Tanks on American Streets

One of the “Police Militarization” tropes circulating around is the “OMG! LOOK! Cops are using TANKS on American streets!”. Some of the more militarily knowledgeable people may couch it as “Police are using weapons of war/military equipment/etc…” but the implications are the same.

What I think… is many folks are ignorant about what these vehicles are and what they are used for. Either that, or they are willfully ignoring what these trucks truly are.

First of all, lets be clear that American Law Enforcement has been using “military style weapons” and armored vehicles for YEARS.

NYPDriotbike_700

armored_car

coptank

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copgun

Just like back in the Prohibition days, when the “Mob” was running the streets with Tommy Guns, your Police Officers are expected to deal with situations like this:

All an Armored Truck does is protect people from bullets.

That being said. There seems to be a lot of confusion between MRAPS and other Armored Vehicles.

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An MRAP is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Used by the military, its really just a large truck with armor plating. It’s not a “Tank”, it isn’t built with any integral weapons. Weapons can be mounted on it, but weapons can be mounted on a pick-up truck too.

When the military decides it doesn’t need them any longer it has been offering them to LE vs scrapping them or putting them in a field somewhere to rust.

Another vehicle commonly used by American LE is the “Bearcat”, made by Lenco Armored Vehicles. The Bearcat is specifically made for LE and is purchased by an Agency outright or with the assistance of grant funds.

Nash_Bearcat

They are not the same vehicles, but I see Bearcats called “military vehicles” or MRAP’s all the time. IMO, the current “issue” with armored vehicles appears to be more about MRAPS being former “military Vehicles” than it is about what they are in essence, a vehicle that allows police to drive up to or through an area they know or suspect will have a high probability of weapons fire.

The appeal of the MRAP to LE is that, unlike having to come up with the 200+K for a BEARCAT, the government provides an armored vehicle, free of charge, to the municipality receiving it.

brinks

Armored cars routinely travel our roads to protect cash. Police armored vehicles protect people. My personal opinion is that the MRAP issue is more about how the vehicle “looks”…combined with peoples political leanings…I think that if we drove around in a Brinks Truck nobody would complain.

I even recently read some articles stating that “being a cop is dangerous…you are expected to accept risk to your life”…the implication being “we don’t think you should have armored vehicles so just accept the risk of getting shot”.

Just this year some officers near me had their squad cars shot up by rifle fire responding to a domestic. One was injured by glass. The SWAT Team that responded to the resulting armed barricade was also shot up. But because they were in a BEARCAT they were able to operate in the area and apprehend the guy.

So they should just accept the risk of having been shot there because some folks think having an armored vehicle is “militarization”? To be blunt…go @#$% yourself if that’s your opinion.

Yes, as a Cop, yes… I accept risking my life to protect others. I don’t accept risking my life over your politics or your tin hat fears that we are going to use these trucks to take your weapons and round you up for some FEMA camp.

If the real issue is that your local cops are using their equipment when it’s not necessary, you should be dealing with the decision makers at you local PD. Don’t put people at risk over hyped up fears about equipment.

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who’s side are you on anyway?

I’ve been doing this “leadership” think for a while now. I’ve done the NCO thing in the military, I’ve moved up the supervision chain in LE, etc.

While I hesitate to speak from a position of “expertise” on leadership ( I always feel like I’m still learning), there is an aspect of it I seem to see time and again that I would like to discuss and that is  the confusion over “where your loyalty lies”.

In a nutshell the question is this. Are you a representative of management there to “keep an eye on things”, implementing your superiors policies and looking for “violators”? Or are you a “representative of your men” who looks out for their welfare and protects them from the wrath of your bosses? This issue is sharpest for that mid level leader like a Sergeant or Lieutenant who has direct contact with “the grunts”.

In my opinion this is the first hurdle every new leader seems to face. If not understood it can become an entrenched mindset throughout their career, and only becomes magnified the higher up the leadership ladder they climb.

Of course…as with any complex issue, the reality is never as black and white as I paraphrased above. A good leader has to realize that he has a foot in two worlds. It’s your job to make the ship go in the direction your superiors want it to go…you are not “one of the guys” anymore. However, you are never going to be the “leader of men” I would hope you want to be if you look at the people actually doing the work as drones vs “your people”.

