Winning at Low Cost: No better friend, no better role model, no better diplomat and, no worse enemy | Law Enforcement & Security Consulting

“Carved on these walls is the story of America of a continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream.” ~President George Bush

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog “The Anatomy of Victory: What does it take to win at low cost?” In this post I discussed, winning on the street comes in many forms and means different things to different people.  Winning to the cop means one thing while to an adversary winning on his terms is quite another. What about winning in the eyes of the public? How important is public support or decent when we cops use force? What outcomes can we expect during a dynamic encounter, what about in the aftermath, with public support, without it? Does winning at low cost effect our safety and effectiveness in a positive or negative way? Is winning at any cost verses winning at low cost something we should consider more frequently?

Since the post I received mainly positive feedback to the ideas discussed. However I also received some negative feedback, from law enforcement as well, which I expected and quite frankly I looked forward to. Questions such as; how are we cops suppose to do this? It’s tough enough to survive on the street, why should we be worried about the moral, mental and physical ramifications while handling dynamic encounters? Fred, this sounds like politically correct, public relations “BS” that’s soft on crime and puts cops more in jeopardy, why would a tactical guy such as you be touting this stuff? Why are you trying to teach cops about strategy and tactical science, how is this going to help us on the street? Answer is; I have asked myself all these questions and more and I have researched case after case of police encounters and find that many of the lessons learned and mistakes being made are continuously being repeated day in and day out. History has taught us that a lack of a strategy and sound tactics has created much of the havoc and loss of life on all sides when the deadly mix of offender, officer and circumstances collide. I believe this way of thinking and approaching dynamic encounters will make a positive difference in how effective and safe we are as we execute and handle dynamic encounters, as well as getting the people we protect and serve to better understand why we do what we do so that we gain their trust and support at higher levels than we see currently.

I understand the decent in our ranks, over the term “winning at low cost.” Our law enforcement culture is heavily focused on controlling bad situations and the physical dimension is the main focus traditionally of how we handle situations and it’s how we conduct most of our training. In my view therein lays the problem. We have neglected the mental and the most powerful the moral dimension of conflict in our training. Due to this fact we lose cops who are responding emotionally to calls versus thinking and acting tactically. We lose the hearts and minds of those we serve as they observe an incident and wonder what the hell are these guys doing? Be it the right or wrong perception we are distrusted by many and this includes those who are pro-cop and includes confusion and debate on how to police, within our ranks as well. We can do better, more than this, we have got to do better!

Secondly I write, mainly for cops and security professionals in an effort to get us all thinking more deeply about what we do and how we do it, with the focus of making cops safer and more effective so we all can uphold the number one rule in policing “to go home at the end of your shift.” My intent is as well, to engage the public in an effort to help them gain more knowledge into our noble profession and the noble people who are drawn to the calling of being a cop. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings throughout society as to what cops do, how and why we do it. Most cops get into policing because they want to help people. As I write that last sentence I envision the eye rolls from cops with their “is he kidding me” and “this guy has drunk the Kool-Aid” thinking and the “come on are you for real” statements from the people we serve. I say this as idealistic as it sounds; COPS BECOME COPS TO HELP OTHERS not to hurt them! Although as we’ll see, there, lays another paradox of policing; to help others sometimes despite our best efforts, people get hurt. Protecting and serving is both a positive and negative business, positive in the sense of saving lives and helping others in numerous ways that often go unnoticed. Negative in the sense, that at times and on rare occasions to help others we must get down and dirty and deal in circumstances that involve life saving, life altering, and life taking tactics that do not have pretty outcomes and have a profound effect on the people involved, society and the cops who serve society. Protecting and serving can be very confusing. People confused and debating is what we cops wallow in, so let’s explore the idea of winning at low cost more deeply.

Winning at low cost is not just about gaining public support. It is also very much about doing things better when it comes to execution of our strategy, operations and tactics and how they affect the moral, mental and physical dimensions of conflict on the street. This includes leadership as well as frontline personnel. As tactical expert John Poole says; winning at low cost involves some controversial tradeoffs.

“First there is the tradeoff between “control” and “tactical knowledge.” Whenever a military/law enforcement organization endorses and particular set of tactical maneuvers as doctrine, it discourages common sense in tactical decision making and sanctions a status quo in tactical knowledge. Standardized tactics cannot even keep pace with weapons technology, much less rapidly changing contingency situation. After memorizing tactical doctrine, a novice decision maker may be tempted to discount any situational variable that doesn’t mesh precisely with his perception of the “book solution.” If his subordinates subsequently risk telling him that his decision violates common sense, he may feel his authority threatened. At this point he will only compound the problem by tightening his control.”

