I am often asked by those in the law enforcement and security  professions; Freddie what the hell does Sun Tzu’s theories such as; “Know yourself and Know your Enemy, You  will be safe in every battle” and John Boyd’s OODA Loop and People, Ideas and Hardware have to do with what we do, policing and keeping the homeland secure? We get the call…respond and deal with it, why do we need to know this? How can Boyd and Sun Tzu make a difference?

The answer lies within the questions asked.  To be successful in the implementation of strategy and applying tactics to a given set of circumstances depends on knowledge and decision making and skill of both in the adversarial situation. We often depend upon good luck, which is often confused with good tactics. This is not acceptable if we truly value officer and citizenry safety.  To be ready and prepared conflict must be understood in its entirety, as much as is humanly possible if we are to be successful at resolving it and staying safe while doing so. Sun Tzu and John Boyd’s Theories are about gathering knowledge and understanding of all the dimensions of conflict and how they affect us and the adversary in a competitive environment.

In an effort to understand Sun Tzu and John Boyd ideas first lets look at the definition of conflict: “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.” 

Within this paragraph describing conflict there is a lot of stuff going on here and it covers exactly the types of conditions we face when responding to hostile situations. It also begins to answer the questions posed as to; what the hell does Sun Tzu and John Boyd got to do with it? You can see conflict is about knowing yourself and the adversary, its about people, their ideas and the tools (hardware) they may use to assist in carrying out a crime or threat. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of conflict. That’s what the theories of Sun Tzu and John Boyd are about, the three dimensions of conflict moral, mental and physical and how they apply to BOTH sides of the equation, the friendly and adversarial in the competitive arena. Both the Big Picture and the Subtle Details That make up Conflict!

The  ancient theories of Sun Tzu and the modern theories of Col John Boyd who was greatly influenced by Sun Tzu’s work and the mix of old and new ideas allows for adaptability in changing conditions and  teaches the strategy and tactics essential to detecting, avoiding, defusing and resolving conflict.

Jobs to be done by law enforcement and security that benefit from Theories of Sun Tzu and COL John Boyd:

  • Handling dynamic and hostile encounters
    • manmade
    • mother nature
    • The Unknown and Unexpected 
  • Patrol and security procedures
    • initiative driven patrol
    • problem solving
    • information gathering
    • knowledge of environment
    • tactical response and approaches
    • emergency response driving 
  • Response to variety calls for service
  • Detection and Prevention of crime through initiative and execution
  • Emergency Adaptation
  • Evacuations
  • Investigations
  • Solve conventional and unconventional threats and problems
    • Strategic adaptation
    • Operational adaptation
    • Tactical adaptation

Theories of Sun Tzu and COL John Boyd reinforce knowledge of what to do and how to do it better through: 

  • Deep understanding of Conflict and its three dimensions
    • Mental, Moral and Physical
    • Philosophy
    • Climate
    • Ground
    • Leadership
    • Methods
  • True Situational awareness and management
    • Observation, orientation, decision and action (Boyd Cycle)
    • Threat assessment and intervention
    • Rapid decision making
    • Initiative driven action
  • Develops adaptive frontline officers and Adaptive Leaders
    • Minimizes Complacency
    • Enhances safety
    • Encourage and enhances teamwork
    • Improves overall performance of law enforcement & security professionals
    • Holds everyone to Higher Standards
  • Motivates and improves morale which leads to:
    • insight
    • imagination
    • initiative

The strategies of Sun Tzu and John Boyd have been proven under the pressure of dynamic conflict in warfare. Yet their goals were always to attempt to win without conflict if at all possible because the cost of lives is so high. So to be effective you must not only understand the theories, you must also be able to translate the theories to the environment you are in. The theories are adaptable to any competitive situation professionally or personally. That is what makes them so powerful.

That is our focus here on this site to build knowledge in these time tested ancient and modern theories and show how they apply to the law enforcement and security professions on the frontline. In doing so we build professionals who understand the complete competitive environment and climate of conflict, which is, riddled with uncertainty, disorder, chaos,unpredictability, risk and danger. Then adapt this knowledge to position ourselves, communicate and use interpersonal skills to gather more information and attempt to gain voluntary compliance and a peaceful resolution. As well as the ability to adapt and force, physical or as a last resort deadly force when despite our best efforts our adversary brings conflict to the level where life and death are on the line.

What the hell does Sun Tzu and Col John Boyd got tot do with It?

Answer; Everything!

