Counter-Ambush Tactics: Thinking Tactically and Doing What You Know How To Do On The Street

Cops Exploring

From the 10 year period, 2000-2009 there were 536 officers feloniously killed in the line of duty of these, 115 were ambushed. In other words, officers were caught by surprise and killed in the line of duty by someone willing to hide , wait and when he is ready bring the fight straight to the cops when they least expect it. WHY does this happen to cops? How does it happen? Are there things we can do, tactics we can use to prevent or at least reduce ambushes to law enforcement officers? 

200-2009 stats

I believe the answer to these questions are yes we can do something about preventing and reducing ambushes that centers around awareness, slowing things down a bit and using tactics that center on tactical positioning that  allows officers to explore the situation as they respond and learn in real time, “what's going on” and “what's  important now” as they accord with the unknown.  The tactical approach allows officers to reflect progress and to learn more about the situation and how to make even more progress as they attempt to resolve dynamic encounters. Whatever an officers rationale of the moment is, it is only as good as his current understanding of the situation. And most situations we respond to there is much unknown, so the importance of observing, orienting, deciding and acting is paramount to preventing and reducing ambushes. As COL John Boyd said; “Decisions without action are pointless. Actions without decisions are reckless.” So bring some meaning to your OODA Loops!  They will save your life!

There is a great and timely article by Andre Belotto a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department , published at Police Magazine titled; “Urban Counter-Ambush Tactics: Avoid the kill zone when responding to calls for service with these simple approach techniques.” that gets to the human side of preventing and reducing ambushes by using tools we all learned in the police academy. Andre states a truth well known to cops; “Nothing discussed here is a re-invention of the wheel per se, but a refocusing on, and highlighting of, things officers need to do every day. Over the years I have discovered two important truths about the patrol assignment: 1) Exhibiting complacency will eventually injure or kill a police officer; and 2) Every call, every stop involves at least one firearm: yours.” We know this and any cop in a conversation or on some written exam would answer these factors as keys to survival and winning on the street. Question??? WHY are we not applying these concepts in the real world of conflict and violence?

“It's amazing how many officers responding to a radio call in an urban environment drive right up to the call location, or park their police vehicles just a house or a building away. These officers are gambling with their lives that this is just another "routine" call. Why? Is it because they have several calls holding and just want to get them handled as quickly as possible? That's not a valid reason. Each call has to be handled safely, and safety takes time; it cannot be rushed. Let dispatch worry about the calls holding. You can only worry about the call you're on.”

The key is in taking what you know and being able to adapt and apply it to a given set of circumstances to effect your strategy, bringing an end to a dynamic, rapidly evolving and potentially violent occurrence using appropriate tactics. This allows officer(s) to adapt and make an effective change to an altered situation. Tactics is as much about observing, awareness and thinking as it is about doing. So lets bring some meaning to the words “OFFICER SAFETY” and start DOING what we know needs to be done and make a difference in on the street. 

Winning requires knowing and applying many things, including an understanding of human nature, culture, the environment, the climate of the situation, psychology, physiology, verbal and nonverbal communications, decision making, tactical skills, combative skills, firearms skills, leadership and the overall mission or intent. In an engagement all these factors combine in a synergistic way and require interaction with your adversary's), fellow officers and the situation you find yourself in.

Make sure you read Andre’s complete article he ends with common tactical sense “It is, therefore, extremely important for officers working the streets of our cities and the roads and highways of our nation to remain alert, remain unpredictable, and do the unexpected on every call and on every stop. I hope this article has helped you toward this goal.”

Stay Oriented!

Fred