These paradoxes fly in the face of logic, controlling every move an officer makes actually leads to less control? Yes, standardizing tactics and training and then expecting officers to follow strict protocols and checklists in dynamic and uncertain circumstances actually slows down decision making cycle as they search for the text book answer and/or the tactical formation and techniques to utilize endorsed by the profession. If we are going to win at low cost we must do better than what we have been taught. Yes there are sound tactical principles to be taught and learned but situations dictate tactics, not the book thrown at the situation. We must never lose sight of the fact that tactics are both an art and science and that there is no one scientific solution to a tactical problem. This means we need more tactical thinkers and problem solvers on the streets, full spectrum cops who explore the situation in an effort to learn what’s going on and then make decisions and take actions based on their observations and how the perceive or orient to a situation in real time as the circumstances are unfolding. John Poole offers more sound advice.

 “Tactical knowledge is best served by continual study and experimentation, under loose control. Knowledge and training are inseparably linked. Tactical knowledge does not drive training, tactical knowledge derives from training. For this reason, training cannot be controlled through standardization without limiting the growth of tactical knowledge. Only when small units are allowed to experiment in the field (or on the street), can they experience the full range of situational variables and their greatest growth in their tactical expertise.”

Winning at low cost is a collective approach considering the safety of cops due to their improved tactical thinking and effectiveness as well as the necessary public support as they begin to understand that the balance of persuasion and force are always weighed and considered by those who protect and serve. It is very important that we all do not lose sight of this as we attempt to control the tempo of situations and make rapid decisions under pressure. When things go wrong the people will know they went wrong despite our best efforts tactically not because of poor tactics. There are consequences for poor tactics not only in losing public support but in losing brother and sister officers in the line of duty to death and injuries as well as innocents.

I know from experience and from the statistics what most cops’ intentions are. The vast majority of cops go out in an effort to protect and serve and most, do it honorably, with dedication and integrity, yet despite this honorable effort we lose many of the people as they question our approach. The gap becomes greater between the police and the public.

  • Why is closing the gap important and how do we close the disconnect that is apparent? 
  • Also and probably weighing heavily most on a cops mind is, will closing this gap put us at more risk to life and limb or will it make us safer and more effective?

I happen to believe that understanding the meaning behind winning at low cost will make us safer and more effective as well as help us win those we serve over.

First and foremost closing the gap and winning at low cost does not mean we give up advantageous positioning and life saving tactics when handling dynamic encounters. We consider the safety of the public, ourselves and then the person(s) who have disrupted the community and required our attention. Law enforcement strategy is in simple terms to protect and serve. The holistic realm of protect and serve includes all we in law enforcement do to ensure that our strategy is met. The tactics we use must be in accord with that strategy and affect the moral, mental and physical dimensions, if we are to have a complete victory.

Complete victory means we win on the street in the physical dimension, by resolving a situation with persuasion or force in accord with our strategy to protect and serve and the ongoing situation. We win in the mental dimension by affecting the minds of cops who handled the situation and know they resolved a situation legally and morally and with tactical skill. We win mentally in the minds of the adversary and others like him who reconsider the terms they live life by. And we win mentally in the public’s eye as they weigh our actions verses the adversary we faced. Morally we win as cops because we know ethically we did all we could do and our adversaries reconsider their own moral code. We win morally with the public as they weigh both sides and determine we cops have taken the moral high ground with our approach and how we resolved the situation.

Make no mistake a completed victory is fleeting and the sense of it ebbs and flows as mistakes are made and they will be made in the complex world off conflict where people and emotions collide and rapid and life changing decisions must be made. The reality is conflict is not deterministic and predictable. Conflict is probabilistic and unpredictable as we attempt to understand the situation and the motives and intent of an adversary. It’s important to understand the distinctions between deterministic and probabilistic views as they drive the choices we make. The essence of conflict is a struggle between two hostile, independent, and irreconcilable wills, trying to impose itself on the other. Conflict is fundamentally an interactive social process. Conflict is thus a process of continuous mutual adaptation, of give and take, move and counter move. It is critical to keep in mind that the adversary is not an inanimate object to be acted upon but an independent and animate force with its own objectives and plans. While we try to impose our will on the adversary, he resists us and seeks to impose his own will on us. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of conflict.