I look at it like this:

ideal

With superiors above you and subordinates below you you can look at yourself as an “advocate” for either side. Ideally you want to span a place somewhere in the middle. It’s your job to implement the decisions of your superiors AND it’s also your job to look out for the welfare of your subordinates (both personal and professional welfare) and to be a representative for them when dealing with your superiors.

suckup

If you tend to be a leader who “sides” with your superiors in all situations, with no interest in standing up for your subordinates when you believe that a new policy is wrong, or that punishment being levied is unfair or excessive you will be seen as a suck up at best or a tyrant at worst.

If your boss tells you to “write someone up” for something you don’t believe they did wrong, do you just do it? Are you always afraid that if you argue or disagree with your boss that you may harm your chances for a promotion? Are you “scared” of your boss so you just do what your are told with no regard to your personal opinions of right or wrong? You are placing yourself and your concerns over those of the people you are responsible for.

Of course there is the flip side:

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Are you afraid of being disliked? Do you avoid difficult discussions or dread delivering orders that you know are necessary but are going to be disliked? Do you overlook things because it’s easier than dealing with them?

You can’t be “one of the boys” either. Part of your job is being the person who has to do the tough thing when it comes down to it. If you don’t act like a leader your career as one will either be short lived or come to a dead end.

My suggestions? You have to look at yourself and make an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. A person who, in their heart of hearts, knows that they tend to be “one of the boys” has some hope. He/She knows that they have a weakness and that’s the first step to correcting it. Small changes over time is usually the best remedy vs trying to become a “hard ass” overnight. It’s the people who sincerely believe that their subordinates are simply people to step on in the climb for advancement that are the real problem.

And in conclusion:

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K9 Abuse? Or Not?

This is getting a lot of internet traction lately. When I first watched it I was expecting something a LOT worse than what I saw. I think people are transferring the emotions they have for their family pet onto a working police dog.

While a person who has never been around Police K9’s may find this video shocking, because this is obviously something they would never do to their family pet, I’m not so quick to pass judgement on this officer. These Dogs can be exceedingly dominant and driven and are exceedingly tough. They do things your average dog would never do and are trained in ways your average dog is not.

In order to get some of these dogs to drop something from their mouths (which this dog had…watch the officer pick it up after) sometimes these handlers have to do things that may appear shocking to the unitiated because these dogs don’t pay attention to anything less. They are trained to drag fighting people to the ground after-all…they don’t scare easily and don’t even feel what may look like “abusive” blows. What good would a Police dog be if he was scared off by a suspect striking him?

Look. I’m not K9 trained…and I’m not defending the technique used here, If it’s determined that this was something more akin to he officer exhibiting frustration and anger at the dog than he deserves what he gets. Perhaps some handlers have less visually shocking methods to handle a highly driven dog and this PD should be looking into them, but for now I’m not 100% sold on the “OMG Animal Abuse” meme starting around this one. The dogs body language and wagging tail after he drops what he had tends to make me think the dog isn’t either.

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While it’s generally a good idea to keep the muzzle of your weapon oriented in the same direction as your eyes, there are numerous instances where multiple areas of danger must be addressed.

In these situations (when you cannot divide areas of responsibility between multiple people) it is better to scan with your eyes while keeping your muzzle oriented between the danger areas.

areafire2This allows you to respond to threats to either side more rapidly than if you decide to commit to one over the other.

 

weapons

took this image using my mobile on 20 Septembe...
Image via Wikipedia

There is an entry in the Bushidoshoshinshu titled “Weapons”:

