Chinese Whispers and the FBI (Part I)
Chinese Whispers is the game in which a short message is whispered from person to person and then the beginning and ending stories are compared. Often what begins as “I like that girl’s dress” ends up as something like “her Grandmother slept with Batman!”
The FBI released its annual report Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report on October 17. LEOKA will eventually be the starting point for numerous Chinese Whispers in the firearms and law enforcement communities. Whispers will circulate about statistical data such as distances of ‘gunfights,’ lighting conditions, weapon disarms, etc. Often, these claims will not even be based on current data but ‘commonly cited information,’ ‘well known statistics,’ or other such dubious sources.
What can we actually learn from LEOKA about how to be safer? The best single source in the Report is the Summaries of Officers Feloniously Killed and a recent addition, Selected Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments. Rather than relying on tabular data, which is interesting but not instructive, reading the Summaries provides us clues about circumstances, positioning, and actions. The FBI uses the term ‘The Deadly Mix’ to describe the combination of officer, offender, and circumstances. Reading the Summaries can give us insight about how that mix occurs and its outcome.
The circumstances of incidents in LEOKA are categorized as:
- Disturbance call,
- Arrest situation, including pursuits
- Civil disorder,
- Handling, transporting, custody of prisoner,
- Investigating suspicious person/circumstance,
- Unprovoked attack,
- Investigative activity,
- Handling person with mental illness,
- Traffic pursuit/stop,
- Tactical situation.
While LEOs have interest in all the categories, Private Citizens can learn from incidents such as Investigating suspicious persons/circumstances and Handling person with mental illness, too. For those who think intervening in others’ affairs is a good idea (I do not), looking at the incidents in the Arrest category is a worthwhile exercise to see how easily things can go bad.
The West Virginia incident in the Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured is an entertaining, if somewhat macabre, example of just how weird and unpredictable the life of a police officer can be. The rookie involved certainly got a baptism of fire that day.
On January 1, a lieutenant and a patrol officer with the Lewisburg Police Department were both shot during a traffic stop at 4:20 p.m. The 36-year old veteran lieutenant, who had 15 years of law enforcement experience, and the 20-year-old patrol officer, who been on the job for 1 month, were both wearing body armor when they stopped a man driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen by a law enforcement agency in Texas.
More about LEOKA in the next Part.
Watching the end of The Bridge Over the River Kwai last night, something occurred to me. There should have been a contingency plan that if the British Major Warden fired the two inch mortar, it was the signal to blow the bridge early. Granted, that would have removed much of the Hollywood drama but it’s food for thought, nonetheless.
Situations and operations don’t always go according to plan, which is why it’s good to have contingency plans. Going to guns is actually a contingency plan. When we display or fire our weapons, it means that our plan to follow our other priorities has failed. In my particular case, those other priorities are Avoid (barriers are a component of Avoid) and Escape.
Even if we find it necessary to use force to resolve an issue, we need to have contingency plans, both technical and tactical. Malfunction clearance drills and reloading are just technical contingency plans for dealing with stoppages (unintentional interruptions in the cycle of operations). Displaying the weapon may not intimidate the villain into leaving. Given the appropriate MAY and/or SHOULD, the tactical contingency plan in that case is to actually employ the weapon, whatever it may be.
And sometimes weapons don’t have the desired effect. The Seattle couple who tried using wasp spray to repel a home invader found it to be ineffective. Then the husband went to an impromptu contingency, hand to gland combat, what the FBI calls ‘personal weapons.’ When that failed, the wife was forced into a second impromptu contingency, getting a large kitchen knife and hacking the invader to death. Sidenote to anti-‘Assault Rifle’ folks, note in the table that knives are used for more homicides than all long guns put together. The important thing was that the couple didn’t give up; sometimes you invent contingencies on the fly, as they did.
Contingency plans don’t have to be elaborate.
As long as all they’re doing is robbing the [convenience store], I am going to act like a CPA from Akron and be a good witness. But if they start searching people, making people get down on the floor, or forcing people into a back room, my wife knows to get away from me because I am going to start shooting.
—Evan Marshall, on off-duty incident planning
Note in the above contingency plan, family members are aware of the plan, as well. Your family and associates should know what you plan to do also or the situation could become even more complicated. If the Major had fired the mortar at the two colonels without telling the Lieutenant what the plan was, the Lieutenant might have misinterpreted that as covering fire and still waited for the train.
