Undercover Lifeline Training: 7 Scenarios

Personnel who are well trained will "react" rather than panic when the time comes to take action. The more you train and the more confident you are, the less you will fall victim to the devastating effects of tunnel vision. Here are seven exercises to cover the more common scenarios that may arise.

Nick Jacobellis Headshot

Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry.Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry.

Agencies can dramatically improve officer-survival skills by providing integrated tactical training to undercover agents, cover-team personnel (case agents) and tactical officers.

Armed professionals must become as comfortable as possible in "violent" surroundings so they aren't consumed by the "fog of war" during a deadly force situation. Proper training creates a menu of files or emergency instructions that can automatically be accessed by the brain, in situations when danger is anticipated or perceived.

Personnel who are well trained will "react" rather than panic when the time comes to take action. The more you train and the more confident you are, the less you will fall victim to the devastating effects of tunnel vision.

I developed what I call Lifeline Training, and I'd like to remind you that anything can happen at any time. Here are seven exercises to cover the more common scenarios that may arise.

Exercise #1 (Kill House)

The "kill house" scenario exposes the undercover agent to the violent effects of a dynamic entry by tactical personnel. One dynamic entry will be made without pre-arranged signals, and one will be made with pre-arranged signals. UC agents will take turns as members of the entry team to appreciate the action from both perspectives. An undercover agent shouldn't be hearing a flash-bang explosion or "blank" gunfire for the first time during a real-life rescue effort to save the undercover agent's life. 

Exercise #2 (Motel Hell)

This exercise can be done at any range facility or safe training area. A large box is drawn with chalk or tape to simulate a motel room. Chairs are placed inside the box. If an actual training room is unavailable, mark off closets, a bathroom, and kitchen. UC officers would engage one or more targets, take cover, and perform a combat reload. Discuss various last-ditch techniques such as charging armed violators, shooting and moving, or taking cover in the bathroom if the main door to the room is bolted shut.

Whenever I found myself in a motel or hotel room with violators, my personal escape plan was to push, shove, fight, or shoot my way into the bathroom where I would get into the tub and cover the door as best I could until my cover team executed a dynamic entry of the room.

Exercise #3 (Take Down)

Officers practice taking violators into custody in the presence of an undercover agent or informant.

Exercise #4 (Officer Down/Vehicle Rescue)

One or more members of a cover or back-up team practices extracting a wounded agent from the line of fire in a hostile environment. This exercise simulates an officer-down scenario involving a special agent or officer who has life-threatening injuries and requires immediate evacuation to a hospital. Use "blank" ammunition or simulated munitions to simulate the most realistic training. Otherwise, limits will be placed on the number of personnel who can participate in this exercise at any one time. This exercise should also be conducted outdoors to incorporate the use of vehicles in the rescue effort.

Exercise #5 (Shots Fired)

In this scenario, a UC operation goes bad and an undercover operative is taken hostage. The cover team and UC agent are trained to act as one to defuse the situation and gain peace through superior firepower if necessary without causing collateral damage. Agents and officers are trained to use pre-arranged audible and verbal signals and gestures to alert members of the team to prepare to act.

The UC officers practice dropping to the floor or going limp (dead weight) to give the designated cover team a clear shot at the hostage taker. If conditions exist, personnel should practice ramming vehicles to prevent the escape of violators and a hostage.

Exercise #6 (Draw and Fire)

Sworn personnel are given an opportunity to draw and fire from a standing, sitting, and prone position in a CQB (close quarters battle) situation while in a room, in a vehicle and outdoors. Don't wait until your life is at risk to train to shoot from inside a vehicle. This drill will enable you to learn the difficulties in drawing a sub-compact handgun from a sitting position, as well as the difficulties of engaging targets in the front and back seat. UC personnel should also be trained to use their hands to attack a threat while they draw their firearm or edged weapon with their free hand. A training dummy should be used as a target in this vehicle training scenario. If simulated munitions are used, a fellow officer can play the role of the violator.

Exercise #7 (Vehicle Ambush)

This exercise is designed to simulate an ambush by armed violators including terrorists. Law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel will be taught to use the training vehicle to ram their way through the ambush to safety.

Students will also be taught how to evacuate the vehicle and return fire while evacuating the area. This exercise involves engaging multiple adversaries, combat reloading and using a vehicle and available cover to your advantage.

Students will learn how to return a steady stream of accurate offensive fire while doing everything possible to retreat after being ambushed by multiple violators. This exercise teaches law enforcement officers that they can never have enough ammunition available in a gunfight, especially when outnumbered.

This exercise also reinforces the idea that it's better to live to fight another day rather than go down in a blaze of glory because you used the wrong tactics or let tunnel vision set in to the point of paralyzing your ability to react with precision. Depending on the severity of the ambush attack, your only chance to survive will rest in your ability to behave as aggressively as your attackers.

Agents can practice this exercise alone and with a partner or several agents to simulate a wide variety of circumstances. Many of the same techniques used by special agents who come under fire on a protection detail apply; remember that in this case, you're the VIP you need to protect. This training program can easily be modified to meet the specific needs of any agency.

To learn more about Lifeline Training, please e-mail the author at editor@policemag.com.


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Nick Jacobellis Headshot
Special Agent (Ret.)
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