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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 and regroup to have a better chance to win.

August 23, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author


Japanese tea cup. Photo via Flickr.com (angelcandy.baby).

I've overheard a few young officers having the tête-à-tête that usually begins with, "if that happens to me, I would"…

These conversations usually occur in parking lots, locker rooms, gyms and wherever else young cops talk. They are full of macho, bravado, and much Bravo Sierra. To me, it sounded like the opening dialogue (smack talk) of professional wrestling. In all of this mix, there is a valuable lesson to be learned.

One of my former 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 what is 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? 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. The FTO may have told you about officers who prided themselves in having never called for a back-up. This is the foolhardy bravery that will make you a statistic; you'll risk it all responding to this soirée. What is the best methodology to respond to an overwhelming opponent? Can you make the hard decisions?

Recall the 3C's that are taught in the academy—contain, control and communicate. I don't know who developed this. I have seen its effectiveness many times over.

Here it is in a nutshell:

Contain the situation from getting worse or 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 and find cover. Ask for 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 and use your calming techniques. I call it tactical talking. Keep communication lines open; you may have to negotiate rather than engage. What's very important here is that you communicate with yourself. Positive self-talk is important to keep your heartbeat and breathing under control, your emotions in check and energy focused. I keep hearing about surviving; it's all about winning to me.

What if you have to disengage, call for back-up and engage again? It may be far healthier and less trips to the trauma center. Cops respect smart cops who know how to win without drama or unnecessary risks.

Sure, cops embrace a challenge and don't like wimps. However, you must learn that there are real consequences in the street. Locker-room banter and after-hours social bragging sounds cool, but the reality is you need to go home in one piece without scars, stitches or broken bones.

I want you to win with your head, so we can keep names off the wall. Now, go look for a cup of tea.

Tags: Officer Safety, Defensive Tactics, Officer Psychology


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

mtarte @ 8/25/2010 5:25 PM

Perfect analogy. I'm a fairly big guy but more than once as a young officer I bit off more than I could chew and only backup officers and the grace of G-d did I survive. Your brain is your best weapon on the street.

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