Mark Gerzon in his book “Leading through Conflict” gives great definition of conflict that should give a better understanding to all cops, potential adversaries and the public just how deep routed it is in our culture and the realities surrounding it resolution in the real world, not the romanticized version from television and the movies but the one that we live in;

“Every one of us leads life with conflict. It is everywhere: from organizations that are divided about their strategy and roles to local communities that are divided by race, economics, religion, or politics; from homes torn apart by chronic feuds between parents and children, siblings, or in-laws to countries that are torn apart by civil strife. If we add to these “hot” conflicts (strong emotions, loud voices, and visible tension) the many others that are “cold” (suppressed emotions, tense silence, invisible stress) we must admit to ourselves that conflict is part of our lives.”

Conflict is a clash between complex adaptive systems attempting to survive on their own terms. Harnessing the power of the moral, mental and physical dimensions of conflict is difficult, yet necessary if we seek to win completely.

Now, this does not mean we have to automatically change our tactics for vehicle stops, entry techniques, and warrant service, stop and frisk, etc, etc, etc. It does mean we have to consider other tactical options both orthodox (traditional) and unorthodox (innovative) for example; where and when we stop a car and how do we approach it once it’s stopped. Do we use the walk up or the walk back approach? Maybe a felony stop is the method we chose using the standardized approach taught throughout law enforcement or maybe the circumstances dictate we use the indirect/direct approach and swarm the vehicle? When we respond to a home or building, do we need to enter and search or serve the warrant? Is there another more viable option to consider that may suit us better? When the patrol cop responds to let’s say a domestic disturbance does he pull up out front and run to the front door or does he check his emotions, slow down, park down the street a bit, pay attention to his surroundings using all his god given senses and possibly lure the players outside with some sort t of ruse, or should we negotiate a solution from outside the home? When conducting street encounter does the cop automatically respond to profanity with profanity or does he attempt to understand the emotions involved and make a tactical and tactful attempt to deescalate? Do the patrol tactics we use every day encourage engagement and interaction with the public or are we standoffish and possessing an, us versus them mentality that keeps the public distant and untrusting, intimidated and hence questioning or every move with suspicion? A big cause of this problem Sid Heal discusses in his latest book Field Command;

“…Likewise tactical science is and “applied science” in that the major contribution is not merely identifying the principles and precepts in play, but rather in applying that knowledge to forecast and influence behaviors and outcomes to enhance a more satisfactory outcome. In this manner, law enforcement tacticians more closely resemble engineers than scientists. The problem, however, is that unlike the military services which teach these subjects as part of an officers education, no such requirement exists for law enforcement leadership.

Most law enforcement tacticians practice strategy and tactics as a “skill set” rather than an intuitive application of doctrinal principles and precepts. Skills are far easier to teach and understand than knowledge. As long as the situation encountered resembles those for which these officers were trained they worked just fine. A problem occurs; however, when some permutation results in a deviation from the norm and a commander attempts to impose a solution which has been successful in the past but is not suitable for the new problem. Failures in tactical operations occur when a plan collapses, and this happens because a commander fails to recognize the influence of some indispensable factor (like the loss of the element of surprise in the raid on the Branch Dravidians in Waco, TX), or because the strategy was fundamentally flawed (as in attempts to surround and negotiate with active shooter at columbine high school).”

We in law enforcement continue in our attempts to jam square pegs into round holes by applying checklists to encounters that require thinking and problem solving and an understanding as to WHY we are approaching the problem the way we are. Another big part of the problem in my view is in the aftermath of events. Is the department open and transparent about the methods used or does the department close out the public and fall back on the standard line ‘we are investigating and reviewing the case and looking at our policies and procedures? What affect do you think this has on the people we police?

This type of thinking has been discussed throughout our ranks for years, hell much of it is taught in police academy and in-service training. What’s new here Fred? Problem is in many law enforcement locations across the country TALK is where the action stops. This type of thinking and problem solving does not get implemented on the street and we continue to rapidly respond and randomly patrol accomplishing little in winning the moral, mental and physical dimensions. What’s new is, we need to start doing what we know and talk about out on the street where it matters and will make a difference.

The actions we take on the street do affect all three dimensions and we have a say in how all will perceive our response, or at least we can influence them in a positive direction. Police should be happy they won based on sound tactics verses sheer emotion, the criminals should stop and think about the life they have chosen and the law abiding people we serve should be on our side and should be happy to say so. I could go on here but instead I want to give you an example of a police department that has seen its share of violent crime and walk their talk to officer safety, effectiveness and winning the people over because they are affecting the moral, mental and physical dimensions of conflict with a sound strategy and the methods and tactics they are using to implement.