A contingency plan stated by a very savvy friend of mine is one that everyone should keep in mind. I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating.
When they get the duct tape out, it’s time to make your move, ready or not. Nothing good comes of being tied up with duct tape.
Contingency planning is an inherent part of wargaming and developing our personal guidelines for using force as part of our Personal Protection plan. What do I, or we, do if the planned Course of Action doesn’t go according to plan?
Vet your sources
Please accept no advice or references with regard to personal protection without vetting it directly from the source. That includes anything I say. I try to cite where I get my information but anyone can be mistaken. There is no shortage of misinformation floating around and not all of it comes from gunshop commandos.
Already this morning, not one but two examples of why this is important have been brought to my attention. Another was made apparent last night.
In the first example this morning, a friend and client of mine shared some utterly incorrect advice that was given to her by a local law enforcement officer. My response came from my old website.
Only accept legal advice on firearms and/or self-defense from the POLICE or OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES OR OFFICIALS if it is in writing on official letterhead signed by a sworn senior supervisory official of that department in his or her official capacity or a current official document of that department bearing the department’s insignia and signed by the current head of the department (Chief of Police, Sheriff, or Special Agent In Charge). Verbal (not in writing) advice from law enforcement personnel may be in error and will have NO standing in a court of law.
It is rare that you will ever get anything in writing and signed by a senior official of the PoPo. There’s a reason for that. The police rarely know the nuances of the law and frequently do not keep up on changes in the law. Last night’s example was the result of a Sergeant using an outdated legal codebook when developing a briefing. His Captain, a friend of mine, fortunately reviewed the briefing prior to it being given. When asked to cite his references, the Sergeant pulled out a five year old codebook. The section he was citing had been changed.
If you want legal advice, go to a legal expert or read a book by a legal expert, such as Andrew Branca or Massad Ayoob. Don’t ask the police. They probably don’t know as much as you would like them to. This also applies to firearms training.
2. This morning I read an article in one of the online NRA Journals that referenced “FBI Crime Statistics.” Whenever you hear or read something that cites “the FBI,” assume it is the result of a game of Chinese Whispers.
FBI information is so rarely cited correctly that your can generally assume what is being said about it is more likely to be wrong than right. Personal Defense Network published my article What Do FBI Statistics Really Say About “Gunfights”? It’s worth reading.
When it comes to using force or training/practicing to use force, either lethal or non-lethal, you have to know what you’re doing. That means doing your own research, not relying on someone else to do it for you. At the very least, do an internet search for “use of force [your State]” and find the statutory code for your State.
Initial thoughts about the Rangemaster 2016 Tactical Conference
The Rangemaster 2016 Tactical Conference is now in the record books. It was held March 11-13, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The gathering included 200+ attendees, almost 30 instructors, and the fine facilities and staff of the Firearms Training Unit, Memphis Police Department Academy.
There was a great deal of material presented, more than could be attended. The Conference focuses on an inter-disciplinary approach to personal protection, so there is a lot more than just firearms and shooting involved. There was a challenging pistol match that could be shot, though; 158 people chose to shoot it.
The class I gave was Developing a Dryfire Practice Regimen. I was very gratified by the turnout of 50+ students. As the saying goes, ‘The best way to learn something is to teach it.’ Over the course of creating my presentation, my dryfire techniques became even more refined. One attendee also gave me a new training aid I wasn’t aware of. As in every class I teach, I also learn from the students.
The other classes I attended were:
- Managing the Don’t Shoot – Larry Lindenman
- Gaming the Streetz – Eve Kulczar
- Low Light Equipment – Tom Givens
- Optimizing Classroom Instruction – Tiffany Johnson, Esq.
