13 January 2017

Interacting with the police after a use of force incident

For many of us, our interaction with law enforcement is during a traffic stop or after being involved in a traffic accident.  Even though I am retired law enforcement, in spite of what some would have you believe, I do not automatically get a pass on anything that I do.  Just like anyone else, my heart beats a mile a minute when I see the lights in my rear-view mirror.  People that have followed my work know that I am an outspoken critic of how agencies select, hire, and train their officers.  Just as with any other service provider, some are good and some are bad.  The difference here is that the person you are having contact with is wearing a gun and views everyone they come in contact with as a threat to them, and that is a survival habit I agree with.  The focus of this article is to give you some insights as to how to deal with the police after being involved in a critical incident.  This information is based on almost 20 years in law enforcement and 40 years of dealing with humans in all sorts of different circumstances.  First we will discuss interaction with the police in the aftermath of any critical incident, and then specifics in reference to situations in which you used deadly force.  

Police officers, especially those working uniformed patrol, see the world through a different lens than others when they are working.  Every “call” or “job” for them is like it is for anyone else, something to be completed so they can move on to the next one.  The motivated spend this time on self-initiated contacts in the way of traffic and pedestrian stops in targeted areas.  The unmotivated go back to a mental slumber waiting for the end of their shift hoping that they don’t get another call or that if they do someone else will be close and handle it.  I realize this is much generalized, but in my experience it is the truth.  Both the motivated and unmotivated hate to be disturbed from what they are trying to accomplish.

When you start your career in law enforcement, you have this notion that you will be protecting good from evil.  Before long, that turns into the realization that you are usually stuck in the middle between two pieces of shit over a matter that your common sense will not allow you to process.  Good officers know all the colorful personalities of the people that frequent the areas in which they patrol.  Situations between these types are often more of a management issue than a law enforcement issue.

If you are reading this, there is an excellent chance that you believe that your well being is your responsibility and nobody else’s.  This train of thought also says that you don’t routinely put yourself into a position where stupid people, things, and places can negatively affect your life.  You are not the type of person officers are used to dealing with.  As a matter of fact, you might as well be from a different planet.  People who routinely make a habit of calling the police often use 911 like a little kid yells “Mom” when something does not go their way.  They don’t have any coping or interpersonal communication skills and need the “state” in the form of the police to deal with every little problem.  When you see this play out dozens of times a day, upon arrival to a call you automatically decide what they did to create the situation because it is usually very evident.  Alcohol and drugs are often involved, but even more than that is people who cannot get along but refuse to stay away from each other.

Some people, both police and citizens, may have issues with my thoughts, but as I said, they are my thoughts.  My goal here is to provide you with some perspective in reference to the officers, or officers that are going to respond if you are involved in an incident.

Time and time again in classes I have said that if you have to use any kind of physical force what so ever, you need to be the first person to call 911.  I know that to many this may seem to be a “bitch move,” but the problem is that every piece of shit thinks he is a good guy.  Sure you might have punched a drunk, but the problem is that maybe that drunk’s old man has money and you damaged his teeth.  He gets home and all of a sudden his family has him calling 911 to report an assault.  Through a license plate or witness he is able to identify you.  Because his teeth were damaged, he is able to get a warrant for 1st degree assault.  When the police serve the warrant, you try to tell them how you were attacked and just defending yourself.  One of the first questions out of their mouth, as has often been mine, is “do you have a cell phone?”   You say, “Yes.”  The next question is, “Why did you not call the police?”  Regardless of your feelings about the scenario, it plays out time and time again.  You have to protect yourself all the way around.

Upon the arrival of the police, let them know you are the “victim” and don’t act like a “complainant”.  The root word of complainant is complain, and nobody likes a complainer.  Say, for instance, you were at a gas station where a guy was begging for money.  You were outside your car pumping gas when he approached.  After you refused to give him money, he became agitated and moved towards you.  In reaction to this, you told him to get back.  When he failed to do so, you pushed him and he busted his ass.  Here is an example of what I would say to the officer.

“Hello officer, I am the one that called.  My name is Jim Jones and I was here getting gas when this guy walked up who was pan handling.  When I refused to give him money, he got agitated and came towards me.  There was nowhere for me to go because I was up against my car, so I pushed him and he fell backwards.  Then he got up and ran off.  As far as I know he is not injured and neither am I.   I am not interested in pressing charges.  I just wanted to report it in case he showed up at a hospital or called 911 or something.  Can I just have the incident report or case number?”   

