Are You An LE Professional?

I have very little sympathy for criminals or the foolish concerns of administrators that place liability concerns above officer safety.


I first got involved in police work back in the early '80s just as the officer survival movement was picking up a head of steam. In fact, it was the subject of officer survival that most appealed to me, coming as I did from a martial arts and firearms background. My conservative philosophical and political attitude was - and is - also well-attuned to the we go home at the end of the shift theme of the movement. I have very little sympathy for criminals or the foolish concerns of administrators that place liability concerns above officer safety.

Along the way, I learned that the authority of the police in a free society must be carefully circumscribed, lest we lose our liberties. I learned that some (not all, to be sure, and maybe not most, but some) of the difficulty that court decisions have placed on us as cops is actually for the good of American society in the long run. And I learned that there are rules we must play by if we are to be professional police officers, and not just Billy-Bobs with guns.

So it is ironic that as someone who's written hundreds of articles for the professional law enforcement press, and as a result is often best known as an advocate of realism in training and a hard-core approach to it, and as a proponent of aggressive tactics, I am writing this article criticizing some of the over-aggressive and unprofessional trends I and many others are seeing these days. Nonetheless, here they are:

Confusion with the military

We are civilians! Our job is civilian law enforcement. Yes, some of our tools and tactics overlap with the military's, but our mission, rules of engagement, risk management, and SOPs nonetheless differ considerably. There are any number of excellent ex-military instructors out there these days, teaching weapons and tactics. But as a very highly regarded Special Forces instructor - who for over 20 years has trained both front-line military units and national-asset anti-terrorist law-enforcement agencies - remarked to me, "So what if some guy is ex-SEALs or whatever? Unless you've lived civilian law enforcement, you can't appreciate the nuances of its use-of-force issues." The best ex-military instructors for cops are those that have taken the time to learn the civilian law enforcement job, and have even entered it.

Muzzle discipline

I was taught, both by my state and at the Smith & Wesson Academy, that the second rule of firearms safety meant just what it said. I was taught that we (generally) don't point guns at people we aren't in the act of shooting; if a gun needs to be pointed in their direction - perhaps to challenge them, it's generally with the muzzle depressed. But today we see cops routinely holding people at gunpoint - people who don't need to be shot right now - with the muzzle right on their chest. We see raids routinely conducted with muzzles high - despite the presence of children and innocents in the structure. There's now science to confirm the common sense notion that if we are startled, lose our balance, or are bumped, we can involuntarily convulse our gun hand and discharge our gun, even if our finger is off the trigger, and it actually happens on a regular basis. This, of course, is general rule, not a iron-clad rule for several tactical and biological reasons, I know, so there's a much longer 3-part article I wrote on the subject, with all the references, and with all the caveats at the link below.

Black BDUs

If I haven't made you mad by now, this might! Black BDUs make us look like storm troopers. Black is also not tactical as it doesn't conceal you very well in low light. Blue (or brown or tan or green) is the color of professional law enforcement. By outfitting your officers or tactical teams in blue, brown tan or green BDUs, you don't look like an occupying army, you don't look sloppy, and you don't look like you're ready to invade Poland - you look like professionals.

Chicks dig it stuff

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