- Metro-Tactical – Julie Thomas
- Urban Insurgency – Dr. Martin Topper
- Lasers, Red Dots, Iron Sights – Karl Rehn
- FBI Research: The Deadly Mix – John Hearne
- International Terror Operations – Gary Greco/John Holschen
- Dry Practice: An Evidence Based Approach – John Hearne
One of the pleasures of going to Conferences is getting to talk and catch up with my peers. Some of the conversations I had were:
- Cecil Burch – the Venn Diagram of Realization, instructor goals in attending conferences
- Paul Sharp – human gun interaction
- Skip Gochenour – Homicide trials
- Caleb Causey – Non-verbal communication
- Tom Givens – Standards that replicate incident skills
- Richard Jenkins – Dry Fire Flash Cards and skill development
- John Farnam – Attitudes of older fighters
- Gary Greco – American soccer team development, American Mindset (competition and confront/dominate)
- John Murphy – immediacy of action
- Mark Luell – I won’t let you take this from me
- Chuck Haggard – performance of .38 Special and .22 LR in gel and adversaries, S&W metal autoloader maintenance
- Karl Rehn – iron sights, lasers, and red dots
- Julie Thomas – tuning a class presentation
I’ll have more to report about the Conference in future posts.
Serious mistakes gunowners make
UPDATE: The recording is now available as a download for $9.95. Link
In the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, there have been increasing calls, even by the police, for legally authorized people to carry their guns wherever and whenever they can. In addition, the FBI recently reported a record number of gun sales on Black Friday.
While I firmly believe that Armed Citizens and off-duty police officers can make a difference in preventing and stopping such massacres, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Gunowners, whether carrying a gun or keeping a gun at home, can and do make mistakes, sometimes very serious ones. I have some concern about brand new gunowners carrying their guns with them everywhere without some education about how to do it safely. That may not be a popular view but that’s the way I see it.
I have often chastised the training community for failing to create non-traditional educational materials that can reach a broader array of gunowners. As a step toward alleviating that, I have created a new audio CD called:
Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make – Real life examples of how they get into trouble and how to prevent it
This audio CD is a refined version of my Negative Outcomes with Firearms presentation at the 2015 Rangemaster Tactical Conference. My Rangemaster presentation was very well received as groundbreaking about issues that are rarely discussed openly in the gun community.
The ‘Concealed Carry Mistakes’ lists I frequently see usually revolve around simplistic issues, such as:
- Equipment issues; gun, holster, clothing, etc.
- Not getting enough training
- Not ‘knowing’ the law
But the really serious Mistakes that gunowners make are things like:
- Shooting yourself
- Shooting someone you shouldn’t have, either intentionally or unintentionally
- Getting needlessly arrested
- Getting shot by the police
- Leaving guns where unauthorized persons can access them, resulting in tragedies
- Frightening innocent people around you
- Endangering innocent people needlessly
The 12 tracks, over 1 hour, on the CD are:
- Chasing after the end of a confrontation
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots
Each track explains the topic and the issue, provides a real life example of an occurrence and the consequence, and gives some thoughts about how to prevent it. My object is to provoke thinking about the fact that firearms are deadly weapons and can be terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incompetence, and stupidity.
Note that I can’t possibly explain nor control every way to avoid the Mistakes so I don’t assume any liability for those who listen to the recording and still end up having an issue. Life is not fair; if you want guarantees, buy a toaster.
This could be your most important purchase of the year. Making any one of the Mistakes almost inevitably leads to tragedy or significant legal expense. The price of the CD is miniscule in comparison.
The CD is available on my mobile friendly webstore.
Final note: Because I want this information to be widely distributed, I am granting a limited re-distribution license to anyone who purchases the CD. People do it anyway but I will make it formal and encourage it.
Purchase of the CD includes a license to reproduce five (5) copies of the CD for distribution to fellow gunowners. This is a limited license. It does NOT include posting copies of the CD or any of its tracks on the Internet in a downloadable format. Nor does the license include widely broadcasting the CD nor its tracks via email.
Please be safe and encourage fellow gunowners to do the same. I hope I can make a contribution to that with this CD.
Friday Fundamentals – Getting our priorities straight
The attacks in Paris by Radical Islamists have captured the attention of the world and obviously people in the United States. Over 100 people were killed and several hundred more were wounded. Along with many people, I mourn for the casualties of these horrific and barbaric events.
In the aftermath, numerous articles are being written about surviving active shooter events, etc. In addition, some folks are saying they’re going to make some massive changes in the way they socialize. It’s always good to examine our vulnerabilities. However, let’s look at things in perspective.
In 2014, the estimated number of murders in the [United States] was 14,249.
In 2014, there were an estimated 741,291 aggravated assaults in the [United States].
There were an estimated 84,041 rapes (legacy definition) reported to law enforcement in 2014.