  “Whatever you guys use.”
In those few words you-
Identified yourself
Told him the reason for the call
Explained what happened
Showed why you were forced to act
Showed that you are only looking to protect yourself
Let him know that nobody was injured
Gave the officer the option as to whether or not to write a report
By asking for the incident / complaint number you show that you are informed 

Of course this is generalized, but it allows you to get your needs met without launching a federal investigation.  Most places would call this call “Police Information”.  If something does come from it, you simply call the police department and reference the number given.  Every time the police receive a call for service it is assigned a number, no matter what the call is.  

Next, let’s talk about dealing with the police after using deadly force.  First things first, there is a way to protect yourself without being a total asshole to the responding officers.  I have seen over and over internet commandos and lawyers telling you not to say anything and just hand them your ID, or something along those lines.  That may sound good in writing, but here is the deal.

As previously stated, you are not a special snowflake to the officers.  You are a job.  It may be your first shooting, but certainly not theirs.  They are used to shooters acting like assholes and refusing to give any information to them at all.  Good guys in white hats shooting bad guys in black hats are a fantasy.  Most police officers will never handle a shooting that involves a citizen exercising their rights by protecting themselves against a criminal.  It is usually one piece of shit shooting another piece of shit.

I always laugh when I hear people tell others not to say anything.  The reason I brought up the interaction between most citizens and police being in reference to motor vehicle accidents is to illustrate the phenomenon of excited utterances, better known as diarrhea of the mouth.  When we are kids and something gets broken and the whole “don’t tell Mom” response kicks in, knowing that we will have to give our side of the story, we start automatically fabricating it in our head to put us in the best light.  This is why people rush up to responding officers at a car accident.  They want to give their side of the story first and put them in the same light.  Car accidents, which are critical incidents even if only property damage, are hard for our minds to process.  One of the tools for processing is talking it out, both to ourselves and anyone who will listen.

In the case of a self-defense shooting, upon the arrival of police they automatically trying to figure out what happened so they can move onto the next case.  They have no responsibility to Mirandize you unless they are questioning you about a specific crime.  If all of a sudden you start telling the officer in detail what happened, a good officer will stop you and Mirandize you.  If this does not happen, your words could be used against you later.  After using deadly force, there is an excellent chance that you will not feel well.  During the event, you may have pissed or shit your pants.  Afterwards, with no blood in your belly for digesting food, you may puke.  Using our previous gas station, here is an example of what to say-
“Can you please call me an ambulance?  I don’t feel well and am having chest pains.  I was getting gas, and he walked up.  When I refused to give him money, I saw him pulling a gun from his waistband.  I drew my gun and just fired.  My gun is locked in the trunk of my car.  I know you need it.  Can you please check on that ambulance?”

What have you accomplished in those few sentences?
You don’t feel well and are having chest pains
You need an ambulance
He approached you
You used verbal commands
He attempted to draw a pistol on you
You drew your own gun and fired in response to his
My gun is secure and of no danger to anyone
I understand procedure and am cooperating without giving up my rights
You are really not feeling well

Having chest pains under any circumstances is a guaranteed trip to the hospital.  On the ambulance, they are going to ask you for information such as your name, date of birth, etc.  The police will get that from them instead of you, meaning that you have less interaction with the police.  Even if they put an officer on the ambulance, you will only have to deal with one in a clean, lit, safe place, instead of many, on a dark street, in the back of a police car.  If the officer begins to question you about the scenario, politely tell him that you would like to speak to an attorney first and really don’t feel well.  Separating yourself from the situation is the best way to avoid saying things you will regret later.

Medical staff will routinely ask you what happened.  Be aware that what you say to them can be subpoenaed later on.  There are only three people who cannot be compelled to testify and they are:  your spouse, your attorney, and clergy.  Keep in mind that your phone records will likely be subpoenaed, so watch who you call and what you say.

Nothing offered above should be constituted as legal advice, and is not offered as such.  It is to prompt dissuasion in reference to interaction between citizens and police during chaotic and rapidly evolving situations.   As with all training ideas, in reference to these things should be measured on a sliding scale from fantasy to reality.  It is up to the individual person what should be dismissed and what should be put into practice.

05 January 2017

Wisdom for the aging combatant

Whenever we are teaching a course that involves physical self-defense we first cover use of force.  I give examples based on those in attendance.  For example I might point out how a smaller woman in the class could be justified using a higher level of force against a male attacker than I would.  The primary reasons being a woman against a man and smaller vs bigger, two things that the courts will take into consideration.

