LEOs are those who fight to right unrightable wrongs.
This is our destiny; this is our grit.
If you see us comin’ better straighten up;
a lotta foes didn’t and a lotta of ‘em wish they had.
We’d rather face an armed perp
than lie a coward in our grave.
From Ohio and West Virginia to Montana and Maine;
from Texas and Colorado to
Vermont and Tennessee;
This is America — and the people we shield. (1)
Due to calls for police reform and funding cuts along with threats of eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, it is becoming difficult to recruit “suitable” LEOs. Even though there is always a large quantity of applicants, the number of those who aspire to be social workers or only want the power of a badge and gun are becoming significantly greater than those who fit the definition of a law enforcement officer:
One who desires to help others while at the same time has a strong sense of right and wrong, subscribes to a healthy fear of being labeled a coward and believes in the rule that applies personally as well as to all others — No Lying, No Cheating, No Stealing, No Exceptions, No Excuses — while at the same time inherently knows that the Doctrine of the Lesser of Two Evils or Vital Exigent Circumstance supersedes this rule.
Though this fits only a small segment of today’s society and it might read like a soundbite from a politician, its truth is undeniable.
Being hired by a modern police agency is not a guarantee to a long-term profession. Because there are so many opportunities to commit unintentional, career-ending screw-ups, astute police officers always have an eye on the future. Holding a job that involves instant life-or-death decisions, high speed driving, possible false arrest charges and surviving departmental politics is a formula for vocation-ending ulcers.
Everybody makes mistakes, however. When police officers make them, it usually means someone is physically, financially and/or mentally injured. Cops know this or should have known it when they signed up for the force. They also know or learn that certain mistakes, unlike many non-police jobs, are career-ending.
Not only that, but employment-terminating errors are more likely to happen by the very nature of police work. These are some of the reasons agency turnover is high, thus a constant flow of new recruits is necessary. That’s why police officers are deployed to extended and intense training classes and programs. Very few other professions pay while their members learn, much less encourage enrollment to paid, in-service training agendas, including such valuable perks as college degrees.
We seem to have gotten away from the original intent of hiring police officers — to keep the peace and to provide this country’s first line of defense. They were to have been our protectors not only from physical violence, but from orders and actions that are unconstitutional and against their sworn obligations.
Individual police (peace) officers — public servants — have always had as their daily goal: keeping the peace. A tally of arrests made, citations issued and commendations awarded — i.e., promotion enhancements — is not conducive to public service. As public servants, police officers have historically strived to serve the public by protecting rights and “keeping the peace.”
A police public servant is not a social worker, hand-holder or babysitter, but sometimes that’s what they have had to do to “keep the peace.” Trying to see who can make the most arrests or write the greatest number of tickets — in other words, promoting oneself — has never been what being a police public servant is all about.
The accepted method of recruiting cadets for a police academy has been to wait to see who applies and then run them through a battery of cognitive, physical, and background tests before admission to the academy and department indoctrination.
Trouble is, negative ingrained issues are difficult to determine by short term testing. Another method of filling the ranks is to lure certified officers laterally from other departments. This commercial competition might be great for the individual officer, but it doesn’t solve the problem of securing qualified personnel for the profession, per se. Perhaps, a different approach is needed.
1) American secondary school systems might be the salvation of the recruitment dilemma. Almost 100 years ago, the Future Farmers of America (2) was founded by a group of young agrarians. Their mission was to prepare upcoming citizens for the challenges of feeding a growing population. This extracurricular student organization teaches the lessons that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting — it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.
As a very successful youth association it has changed lives and prepared its members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. FFA has helped generations rise up to meet those challenges by assisting its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways.
Substitute cops for farmers and law enforcement for agriculture, and … the Future Cops of America (FCA) is born. This after-school activity would be in a position to give impressionable young adults insight into a quasi-military profession and not only instill citizenship, but help perpetuate a profession for those aspiring to become part of the law enforcement community.
Mentored by local, county and state law enforcement agencies, FCA members would gain a perception into what policing is all about. Excursions to law enforcement training academies, penal institutions and trial court facilities could be very educational. Ride-alongs (where allowable) could not only enhance the learning curve, but sort out the wannabees from the truly dedicated by allowing close observation by veteran officers.
Where (and when) permissible, firearms safety and application experience is deployed. It would be, at the least, a public service. Though laws in some states limit underage persons from owning or possessing firearms, these restrictions are currently being challenged in the courts. In addition, the tutelage and experience this next generation of responsible citizens would gain — even if most don’t become LEOs — would be beneficial to all Americans.