My philosophy and that of Law Enforcement and Security Consulting is teaching the strategy and tactics essential to detecting, avoiding, defusing and resolving conflict to leadership and frontline personnel of law enforcement and security.

We complete this mission through training, research, experience , communication, feedback as well as maintaining an active blog to share valuable information on a variety of topics to include Recognizing the Signs and Signals of Crime and Danger, Handling Dynamic Encounters Adaptability and a Flexible Response and Critical Decision Making Under Pressure. These are written with Sun Tzu, John Boyd and how they apply to our professions in mind. They work if we take action to learn and apply them.

The last few months I have posted  a series of several articles on both John Boyd and Sun Tzu as they apply to law enforcement and security. Please take a look and get involved in the continued learning and evolve as a professional through conditioning. The mind needs it as much as as the body! Please make any comments, thoughts, suggestions or ask any questions that may arise while reading articles and posts on this site.   

“The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.” ~ Jacob Bronowski

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A LESC Discourse: Establishing the Discipline to Train and Invest in Preparedness is an ongoing series of articles discussing training and preparedness, learning, unlearning and relearning to develop insight, innovation and initiative to deal with conventional and unconventional problems and threats.

To flourish and grow in a many-sided uncertain and ever changing world that surrounds us, suggests that we have to make intuitive within ourselves those many practices we need to meet the exigencies of that world. The contents that comprise”this discourse” unfold observations and ideas that contribute towards achieving or thwarting such an aim or purpose.” ~COL John Boyd

Whether we are dealing with conventional or unconventional threats there are indeed lots of similarities and yet still many uncommon factors and uncertainties we must contend with. In the quote above from John Boyd he states; “that we have to make intuitive within ourselves those many practices we need to meet the exigencies of that world” Intuitively adapt to changing conditions and respond with sound decisions and appropriate actions. To be able to channel and leverage that ability to do so takes training at a standard much higher and much more effective than we utilize currently.

I will use the law enforcement training example to compare with my coaching analogy to make my point on the importance of preparing for the unexpected and why it is worth the investment. 

The initial training for law enforcement varies by state but is anywhere from 12-26 weeks. Then once graduated the academy the officer’s get anywhere from 8-12 weeks of field training in an effort to help him/her apply what they have learned in basic training to the streets of the community for which they work. Adding up the basic and field training utilizing the maximum standard, 26 weeks basic plus 12 week field training equals 38 weeks of training. From then on for most in law enforcement they get 40 hours of in-service training annually to maintain their status or certification as a law enforcement officer.

38 Weeks of training at the maximum standards with one week a year after that throughout a career. Yes there are also specialized training classes but there is only a select few who can attend because of budget and time issues etc. So for the sake of argument the majority of officers get 38 weeks of basic training.

Success on the street responding to a wide variety of situations is expected without mistakes, no fowls or penalties, no being knocked back and out of position. Winning every contact, every engagement is what’s expected. In the current system of how and when we train, is this expected success a realistic expectation or is it a smokescreen of rhetoric over substance and talk to appease with little walking the talk that is needed to succeed? Talk seems to be plenty, but walking the talk is scarce!

In the real world game of life and death shouldn’t we be better prepared than a Sports Team on Game Day? Shouldn’t our training and education system be evolving at a rate higher than that of kids or professional athletes playing a game? The answer would seem an obvious yes! Yet the reality is clearly NO we do not!

High School football teams at the varsity level which is mostly made up of seniors so for the sake of argument let’s say they have the 3 –plus (Pop Warner) years. For the sake of my comparison I will take into consideration only the 3 high school years of football.

Practice starts in August and the season usually ends on Thanksgiving day  so that is approximately12 weeks of practice a year which adds up to 36 weeks of practice over a three year period. This practice consists of both physical and cognitive development. Players must take the knowledge and skills taught and apply them in practice on the field, in actual free-play force on force exercises preparing them for game day. My question, would you take the coaching job mentioned above in the final year with no practice time and just game day advice and expect to win? Why not? Because you know it is unrealistic to think you can have a winning season without practice or training. Yet this is only a sport on which there are only so many game plans, responses and outcomes, outcomes that do not involve life and death matters. Most I submit would not take this job because they know success would be a rare occurrence. What does this analogy have to do with crises and preparedness? Sadly too much! Let’s take a look.

