Principles Are Your Answer Key

 

Principles are the foundation of which all our tactics are built.

If you consider that our operating tactics are like branches of a tree, then the principles are its trunk.

Prudent trainers and researchers should challenge the principles of their own system and when they do, they will learn that although the terminology and applications may vary,  its all derived from the same sources.

Sun Tzu wrote ‘The Art of War’, citing the first known script of the principles of war and combat, This initiated evolution, regurgitation and refinement by every major military contender up to present day. However, the law enforcement community didn’t recognize more specific operating adaptations until adopting the O.O.D.A. loop in the 1960s.

OODA LOOP

The O.O.D.A. loop is the brain child of United States Air Force pilot and academic Col. John Boyd (ret.) who noted that to combatant who can Observe, Orient, Decide and Act first and most effectively wins.

In his ground breaking and brutally no nonsense book Sound Doctrine; A Tactical Primer, Charles “Sid” Heal, speaks most aptly to this critical thought process required to be successful in combative situations.

According to Boyd’s theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time competitive, Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) cycles. Each party to a conflict begins by observing itself, the physical surroundings, and the enemy. Next, it orients itself. Orientation refers to making a mental image or “snapshot” of the situation. Orientation is necessary because the fluid, chaotic nature of conflicts make it impossible to process the information as fast as we can process it. This requires a “freeze frame” concept and provides a perspective or orientation. Once there is orientation a decision needs to be made. The decision takes into account all the factors present at the time of the orientation. Last comes the implementation of the decision. This requires action, then, because we hope that our actions will have changed the situation, the cycle begins anew. The cycle continues to renew itself throughout the tactical operation.

The adversary who can consistently go through the Boyd Cycle faster than the other gains tremendous advantage. By the time the slower adversary reacts, the faster one is doing something different and that action becomes ineffective.

About 25 years later, Charles Remsberg, author of the Calibre Press’ Street Survival Series had similar deductions he termed The Thought Process. Remsberg observed that an officer has to do four things. He first has to locate the threat, react to the threat, make an assessment of the appropriate action and then initiate the action and control that threat.

The bad guy only needs to locate, react and attack the officer thus giving the bad guy the upper hand as he has less things to do on his roster.

Both tactical thinking pioneers recognized the importance of initiative during combative encounters as well as the series of time sensitive processes to shape our tactics.

The O.O.D.A. loop and the Thought Process are two of the more prominent theories which when applied properly, as invaluable litmus tests for the operating methods we employ.

The understanding principles such as these is so important because nothing is more debatable and drags our training day down to a dead crawl like the discussions over which tactics are best.

Principle based thinking improves our training because they serve as our answer key. Principles give our tactics an anchor point to ask the pertinent question, such as with the OODA loop, will this tactic allow us to observe, orient, decide or act better and faster than our adversary. If the answer is yes, the tactic is sound, if the answer is no, it is not.

Quick decisions can be made and we can move on.  

It’s Not the Critic Who Counts; A Thank You Letter to Constable Lam

 

On April 23rd, 2018 at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon, a male who’s name I refuse to utter but one whom was presumably fed up with the rejection of women, rented a full sized van and plowed through a crowd of people walking on a sidewalk along one of downtown Toronto’s busiest streets killing ten and seriously injuring over a dozen more.

When the vehicle was stopped, the suspect was confronted by Ken Lam, a Constable with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Service in a single officer unit and taken into custody where he now faces ten counts of first degree murder and thirteen counts of attempted murder.

Since that time, criticism of that officer’s actions and his failure to kill the suspect has erupted from people like those whom Theodore Roosevelt, in his speech The Man in the Arena, referred to as those “cold and timid souls who point out how the strong man stumbles and how the doer of deeds could have done them better.”

Although killing the reject who had just committed the most heinous mass murder in the city’s history may have satisfied the public’s bloodlust and undoubtedly drawn the condemnation of others, it also would have made Constable Lam guilty of murder.

For legal clarity, the Criminal Code of Canada states, and I paraphrase, that a police officer is justified in using force that is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm, like shooting a person for example, if that force is necessary to protect that officer, or another person from imminent or future death or grievous bodily harm.

