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Listen to Learn

This isn’t preachy…I’m not your Mom or Dad and have made enough mistakes to not consider myself the end-all in tactics or infallible but I’m going to offer you some of the best advice you’ll ever get on officer safety.  Listen.  Just listen.  As the saying goes, the Good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth so that you can listen two times as much as you speak.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask questions if points need clarified or a topic or area of concern for you needs addressed.  It just means that there exists around you tremendous experience and lessons to be learned, if you just may attention and listen to what is offered.  Even if it turns out that bad advice or information was given, at least it caused you to examine the way you do things and hold them up to the light of day to see if they can sustain the close scrutiny.

I’ll give you a couple of examples:

A.        You’re at the range and the instructor says, “You can possibly improve your shooting by working on your grip.  I’ve noticed that your gun-hand thumb is curled downward which prevents your support hand from making full contact with the side of the pistol.  Try this (and he demonstrates a proper grip).”

B.        A veteran officer backs you up on a traffic stop and after you cite and release the driver he offers you this tactical tip, “Listen, why don’t you try approaching the passenger-side of the vehicle instead of walking up to the driver’s side.  Depending on the environment you’re less at risk from other vehicles and suspects anticipate and plan for a driver’s side approach.”

Now you could circle your ego wagon on both bits of advice and refuse to consider that, you know what, that instructor just might know his business and might have my best interest at heart on the pistol range and you know what that old time copper might just have a point on that passenger side approach…  Or you could just listen and try out their suggestions.

As an instructor in these dangerous times when violence against law enforcement just reached a ten year high in 2011 that, we: read, study, and attempt to find out the best material we can to help keep officers alive and instruct that material to the troops and they just don’t listen.

Now, we could nod our head like fellow bobble head police figures repeating the mantra, “It won’t happen to me and it doesn’t happen here.  It won’t happen to me and it doesn’t happen here.”  But the good instructors I know and have had the pleasure to work with and around would look at you out of their one good eye and say, “It does happen here and it can happen to you and it can happen on the next call or in five minutes.  Are you prepared?  Have you listened?” 

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants 

There’s a quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  In my years on the J.O.B., I’ve had the good fortune to train under the greats of LE training – Bruce Siddle, Paul Whitesell, Dave Smith, Ed Nowicki, Brian Willis, Ron Avery, Todd Jarrett, and so many, many more.  I count these men as friends and through organizations such as ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association) have had the had the chance to meet and befriend so many more such as Chris Cerino, Dave Spaulding, Chief Jeff Chudwin, Chuck Remsberg, John Bostain, Coach Lindsey, Dr. Alexis Artwohl, Chuck Humes, ad infinitum.  Truly, I have been blessed by being able to sit and listen to the training conducted by these great instructors and participate in their programs.  When they spoke I listened and learned I was (and still am) a “sponge to learn” as the great British martial artists, writer and awesome trainer Geoff Thompson describes the process.  Such great material about officer survival, tactics, firearms and even life is out there oftentimes at your fingertips even if you just look around and yes – listen.

Vet the Instructor 

Let me just say that you must always vet the instructor and material in question.  I invite scrutiny into my background and any reputable instructor should.  I’ve run into too many people that have misrepresented their background and experience and whose material borders on the outright absurd or dangerous if it doesn’t clearly cross that line.

Just because they’ve been doing it a while doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing and just because they said they were a former Spec-Ops operator doesn’t mean they are being honest.  That said, not everything needs to be high-speed, low-drag.  There are a ton of guys who don’t have national reps but who absolutely know their business and what they’re talking about and are awesome trainers.

Vet what you read as well.  Some of my friends in the law enforcement, firearms and tactics business are writers.  People such as Rich Nance, Bill Harvey, Walt Rauch, Dave Spaulding, Evan Marshal, Frank Borelli, Rob Pincus and others know what they’re talking about and have practical experience.  I’ve seen some others shoot and how shall we way – they scared the heck out of me…  Make sure that the writer you’re reading knows his business as well.

Professional instructors and LE writers invite close scrutiny because they are legit.  There are, quite simply, too many frauds and charlatans out there waiting to take your hard-earned dollars.

Listen, Practice, Learn and Assimilate 

First you hear and see the topic, tactic or technique.  Next you physically practice the move or action again and again.  First slow and segmented then fluidly and finally dynamically.  In this way, you actually learn the – grip, draw-stroke, empty-hand strike or kick, baton swing, dynamic use of cover, rifle reload, emergency driving technique, field interview tactic or vehicle stop approach.  You take that TTP - tactic, technique and procedure and truly learn it.  In that way you assimilate the material, you digest it and turn it into your own making it a part of you – a skill or TTP that you can perform without conscious thought and in the worst conditions possible.

Then when some bad actor in the dead of night attempts to take you on it and as John Wayne said in True Grit “You get crosswise of me you'll think a ton of brick had fell on you!” and all because you chose to listen.

There are things we want to hear and things we’d rather not.  Warnings, advisements, suggestions, complaints, insults and more will need to be filtered for the positive information they might contain.  But for every ten nonsensical and absurd points to ponder we’re forced to endure there is a gem that can improve and strengthen us and most importantly can keep us safer and harder to kill.

Be an active listener to your world, you’ll be surprised what good things you hear.


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About The Author:

Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the training bureau where he specializes in use of force, firearms and tactical training. With over 23 years in law enforcement, his previous experience includes patrol, corrections, narcotics and he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency's SWAT team with over 500 call-outs in tactical operations.