The FBI definition of Aggravated assault is:
An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.
As my colleague Tom Givens has mentioned, one reason the murder rate has declined in the past few years is because of the advancement of emergency medicine. People who would have been murder statistics a few years ago are often aggravated assault statistics now. That doesn’t mean their bodies and lives haven’t been changed forever because of the assault.
While it’s popular to believe that most murders are committed by gangbangers killing each other and we should just say ‘good riddance,’ that’s not necessarily the case. Where the data is available, the Bureau statics indicate that strangers or unknown persons accounted for 57 percent of murders.
When considering clearances of violent crimes, 64.5 percent of murder offenses, 39.3 percent of rape offenses (legacy definition), 38.5 percent of rape offenses (revised definition), 29.6 percent of robbery offenses, and 56.3 percent of aggravated assault offenses were cleared.
‘Cleared’ means someone was arrested for the crime, not necessarily even convicted. Fully one-third of murders in this country don’t even result in an arrest. Nearly half of aggravated assaults don’t even result in an arrest. Almost two-thirds of the reported rapes don’t result in an arrest. If you become the victim of a violent crime, there’s a good chance the only ones affected will be you and your loved ones.
Relatively speaking, our chances of being criminally victimized are massively higher than becoming a casualty of a terroristic attack. Over 800,000 people in this country had their lives changed forever last year by ‘ordinary’ crime. That’s what we need to maintain our focus on.
- Are all your doors and windows locked at night and do you keep your security system on all the time?
- Do you always make people aware you’re in the house when they knock?
- Have you ever opened your door to someone without checking the peephole to see who it is?
- Do you walk or run with your earphones in while listening to music?
- Is there a safe or lockbox in your car to put your pistol in when you can’t take it in with you to the courthouse?
- Do you make a short security halt to observe the parking lot when you come out of a store?
- How often do you text or check Facebook on your phone while you’re in a transitional environment like a parking lot?
- Do you ever park your car in the closest spot to the door of a store without regard to who’s around or what kind of vehicle you’re parking next to?
- You know all the little security violations that you make. Eliminating them is probably more useful than starting to carry an another magazine of ammo.
Another thing to consider is our usage of automobiles and just how much danger we place ourselves in when we drive. Being in a motor vehicle may well be the second most statistically significant voluntary danger we face, exceeded only by going to the hospital.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, US car crashes killed 22,383 vehicle occupants in 2013 and injured 2,099,000.
Tactical firearms training is a lot of fun. Tactical medicine classes are very informative and might be more useful than a firearms course. But when was the last time you took a Defensive Driving Course? Some insurance companies offer online versions for free. Most insurance companies lower your premium for taking the DDC. In my state of Georgia, the class is 6 hours and costs less than $40 if you don’t have to take it because of getting a ticket. You put your life in danger every time you get in your vehicle. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your family to become a safer driver? The Situational Awareness tuneup will carry over into other areas of your life, as well.
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest horror of the week that the Lame Stream Media shoves down our throats and we then propagate among ourselves. Let’s use it as a reminder to examine all the safety risks we face. The latest event is probably way down the priority list if we dispassionately look at the many dangers we face every day.
Law Enforcement Officers Killed Audio CD
Annually, the FBI publishes the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. A key part of this report is the written Summaries of the circumstances surrounding the death of each Officer Feloniously Killed.The FBI provides a concise account of the individual incidents where an Officer(s) was killed.
One of the things I have been unhappy about when training LEOs is finding out how few read the Summaries. I ask every LEO class how many have read LEOKA and almost all the hands go up. But when I ask how many have read the Summaries, almost all the hands go down. While the tabular data in LEOKA is interesting, the Summaries give much more insight into the circumstances of how Officer deaths occur and provide context on how to avoid becoming a victim Officer.
In order to make these Summaries more accessible to the Law Enforcement community, I’ve recorded the 2013 Summaries as audio narratives on an audio CD. Each Summary is narrated individually for your listening convenience. In addition, audio narratives of a number Officer killings not reported by the FBI are included. For supervisors, playing a few of the Summaries at roll call could be a sobering way to put your Officers in the right state mind for their shift. For individual Officers, listening to a few of them on the way to work may help you get mentally tuned up.
The LEOKA Narrative audio CD can be purchased on my webstore. There’s also a link at the top of my blog.
