Left of Bang By Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley

Left of Bang

Recently I gave a briefing on how to forge adaptability through the use of tactical decision games at the Illinois Tactical Officers Associations annual training conference. I had the honor and privilege of meeting, many police trainers who presented on numerous pertinent policing topics (Low visibility SWAT operations, Criminal sniper threats, Finish the fight, Survival leadership and radical Islam What you can expect from ISIS, Tactical lessons learned and Realities of emergency care on the street). There were over 500 SWAT operators in attendance and all were hospitable and showed a high level of professionalism throughout the 4 days I attended. What I learned was very valuable. The ITOA does and outstanding job preparing their people. One of the highlights of the 4 days for me was meeting, speaking with and listening to Patrick Van Horne, the author of the outstanding book, Left of Bang.

Patrick is the founder and CEO of The CP Journal and the co-author of Left of Bang. Before starting the company, Patrick served in the United States Marine Corps for seven years, progressing to the rank of Captain before returning to the private sector. While on active duty, he served as a Platoon Commander and Company Executive Officer with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, Fourth Marines, as a Company Commander with the 1sr Marine Regiment. Through his two deployments to Iraq, he saw firsthand the importance of strong leadership and effective training for our nation’s protectors. Following his time as a company commander, he became the officer-in-charge of a mobile training team in the Combat hunter program at the School of Infantry aboard Camp Pendleton. In this role he provided training to deploying infantry battalions and regiments in behavioral analysis. During his time in this role, he led the creation of the Combat Hunter Trainer Course, a pilot course designed to make Marines into Combat Hunter Instructors. It was in this role that Patrick identified the need for similar training in our nation’s police departments and security companies, decided to write Left of Bang and create The CP Journal.

Left of Bang is a fantastic book. A book every cop and security officer should read. Anyone concerned for their safety looking to avoid dangerous situations through recognizing the signs and signals of crime and danger should read this book.

Left of Bang is a metaphor for preventing the attack, the first shot, the explosion etc. The authors advise “to think about an attack on a timeline, bang is in the middle. Bang is the act. Bang is the IED explosion, the sniper taking a shot, or the beginning of an ambush. Bang is what we want to prevent. Being left of bang means that a person has observed one of the pre-event indicators, one of the warning signs that must occur, earlier on the timeline for the bang to happen. Being on the other end of the timeline is referred to as being right of bang. Most of the training that military operators and law enforcement personnel receive is reactive. They learn skills and techniques that rely on someone else taking the initiative, which means waiting for the enemy or criminal to act first. Unfortunately, whoever strikes first possesses a powerful tactical advantage. When a person is right of bang, they are reacting to the action that took place.”

These lessons from Left of Bang will teach you how to read your environment and respond to it faster than those around you. By learning how to read baseline body language, and immediately detect anomalies, you can begin to know what people are going to do before they do it. More importantly, with these skills you can recognize the signs and signals when someone is trying to lure you into a bad situation. Through pattern recognition in baseline activity that help us to form a faster understanding of both an individual's and a group's intentions before they act.

Left of Bang is book that develops your ability to read human behavior through what the authors label the Six Domains. These domains range from autonomic to deliberate and personal to social. They are:

  • Kinesics: Conscious and subconscious body language.
  • Biometric Cues: Biological autonomic responses.
  • Proxemics: Interpersonal spatial interaction.
  • Geographics: Patterns of behavior within and environment.
  • Iconography: Expression through symbols.
  • Atmospherics: Collective attitudes that create distinct moods within an environment.

Getting Left of Bang is based on understanding these domains intuitvely.

Intuition is a powerful force; however, it is poorly understood. Intuition is not black magic or some inexplicable force of nature. Intuition is nothing more than a person’s sense about a situation influenced by experience and knowledge. Intuition is the way the mind picks up on patterns and uses experiential and learned knowledge to guide a person during a given situation. However, intuition is often driven by the subconscious. It’s rightly called a “gut feeling,” since people can literally have a physical response when their intuition tries to make them aware of something they do not consciously know.

Crime and violence do not just happen. There are signs and signals presented long before the crime is committed or the assault take place. Seeing a man approach you pointing a gun at you, is an obvious sign of danger. A man getting out of a vehicle after being stopped for speeding and angrily demanding to know why you stopped him is a clear sign of high anxiety. When he continues to shout and closes distance with you after repeated commands to get back, is a clear sign of impending attack. After an assault by this man he disengages, goes to his vehicle and retrieves a firearm! The answer to what’s about to take place, based on the context of the situation is obvious. This is a worst case scenario of a person about to inflict deadly force and your orientation, decision and action should be clear.

Obvious signs and signals of crime and danger can be clearly seen to the trained law enforcement and security professional. Yet they all too often go unseen or are seen too late. The most common danger signs experienced, however are subtle feelings, a hunch, you intuitively know something is wrong. The alert observer that listens to his intuition based on facts and circumstances presented at the time can seek advantage and prevent crime and dangerous circumstances from unfolding. The ability to observe these subtle signs and signals and orient to what they are telling you, can give you the clear advantage in dealing with conflict.

I highly recommend you go and read the book. Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley explain many of the threat indicators I had touched on in the Adaptive Leadership Handbook (see Chapter 20 Recognizing the Signs and Signals of Crime and Danger: The Non-Verbal Factors) to greater detail and he has described some indicators I did not cover. More importantly, he gives the officer tactical guidance in how to deal with these indicators when he/she sees them. Important stuff!

Stay Oriented!

Fred