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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Know Your Limitations

Disengage, regroup, and win.

September 16, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I recently found myself listening to a few young lads having an "if that happens to me, I would..." tête-à-tête. These conversations occur in the parking lots, locker rooms, gyms, and wherever else young cops talk. They are full of machismo, bravado, and much "bravo sierra." To me, it sounded like smack talk from professional wrestling. But in all of the mix there is a valuable lesson to be learned.

Drinking Tea

One of my old defensive tactics instructors taught me a valuable lesson about sizing up an opponent. He asked me if I had ever seen a Japanese tea cup and asked if I knew what was different about it? I told him that it had no handles; it had to be cradled in the hands to drink from it. "Yes, but what does this tell you about a confrontation?" he asked me. I was clueless. "Tea that is too hot to drink is too hot to handle, he told me without a smile." One must size up the confrontation and determine if you can handle it singlehanded with your current knowledge, skills, and abilities.   

This sage advice should be given to our youngest officers. Many feel that it may be a weakness to call for a cover officer. An FTO may have talked about how many cops pride themselves on having never called for backup. But failing to call for needed cover is foolhardy "bravery" that will make you a statistic and risk all responding to this soirée.

What is the best methodology to respond to an overwhelming opponent?  Can you make the hard decisions?

Remember the 3 C's

Recall the 3 C's that are taught in the academy: contain, control, and communicate. I do not know who developed this, but I have seen it many times over. It's worth remembering. In a nutshell:

Contain the situation from getting worse, going mobile and contain your emotions and fears.

Control the scene from getting larger, control your fears, and stay focused. Take control of the radio to get cover, assistance, and give responding units a size-up. You control the response and probably the demeanor of the situation for the most part.

Communicate to all involved, use your calming techniques, I call it tactical talking. Keep communication lines open, you may have to negotiate rather than engage. What is very important here is to communicate to yourself. Positive self-talk is important to keep your heartbeat and breathing under control, your emotions in check, and your energy focused. I keep hearing about surviving; it is all about winning to me.

So what if you have to disengage, call for some backups, and engage again? It may be far healthier and require fewer trips to the trauma center. Cops respect smart cops who know how to win without the drama and unnecessary risks.

Sure, cops like a challenge and do not like wimps. However, you must learn that there are real consequences in the street. Locker room banter and after hours socials bragging sounds cool, but the reality statement is going home at night in one piece - minus scars, stitches, and broken bones. I want you to win with your head and keep names off the wall. Now, go look for a cup of tea.

Train like your life depends on it, for it does.


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