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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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Plan For an Unexpected Assault

Ambush assaults on officers are increasing; having a plan first can make the difference.

July 19, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

You have read about the alarming and ever increasing ambush assaults on police officers. Whether you are on the job, in the academy, or on vacation you should have a plan. Police officers train for the active shooter call but what happens if you are the target in the hot zone? The academy and your FTO will cover the on-duty active shooter call but let's take a further look.

Don't look, observe where you are going. If you are off-duty and you pull into the parking lot of a store, first of all I hope you have the tools of your trade, your weapon, and go bag. However, either way you should observe what is going on inside and outside of the store. Don't just park and walk in nonchalantly. I personally know police officers that have walked into a robbery in progress. Sit and observe what is going on before you exit. If you see the clerk with his or her hands up in the sky, we call this a clue.

Evaluate your environment once you are inside. Say you are going into a coffee shop that you have been in a thousand times. Don't assume because you're familiar with it you know the lay of the land. Review the landscape; it could change.

For instance, there could be a repair crew performing some wiring so an exit is closed off. Evaluate where bad guys can enter and where you can exit out innocents or effect an escape yourself. Do not stick to the public entrances! Consider fire exits, kitchen exits, staircases, etc. Evaluate. Don't just look.

While you are there, use all of your senses. You continue to observe, not just glance. You listen for sounds, distress, screams, shots, or whatever. Your touch/skin will sense changes in temperatures; maybe a window has been left open or a door is ajar and you feel a breeze. Stay aware and not sit there like a lump on a log.

Discuss your situational awareness with your guests. If all is well, I tell my wife that I like this place for it is quiet or has good food; by this code she knows I am settled in. However, if there is something or someone that has your dander up, tell your spouse or whomever you're there with.

For instance, if a couple is having a heated discussion and I feel that a domestic dispute/violence could break out, I make notice of the couple at my 2 o'clock (her 8 o'clock) of a possible issue. Here I make the call to contact the waiter 9-1-1, or just politely reposition ourselves. If this appears to be too insecure of a scene, you may wish to exit.

I see no reason to jeopardize your loved one. Repositioning for safety is an option. There are other responses but the key here to your safety and your family's safety is awareness. Sitting and pretending nothing is going on is what I call "ostrich management," and if you do so you should be prepared for exposing your butt to the wind.

If you decide to send out your guest so you can observe or to allow the guest time to exit before something could happen, give instructions. Here is the key: Go as if you are leaving but wait at a store across the street (rally point). Never let things just happen. A good strategy pays off.

In looking at your environment stay aware of what changes about you. As you exit be aware of who is behind you. You could have been recognized as a cop and the assault may come at your departure. Always think 360 degrees.

I'm not the one constantly looking for evil or the fight. However, planning and preparation will overcome panic if something happens.

Tags: Assaults on Officers


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Deadman @ 7/19/2010 11:16 PM

I don't feel that you can adequately gain any insight as to whether or not there will be an assault perpetrated against you unless you have experienced self defense instructors teaching you self defense techniques,self -awareness instructions and teaching you lessons on body language and signs or tells given by the subject/suspect.I have no faith in any book courses or internet class that can take the place of hands-on training.I was on the job 28 1/2 years and was fortunate to have had good instructors that taught me how to be aware of others and their body language.You can watch and shake your head at some of the mistakes young officers and even some old timers make and wonder how they stay alive.P.S.Don't watch the Rookies,you might learn bad habits,bad show.

wolfva @ 7/20/2010 9:37 PM

Very good advice. As the saying goes, Complacency Kills. I think this becomes more of a problem the older we get, ironically enough. Heck, look at Wild Bill Hickok; for all of his skills as a gunfighter and even a lawman what got him killed? Sitting with his back to the door while gambling. Poor situational awareness.

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