The Last 100 Yards Series: High Diddle, Diddle Straight Up the Middle or Maneuver: How Are Your Tactics, Officer?

What's more effective and safe method in responding to calls for service? Is it Go Get Them (High Diddle, Diddle Straight Up the Middle) or Set Them Up To Get Them (Maneuver, Strategic and Tactical Thinking)?

The answer seams very clear, yet, in policing what seems clear and is often answered correctly, in a classroom, is all too often ignored on the street.

The Last Hundred Yard series has been an effort to get police officers to think a lot more about tactics. In this piece I offer a couple of examples and allow you to decide. In a world that is full of threats towards cops i.e. officers feloniously killed up 50%, officers ambushed up at my last look 167% with 20 our of 60 officers killed feloniously, ambushed. This combined with the fact more demands are place on police officers and their departments, that we still have to perform our duties and fairly and impartially protect and serve, I think its time every street cop, that's right I mean ever patrol officer to gain more knowledge in tactics. Not only to gain more knowledge, but to take that knowledge and be able to APPLY it to the streets they work. Never be to big to do the small things that need to be done. tactics are those small that are all to often missed, ignored or just plainly habituated completely out of reactions to calls. Police officers must learn to observe, orient, decide and act, rather than react.

Taking advantage of your environment can help you do that. In his paper 'Destruction and Creation' strategist john Boyd created a theory with direct applicability to a fast changing environment. To maintain accurate or effective grasp of reality, he argued, one must undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with the environment to assess its constant changes.

You receive a domestic disturbance call and it’s clear from the dispatch that there is escalating violence. You hit the lights; siren and gas pedal and start heading to the location. Traffic is medium to heavy at the time but you must get to this call, “someone may be in danger!” These damn cars don’t they get it goes through you mind and out your mouth as you curse those failing to get out of your path. “Can’t they see the blue lights and hear the damn siren...assholes! You’re traveling at about 75 miles per hour as you approach an intersection of two major roads the traffic is stopped in front of you for the red light. You slow down as you approach but continue to somewhat cautiously move through the red light at the intersection. That “damn idiot” you shout as a car comes through the intersection at 50 mile per hour, the legal posted speed limit on this major road. “I know he had the green light but couldn’t that stupid S.O.B. see and hear me?” You get through the intersection safely despite the close call and continue on your way to the domestic disturbance. You get to the location pulling into the driveway. You get out of the car and the second and third patrol cars pull up as back up units, right out front of the location.

Now I am not going to get into what happens once you get out, because there could be multiple outcomes depending upon your awareness, assessment and how you interact with the environment and climate of the situation. However I do want you to think about what could happen and who has the advantage.

Does it make sense that you are there out front or in the driveway? Do you have the advantage on this call now that you are there? Have you thought about how to approach or do you just walk up, to the front door and knock? Or does the person, people on the inside have the better advantage as you arrive? What could this mean to you, your fellow officers if the emotionally charged person decides he does not want you there? Is he armed? Did you even consider whether or not he was armed? Or did your hast to get there and the effort and concentration driving fast keep you from even considering that question?

Now the same call as above yet you decide to utilize the last hundred yards to help you get a better snap shot of what’s going on and to better think about what you are doing. You understand that this is a serious call so you turn on your lights and siren and gas pedal goes down, but not to the floor. You think of the potential dangers of responding to domestic calls and decide to get there with a true sense of urgency, quickly but not at warp speed and think about your response. As you drive you are aware traffic is medium to heavy and that you need to be cautious of others on the road that do not have your experience behind the wheel. As you approach the major intersection you lights and siren activated your speed is 55 mph, you slow down and note the traffic again as you stop and then edge your way into the major intersection until you observe it’s clear, and then continue on. As you get closer you kill the lights and siren, advise dispatch and other responding officers you are going off and then ask is there any more information? Dispatch tells you; “we have had other domestics at this location, no record of any firearms or firearms license holders at the location. You stop several doors down from the location (THE LAST HUNDRED YARDS). You also radio this to your back-up units and advise them to meet you at your location as a rally point and to come quietly.

Once they arrive you all decide to walk with deliberateness up to the location and as you do you are all listening to what's going on. There are people in the area who have a look of concern on their face and tell you that this has been an ongoing thing at this location. You ask them if they know anything about the people inside. They tell you that they know them well and that the two have kids and have been struggling financially and have been arguing a lot lately, since one of them lost their job. Do you know of any weapons you ask as you continue on foot to the location. They do not; know whether or not they have weapons. “But I do know Joe goes hunting” one person responds. You tell the concerned citizens to stay put. You then talk with the other responding officers about the best approach. As you get to the location, still concealed you look and listen. Things are still unfolding now and the tone of conversation is loud but seemingly controlled. You overhear a voice on the inside say he is leaving and that he is tired of arguing. A second voice, you hear say “good go!

What are your options in this scenario verses the scenario above where you were already in the driveway? Do you have more or less? Do you have more time to plan a response knowing more than in the latter example knowing much less? Who has the advantage in this second scenario? The answer should be obvious yet, why is it that the vast majority of our responses are like the first example? Think about it!

It’s often said that good tactics involve speed, surprise and violence of action. Reading words about tactics and strategy mean nothing unless you understand how they apply to the situation you find yourself in.

Speed does not mean fast moving only in the sense of speeding recklessly to a call or instantly pursuing a suspect on foot. It does mean, putting you at a position of advantage so you can gather and manage more information via the OODA Loop, which becomes actionable understanding (orientation) that you can then act on to deal with the situation as it unfolds on your terms, not on the adversaries. Yes there are times when spontaneous things happen and speed in the traditional sense is necessary but think about it! However, in the vast majority of cases speed equals the combination of strategy and tactics not complacent, false sense of urgency and reckless responses.

Surprise does not mean pulling up to the front door of a location because you got there quickly, hell that is the exact opposite of surprise. It does mean again positioning so that when you act it does indeed surprise the person so that even if they did have violent intentions they may reconsider and take a non-violent action because they were caught unprepared and off guard. By using surprise you got inside the adversaries observation, orientation, decision and action cycles that put him at a disadvantage.

Action does not always mean moving forward, for that matter action can indeed mean waiting or disengaging if the risk analysis dictates so. Action is again positioning to gain the advantage so you win the confrontation, through sound strategy and tactics be it words, physical imitative driven Combative’ s or reasonable lethal force.

Conclusion: Learn-Unlearn and Relearn

Knowledge is power, but only when knowledge is combined with an understanding of how that knowledge applies to the street and particular situation. There is no one way to handle and solve a particular problem, when it comes to conflict and crises, this seem obvious. We must understand the role of the strategic and tactical mind over the habit formed mind and whenever possible seek to adapt responses based on intuitive and or explicit understanding, considering time and risk.

In our responding the goal is to accomplish something. Accomplishing that something is based on gaining ground and the position of advantage to exploit opportunities and avoid or minimize hazards. The strategic and tactical mind gives those responding to crises situations the power and desire to win through understanding, anticipation based on experience and the unfolding circumstances, adaptation and sound decision making. Show Up? Or Take Advantage of The last Hundred Yards and set them up? The choice is yours right this moment to decide whether or not you want to create a learning environment and be the best police officer you can possibly be. The best police officers in the world practice more than they play to become excellent tactical artisans. Excellence is a process of evolution, or cumulative learning of incremental improvement. Success is modest improvement, consistently done. Simply put, we get better and better people make better police officers.

Stay Oriented!

Fred