Law enforcement officers get very little time applying what they have learned in the classroom environment of a training academy. There is very little free play force on force exercises conducted. In the State of Massachusetts for example; about 40 hours of hands on force on force free play exercises is allotted in training time and this is broken up amongst an academy class of 30-60 recruits. So how much real training time is allotted per student? I think you would agree, nowhere near enough. The high school kids playing a game get more hands on training than those who protect our homeland. “Football is easy to train because, in the end it is a monotonous game with a defined set of permutations, and a limited territory. Police work has unlimited number of permutations, unlimited territory, and unlimited complexity.”[1] Yet if football practice time was cut and the win/loss column was in the negative, people in that team’s community would be up in arms complaining and a mass effort would be sought to re-instate the full program so the kids could prepare and have a fair shot at winning! I would be willing to bet there would be some first responder in that group of upset parents leading the charge to implement the full program of full practice and game day coach.

Why then do we expect our first responders, when responding to emergency and crisis situations to do so without even as much realistic training as a high school football team, when so much more is at stake? Have we even considered the thought, pondered the thought for even a few minutes at what’s required of those responding to violence on our streets in our schools and across this country? Have we thought about the uncertainty and unexpected nature of the calls for service responders are handling? How about the violence that effects the psychological and physiological processes of the human body in high stress situations and hence our abilities to make decisions and take appropriate actions under pressure? We call it choking in sports when someone or a team fails; “it happens under game pressure… give him time, more practice and the athlete or team will perform better!”

We call it a screw up”in the business of protection, safety and crisis response and look for heads to roll because we expect flawless responses. Yet we are given very little, less than a sports team effort to train and prepare. Have we as a profession, a society considered this? I do not think we have, because if we did we would be much more understanding as a society, as leaders in these professions, of what’s required and what the psychological and physiological responses are to dynamic confrontations and the effects on cognitive and physical abilities handling crises. We would invest more in preparing (training) our people for the realities they face.

It is simply insufficient to have harmony and coordination across agency and interagency bounds in crises, without training at all levels (organizational philosophy, strategy, tactics, methods and techniques, equipment, leader development) to ensure the proper knowledge and skills are acquired , understood and can be applied in chaotic and uncertain circumstances.

In their book; “America’s Army A Model for Interagency Effectiveness” Generals Bradford and Brown state “If leaders fail to act to common purpose, the best “new,” however capable, will not produce results in the fight. The product must be teamed capabilities where for example, leaders at all echelons realize the necessity of developing effective team leadership, shared vision, shared trust, shared competence, and shared confidence, despite inevitable personnel turbulence.”

When we join the team, in the serious game of protection, we do not… jump into the water to make a splash…we jump into the water to make a difference, a difference in people’s lives in their time of need. Our score card is life and death, making a difference starts with looking at the facts and recognizing the TRUTH and then with strength of character PRESS ON! Do what’s right!

[1] Email correspondence on 022009 with Dag von Lubitz, PhD, MD(Sc), MedSMART, Inc

4.0 A LESC Discourse: Communicating the Truth!

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Quotes February 2009

“Organized crime groups that are part of a national network have decided to use local residents … to seize the main streets and paralyze traffic in our city.”
Gov. Jose Gonzalez of Nuevo Leon in response to four days of road closures in Monterrey Mexico (pop. 3.7 million). 

We are seeing Mexican hit men coming into the US doing hits for the drug gangs. One hit team took out three people at one time in (a middle American city).  My team took out two small groups in (a middle American city), but they are here to stay. Very dangerous group. They cross over into the US then using Greyhound buses to travel up north. They are good at counter surveillance. They have been hiring private eyes to find cops, and informers to deal out death.

Undercover cop in middle American city (I cleaned up the syntax and anonymized it).

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LONG BEACH, Calif. — A crisis-prevention expert urged health-care campuses to review their safety practices and implement additional policies, following the shooting deaths of three Long Beach Memorial Medical Center workers.

Judging by news accounts of the incident, the medical center appeared to follow the proper procedures, according to Bill Badzmierowski, director of instructor services at the Crisis Prevention Institute in Brookfield, Wisc.

Badzmierowski also urged hospitals and other health-care campuses to establish a crisis response team, provide advanced training to the team and improve communication with employees.

On April 16, a gunman is suspected of shooting his supervisor and another manager before turning the gun on himself, police said. All three died during the incident. Read on

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The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in “rightwing extremist activity,” saying the economic recession, the election of America’s first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines “rightwing extremism in the United States” as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority. (Washington Times)

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A LESC Discourse: Establishing the Discipline to Train and Invest in Preparedness is an ongoing series of articles discussing training and preparedness, learning, unlearning and relearning to develop insight, innovation and initiative to deal with conventional and unconventional problems and threats.