Police agencies would also receive the advantage of an opportunity to access and select the best candidates for recruitment once FCA members come of age. Perhaps, NACOP could investigate a trial run by seeking a school board to sponsor the program. Private corporations, such as Nike, have been most generous with donations for sports items and might be approachable for supplying clothing, contacts, reading material and other educational criteria.
Though the Boy Scouts of America have offered law enforcement options for Explorer Scouts, it is limited to only members of BSA. Recently, the BSA filed for bankruptcy and is currently under criminal investigation for child-sex abuse issues. (3)
On the downside, the connection between youth and police must be carefully administered inasmuch as no powers of arrest or carrying weapons can be conferred or inferred to FCA members, lest they be compared to the Hitler Youth movement of the 1930s. (4)
2) With human longevity increasing, touting (advertising) a police career might best be sold as a stepping stone to a different and new mid-life career. Many private and public sector employers are very inclined to hire those with a law enforcement background.
CQC FIREARMS TRAINING
The second to last thing a morally responsible, prudent person wants to do is kill another human being regardless of how reprehensible, villainous or dangerous that person might be. The last thing this morally responsible, prudent person wants to do is be killed by that reprehensible, villainous and dangerous person.
There are only two methods of shooting a handgun: Sighted fire and non-sighted fire. Sighted fire is defined as utilizing an optical, mechanical/fixed or laser sight. Non-sighted fire, also known as instinct shooting, is defined as looking at the target with total disregard to any optical, mechanical/fixed or laser sighting apparatus. (5) Someday, a sharp attorney is going to challenge a LEO who was the shooter in an officer-involved shooting. The questioning could very well go like this:
THE SCENE: A courtroom during a civil or criminal trial where a perpetrator has been shot by a LEO.
Defense Attorney: “Officer, when you shot the victim who was 15 feet directly in front of you, did you use your sights?”
Defense Attorney: “Did you seek and obtain a sight picture as taught to you before shooting each shot?”
Defense Attorney: “Therefore, during that short interval when your eyes were focused on seeking and confirming this sight picture and that it was aligned on the target, is it not possible that you did NOT see my client dropping his gun [showing his empty hands – surrendering]? How many times did you verify your sight picture before firing your service pistol? No further questions.
“In other words, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the time it takes to raise one’s hands is about the same amount of time it takes a police officer to seek the optimal sight picture, be it optical, mechanical/fixed or laser. In still other words, had this officer never taken his/her eyes off of the victim he/she would have seen the victim dropping the gun [surrendering/showing empty hands].”
Police handguns have always incorporated some form of aperture for aligning the firearm to the target. Up until about the 1990s, a notch and blade sufficed as the method for aligning the bore of the handgun with a target. It was simple, but necessitated instruction, talent and practice to accurately cause the bullet to impact the intended target. But, more importantly, it required time to create this alignment — time that was critical not only if the target was shooting back, but if the target was moving … or capitulating.
During lethal force shootouts, law enforcement officers miss their intended target between 70 and 80 percent of the time. (6) This could be the result of spray-and-pray phenomena generated by high-capacity handguns. Officers with 15-round magazines might feel safer firing more shots than their counterparts of yesteryear when 6-shot revolvers were the issue/carry norm. Disastrous results of excessive shots are well documented.
Court decisions such as Popow v. City of Margate, 476 F.Supp. 1237 (N.J. 1979), et al., mandate officers must be trained in all phases of handgun deployments. This includes moving target techniques. Impacting a moving target while trying to maintain a “sight picture” is truly a lucky hit, and it might be criminal if errant shots strike an innocent. The Popow decision made it clear that police officers must have job-related training.
Sighted Fire Concepts
Laser Sights: This once questionable add-on has become a factory option on many handguns and, battery failure notwithstanding, is as mechanically reliable as the firearm itself. In addition to being very accurate, they create a convincing and intimidating factor.
However, laser sights are best deployed under very CERTAIN conditions. These conditions are moderate distances, low light and reflective target material. In bright sunshine they are almost useless. When the target is of a soft, light-absorbing material, such as dark clothing, it doesn’t reflect making it difficult to see.
In addition, and even under the best of conditions, it takes time to find the point of light on your target — time that might cost you your life. In other words, laser sights are superfluous and could be a hindrance in CQC situations. Yeah, I know competition shooters use optics even for moving targets … but unlike beat officers, these experts consume tens of thousands of rounds of ammo and practice almost daily. If, of course, the combat distance is outside the close-quarter combat arena, then by all means the use of available sights is suggested.
