A multiple-assailant situation is not an arrest-and-control situation. It is quite simply a survival situation. Your goals must change, and your techniques and tactics must change accordingly. But above all else, your mentality must be correct. You must be 100 percent committed to winning. You cannot afford to be mentally overwhelmed by the numbers, nor can you simply take as many of them down with you as you can. These are both defeatist attitudes. First defeat multiple assailants in your mind, and then defeat them physically.
It is possible to win against multiple assailants. As you know from trying to arrest a violent subject with too many cops, more is not necessarily better.
Officers have a number of advantages in a multiple-assailant situation, and you must take advantage of them all. When the wolf pack thinks that you are the prey, you must become the predator.
In a multiple-assailant situation, the immediate goal is to survive. There is no shame in defeating a group of individuals committed to physically harming us and other innocent people.
Surviving the encounter does not simply mean getting out of it with a pulse; it means surviving physically, mentally and legally intact. If winning or total survival is the primary goal, how can it be achieved?
Devastate the group psychologically
- Take out the leader
- Cause a psychologically devastating visible injury
- Force a group retreat-most of the group probably does not really want to be there
- Make a opportunity to escape in complete safety
- Create a clear window to disengage in complete safety
- Get to your vehicle
- Get to a safe haven
- Fight long enough for cover to arrive
- Create a clear opportunity to disengage, draw and point your sidearm. It will likely take more time than you think, especially if you're wearing a security holster.
- Use loud, repetitive verbal commands
- Do not chance losing your weapon by attempting to acquire it at an inopportune moment
- Destroy the group physically (This is the most difficult course of action; however. you probably won't have to defeat each and every assailant.)
- Use sound tactics of screening, cracking and redirecting (putting assailants between each other, moving between assailants at opportune moments, redirecting assailants' momentum into each other or stationary objects).
- Use assailants against each other
- Strike to high-percentage targets
- Use the environment favorably: Use door frames and hallways as protective funnels; and natural objects (cars, trees, mail boxes, etc.) as obstacles to assailants. Let those obstacles do damage to assailants
- Always train with multiple assailants in mind
If multiple assailants are a potential problem for you or other members of your agency, it must be addressed in training. That means all operational personnel should be trained in how to effectively deal with the wolf pack.
This training should include identification and recognition, prevention and avoidance strategies and use-of-force context. It should also include justification and response, the winning mind-set, pre-assault cues, primary, intermediate and subsidiary goals, basic concepts and strategies, specific tactics and techniques for defeating multiple assailants.
This training should be primarily hands-on and, if possible, involve the use of dynamic simulation training so that officers get to experience something resembling a real-world application.
You do not need to be a trained martial artist to defeat multiple assailants, but you do need to consider the possibility that this type of confrontation could happen, so that you are not psychologically and emotionally overwhelmed if it does. You also need to be able to recognize the danger signs, understand your goals and apply some basic strategies, tactics and techniques.
Train with multiple assailants in mind. When you do, one-on-one situations will become much easier, and you will know you are prepared to deal with one of the highest threat levels you may ever face. Train to win!
Joel Johnston Jr. is the Control Tactics Coordinator for the Vancouver (Canada) Police Department. Special thanks to Phillip J. Messina, president of Modern Warrior Inc.; George Demetriou, New York Police Department; and the International Shotokan Karate Federation.