However my favorite to talk about is "able vs disabled" because it more than many other factor can change in a second.  I start by asking what makes a person in a wheelchair disabled?  Obviously it is the fact that they can't stand or walk.  For example, if during an altercation if you fall backwards or are pushed backwards resulting in smashing your tailbone on concrete concrete causing temporary paralysis, how would that change things?  What if you are not injured from the fall but the attacker follows you to the ground and continues the assault.  This is what happened to George Zimmerman after he made several other mistakes we will not dig into here.

Then we talk about how this plays into our individual Personal Protection Plans, nobody has the same one, because we all have our own abilities, needs, and weapon preferences based on needs and laws.  Over the last several months I have thrown my back out three times.  The first time it was getting off a leg machine at the gym, then playing tug of war with my bulldogge, and two days ago twisting to get off a decline bench.  It is central nervous system issue that causes immediate pain and loss of range of motion.  After a visit to the chiropractor yesterday and a good nights sleep I feel much better, but if someone had physically attacked me yesterday around 4 PM I would have used a much higher level of force faster than usual.  This is because I was in severe pain, could not stand all the way up, and very well may have not been able to get up if I was knocked to or simply fell to the ground.  Today, felling better I would have dialed it back to baseline, but still keeping in mind that any twisting motion could aggravate my preexisting injury, and that going the ground is still not an option.  Again, if I end up on the ground and the attacker follows be there I would be able to justify a higher level of force.

Earlier I spoke about part of your PPP (Personal Protection Program) being weapons.  What if you do end up on the ground with someone on top of you and you feel you are justified to shoot or stab them, but they happen to be high up on your chest, physically covering your gun, or another weapon with their knees.  Do you have a mechanical force option above your waist or the mindset to and training to use open hand skills to survive?

Over the years I have written  a few articles while staying off the ground and doing damage as fast as possible to get up from there are a huge part of MCS.  Years ago these were not personal reasons but now some are.  I am by nature and  training in Judo and traditional Ju Jitsu a grappler.  Due to a lifetime of lifting, sports, martial arts, service, and putting my hands on people for a living, my model year is not that old, but lots of off road miles have taken their toll.

No matter your pursuit, the key is longevity and sustainability.  My social media demographics tell me that the majority of MCS fans, supporters, readers, and students are 35-45 year old men.  This makes sense since MCS has absolutely no flash, belts, trophies, or uniforms.  At my age (44) I am only interested in things that work for my application.  I am not interested in training for several hours a week making a pile of once fired brass or rolling around on the floor trying to get another guy to tap out.  I need to believe that everything I spend my time training on will work in the worst situations, and MCS does.  I still test it as a bouncer.  Instead I prefer to spend my free time loving on my wife and kids, riding my Harley, playing with my Bulldogge, and enjoying fine cigars and whiskey.

Please don't think that I am discounting traditional martial arts training.  Just understand that the originally the arts of a warrior who's job was war.  Now we have to go to work the next day and training has be watered down to achieve that.  Understand that if you can practice something for hours and hours on end in the dojo or on the mat without injury, don't expect it to stop a human in the street. For those of you still training and teaching the old ways, good on you. You will fight the way you train.  I wish this wisdom had occurred to me 20 less painful years ago.  Stay Safe- George

02 January 2017

Active shooter stopped by CCW training vid

Some pretty good stuff here.  The only issue I have is the one that I have with all Simunitions training, and that is that you are not supposed to shoot simms within 7 yards, you know...where real shootings happen.  Not to mention they are prohibitively expensive for citizens as well as many agencies.  I have been using Airsoft since around 2002 and will continue to do so.  They are cheap by comparison and you can shoot at contact distance.  The ability to predeploy your pistol is a luxury usually only afforded to law enforcement.  For that reason the when and how to deploy the pistol is the biggest stumbling point.  I would like to see how things go from a holster as well as other force options.  The take away is that it was over in 32 seconds.  A 911 dispatcher would still be getting information from you.  Also those people would have not stayed in place, just sitting in their chairs.

22 December 2016

The Modern Combative System

The MCS has been a work in progress since 2000.  The primary focus has always been full continuity between open hand combatives, edged weapons, impact weapons, and the pistol with 7 yards.  After four months of training at our first "school"  we have broken it down into 7 blocks.  Depending on the ability, needs, and wants of the student training in each block can last from a 90 minute introduction to years of training.  What is taught is the way "we" do things.  It can be your stand alone system or used to fill in the cracks of what you feel you are missing.

