Follow Me!!! Creating and Nurturing Tactical Decision Makers With Combat Tested Methodologies

Cops Dying from Poor Tactical Decisions…That's the Problem!

In 2010, 162 police officers died in the line of duty. Thus far in 2011 we have 2 officers killed in the line of duty. Not a good start to the new year.  You can see how these deaths break down here at the Officer Down Memorial Page. 

Now none of us, regrettably, can change the past but we sure as hell can change the future. Many of these deaths could have been prevented through better tactical decision making. I know it’s a bold statement to make but, this I am a firm believer in. Many of us just plain do not think tactically on the streets. If we do think tactically we do not apply what we think and know to situations we find ourselves in.  This must change!

The why behind this problem we have discussed here at this site in numerous articles, complacency, mindset, attitude, rushing into calls, false sense of urgency, failure to recognize the signs and signals of danger, failure to look at the adversarial point of view, poor tactical training, poor leadership, fear of liability and disciplinary action, egos, resistance to change, etc are all factors to consider s to why we make poor tactical decisions.

We have all participated in trainings where the topic of officer safety and reducing the number of cops killed in the line of duty is the focus. I know, I know, these are complex and unpredictable problems we are out trying to resolve on the street. But what is missing? What is it about our training that allows any cop in classroom setting to be able to recite solutions to officer safety and yet not be able to apply those same recited solutions to the street? Now we could get back into discussing all these reasons but for this article I want to focus on what I believe is the number one reason, decision making!

Decision making in the context of rapidly changing, unpredictable, complex circumstances are not easy to make. Yet we must be able to make these decisions and put these decisions into action on the street.

As mentioned above there are numerous factors to consider, and we must make decisions a, cognitive ability and then apply tactics, physical abilities to fit the circumstances while at the same time our adversary is doing the same. This means things are constantly changing.  This fact requires we adapt. Do to this interaction between friendly and adversary the plan we started with may indeed have to change. I know this statement seems so obvious but why do we not do it, when it is so obvious we should be doing something more feasible, something more tactically sound?

Problem #2:  Hurry Up and Get Him…The Wrong Approach!!!

We in law enforcement have a major problem with this. Once we get the call and start to engage on the street, we often times fail to adapt despite the need to. Most of the time the street cop’s response is get to the location of the problem and then engage. Hurry up and get him! Anyone coming with you usually just follows the leader. If it’s the front of the house the first responder pulls up to, any back-up officers pull up and park right behind the first poorly positioned vehicle. If the front door the first responding officer runs to, any back-up officers follow like ducks in a row. Not many even think about how to tactically surround the location or if they do think of it peer pressure keeps them from taking appropriate action. God forbid we take the appropriate action to reduce an adversaries ability to maneuver or maybe confuse him possibly to the point he see no other option other than to walk out and surrender.  I know we might get our balls busted later for not backing up the other guys. Why? Does back-up mean we have to be ducks in a row or could back-up possibly be you, on the other side of the building, with now a different perspective on things assisting as described above? It makes sense to me! Have you thought about those windows and doors and the view the adversary has from inside? Have you considered that speeding rapidly to the scene and pulling up front, rushing to the door who has the advantage? You or the adversary on the inside who you just alerted to your presence and your intentions? If he is so inclined to do you harm, who sees who first and who knows the environment and who now has the upper hand?

All right enough of my rant, you get the point!  Tactics are both art and science and we must first understand this and then start applying tactics not in the check list canned way, but instead in an adaptable way, based on the tactical situation. We are all capable of this but to do so we must begin to create and nurture a tactical mindset.  It takes more than thinking and taking about.

One powerful way in developing tactical decision makers is through using tactical decision games which help us to look at different circumstances in different ways. Not every car stop, domestic disturbances, robbery, foot pursuit, suspicious person, adversary etc is the same. They may look the same, feel the same and have many similar factors showing but they are all different in their own unique way. Never forget this fact! The bigger question, how do we fix this and make better tactical decision makers and a safer environment for cops on the street?

An Opportunity to Create and Nurture Decision Making from Combat Tested Methodologies…Follow Me

I was just introduced to a resource and support web-site Follow Me that focus is on United States Army Platoon Leader Tactical Simulation. Follow Me is a platoon level serious game that allows the player to make tactical decisions at the platoon level.  If you are a military professional interested in tactical decision making and problem solving then I would give Follow Me a serious look.

Follow Me is currently being used at the United States Military Academy at West Point in all their military science courses.  Keep in mind Follow Me was designed with training and education in mind, in a time constrained environment which means students do not have to spend an hour learning how to play the game. They have invited law enforcement to get involved in the learning.

I had the opportunity to use these computerized tactical decision making tools while out at the United States Military Academy West Point last year and they are an outstanding was of creating and nurturing frontline decision makers.

The designers of Follow Me from the Department of Military Instruction DMI (retired SFC (Sergeant First Class) Vincent "TJ" Taijeron,  MAJ Steve Banks who is the WARCEN OIC, and Mr. Vic Castro prior military), see the same needs of developing better tactical decision makers in the law enforcement and security professions and want to get law enforcement and security involved. Their goals in the first part of 2011 is to have the civilian version up and running for law enforcement and security to use.

This is a new site and law enforcement and security should be honored to participate. It will clearly enhance our abilities in decision making and the tactics we utilize. As law enforcement and security officers, utilizing this resource combined with already ongoing training you will learn to better evaluate tactical situations. You will be able to look at situations and better evaluate the environment and climate of a situation, take position of advantage and adapt accordingly as you resolve complex tactical problems.  

As the website comes together they will be posting more screenshots, maps, and scenarios.  To make this site even more relevant I will be posting scenario replays in narrative form, sort of like a walk through or rehearsal.  The idea would be for everyone to participate in the discussion and provide their own analysis of the situation.

They are also looking for scenario ideas. “I really want ideas that are relevant to ongoing operations either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere.  Anyone who is interested in helping with scenarios please let me know.” This is a great opportunity to become more effective at what we do. The more from law enforcement and security that get involved in the process the better the scenarios and more effective the learning will be. So if you have scenarios in your mind, PLEASE for the info to those at the site. You can access them through Flow Me.

For those individuals or organizations interested in Follow Me for their own professional military education or training please contact me using the contact form.  At the moment there is no commercially available version of the game.  Right now the focus is on professional military organizations; in the future a commercial version may be available for the general public.

Here is a link to their first article: 3 Ways to Improve Tactical Decision Making Using Follow Me (Pt 1)

This is a fabulous opportunity, to reduce numbers of officers killed in the line of duty and after the last couple of years it’s time we started walking our talk to officer safety. It very clear TALK IS NOT ENOUGH!!!  Lets all (ADMIN, LEADERS and FRONTLINE personnel) get involved and evolve in our tactical decision making abilities and bring some real meaning to how we observe, orient, decide and act!.

Stay Oriented!

Fred