When the suspect and his death rental mobile came to rest there was a standoff between himself and Constable Lam. Lam drew his firearm and challenged the suspect at which time the suspect failed to comply with the officer’s commands to surrender. Although the suspect’s actions leading up to this standoff were deadly, what was occurring at that moment was not. This is the key. An officer has to take the circumstances that he is presented with in that situation.

I’ll caveat that last paragraph. I’m not suggesting the actions of the suspect leading up to the stand-off should not be given serious consideration, they should.  They demonstrate his willingness and intent to use deadly force and can no doubt culminate a part of what is referred to in training circles as the Totality of Circumstances. However, it cannot justify the stand alone use of deadly force after the fact. In a different situation with similar circumstances and factors too numerous to debate, maybe lethal force would have been justified, but not here.

If the situation changed, for example- if the suspect began to put that vehicle into motion- an officer could reasonably fear for future loss of life given the suspect’s previous behavior and then would most likely be justified in using lethal force to stop that threat, but that was not the case here.

What occurred was a police stand-off in which the suspect did not want to be taken into custody and figured the easiest way out of being held accountable for his actions would be to have the police kill him. It’s called suicide by cop and it’s a thing. The suspect made several threatening gestures to entice Constable Lam to end his own life including reaching into his pocket and brandishing a cell phone like a pistol. He even verbally taunted the officer to kill him stating that he ‘had a gun in his pocket.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bih9X2wp7wg

Constable Lam did not shoot the suspect because the reality was that he did not fear imminent death or grievous bodily harm. It did not exist because Lam recognized that the suspect was holding a cell phone, not a gun and did not belief he was armed otherwise. Acting alone, Ken Lam recognized the suspect’s ploy, maintained vigilance and acted in the manner in which he was trained in order to bring this monster into custody and stand accused for what he had done. Constable Lam is neither coward or hero. He is a police officer who made the right call.

Constable’s Lam’s only failure was that he did not take on the role of executioner, and because of this, the suspect’s suffering did not end on the sidewalk that afternoon but will now continue on and on in some dank prison cell for the remainder of his abundant years.

So, thank you Constable Lam for facing evil in its purest form and not faltering. Thank you for acting in the professional manner in which you were trained and sworn to do; and for temporarily silencing the throngs of accusers of police officers as violence mongering murderers.

Thank you for thwarting this coward’s easy exit strategy and replacing it with the promise of decade after decade of suffering and misery in a metal box.

But most of all, thank you Constable Lam, and all others in that arena for reminding us that it is not the critic who counts. Who counts are those whom are “marred by dust and sweat and blood, for actually striving to do the deeds, the great devotions, for spending themselves in a worthy cause so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”   

 

 

 

Three Solutions to School Shootings

Teachers are our shepherds. They teach and nurture our children in our absence but for some reason we presume they’ll protect them too.

I believe this is unfair to our educational professionals but reality being what it is, history has proven that an armed response as quickly as possible is the only way to terminate a lethal threat and save lives.

I’ll caveat this by saying I  believe that prevention is the key. In the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida, the shooter made it known what his intentions were and I suggest that this is not an anomaly but the norm. Recently in my home town, a teenager posted on his facebook page  “it’s going to be a good day at school” while posing with a replica assault rifle. The school was put into lockdown, the child was spoken to, harshly I’m sure, asked many questions about his feelings and suspended for 3 days. The parents were told by a school official that the lock down involved a student and it was ‘non violent.’

Denial and ignoring threat cues are the problem but in lieu of that, here are 3 potential solutions.

1.Keep our Fingers Crossed

This is the option currently utilized. Commendably, many civilians are being trained in various run-hide-fight strategies, which is a good start but ultimately the primary response to neutralizing an active killer is too get armed personnel on scene as quickly as possible. Once the 911 call is made, a communication centre call taker would dispatch police units and if response time is good, they will be on scene to deal with the threat in 5 minutes from the beginning of the incident, at best.

Ron Borsch of the SEALE active shooter training academy developed a what he calls the Stopwatch of Death, which reveals that the killing is over in less than two minutes.

So by the time the Police arrived, your kid or mine would be dead.

Follow up this option would then be to change our facebook page indicating that we’ll say our prayers for the involved, hold a vigil, shake our heads at the television and probably debate gun control for a few weeks. Rinse and Repeat.

2. Arm our Teachers.

Desperate measures but I’m sure there would be volunteers. Not every teacher would need to be armed but just the knowledge that some may be would be enough to cause a potential assassin to choose another target. Train them in the ways of the would-be assassins and equip them with the tools, training and mindset to protect our children. It almost seems negligent not too!

