Practice effectively using cover from the standing position. Photo: Scott Smith.
Most officers take their firearms training seriously, as they should. You train with imagination and emotion for that moment of truth. You fire Simunition marking rounds at human attackers in training. You win the gunfight, the subject is down, a stop is called by the trainers and you go have a look at where your rounds hit. You check out your handiwork — a nice group in the center of mass — then it's high fives all around and you reset for another one. Sound familiar?
For many officers, this is where both the scenario and the officer's thought process will end. Just because you've put the bad guy down doesn't mean it's over. What should we be doing in those critical moments while waiting for backup to arrive?
As Brian Willis, one of North America's leading officer-safety trainers, would ask, "What's important now?" The body can't go where the mind hasn't been. If we haven't thought about this ahead of time and trained it, how do we know we'll be effective?
One of the best checklists for officers to prioritize what to do after a shooting comes from Ken Murray, co-founder of Simunition and author of the book, "Training at the Speed of Life." It's known as "The 3 Cs," which are cover, condition, and communication. Let's review them.
Find some. Resist the urge to rush toward the subject and go hands-on. What's the urgency to take this person into custody? Move to a position of advantage, which will vary greatly depending on your environment. Obviously a bullet-stopping piece of cover that also offers concealment (such as an engine block or GM barrier) is a great option.
However, this isn't always available. Even if both you and the subject are in an open field, some positions will be better than others. Look to move to a place where the subject can't see you. Often, this will be toward the subject's feet and away from his head.
Can you still see the subject's weapon? If you can, that's a bonus. You want to be in a position where the subject must visually acquire you and make an overt motion to be able to attack you again. When possible, look to put some distance between you and the subject. Distance gives you time, and time gives you options.
Evaluate the condition of your weapon and yourself. Have you been shot or stabbed? Is your weapon still functional? Many times I've seen officers end their shooting with a weapon stoppage or empty magazine. They continue to cover the downed subject with their slide locked to the rear. Get into the habit of checking your weapon. Whether or not you decide to do a tactical reload is up to you.
Realize that the adrenaline dump from this encounter may mask any injuries you have in the moment. A simple to way to check yourself while keeping your eyes on the threat is to pat your limbs with your free hand and then raise the hand in front of you to check for blood.
Communicate with dispatch and the subject. Take a deep breath and get out the right information over the radio the first time. Many officers are in a rush to get on the air to ask for backup. That's fine, but how quickly are they going to get there, realistically? Even if backup arrives in a minute or less, a lot can happen in that time.
The "3 Cs" can also be used for shootings involving multiple officers, including during rapid-intervention situations. I encourage officers to give this some thought and use it during their scenario training.
Dan Fraser is an officer safety instructor with the Calgary Police Service.
Train With Imagination and Emotion