allows time to "knock and announce"
- Allows time to consider tactically sound options
- Allows for the subject to "come out"
- Allows time to use cover during entry and clearing process
- Level of training is much less than dynamic entries
- Best used when intel is unavailable
The use of a mirror is a definite tactical advantage that we as cops must remember to include in our bag of tactical tools. Mirroring a corner or room before entering is one of the best ways to minimize exposure to the bad guys, yet still gather useful intel as to number and location of subjects, as well as the layout of the room. You want to have as few surprises as possible when you enter into a room. This is especially true if the room is dark, and you are coming from a lighted area. You may also use your flashlight while mirroring a dark room. This takes some getting used to; ensure that you practice before you try it on the street. I used to put my kids in a darkened room at home, and then use my mirror and flashlight to try to locate them. It was great training, the kids loved it, and it gave us time together as well.
Using a mirror affords you great cover while you slowly search the area you are about to enter. One word of caution--if you have used mirrors in the past, you realize how intently you tend to focus on that mirror; sometime to the exclusion of all else that is happening around you. It is best to have a colleague be your cover while you mirror, so that you do not have to worry about distractions. Mirrors come in all shapes and sizes, are flat, round, and even convex for that "fish-eye" effect. I have even used a kitchen spatula as a mirror, rather than rush into a room before checking it out. Use your own imagination as to what you choose, but have something to keep with you so that you don't put yourself on "Front Street" unnecessarily.
This technique is simple and, as its name suggests, is quick. When some speed is necessary, but caution is still mandated, this technique will work well. A quick peek allows you the ability to get an instant's worth of intel before entering a room. Sometimes more than one look is necessary; in that case the second peek must be different than the first. If your bad guy is in that room looking at the doorway, he will see your first peek and be counting on you to stick your head around that corner at the same place as your first peek. Ensure that the second peek is higher or lower than the first. Then, after you have made that quick peek, get into to that area quickly, as things can change in an instant. Even a few seconds can make a difference in what you saw during your peek, and what you see when you make your entry.
If you can use a colleague as a cover man while you are doing your quick peek, perform it with your weapon holstered and both hands braced on the wall. This will give you the ability to do this technique even more quickly. Bracing yourself gives you speed; you can perform several peeks in mere seconds. Remember to draw that weapon again before making the entry.
Slicing The Pie
This technique is performed by using the cover of a doorway or corner and simply moving incrementally so that you can get a small "slice" of the room. The only thing visible to any bad guy in that area should be your weapon and shooting eye. If you do spot a danger area or a subject, you can quickly move back right or left to be fully covered. I like slicing the pie since it requires nothing more than my weapon to be out, and I am in a stable shooting platform ready to engage. To make this technique even more effective, bend slightly at the waist to ensure that your lower body has as much cover as possible. In a doorway, partners can perform this technique simultaneously from either side.
I like to use this technique after utilizing one of the above methods. The limited penetration involves bringing your shooting arm into the room while only exposing your shooting eye(s). A limited "pen" allows you to cover a subject, or "hold" a room before entry is made, or while colleagues clear a hallway or stairway. If you use this technique before any other visual clear, you expose your weapon to any bad guy in the room that may be close enough to grab it.
The ultimate entry tool, the shield affords maximum protection while on the move. Used in conjunction with safe tactics such as lipping, splitting, and slicing the pie, the shield is a life-saver. Much more versatile now that they come in a fold up configuration that allows for easy storage, shields are quickly deployed and make room entries more tactically sound.
Making an entry into a room or house is fraught with danger, ergo the term "Fatal Funnel." Pausing in a doorway gives the bad guys the perfect target with which to take us out. Utilizing a slow, methodical entry, combined with visual clearing techniques, will keep you tactically sound and above ground. Be safe brothers and sisters!