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Departments : Officer Survival

Combined Attack

Recognize when to walk away from a group of thugs and how to fight back when you need to.

December 01, 2003  |  by Dave Spaulding


Officers involved in confrontations with criminal suspect(s) are engaged by more than one person as much as 40 percent of the time, according to the FBI's latest statistics. This should not be surprising as criminals have a certain "wolf pack" mentality in which their nerve or courage is greater when in the company of other like-minded individuals. Criminals are well aware that officers patrol alone (with the exception of a few large cities) and that backup can be minutes away. A lot can happen in a few minutes.

Law officers who face multiple (potential) opponents are in a perilous, if not deadly, situation. The proper response to multiple offender confrontations can be summed up as follows: avoid, evade, and counter.

Avoid and Evade

The best way to deal with multiple-offender situations is to avoid them completely. To do so, a high level of situational awareness is required, with the lone officer staying "switched on" to what is going on around him or her. Awareness can be compared to the common light switch. When it's turned on, you can easily see all that goes on around you and more easily make decisions and responses. When the light switch is off, it is dark, making decisions difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at. While officers should always have their awareness switched on whenever they are on duty, it is particularly critical when dealing with multiple offenders.

Avoiding situations involving multiple persons will be difficult while involved in police operations. This being said, however, officers can go a long way toward avoidance by gathering as much information as possible before placing themselves in such situations. Information is gathered from many sources and should not be ignored or "sloughed off." Dispatchers need to be made aware of the dangers involving multiple suspects and provide this information to patrol crews whenever possible.

If circumstances are such that a lone officer has entered a multiple person situation, the next step is to evade the problem. Evasion will normally take the form of disengagement. While many officers do not like the word "retreat," doing so is the wisest course of action when entering a situation where the officer's ability to prevail is in question. While this may bruise a few readers' egos, the probability of a lone officer prevailing against multiple offenders is certainly low, regardless of the officer's ability or level of training.

Don't Confuse Courage with Stupidity

I know an officer who placed himself in a very dangerous situation. He was on patrol when he noticed a lone male in an alley behind a local business. The alley was a dead end, so the only way for the suspect to leave was to travel past his position. He pulled his patrol car to the end of the alley, got out, and walked down the alley, confronting the suspect. About this time, an unseen aggressor stepped from the shadows and started to yell obscenities at the officer.

At this point, the proper response would have been for the officer to retreat-oh, excuse me, disengage-to his vehicle and avoid the confrontation until backup could arrive. Instead, by his own admission, he puffed out his chest and told both suspects, " Both you ****ers are going to jail!"

CONTINUED: Combined Attack «   Page 1 of 2   »


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