Every samurai who is in service must have a supply of weapons suitable to his means. Every feudal house has its military regulations, and the proper banners and flags and helmet insignia, spear mounts, sleeve crests, and marks on the baggage animals as ordered by the lord must be carefully provided in a uniform manner. For if they have to be improvised in a hurry it will be an obvious sign of carelessness and will provoke contempt. Men who from neglect of these insignia have been attacked by their own side and killed and suffered loss are not unknown in military history, so there must be no want of precaution in these things. And some may think that their servants are not likely to have to cut anybody down and so may replace the blades of their swords with wood or bamboo, and neglect to provide them with a loincloth because they think they will not need to gird up their clothes, and find themselves in difficulties owing to their want of foresight. And a samurai who is a cavalier and who receives a considerable stipend and who does not know when he may have to take the field, however peaceful the time may appear to be, is a hundred percent more culpable if he does not provide himself with the proper weapons than the young serving man with a wooden sword or no loincloth. So from fear of being put to public shame he ought to equip himself properly. And here is a piece of advice on the subject. When a small retainer wishes to fit himself out with armor and has, let us say, three pieces of gold to get a suit, the best thing he can do will be to spend two-thirds of it on the body armor and helmet, leaving the remainder to provide all the other things he will need such as underclothes, breeches, coat, under-hakama, upper girdle, surcoat, whip, fan, wallet, cloak, water-bottle, cup, etc., so that he will have every accessory he needs as well as his suit of armor. Then, though he may be young and very strong, it is better to avoid heavy suits of thick iron armor and weighty banners and standards, for the very good reason that, though they may be tolerable while he is young and vigorous, as he grows older they will become too much for him. And even a young man may fall ill or be wounded, and then the lightest iron armor will be a heavy burden and a hindrance. And if a young man gets known for the weight of his banners and standards he will find it difficult to give them up when he becomes older and less able to support them.

I find it an interesting parallel to modern soldiers and law enforcement officers who will spend tons of money on the latest flat-screen or video console but will scrimp on buying a quality holster or flashlight.

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Occam’s Razor for shooters….

The Ockraz Logo
The Ockraz Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William of Ockham was an influential medieval philosopher who is recalled chiefly for the maxim attributed to him known as Ockham’s razor. Also spelled “Occam’s Razor”. The words attributed to him are, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem…or “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.

I bring this up because I have just read a quote from the Dokkodo, the “The Solitary Path”, which is a short piece written by Miyamoto Musashi shortly before his death:

Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what can be of use to you.

I see a link between the philosophies of these two men and an application to weapon training. I will attempt to explain.

These philosophical issues come to mind because I was recently involved in a friendly conversation debating that “Less Filling. Tastes Great” topic of using the slide release vs “power stroking” the slide on a handgun during an emergency reload.

I have a post here regarding this very issue BTW.

Debate points that always seem to come up when discussing emergency reloads are:

“I use the power stroke because I may be using a weapon I am unfamiliar with and running the slide is fairly universal for all pistols while slide releases may vary.”

and

“I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.”

Being a fairly recent convert to the slide release method, Occam’s and Musashi’s quotes kind of cut me both ways.

I argue that the “It’s universal for all pistols” point either means you own too many pistols or you are saying you are going to be doing a combat pick up of a pistol…or a disarm.

Per Occam/Musashi…if you have so many different pistols that you may/may not be carrying at any one time, you are violating their precepts. I’m not against collecting guns, I’m not against having different pistols/rifles for different applications, but if you worry that you may not be able to “auto pilot” your weapon because you may be carrying something different on any given day, that’s a problem IMO. Pick one and make it a part of your hand.

The combat pick-up/disarm argument doesn’t hold much water for me either. I’m probably not going to disarm an attacker of his weapon and magazines and have to do an emergency reload with them. And the combat pick-up is such a statistically rare issue that I don’t see it as a valid point. Either way, if they worry you then do the power stroke method if that ever happens.

The second point…”I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.” Is a more valid argument when applying Occam (Musashi doesn’t really apply here). Having one way of operating the pistol regardless of reason (malfunction or running dry) is a stronger point IMO and I have much to agree with.

However I would counter that Occam said “…must not be multiplied beyond necessity” he didn’t say “never multiply”. The slide stop method has some things going for it; speed, efficiency, the weapon/hands stay more oriented to the threat, etc. The necessity of multiplying your manual of arms to gain those advantages may be debatable, but I would debate it.

Either way you choose I find Occam and Musashi’s points as interesting ways to analyze our choices when it comes to weaponcraft. What do you think?

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shoot to……what?

Grave awaiting its coffin.
Grave awaiting its coffin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was just reading Tiger McKee’s “The Book of Two Guns” where I came across this passage:

When engaging a threat with fire you are shooting to stop the threat-not kill them. Due to the areas we must shoot to stop the threat effectively-the center mass and head, the threat may die. But that isn’t the desired effect. Our job is to stop the threat as quickly as possible-or we hurt them enough that they decide to leave.