We are currently booking classes for 2017.  Contact us at 717-693-2089 or e-mail us to find out about hosting a class.  You pick the amount of time you wish to spend and on what blocks.

20 December 2016

Clubs. sticks, and canes..where did they go?

The other day I was scrolling through one of the law enforcement only groups I belong to on Facebook.  The group has around 50,000 members.  A question was posed "if you could take one tool off your belt what would it be?"  A few people said OC, which would have been my answer.  But the vast majority said their baton.   There were many comments such as "I never use it anyway" and "it's just an invitation to a lawsuit."  Being a huge proponent of the baton for police and cane/walking stick for the citizenry, I was saddened by this.

My first introduction to the use of the nightstick was while attending the US Army Military Police School at Ft. McClellan AL in 1991.  I don't remember any of it, but I do remember that the "MP Nightstick" was to be carried at all times while in garrison.  While working garrison while permanent party, I remember having it out a few times but never using it.

Fast forward to 1997 and I was introduced to the Koga Stick and the Koga System while attending the Baltimore Police Academy.  Can't remember much of that except for the old timers complaining about having to give up their beloved Espantoon.  This was done by Commissioner Frazier in an attempt to make the police look softer.  Later, when Ed Norris took over as Commissioner, he brought them back to boost morale but did not mandate their use.

When I came on with the Aberdeen MD Police Department in 1998, there was no official baton or policy that I could find.  Most of the guys who carried a stick carried the PR-24 side-handled baton, but I never saw anyone use them.  Just as I got there they had banned saps and shortly there after leather jackets. Remember, you have to look nice to play nice.

For the first few months, I kept my Koga Stick under the passenger side headrest of my patrol car, a habit I had picked up as an MP.  Whenever I got out of the car to deal with people in an open area, I would take it with me and slip it in my speed ring.  I cannot recall ever using it.  Several months later I was sent to get certified in the use of expandable baton.  Being a training nerd, before attending the class I looked up everything I could find on using a stick to defend yourself.  Most of the stuff was from Filipino martial arts and some from stick fighting in Ireland.  The Irish stuff caught my attention because of my heritage.  My Great Great Grandfather Francis "Hawkeye" McGrail joined the Elizabeth NJ Police Department in 1896.   He was probably familiar with the Shillelagh that he traded in for a nightstick.  Like most weapons, the way we use weapons today comes from cultural influences.

What I found out during the expandable baton class, and subsequent, but few in-service instruction,
was contrary to everything I had read and would later be exposed to from original cultural sources.
Police reading this know, as do some non-law enforcement folks, that the baton training focuses on striking large nerve clusters and muscle groups so as not to cause serious or permanent physical injury.  For the first time in my career, I was working in an environment where I saw a very real need for stick, and a need for it to work.  Over the next 10 years, I created what I call Street Stick.  It was created to be simple, retainable, and effective,  and does not include pain compliance.  There is a difference between putting someone into handcuffs and fighting them into handcuffs or defending yourself.  If I have a stick in my hand, the time for pain compliance has long passed.  Using pain compliance is like waiting for the wind to blow your way.  Instead, we use the concept of impact weapons to seek bone and mechanical advantage.  During that 10 years, I was able to use things like default and intentional targeting, body chokes, and joint presses.  Over the years I was investigated for my use of force (which happens if you are working) but no charges were ever sustained.  I can honestly say I never beat anyone.  As a matter of fact, one woman is only alive because I had trained to transfer to the baton in the event of a Taser failure.

Street stick uses one hand and one stick, any stick, but of course some are better suited than others.  They are as effective for the citizen with a walking stick or cane as for the police officer with a baton.

It is not lost on me that there are police reading this who are interested but are afraid to strike someone with a stick.  Maybe that is why so many people get shot.  We know that effective open hand combatives training is rare in law enforcement.   So if officers are not carrying OC, or a baton, they are left with the Taser and the firearm.  It is my belief that if officers were better inoculated to the stress of interpersonal combat and trained in open hand combatives and the use of the stick we would see less shootings.  Often shootings occur because officers use force too late.  If you say it is too much of a liability and officers will be beating people with sticks, is it better to shoot them?  Maybe we need to worry more about officer selection.

Years ago I did a DVD called Street Stick.  It covered lots of ground, some of which most people would never be in a position to use.  Starting this Friday I am going to start posting videos here and on Youtube on how I teach Street Stick by the numbers.  All you need to get started is a Wiffle Ball Bat and a partner.  I will cover the fundamentals you are most likely to have time and opportunity to use and then some fun stuff.  Stay tuned.

MCS Concept #2986