Flash Sight Picture: Proponents of this ideology suggest that the shooter, as the gun comes up to the shooting position, should somehow, establish a sight picture in a flash (be it mechanical or optical). In other words, they are saying that all that is required is a quick look at the sights and then bang the gun. Sounds good. Trouble is, what if the sights aren’t really in line and the shooter must spend portions of seconds or even whole seconds looking for that flash, a correct sight picture …?
On the other hand, if the sights are in line when the gun comes into battery, why should the shooter need to spend time looking for the sight picture in the first place? Furthermore, how would the “flash sight picture” shooter handle a moving target? By lead and follow through? This isn’t Sunday afternoon at the trap-and-skeet field. Suffice it to say, at CQC ranges ANY amount of time spent looking for sight pictures is time that your assailant can be putting to good use — against you.
Look At The Front Sight Only: Yeah sure, like what they’ve been teaching you all along — the correct sight picture is one where BOTH the front and rear sight are in alignment — is all bunk. Make up your minds, fellas, either the shooter looks at BOTH sights or no sights. Once again, time spent looking for your sights will be time that can be used against you. Lawyer: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the officer admits to utilizing only the front sight, as he/she was trained to do. However, his shot struck and killed my client who was standing behind and above the officer’s intended target.”
Proper Sight Alignment Yields Greater Accuracy: OK, you’ve got me there, but only at distances outside the … it’s-you-or-me 21-foot combat range. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Most shooters, under match (not combat) conditions could shoot tighter groups utilizing BOTH sights. But in CQC firefights, we’re only talking about a few inches. If you are able to impress a triple-tap, 4-inch group on the chest of the perp, sans sights, as opposed to a 2-inch sighted group, surely the perp won’t know the difference. However, if because you spent even a fraction of a second to line up your sights the perp shot you, then your 2-inch group never got out of the barrel! At closer distances, time becomes even more essential and pinpoint accuracy less meaningful.
Finger Pointing: Some well-known, but old school, practitioners of combat shooting taught all that was necessary for CQC firefighting was to point your index finger at the target. They usually went on to say, practicing this method, your handgun will instinctively point to the target. Under the doctrine of doing what you’re trained to do; when under extreme stress LEOs will point their finger at their attacker instead of the index finger on the trigger.
Indexing: The act of bringing into one’s realm of shooting the front portion (slide/barrel) of the handgun while in the act of coming into battery. Instinct Combat Shooting is not just looking at the target, per se, it is looking at (focusing — intense focusing) on a small portion of the target — such as a button or dirt spot on the target (the edge or center of the “X” of a paper target if practicing on the range).
When the handgun comes into battery (out in front and pointed toward the target) is when the mind should have conditioned the trigger finger to pull, pull, pull. Making sure of a sight picture or “indexing” in CQC scenarios is just wasting time — time that might mean the difference between your life or his.
The significant difference between true instinct shooting and “indexing” is the focus is on the target — 100 percent. If the shooter is trying to consciously or even subconsciously line up a sight picture or even the barrel/slide of the firearm then time is being wasted.
Non-Sighted Fire Concept
Instinct: A natural aptitude, impulse or capacity. An instinctive reaction is a natural tendency to act rapidly and with precision without any forethought or conscious planning. Instincts can be inborn reactions and they can also be trained or learned reactions. Instinct Shooting is the action that follows the realization or mental message within the brain that tells you a shot must be fired at a target.
The follow-on action requires the weapon to be brought to a firing position and operated as many times as is needed without ever removing your eyes from the target. This is one of the keys to instinctive shooting. Not only do the eyes have to see the target, but they must focus on the smallest, most centralized part of this target such as the left edge of a clay bird or a spot on the perp’s shirt.
Instinct Combat Shooting: The act of operating a handgun during close-quarter combat conditions by focusing on the target as opposed to the sights, and instinctively coordinating the hand and mind to cause the handgun to discharge at a time and point that ensures interception of the projectile with the target.
Think: basketball, baseball, football … training is required to proficiently score while moving, but unconscious thought coordinates the hand and eye to act instinctively.
If the eyes are the first component of the technique, the handgun stocks are the second part. When retrieving the firearm from the holster, the hand must acquire the same hold each time. The fingers must grip the stocks in the same place each time. If the firearm (be it rifle, shotgun or handgun) is held the same at battery, the shot will go to the same place with each shot. Dry-firing by bringing the gun to battery and then looking at the sight alignment will tell if the hand and stocks are mated.