There are many discreet holsters and clothing options on the market that children would not need to be looking at guns on their teacher’s belt. If you add a public campaign and some awareness stickers on the school entrances, you have just made a very unattractive target for a potential killer.

People who commit mass murders have but one goal- kill as many people as they can.

Active killers all possess another common characteristic, cowardice. If they know there is someone armed and prepared waiting for them before they kill others, they will pick another place.

3. Armed Off Duty or Retired Police Officers/ Military Members in Every School

If we did this, school shootings would never happen again. According to Borsch, almost all of active killings are aborted by a school resource officer, security guard, civilian or the killer taking his own life. In short, somebody who is already on scene.

If done properly and discretely, you wouldn’t even know they were there. But they would be, and the potential active killer would know it too.

How many retired police officers or service members do you know that would be willing to band up with 10 or 20 colleagues and draw up a schedule within their school divisions to protect the community’s children. My bet is that if there wasn’t room in the city budgets for it, they would do it for free.

This would be the best way to deal with school shootings.

Until this time comes, refer to solution 1.

 

Stop Debating and Train!

 

Too much valuable training time is often wasted pontificating the endless tactical solutions to the problems that arise during training. We need to square these issues away in the boardroom before hand and if new problems arise, have an ‘answer key,’ an agreed upon set of standards to measure against our problem, find a solution and get back to work. That answer key or measuring tool lies in our is our core principles.

Principles are the base from which all our tactics stem.

If you consider that our operating tactics are like branches of a tree, then the principles are the trunk.

Any prudent operator or trainer will question and challenge the principles of their own system and when they do, they will learn that although the language, terminology and tactics may vary slightly, its all pretty much a different branches from the same trunk.

In like 500 BC, Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War”, citing one of the first known scripts of the principles of war; also drawing evolution, regurgitation and development by every major military contender up to present day. However, the law enforcement community didn’t recognize more specific operating principles until the birth of the O.O.D.A. loop in the 1960s.

OODA LOOP

The O.O.D.A. loop is the brain child of United States Air Force pilot and academic Col. John Boyd (ret.) who noted that to succeed in combat the one who is can Observe, Orient, Decide and Act first and most effectively wins.

In his ground breaking and brutally no nonsense book Sound Doctrine; A Tactical Primer, Charles “Sid” Heal, speaks most aptly to this critical thought process required to be successful in combative situations.

According to Boyd’s theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time competitive, Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) cycles. Each party to a conflict begins by observing itself, the physical surroundings, and the enemy. Next, it orients itself. Orientation refers to making a mental image or “snapshot” of the situation. Orientation is necessary because the fluid, chaotic nature of conflicts make it impossible to process the information as fast as we can process it. This requires a “freeze frame” concept and provides a perspective or orientation. Once there is orientation a decision needs to be made. The decision takes into account all the factors present at the time of the orientation. Last comes the implementation of the decision. This requires action, then, because we hope that our actions will have changed the situation, the cycle begins anew. The cycle continues to renew itself throughout the tactical operation.

The adversary who can consistently go through the Boyd Cycle faster than the other gains tremendous advantage. By the time the slower adversary reacts, the faster one is doing something different and that action becomes ineffective.

About 25 years later, Charles Remsberg, author of the renown Calibre Press’ Street Survival Series, had similar deductions he called The Thought Process.  He observed that an officer had to go through four distinct stages. He first has to locate the subject. Then the officer has to physically be in a position to react to the subject’s action. He then needs to identify the subject, the level of threat they pose, formulate an appropriate action and then initiate that action in order to control the subject.

The bad guy only needs to locate, react and attack the officer thus giving the bad guy the upper hand.

Consider these actions like a personal roster. Whomever can make their own roster shorter and their adversary’s longer wins.

Both tactical thinking pioneers recognized the importance of initiative during combative encounters as well as a series of time sensitive processes that need to occur.

These are only two examples of principles that serve as excellent litmus tests for the operating methods we employ.

Tactics are like a Pandora’s Box. And when that box opens up and the endless possibilities of appropriate tactics are discussed, valuable minutes and hours are lost. Time that should be spent conducting ad nauseam repetitions.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.”  George S. Patton Jr.