An outstanding example of how to train and implement “winning at low cost” in law enforcement

The Baltimore Police Department which is the 8th largest police department in the country have developed what they call diamond standard training. A member of the Baltimore Police Department was nice enough to send me a briefing on the ‘diamond standard and I feel it’s an example worth sharing and one we in law enforcement should strive for as it considers strategy, operations and tactics with the moral, mental and physical dimensions of conflict (crime, crime problems and quality of life) and violence. They are making headway with the program through hard work and dedication.

Diamond Standard Training (DST) is an intense and cohesive four week training program that was developed by the Baltimore Police Department to polish its officers into gleaming examples of exemplary police work. The goal is to foster a complete police officer into being no better friend, no better role model, no better diplomat, and no worse enemy. Rookie officers, having recently graduated from the police academy, have the benefit of that recent training still fresh in their minds, a strongly motivated work ethic, and the lack of workplace monotony that can damper a seasoned officers enthusiasm over time. To promote and continue this new-hire mentality, DST was constructed to allow officers of all longevity levels to possess the skill set necessary to work within and with the community, meaningfully and safely overcoming barriers that have been established over time, giving life to the police mantra of “Protect & Serve.”

Over the course of four weeks, the following training is given to patrol officers; Advanced Firearms Techniques, Contact and Cover, Active Shooter, Arrest and Control, Citizen Communications, Juvenile Encounters, Crime Scene Investigation, Shift Work Plans, and Self Evaluations. The overall theme of the training focuses on a particular shift’s ability to solve problems through post management. That is to say, teaching squads how to manage their sector and the entire shift on how to manage its district. An intrinsically intertwined component is stressing police community relations. The overwhelming majority of interaction between the police and the public is non-confrontational. For the most part, the community and the police are trying diligently to work in concert to solve problems that affect them both. For anyone to be able to work effectively together, communication must be clear, open, and constant. A main thrust of the Diamond Standard Training is to equip the officers with the tools to communicate effectively so that the problems may be addressed rather than the breakdown of discussions.

The following is a breakdown of each section and what is being taught:

Citizen communication: This section of training works with the officers and instructs how to effectively communicate with the communities they serve. As the most visible representation of local government, police officers must master this section in order to be “…no better friend…no better diplomat.” Not every encounter with citizens on the street requires enforcement. Participants will received focused instructions on how to openly engage the members of the post they work in order to solve community problems. Initially, classroom training on how to communicate with people within their post is conducted. After this classroom training, community members from the officers’ district are brought into the training environment. Officers and citizens then discuss the needs in their particular area and openly discuss issues that cause animosity between police and citizens. Then the officer is taught that they must be a friend and diplomat to the communities they serve. When a person calls the police for help the officer must be able to work past any communication problems to reach the core issue and solve it. Whether it’s to help the person out with a problem, negotiate a solution to neighborhood disputes, or build community trust, all must be done with effective communication.

Juvenile encounters: Mentoring juveniles is one of the most important tasks befalling an officer. Officers routinely identify at-risk juveniles, enforce infractions of law they commit, and, perhaps most importantly, simply positively interacting with kids in the neighborhoods they serve. Because of this, officers have a responsibility to make the most of these encounters and be “…no better role model…” During this section of the training, the officers work with elementary school children. A relationship was established with Outward Bound to implement a program where officers and kids work together and discuss issues that inhibit or hinder communication. The officers are introduced to the concept of being a positive role model to the children on their post. Discussions are held about how police are viewed by the children where they work and how this impacts the perception of police as a whole. The Outward Bound Staff works with the officers and children during a one day program and develops a relationship between them. The children are picked from an at-risk middle school within the officer’s district. Each officer is paired up with a child and they work together throughout the day where they complete teambuilding exercise, high element courses, and talk about Baltimore City’s youths perception of the police and how we can work together to change any negative perception. Subsequently, the officers spend an additional day at the school, reinforcing the models taught by Outward Bound. We also have a company called New Lens, a youth mentoring group, who comes in and provides training on communication with youth. This training is provided to both recruit and veteran officers.

Contact and Cover: This program is used to show officers a safe way to approach citizens during street encounters. This tactical training will deal with encounters on foot, in vehicles, and in houses. By teaching the officers these safer methods of approach, it is hoped that confidence will build and thereby limit the chance for a situation to escalate into unnecessary force. It also deals with the concept of dealing with violent offenders that are on the officer’s post. It is wholly unacceptable that citizens are scared to come out of their houses or are afraid to let their children play in the community where they live. By giving the officers the tactical and legal knowledge to deal with these violent individuals, we hope to make the streets safer for law-abiding citizens that live here. The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office is collaborating to teach legal updates, as they relate to field interviews, pat-downs, searches, and the like. These legal updates will give the officers the foundation to address crime efficiently, effectively, and legally.

