How Does The Last Hundred Yards, Enhance Tactical Responses to Crises?

The strategic and tactical mind takes into consideration all the key factors of a dynamic and competitive encounter. While we converge on the scene of a crises, we know from training we are supposed to set up tactically and make observations to get a feel for what's going on (orientation). Once we make a judgment about what we believe is going on we make decisions that help us gain the advantage before we take action. Hell we are taught the importance of tactical set ups and perimeter in the police academy. My experience has been, and what I continue to see however, is that we scurry across town and pull up in front of a home, business or some other location and run up and knock on the front door. This type of emotional approach is costing us dearly with names inscribed on the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall.

Understanding true sense of urgency and possessing a strategic and tactical mind will help you stay mentally calm. This leads to your ability think observe-orient-decide and act on key factors based on actionable knowledge you have gathered responding to, arriving at the scene of a crisis and interacting with the people and environment. Quite simply you get a Better Picture of What’s Going On by Taking Advantage of the Last Hundred Yards. Sun Tzu said more than 2,500 years ago: This is war. It is the most important skill in the nation. It is the basis of life and death. It is the philosophy of survival or destruction. You must know it well. Your skill comes from five factors. Study these factors when you plan war. You must insist on knowing your situation:

  • Discuss philosophy
  • Discuss climate
  • Discuss ground
  • Discuss leadership
  • Discuss military methods

What's the overall philosophy in handling the situation? Is it to get a barricaded subject to give up and comply, to resolve a domestic disturbance, or is it to end ongoing active deadly action? Whatever the crisis it is paramount to know what it is we wish to accomplish. In most cases that philosophy will be stop the threat and render aid.

What's the climate of the situation? Are those involved in the domestic disturbance talking and interacting signaling possible voluntary compliance or have they shut down, gathered a weapon of some kind and actively committed to escalating the situation? Is it an ongoing deadly action situation and if so, are the perpetrators of the violence continuing their actions or have they deescalated and it’s turned now into something else? What type of weapons do they have? Are they a highly trained adversary or untrained or unknown? How well trained are those on the friendly side of the equation? Is there a need for better trained units and do you have access to them? Do you consider the need to take action by either engaging, disengaging or waiting? Do you consider how to set up tactically to meet the strategic objective? How do you set up, so you have the advantage and ability to adapt regardless of the motive and intent of the adversary?

Do you know the ground, the environment (THE LAST HUNDRED YARDS)? Is the scene a place you are familiar with? If unfamiliar with the area do you have the understanding and capabilities to read the environment, terrain and micro-terrain on the fly, so it can be used to gain the advantage? Who has the advantageous terrain the adversary or friendlies? Where is the best place to rally to set up and discuss a plan? Have you even considered adversarial strengths and weaknesses? What's the most advantageous avenue of approach and entry point? Where will you set up perimeters, arrest and rescue teams? If you have to make a tactical retreat have you decided on an escape route?

What role does leadership play? Is leadership on the friendly side top/down and controlling that requires constant contact and orders or is leadership a bottom/up style built on trust that sets the mission and intent and then allows units to adapt and act as necessary, based on mission and intent? (See Fighting Power for an eye-opening look at the type organizational climate necessary to make timely decisions under pressure) Have you considered the leadership and organizational culture on the adversarial side and how does that influence the tactics you will use?

What methods and tactics do you apply? There is no perfect solution to crisis situations and therein lays the root of the problem. Because there is no one right answer some conclude that there is also no wrong answer; there are just some better than others. This reveals a sad, but true, state of affairs in that many police tacticians lack even the most basic understanding of any supporting science for making sound tactical decisions and would be hard put to quote a single source, theory or doctrine to justify their decisions. Critical questions to consider before you act are: Do you understand tactics? Have you been trained in tactics and how they apply to solving real world crisis situations? How do your past experience and then your evaluation of the current situation dictate the methods you will use? Without an understanding of the factors and influences in play, tactical decisions must be based upon impressions, beliefs and guesses.

Considering Sun Tzu’s five factors are critical to how we respond and how we successful we are. Some reading this will say hell I never think about these things and we are successful in all most all the calls we go to. This is true; I have been there and seen success in a vast array of crises we respond to. Charles “Sid” Heal in his book Field Command says:

“Without a thorough understanding of fundamental tactical principles it is impossible to tell if an operation was successful because of the tactics used or if opportune circumstances simply allowed for a favorable outcome. In fact, fortuitous circumstances are frequently mistaken for tactical acumen. In the words of one law enforcement tactical instructor we confuse good luck with good tactics.”

Next up The Last Hundred Yards Series we will discuss responding via habit (GOOD LUCK) versus responding with a strategic and tactical mindset (SOUND DECISION MAKING).