Instinct Combat Shooting is not a panacea — a handgun tactic that will cover all combat conditions. The author is not in any way suggesting or advocating its use for long-range shooting with a handgun. It is, however, championed as the fastest and best method for distances from contact out to about 7 yards.
The instant the handgun reaches battery – arrives at terminus of extension – is when the mind and eyes have determined that a discharged projectile will strike the point of visual concentration.
During Instinct Combat Shooting circumstances, the discharge occurs when the firearm comes to a stop against the non-shooting hand, or as in single-handed control, at the limit of its forward travel. It is at this point and not an instant sooner or later, that the officer should be trained to instinctively fire a shot — if he or she has already made the decision to shoot.
Further, if the eyes are focused at arm’s length, all else will be out of focus and not discernible — such as the perp dropping the weapon [surrendering, showing empty hands]. “Point shooting is only employed in situations when there is no time to acquire sight alignment and sight picture.” (7)
Instinct Combat Shooting has its attributes and its negatives — just like any other discipline.
On the negative side:
It is not of great value at distances beyond 7 yards.
It is of little value if the shooter and the firearm are not mated to each other.
On the positive side:
It is the fastest method for close-quarter combat situations.
It is — and this is probably the most significant point — most likely being used by most LEOs now. This doesn’t mean they are doing it correctly or that the hand and stocks are congruent. Of course, if they are already shooting instinctively now, it might be a good idea to understand the tenets involved and hone this skill.
Those practiced in the techniques of ICS will find that under extreme conditions, such as the draw-on-the-drop, accurate fire can be achieved even before the firearm reaches battery. This is possible because ICS-trained LEOs will be focused on the target and does not slow the commencement of the firing cycle (moving the handgun from the holster to battery) by seeking some form of a “sight picture.”
Instinct Combat Shooting is not a one-size-fits-all tactic for all shooting conditions. It is a tool, perhaps the best tool, for close encounters of the heart-stopping kind, both literally and figuratively.
At police academies and during in-service training, instruct LEOs in the aspects of Instinct Combat Shooting for close-quarter combat conditions.
NACOP, in conjunction with one of the major firearm training facilities, might propose aerial competition for shooting moving targets, including aerial objects such as clay birds, using shot cartridges in handguns (safety-wise, handgun shot has a very limited range). Firearm and ammunition manufactures might be interested in sponsoring this new tactic that could become a life-saving endeavor as well as a new sport.
Development of a Future Cops of America extracurricular course for senior high school students would be a valuable source for staffing police ranks with those who have already been pre-screened. Such recruiting of career-oriented men and women will promote citizenship and lead to other public service endeavors or serve as a possible step to additional occupations. Long-term goals might include becoming a police academy instructor, prosecuting attorney and/or private-sector security specialist.
Teaching recruits to follow their instinct by utilizing the Instinct Combat Shooting technique of always looking at the threat not only assures safety for all, but under CQC conditions it allows for optimal hits. If on the move or exchanging fire with a target that is moving… success is nearly impossible by relying on aimed fire. •
(1) Inspired by the songs: High Noon, 16 Tons, The Impossible Dream, Theme from Giant.
(2) FFA is an intra-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership. https://www.ffa.org/about/
(3) The Boy Scouts of America did not respond to a query from this writer. https://www.scouting.org/
(4) Hitler Youth organization was set up by Adolf Hitler in 1933 for educating and training male youth in Nazi principles [politics]. It evolved into a state agency that all young “Aryan” Germans were expected to join as a forerunner to becoming members of the Nazi party and part of the military machine. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hitler-Youth
(5) A generation or two ago, I published a short booklet promoting the concept of shooting instinctively – with a handgun – not utilizing fixed, laser or any other type of mechanical or optical sights. In other words, visually selecting and looking ONLY at the target. Though I didn’t invent the method I defined and explained how to do it. The subject book, INSTINCT COMBAT SHOOTING, Defensive Handgunning for Police, 4th edition, has been in continuous print for over 35 years and is becoming relevant to a new generation of law enforcers. https://www.chuckkleinauthor.com/Page.aspx/181/instinct-combat-shooting.html
(6) During lethal force http://concealednation.org/2014/10/fbi-decides-on-9mm-as-their-1-choice-and-have-tons-of-science-behind-their-decision/
(7) Evan Marshall, May 1998, American Guardian