A Trained Response

Oct. 28, 2009
Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for dealing with violence must be learned and mastered. Don't wing it on the street; have a trained practiced response to deal with the threats.

The whole idea is that you have a trained response to non-deadly and deadly threats. For instance, if confronted with a suspect that you're attempting to handcuff who starts to resist you have trained responses for what to do. Absent a trained response, we resort to brute force, wrestling type maneuvers that frequently result in officer and suspect injuries. (A brief side-note here, officers are frequently injured from attempting to control suspects in hazardous environments, e.g. knee injuries from broken glass on the asphalt or collisions with walls as well as trips and falls on furniture or other objects. All of these possibilities are magnified while wrestling with suspects.)

Take that same resisting suspect and start blasting him with knee strikes to the common-peroneal motor point of the leg based on a trained response and you now face a moaning lump of humanity in a heap on the floor. Safer? You betcha. More efficient and effective? Absolutely.

Everything we do in law enforcement from talking to people to use of deadly force is based on a trained response. Traffic stops? Our training should kick in and provide us with options for the level of threat faced. Simple traffic stops can be handled with driver-side approaches, better yet a passenger-side approach, or better still calling the driver back to you. All of these tactics are based on training. Winging it with poorly thought out tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) exposes you to risk and risk in the police business needs to be managed and controlled not courted.

It Ain't Rocket Science

A strategy for winning on the street is simple. Trained responses coupled with an absolute commitment to win regardless of the threat, with some real-world situational awareness thrown in and you're good to go. The problem is that trained responses require, well... training; practice as well. As an example, performing a combat draw-stroke that positions the pistol in your line of sight for good accurate fire requires that you first learn:

  • How to do the draw-stroke properly;
  • Perform enough repetitions to form what scientists call a motor program (commonly referred to as muscle memory); and
  • Engage in what the military now calls sustainment training which LE and athletes have traditionally called practice.

Repeat each of the above steps for every skill you are required to perform. Shooting a pistol accurately from the holster requires one set of motor programs. Shooting the 12 gauge shotgun requires another; same with the police carbine. Suspect control tactics require the same learning and sustainment training. The law of diminishing returns indicates that the longer the time since your last training session, the more the skill diminishes.

The Armed Response

Take the average Joe Police Officer and task them with running the 12 gauge shotgun (loading, unloading, select loading, shooting, moving, operating and more) and they would be hard pressed to perform these actions well. This performance deficit is based on the fact that most agencies only manipulate and shoot the police shotgun once a year in annual qualifications. This time between visits with the shotgun results in poor performance on the range. Throw in some real stress in an actual street encounter and you may have an officer that repeatedly pumps the shotgun ejecting live shells without ever firing a shot because he forgot to take the safety off.

Item: Armed bad-guys recently squared off with each other in a Midwestern bar (actually they ran outside or cowered on the floor) and exchanged a large volume of shots from their pistols. Result? No hits and plenty of misses.

Item: A police officer faces a deadly threat at a distance of only six feet and fires his handgun multiple times at his assailant and misses or an officer that is unable to release the retention devices on his holster to draw his handgun on the street.

What's the difference? Suspects don't care about collateral damage so they engage in reckless spraying of the area. The difference is that the officer should have had training that properly prepared him for his violent encounter. He should have hit! Yet we see in both qualifications and actual shootings that a significant number of rounds miss their mark.

There is no excuse for an agency to not properly train its troops. No excuse. Not lack of funds, ammo, range time, or lack of qualified training personnel. No excuse! No excuses are allowed for officers either. Sustainment training is your responsibility. You gave up the right to be unskilled in your TTPs when you took this job.

Not Me and Not Here

Why would officers that lack ability not avail themselves of training if it's made available? I've seen officers with marginal to poor ability fail to show up to open range sessions with ammo provided and then struggle to display minimum performance abilities (qualify). Why? I believe that these officers simply cannot fathom that it (something bad) will ever happen to them.

After all, they qualify each year, isn't that enough? "I'm not one of those gung-ho gun nuts. I got a life!" they say. Forgetting that having a life requires life saving measures - the time to learn CPR is prior to your loved one having a heart attack, not, "Wow, I should have learn how to do that better or paid more attention in first-aid class."

Trained responses in our tactics, techniques and procedures and especially in our skills for dealing with violent encounters, are not an option. They are indeed the life-blood of how we will react in actual violent encounters. Study, train and learn them and then sustain your abilities with continued practice. No excuses accepted - here or on the street!

About the Author

Kevin Davis | Tactical Survival Contributor

Kevin R. Davis retired from the Akron Police Department after 31 years with a total of 39 years in law enforcement.  Kevin was a street patrol officer, narcotics detective, full-time use of force, suspect control, and firearms instructor, and detective assigned to the Body Worn Camera Unit.  Kevin is the author of Use of Force Investigations: A Manual for Law Enforcement, and is an active consultant and expert witness on use of force incidents.  Kevin's website is https://kd-forcetraining.com/ 

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