Solid principles give our trainers the answer key to measure training solutions.

When debating whether or not a certain tactic is optimal, trainers only need ask a simple question:

Will this tactic enhance our abilities to proceed through our processes more efficiently than our adversary, or, hinder our adversary’s abilities to proceed through his processes? 

If the answer to that question is yes, let’s do it. if the answer is no, let’s not.

Quick decisions can be made and we can move on.  

 

What if it was your kid being killed?

 

 

A trainer needs to be passionate about what they are teaching to be effective, especially when they’re teaching life saving skills . And to be passionate, you need to believe in what you’re teaching.

The question is, do you believe in what you’re teaching and how can you tell? What’s the test?

This is an experience of mine that puts this into clear perspective for many trainers and students. 

I was conducting police recruit training for young men and women entering the field of law enforcement and attempting to prepare them for the worse case of situations. Many long weeks of theory and stress inoculation, skill set, firearms and judgemental training led to this, a mass murder in progress, reality based training scenario.

The objective of the scenario was to push the participants to transition from a situation requiring a slow methodical building search to that of an imminent threat to life, prompting them to adjust their tactics and proceed directly to the threat in order to preserve life.

The briefing given was that the recruits were responding to a workplace where a suspicious male was seen entering the building, possibly with a weapon. It was unknown if people were still in the building.

All participants entered the training area and began conducting a slow methodical building search appropriately.

A gunman then appeared in the hallway 50 yards in front of the participants, executed an employee role player in their plain view before retreating to a room where people were heard screaming  “He’s going to kill us!”  The scenario was designed in such a way that the execution could not have been prevented so as to make perfectly clear the deadly force intentions of the hostile role player.

Most participants changed their tactics accordingly and proceeded directly to the threat, eliminating it. But one crew continued to make their way through the hallway in a slow methodical fashion, clearing room by room failing to make the transition. The shots rang out in the room at the end of the hallway as the trained role player executed another hostage role player on cue every 10 seconds.

Eventually the participants came to the doorway where the gunman and his victim role players were. The recruits cut the pie on the door way entering the room slowly, identifying the threat and ultimately taking the shot.

Several role players were executed as a result of the participants inability to recognize need to proceed directly to the threat.

Overseeing this training I listened as the capable instructors attempted to debrief the participants, the most important part of the process. The debrief is the part of the process where the participants are given an opportunity to reconstruct the event and articulate their actions to the instructors. It is also the part of the process where the greatest learning occurs and therefore has to be managed extremely carefully by whomever is conducting it.

I noticed the trainer struggling to find a way to impart on the participants that their actions were wrong, probably for fear of demoralizing them. But the truth was, the recruits should have proceeded directly to the threat itself and eliminated it as opposed to methodically clearing each area he passed.

The recruit maintained his actions were appropriate and that we should always approach a threat slowly and safely, even if people were being killed.

The trainer looked at me hard pressed to get the participant to recognize the error in his ways. Fortunately I had one.

I said: “I just have a quick question before you move on to the next scenario.”

He said, “Shoot.”

I asked “Where does your Mom work?”

He was confused but responded, “At the post office.”

I probed further; “Whereabouts?”  Again perplexed he said “In the sorting room, why?”

I said, “OK, if this was a shooting at the post office where your Mom works, and she was on duty, and the shooter was heading toward the sorting area, would you handle the situation in the same way?”

His answer was predictably “Hell no, I would sprint in there and kill the m….rf….r!”

Well all of a sudden the light bulb went on and everything became clear, the scenario was immediately repeated and the recruits performed lights out!

So too was born the ultimate litmus test of any training system.

Would you act in the manner in which you are trained, or train others, if you were responding to the scene of someone you loved, like your Mom’s workplace or your child’s school?

If not, I forward the motion you don’t believe in your training system and it wont hold up in the most stressful of situations, the nth degree.

And if your system or principles wont hold up in the nth degree, then your system and training needs fixing.

So the next time you are experimenting with a program or trying to determine it’s effectiveness, or in my situation, just looking for a way to help a student embrace the appropriate mindset, take your principles and tactics to the nth degree and see if they still hold water.

Ask yourself an honest question.

Is this what you would do if you were responding to your son’s school and somebody was trying to kill him?

If the answer is yes, you believe in your system, if the answer is no, you don’t and stop teaching it!