The Last Hundred Yards: Operate On Blind Luck or Win Consistently?

"If you are lucky and trust in luck alone, even your successes reduce you to the defensive; if you are unlucky you are already there." ~Frederick the Great

Depending on “blind luck” in crisis situations is dangerous. This should be obvious to police who respond to a host of different types of calls, were emotions are high and the uncertain conditions make resolving matters peacefully complex. Not to mention the recent attacks on police which includes a 50% increase in cops killed by gunfire and a current increase in police being ambushed as they converge on the scene of unknown and crisis situations. These factors and more, begs the question, are we operating and depending too much on blind luck? If so, what is it we need to be doing to win consistently?

“To improve its chances for success, the unit must accurately predict unique circumstances, and then prepare for them in advance. At whatever point, the unit stops preparing for what may lie ahead, it forces itself to rely on ‘blind luck.’ In other words, it chances of coping with unforeseen circumstances are at best 50-50. If that unit mistakenly believes itself to be fully trained, or just better trained than its adversary, it may have difficulty winning even half of its encounters.” ~H. John Poole

There has been a lot of focus on police response to crisis; emergency driving, isolation and containment, active shooter response, robbery response, domestic violence response, ambush response, etc. etc. etc. This is due to the loss of lives of both police officers and the citizens they serve. The concerns about the safety of the people and the police are obviously warranted. One critical question that comes to mind is: are the methods of training to achieve this goal focused where they need to be or are we stuck using the same mental recipes over and over and expecting different results?

In my view we are way to over focused on the physical side of the equation (hurry up and get him) and neglect considering the moral and mental realms of conflict, and to use strategy and tactics to help reshape the circumstances so the police gain the position of advantage.

First of all no police officer or his unit, or shift is ever fully trained. Training is something that must be, consistent and realistic if it is to have any value in real crisis situations. As expected crisis situations change so to must the way we learn. Over reliance on the school solution constitutes a shortfall in training, because it minimizes the importance of novelty specific to the current situation. Over reliance on policy and procedure, SOPs, checklists does not even establish being well trained. This short post is written to help influence police to think about using their environment (The Last hundred Yards), combined with their training and experiences to reach better outcomes on the street.

The Last hundred Yards is spin off of H. John Poole’s book: The Hundred Yards and is meant to be a metaphor for when we police close in on a crisis situation. It represents the time when we police start to consider strategy and tactics and consider our environment, the friendly and adversarial conditions and how we can use these factors to gain an advantage. The Last hundred yards symbolizes maneuver and tactical thinking over high diddle, diddle straight up the middle emotional reactions to handling crisis situations. The Last Hundred yards is about making situational assessments and using our Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action Loop (The Boyd Cycle) versus the same old habitual reactions to calls.

Superior situational awareness we gain through our ongoing interaction i.e. communication, negotiation, tactical movement both overt and covert and tactical set up utilizing the last hundred yards will help reduce uncertainty and open up opportunities for us to use our insight and imagination to adapt tactics to an evolving situation and seize the initiative. This ability to use insight and imagination and apply knowledge through initiative-driven interaction with our environment, and the climate (what’s happening?) of the situation, considering both adversarial and friendly situation and their affect on the moral, mental and physical dimensions of conflict is known as operational art.

ONE CONCEPT INHERENT IN EVERY SCIENCE IS CAUSALITY. IN short, this means that all consequences have causes. It has been the most fundamental tenet of science for thousands of years. The science that supports tactical decisions is no exception. In order to achieve a favorable outcome it stands to reason that those that produce unfavorable consequences should be discouraged. ~Charles “Sid” Heal, Field Command

There is a lot of information to cover on this topic so I am going to make this a series of blog posts in hopes of influencing every street cop and every police leader to dig deeper into not only how we do what we do but WHY we do what we do!

Stay oriented!

Fred