I entirely understand WHY we are taught this way…because of litigation. “So officer you are saying that you INTENDED TO KILL MY CLIENT?!?!”  And to combat the television educated critics that demand to know why we don’t just “shoot him in the leg” or knee.

There’s also the (IMO) silly argument that “shooting to kill” means that we execute incapacitated subjects or surrendering offenders.

However, I have always thought that this meme has some holes in it (so to speak).

If you draw your firearm and shoot someone in self defense, you are intending to use lethal force against them with legal justification. It’s called the “Use of DEADLY force” for a reason. It’s not called the “use of STOPPING force”. Death is not merely a side-effect of your actions, it is most likely going to be the natural consequence of them.

A lack of intent does nothing to establish the justification of self defense, yet somehow people have gotten the idea that they have to pretend that they had no intent when they pull the trigger.

“Stopping” is not a legal term in this context, but firearms trainers are determined to give it legal significance. I would bet an attorney would say that it has none and never has. You can try to dress up the use of lethal force anyway you want, but the bottom line is if you use it you had better be justified in intending to kill. “Shooting to stop” could easily include shooting the handgun out of their hand or shooting their leg. That’s a dangerous road to go down. If you could defend yourself by using less-than-lethal force, they you probably weren’t justified in using lethal force.

If some crook shoots me in an attempt to escape and I survive he is going to be charged with attempted MURDER not an illegal STOP with a firearm.

I will refer you to another post of mine where I addressed this. It was in reference to the tragic death of Police Officer Jonathan Schmidt.

Officer Schmidt was gunned down on a traffic stop while trying to arrest a man with a warrant for an unleashed dog. The man came out of the backseat of the car firing and Schmidt lost his life. A quote from a local news article reads:

Wounded in the neck and scrambling away from a gunman, a young Arkansas police officer managed to shove his sergeant out of harm’s way before dying in a shootout while pleading for his life, witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The event transpired when Schmidt tried to remove the BG from the back seat.

According to Elumbaugh, when Schmidt opened the rear passenger door where Lard was sitting, Lard lunged at him and started shooting. Schmidt, hit in the neck by a bullet, turned away and pushed Overstreet toward safety.

Once Overstreet was behind Schmidt’s police car, Schmidt turned back toward Lard and began to return fire.

While he was shooting, Elumbaugh said, Lard was cursing Schmidt, saying “Die, (expletive)!”

“Please don’t shoot me. Please don’t shoot me,” Schmidt cried out, Elumbaugh said.

It’s my opinion that the “shoot to stop” meme so popular in our profession (and made necessary by attorneys) ingrains in us the mindset of “please stop..please let this stop him…God stop him!!”. In this sort of situation, where a gunman has hit you in the neck and is screaming “DIE F$%^#R!!!” at you…perhaps it should be entering into our minds that it’s KILL or BE KILLED! If he’s yelling “DIE MOTHER F#$@%R!!!” I’d prefer to see officers yelling “YOU FIRST A$$%^!E!!!” through a barrage of bullets.

It’s a difficult topic. On one hand I understand the reasoning behind the “shoot to stop” mentality, but on the other it seems more about semantics than tactics.

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the M4 unreliable….here we go again.

Carbine M4 1
Carbine M4 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article from the Washington Times has been making the rounds:

Troops left to fend for themselves after Army was warned of flaws in rifle

I won’t rehash the article and I won’t even type my response to it because THIS GUY has already said everything I would have to say.

The Flaws of the M4 Carbine

Three days ago an article was dropped onto the internets by the Washington Times that rippled through the time space continuum of internet commandos and pajama ninjas. The article was a series of interviews with former and active high ranking officials, as well as former service members regarding the reliability and efficacy of the longest serving weapon system (rifle or carbine) in US Military history. We do not need to address that storied history here, however we do need to address the concerns raised in the article and the already common ways they have been addressed and remedied.

Go Read It.

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regrettable to become an artist..

There are many people who, by being attached to a martial art and taking apprentices, believe that they have arrived at the full stature of a warrior. But it is a regrettable thing to put forth much effort and in the end become an “artist.” In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking.

-The Hagakure

An interesting passage…the “stature” is not to be found in simply the practice of skills. Do not be found lacking in skill, but don’t lose your way in pursuing them either.

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant”

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