“You must control your soldiers with esprit de corps. You must bring them together by winning victories. You must get them to believe in you. Make it easy for people to know what to do by training your people. Your people will obey you. If you do not make it easy for people to know what to do, you won’t train your people. They will not obey. Make your commands easy to follow. You must understand the way the crowd thinks.” ~Sun Tzu

If I was to ask you about let’s say coaching a high school foot ball team for your local high school and told you the only time you were needed to be there as coach, was on game day. That is right no practice during the week, just take the team and win is all we ask. How do I prepare them if I cannot practice you ask? Well sir they have been trained and practiced in their freshman, softmore and junior years. You will be the varsity coach and the team knows the game and how it’s played, all you need to do is set up the game plan on game day and organize your team so they win! Ludicrous! How can I be expected to develop the cohesion necessary to put a winning team on the field, without practice, despite their prior training and the three-plus year’s experience? Yes it is ludicrous. Yet this is exactly what we expect of law enforcement, security personnel and other first responders tasked with responding to and winning in crises situations.

Training initially consists of developing a knowledge base in the basic aspects of the job, take for instance law enforcement. Subjects such as; law and procedures, report writing, patrol procedures, community policing, basic firearms training, some building entry techniques as well as some specialized training in domestic violence, operating under the influence of alcohol, arrest procedures and defensive tactics etc. These are a great base of knowledge to start with and build on, yet therein lay the problem. There is not very much building upon the basics. Most is left to learning via on the job training.

“But what if nothing we have ever been taught or experienced is sufficient to the problem we face? Understanding the essence of winning and losing and rethinking our methods of training formally and informally must change. The nature of Conflict has changed, how we think must change, how we prepare must change, how we orient and reorient ourselves in an uncertain environment must change if we are to be successful.” ~Ed Beakley Anti-Terrorist and Homeland Security Specialist

The world has changed and conflict and how it’s waged is blurred. Crime and terrorism are now linked and actors utilize national, international and transnational networks to implement their strategies and tactics as we have already seen here at home and abroad. The threats and crime trends we deal with are not as clearly defined as they once were and the stakes are higher, much higher than points scored in a game. Our adversaries have us on scattered ground with our resources spread thin and leaving the Homeland open and easier to attack. This is a dangerous situation, strategically and tactically out of position. We must get serious and invest in preparing our people through training.

3.0 A LESC Discourse will look at: Training People an Investment in Preparedness

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An American wanted on domestic terrorism charges is being added Tuesday to the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, the agency said.

US media reports identified the addition as Daniel Andreas San Diego, 31, an animal rights activist wanted in the bombings of two corporate offices in California in 2003.

The FBI’s assistant director for counter-terrorism, Michael Heimbach, was scheduled to make the announcement at a news conference later Tuesday. (AFP)

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John Robb, author of Brave New War, appears to take issue with my injunction to stop being afraid of our own shadows when it comes to attack by terrorism:

Unlike a year ago, any attack on US commercial areas (retail, transportation, etc.) will have outsized network effects. Here’s why. Due to a global economic collapse and excessive indebtedness, Americans have cut back on purchases to repair household balance sheets (this is a long running secular shift). This has put most retail facing firms on the edge of bankruptcy. Any attack on commercial crowds over a large geographic area would radically reduce already depressed revenues at these firms (and drive costs for security through the roof), as people stay away from crowds until they feel safe again.

If John is correct, and I’m not saying that he’s wrong, then we are doomed.  When any attack that inflicts a few hundred casualties can bring our country down, then it’s just a matter of time until somebody does it. Continue at Defense and the National Interest

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* Fears of workplace violence growing

* Workers prone to violence tend to reveal intentions

* Fueling fear is perpetrators who seemed normal

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, April 22 (Reuters) – A worker recently laid off by a U.S. financial services company grew so upset that the firm had him followed to be sure he didn’t strike out violently at his former co-workers or bosses.

“Tough times will cause people to do crazy things,” said Kenneth Springer, whose company Corporate Resolutions Inc. did the surveillance. “People are taking more precautions.”

Indeed, stories of workplace violence are filling headlines of late — the San Diego bus mechanic who killed two co-workers or the unemployed man in upstate New York whose 12 shooting victims included a receptionist and a teacher. Continue Reading

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A LESC Discourse: Establishing the Discipline to Train and Invest in Preparedness is an ongoing series of articles discussing training and preparedness, learning, unlearning and relearning to develop insight, innovation and initiative to deal with conventional and unconventional problems and threats.   