Arrest and Control: Although self defense and the accompanying arrest techniques are integral to an officer’s training, the ability to communicate with the community, while basing decisions on the moral and ethical considerations, is vastly more important. As the overwhelming interaction between the police and the public is verbal and problem solving related, the Arrest and Control program is focused heavily on this type of communication. This at times aggressively verbal training allows officers to feel as though they have the appropriate tools to deal with a wide variety of circumstances that may present themselves. Moreover, when words fail, this program teaches officers how to use the appropriate level of controlled, articulated force necessary to respond to and effectively handle any type of physically dynamic situation, making the officer truly “…no worse enemy…” The system trains police officers to work in any environment or situation that arises, with the ability to adapt and meet changing circumstances and apply the correct response, use of force, control, or restraint that is necessary. Also addressed are moral and ethical dilemmas, sound judgment, critical thinking and decision making. These themes are threaded throughout the training and inculcate these ideals in every aspect of police training and work.

Crime scene investigation: Officers work with homicide detectives developing the skills needed to investigate serious crime scenes. This training addresses every aspect of the crime scene investigation and thus aids in the development of the necessary skills needed to preserve evidence and work within the community to deal with tragic events. Homicide detectives have developed a training practicum where the officers work a crime scene. During these scenarios the officer handles a crime scene and uses the newly develop communications skills to better interact with the impacted community, aiding in increased evidence preservation, witness cultivation, and community relations.

Firearms techniques: The Department has developed a program to teach officers how to simultaneously move and shoot. This training deals with situations where an officer is required to use deadly force; whether it’s the more typical street encounter or increasingly occurring “active shooter” situation. When this level of force is necessary, officers must be able to react swiftly, appropriately and with discipline so that the situation is resolved without any unnecessary uses of force or gunfire. The quick resolution of these incidents will save lives and thus allow officers an increased probability of safeguarding citizens. These techniques have been designed keeping in mind that the overall safety of the community is the officer’s first concern. The Baltimore Police Firearms Training range instructors develop the concept of continually moving and shooting and looking-through the weapons system during encounters. This ability is developed through intensive classroom instruction, multiple practice drills, and live-fire shooting at the police range.

Active Shooter: Active Shooter deals with one of the most difficult situations a police officer can encounter. If Baltimore City ever has a situation like Columbine, where committed persons are actively shooting people, the ‘standard’ patrol officer must do something. Minutes count, and it is the police officer’s job to go into these situations if necessary and put their life on the line to save lives. Bunkering down and awaiting a SWAT response is no longer acceptable. This training gives the officers effective and appropriate tactics to engage the shooter in an attempt to quickly end the situation.

Shift work plans: Throughout the entire training a constant theme is stressed. It is based on the Diamond Standard Training concept of no better friend, no better role model, no better diplomat, and no worse enemy, each and all with the singular purpose of creating a truly complete police officer. As stated previously, an intense focus of the training is how an officer can have a positive impact in community they serve and build relationships by reducing violent crime, building community partnerships, and using effective communication. Therefore, at the end of the training, the officers and supervisors are required to develop a work plan that addresses each of these issues. Each squad will be given the resources in their district that they can use to address everything from the basic trash complaints to violent crime. The Mayor’s office has provided people that the officers can contact for non-enforcement issues in hopes that community issues can be resolved faster. Likewise, the police department is providing additional deployment resources to address crime issues within the district thereby making the effort truly collaborative.

Self evaluations: Self evaluation will be done at the end of the training where officers and supervisors will be able to evaluate what was effective from the training and talk about issues that will arise when they go back out to the streets.

The diamond standard, no better friend, no better role model, no better diplomat and when all else fails no worse enemy is the epitome of what a complete or full spectrum police officer and winning at low cost is all about. Yes it takes rethinking our law enforcement culture. Yes it takes hard work through training and harnessing every lesson we learn on the street. Yes it takes a willingness on the part of law enforcement to engage the community in an effort to win their trust and hence their support. In short it takes re-imagining the way we police, not for the sake of change or some politically correct reason but instead for the sake of those who serve and those whom they serve may live in the unpredictable, uncertain and complicated world on terms of their choosing, centered on strength of character, mutual trust, fairness and justice for all.

“A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.” ~Lt Gen Paul van Riper, USMC (Ret.)

Stay Oriented!


MORE TO FOLLOW ON THIS TOPIC:  “Focus: Escalation/De-escalation Principle: Police operations and how to affect the moral, mental and physical dimensions of Conflict with positive outcomes”

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