Lessons from the Pine Ridge Shootout
On June 26, 1975, FBI Special Agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were murdered on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. While attempting to serve a Federal arrest warrant, a massive gunbattle ensued. The Agents’ cars were hit with 125 bullets and they were severely wounded early on in the gunfight. Eventually, they were overwhelmed and executed.
Details and the sequence of events of the shootout are available in my article on The Tactical Wire.
Be wary of driving or walking into an ambush. The situation the Agents faced in this case was referred to as a ‘firesac’ in Soviet military doctrine. This is an ambush that occurs from multiple simultaneous directions. Initially, they encountered a blocking position. Then, they began to take fire from multiple angles. The only way to escape a situation like that is to retreat as quickly as possible. Retreating is a tactic we don’t practice much but we should.
Look at the pictures of the Agents’ cars. Vehicles are bullet magnets. When rifles are involved, most parts of a vehicle are as bulletproof as a piece of toilet paper. If you’re being shot at while in a vehicle and you can’t drive out of the kill zone, your best bet is probably to get away from it. In a firesac, even if your vehicle is armored, there are no safe angles.
If you have someone with you, be prepared to drag them away from the car because they may no longer be mobile. Practice this ahead of time because it’s not easy. Wearing flip-flops will make it all the more difficult. Some of my friends weigh 100 pounds more than I do; it’s going to be work for me to move them. Without a decent pair of shoes on, it’s probably not going to happen.
We like to think that reinforcements, aka ‘The Cavalry,’ are always going to be available and quickly. That’s just not always true. At Pine Ridge, approximately five hours passed before the Agents could be reached. This was due to the suppressive fire encountered by the incoming reinforcements. The Agents were long dead before they could be helped. Be mentally prepared for the fact you may have to extricate yourself and anyone with you without any help. You’re not doomed until you give up. Then you’re doomed for sure.
The concept of ‘fight your way to your rifle’ is of dubious worth in actuality. Saying that is probably heresy but it’s true. Once the shooting starts, if all that’s within arm’s reach is a handgun, most likely the handgun is what you will use until the conclusion of the encounter. If you think a fight is coming, better get the long gun out before the first gunshots sound and before you are seen. Notice Coler’s trunk, as soon as you open that trunk, you have targeted yourself. The same thing happened to Gordon McNeil in The Miami Massacre 11 years after Pine Ridge.
The probability of being stuck with a handgun means that practicing exclusively at zero to seven yards with your sidearm may not be all the practice that you should do. At least know where your pistol hits at extended ranges. Learn to use the prone position with a pistol and practice shooting at 50 yards if you have the facility. A prone target is also a difficult target to hit, even with a rifle. Most indoor ranges are 25 yards, at least practice with a few shots at that distance occasionally.
Williams’ wrapping Coler’s nearly severed arm in an attempt to stop the bleeding underscores the need for medical training such as I took this past weekend from Dark Angel Medical. The nearest law enforcement support to Williams and Coler was 12 minutes away. Any kind of advanced medical care was much further than that. Even if the Agents hadn’t been executed, Agent Coler most likely would have died from a wound generating that much blood loss. Conversely, if the shooters had broken off the attack, had Williams been able to get an effective tourniquet on Coler, he might have lived.
Agent Williams was also wounded. You need to know how to stop your own blood loss. The bad news is you might need to do it one handed, which kind of sucks the first time you try it. Being bloody makes it even harder. It’s another skill you don’t want to have learn On The Job.
The further we are away from a medical facility, the greater our need for the ability to perform self-aid. We need not only the equipment but the knowledge of how to use it. Military personnel on duty will usually have organic medical support; law enforcement and Private Citizens, probably not. The support you are likely to have is in your head and in the med kit you have with you.
Don’t expect people who have fired many magazines of ammunition at you to cut you the slightest bit of slack. If they come for you, they’re coming to finish you off, not to stop your bleeding. If nothing else, play possum and set up an ambush of your own. If all you have is a handgun, wait until they get in range and take someone with you.
That means you have to know what your personal effective range with your weapon is. If you’ve been wounded, assume it’s half or less of what you can usually do on a good day. The good news is that the coup de grâce is usually delivered at close range, so you still might get an opportunity. You’ll probably only have one chance though, so make it good and don’t muck it up.
You must be logged in to post a comment.