Plan an advantage by listening. Adjust to the situation. Get assistance from the outside. Influence events. Then planning can find opportunities and give you control. ~Sun Tzu

This post is for leaders and frontline professionals willing to assess the situation within their agencies in regards to training, preparation, readiness and response capabilities, who need ideas on how to keep training regular and relevant, at the strategic, operational and tactical levels of your organization, in these tough uncertain and economic times. To be more successful in performing our duties at the level of professionalism needed in handling dynamic encounters, crisis situations we must train and train often at individual, team, agency and interagency levels. The investment in training to prepare for conflict and crisis situations requires discipline and strength of character. The payoffs of training and preparation are high yield results that save lives.

Are We Truly Prepared and Ready to Lead Under Emergency Conditions?

People that work with and for you make your organization what it is. An investment in preparing them to handle the types of problems they face and hence you face, is an investment in being a more successful organization.  Training in my view is “practice” and practice makes us better at what we do, not perfect, but much, much better. I say not perfect and I am often questioned as to why not, PERFECT? My answer is we will strive to mitigate the effects of crisis, rather than cause or add to a crisis situation. We will work to reverse or reduce the effects of an emergency situation, which will lead to more lives saved. Quite frankly the current state training and preparedness is in at this time, perfection in crises, in the unexpected, uncertain and rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances is still based in the complacency of “it will not happen here” and react mode.  The size and scope of the crisis and the sense of chaos and confusion it creates in victims and those responding, leads to information overload and makes developing an adequate response a challenge.

In responding to crises and rendering aid, first responders must constantly assess the changing conditions, and adapt plans to meet these unfolding conditions with an adequate set-up and response to save lives. This assessment includes not only; “what’s happening now” but it also entails organizing initial responding officers and other first responders in establishing command and control, communications, indentifying the threats and the danger or kill zones. This initial assessment and “set-up” is crucial to the overall effectiveness of the response and is directly related to the outcome. If our initial response brings a semblance of control to chaos and helps us realize, get a better picture of what’s going on, then a viable response can be initiated quickly based on a sound strategy and effective methods and tactics to mitigate the situation. If we respond out of emotion and take reckless action, then we lose control of the situation and it becomes more chaotic and only leads to more uncertainty and confusion and our efforts spiral downwardly to an ineffective response.

First responder’s decision making cycles (OODA Loops) must constantly be updated based on the rapidly unfolding circumstances and the implicit and explicit knowledge they have, which allows them to set up perimeters. First the inner perimeter or a tactical rally point which is where the tactical decisions get made, contact and rescue teams are established and the initial response is initiated. This happens relatively quickly from seconds to minutes based on the overall situation.

While first responders take action to stop the threat and rescues are taking place and the crisis evolves, additional resources are called in to assist and can take from several minutes, hours, and days to arrive based on the scope and the scale of what you are dealing with. These additional resources may be needed to assist in the tactical response; locating the threats and recue activities or to enhance the overall response with support activities such as: establishing a larger outer perimeter for containment purposes. Setting up command post and staging areas who work together getting additional resources needed to assist in mitigating the crisis. This requires even greater coordination and communication amongst the various agencies responding and is also part of this support role and crucial aspect of bringing a successful conclusion to crises.

When crises happen in the unexpected way they normally do, along with the complacent mindsets we possess as a society, organizationally or individually in relation to conflict and crises, we simply cannot prevent every bad thing from happening despite our best efforts. But with training and preparation (individual, group, agency intra and interagency wide) we can get much better at how we prepare which leads to more effective initiative driven actions before, during and in the aftermath of crises situations.

One of the main reasons for my analysis is that preparation and response to crisis situations takes practice and experience to lead, respond to, make decisions and take action, dealing with an emergency event. It takes discipline and dedication at all levels federal, state, local, organizational, individual and the citizenry learning, unlearning and relearning from each experience if we are to become better at how we work in crises.

We are nowhere near ready, we are sadly still in the talking stage and must move in a proficient way to the walking the talk stage and preparing first responders law enforcement, security, fire and medical personnel, citizens, etc through realistic training that prepares them/us for what potentially lies ahead.

Next post in this discourse “Establishing the Discipline to Train and Invest in Preparedness” we will discuss: Is Preparedness a Game or Something Much More Serious?

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