Good Afternoon All,
A former co-worker and very good friend of mine has asked me to expound upon my original posting on situational awareness. This is essentially the next step in situational awareness that I outlined earlier. I originally wanted to get into a bunch of specifics regarding physically dealing with a threat but, I didn’t think that it would be prudent for me to attempt that through this medium. Those are skills that one should learn in a CCW and other hands on training classes. This is intended to be a guide and a way to get you thinking. This is not a substitute for real training or legal advice. Seek out the training you need to make you successful in a deadly force encounter. No amount of reading can equip you better than hands on in person training can.
Essentially at this point, you are the master of your surroundings, you know what is going on around you and you are able to identify a potential threat. The next step is what to do after the threat is identified. You are there trying to conduct your business. You have a few more errands to run today but it’s starting to get dark. You’ve just left the drug store and you’re headed to your car to move on to the next destination. You’re looking around and you observe a subject moving towards you from around the back side of the pharmacy. What now?
Once you have identified a potential threat, you have a few choices to make. Do you try to escape? Do you deal with the threat? If your decision is to escape, it would be prudent to do so in an efficient manner. You should maintain the option of engaging the threat if the escape isn’t going as you had hoped. In a perfect world you would have enough time to go through several steps in order to neutralize the threat without having to resort to deadly force. Often times you’re not given enough time to actually go through the steps and you may have to skip a few, this is okay. The world isn’t perfect, things escalate quickly, people are unpredictable. This is an important thing to keep in the back of your mind. Those of you in the Military/LE fields are well versed in what is called the Use of Force Continuum, this is very simply an outline for steps to take in the use of force. An example of a Law Enforcement Use of Force Continuum goes like this:
- Officer Presence. A situation where Officer presence alone de escalates the situation
- Verbal Commands. Verbal commands are given to the offender in order to subdue them.
- “Soft Hands”. Joint locks or “come alongs” are used to gain compliance.
- “Hard Hands”. Hard strikes/baton/punch, kick are necessary to gain compliance.
- Deadly force. You are presented with no other option, your opponent is attempting to use deadly force against you or if you were to continue with the current struggle, you would no longer be effective in the fight and you would lose control of your weapon.
As an armed civilian sheepdog, you are not constrained by the professional standards necessary in LE. A Use of Force Continuum designed for LE isn’t going to be suitable for use by you, the armed civilian sheepdog. It has to be adapted to your individual needs and capabilities. You have the ultimate right to self preservation and the preservation of others. You can apply the necessary and appropriate level of force without having to necessarily worry about apprehending a suspect. Did you catch that part about necessary and appropriate? That is the standard upon which civilian uses of force are judged. You wouldn’t break up a simple fistfight with deadly force, nor would you attempt to stop a rape with a couple slaps.
An example of an armed civilian sheepdog Use of Force Continuum goes a little like this:
- Verbal Commands. Issue verbal commands to your threat, ensure they are loud and easily understood. You want any potential witnesses in the area to be able to hear you. Call attention to what’s going on. Stop! Get Back! Please Stop! Continue to make the verbal commands.
- Attempt to retreat. There are many states where you have the legal duty to retreat from an attack if possible. The key there being “if possible”. I don’t have much of an issue with this, you just need to be able to justify either why you didn’t retreat or articulate how you did retreat and it wasn’t successful. The best fight is the one you don’t have to be in.
- Draw Weapon. Well that escalated quickly! You don’t have to get into a physical struggle with an attacker. Draw your weapon and keep issuing those verbal commands.
- Deadly Force. Your attacker has ignored your verbal commands, they have ignored the fact that you have a weapon in your hands pointed at them and they continue to advance. They are reaching for something hidden in their waistband. They have left you with no ability to retreat. You have only one option left. Use deadly force, your life or the lives of others depend on it.
- Call your lawyer. This is the last step on my Use Of Force Continuum. I highly suggest that it’s on yours as well. Your adrenaline is rushing, you’re distraught and possibly in shock or injured. This is hardly the best time to be giving a statement to the police. They have a job to do and will more than likely be on your side but you don’t want a statement you made in the heat of the moment to be used against you in criminal court or in a lawsuit. Get yourself a lawyer and make your statements through them, it’s their job to defend you and make sure nothing can be used against you. This is also something to be done before you wind up in a deadly force situation. Research attorneys in your area and meet with a few. When you find one you like and want to do business with find out what’s necessary to have them on call for you. A lawyer will be your best friend.
Prior to your decision to use deadly force, there are many things to consider. If you are able to, maneuver so you are able to safely engage your threat. The firearms safety rule “be aware of your target and what’s beyond” applies off the firing line as well. Being aware of crossfire is very important as well, particularly if you’re in a busy area or are with your family. This only applies if you are afforded the luxury of time in a bad situation however. Ultimately, you have to make the decision and it’s not an easy one to make. This is why training is so important. Take classes and talk to your fellow armed civilian sheepdogs. Develop a relationship with local LE. Learn as much as you can about deadly force situations that have happened in the past and what made them successful or failures. All of these things can help you, should you wind up having to use deadly force. As for now stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.