Keeping Perspective

When I joined the police there were certain essential requirements. If you didn’t fulfil them, no matter how suitable you may have been for the role, you wouldn’t get past the initial selection phase. You had to be a regulation height and eyesight had to be nigh on perfect.

Times have changed. Height is no longer a barrier and corrected eyesight is often acceptable within certain limits.* As I tweeted only a few days ago. I’ve seen 6ft + man mountains turn away from trouble or be reluctant to get stuck in. I’ve also seen the smallest most petite female officer strip a raging man to compliance and shame simply by the use of her tongue. I draw no sexual parallels here only that the qualities we often deemed essential changed, yet the net result was not much different, if at all.

I remember well looking at my shiny ‘loose link’ handcuffs and my polished truncheon on joining. During my initial training I did lots of fitness classes and also qualified in Aikido at entry level. This was a requirement for all officers to ensure they had some basic self defence tactics in their armoury. However, I received only very basic instruction on truncheon and handcuffing techniques. My truncheon ended up bashing the defunct starter motor on many a panda car or to smash windows. As time went on the introduction of better kit ( kwik-cuffs – side handled batons – CS spray ) led to better training and annual refreshers. However increased responsibility came with the baton. The Monadnock PR24 I was issued with was a dangerous piece of kit if misused.

I can remember turning up at the scene of a pub fight just after the batons had been issued. About 6 of us arrived at the same time, jumped out of our respective cars and ‘racked out’ our batons. The fight went out of people straight away and they all left. The response was amazing. Sadly that reaction didn’t last forever. As people become more acclimatised to a piece of equipment we carry it becomes, or seems to become, less of a concern to them. Does violence and aggression rise up to match the more powerful tools the police carry? Is an ever spiralling upwards vicious circle engendered?

It is pretty much accepted that assaults on officers are on the increase. Do we need bigger stronger tools to tackle this and protect officers or are we feeding the fire by doing so? Taser is the latest piece of kit that is being introduced in forces throughout the country. Some would argue that it is unnecessary and should be withdrawn. Others claim it should be limited in circulation to specialist firearms officers. Many officers out there dealing with violent situations are almost demanding it.

Where do we as the police go? The argument of ever increasing violence is strong. We only have to look to America and see how many officers are shot and killed in the line of duty, to realise that officers carrying firearms is no deterrent to the hardened criminal, or one with a determined mindset. Yet the officers in this country are part of society. They run to the danger when others run away. They deserve protection and they need the tools to do that safely; to go home to their families in one piece after their shift.

How do we address this need and do our best to ensure any threat to officers remains low? Ultimately it is difficult because the police, in a violent situation, need to have the upper hand. We have to be seen to win in the public/police v criminality battle. A tough call and one I don’t have an answer to. What I do know is that it’s a catch 22 situation, and we cannot throw police officers to the lions to satisfy a nanny state viewpoint.

I conclude where I started. Many years ago I was shown some video footage from America. Officers were put into a role play scenario and asked to deal as they saw fit. They were presented with a male who just engaged in conversation with them. Suddenly he pulled a knife and attacked the officers. 4 of the 5 videos showed the officers backing off whilst reaching for their sidearm. In this panicked moment of scrabbling for their weapon they were effectively stabbed to death by their rubber knife wielding attacker. The odd one out was the one who used unarmed defence tactics. He tackled the arm with the edge weapon, disarmed and took the aggressor to the floor. He was face down and handcuffed in a flash.

I advocate wider use of Taser. It has very many operational uses and can increase officer safety. It is important to note however that we managed without CS spray until it was introduced. Then it became widely used. We managed without mobile phones and now we can’t do without them.

Taser is an effective tool. Officers are only allowed to use reasonable force in any situation. What they need to remember at every incident, is to not abandon traditional skills in favour of a quicker ( even if justified ) tool, which has been allowed to become commonplace and reached for first.

* I have not researched the current eyesight entry requirements

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8 thoughts on “Keeping Perspective”

  1. Here here! Spend the money for tasers on more/better training (arrest techniques and personal defence unarmed & with baton in particular), and rapid response teams (with tasers or more traditional firearms).

    1. I agree with the Lawyer. Rapid response teams deter ambitious criminals. Overarmed and jumpy police alienate the public.
      To give an example, when I recently went to assist a lone policewoman dealing with stray horses at four in the morning I found it quite disconcerting to see her hand hovering around her pepper spray. If she’d been confident in her ability to defend herself without using accessories there’d be no reason for dodgy body language marring the occasion.
      It isn’t right that we have to consider you a danger even when we go to assist you. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are surrounded by a sacred bubble or you have the support of the public.
      Choose.

    1. You ever done a Tueller drill?
      Plus in the UK where only the general public don’t have access to handguns, Police are more likely to get support (moral and practical) from the general public against an assault or someone resisting arrest if using a baton than a firearm.

      1. XX Police are more likely to get support (moral and practical) from the general public against an assault or someone resisting arrest if using a baton than a firearm. XX

        I have worked both. Without in Britain, and with in the Military policxe and now the police here.

        There is no difference in how the public react.

  2. Another fine post, what stood out for me was where you mentioned what used to happen, 6 large (I assume male, could be wrong) police officers rock up, and demonstrate (by their demeanour) that they will stand no argument and it all ends peacefully.

    What happens now? perhaps two or three officers, of a variety of sizes including fun-sized? And they attempt to mediate between people too far gone to tie their own shoelaces. No wonder it can go wrong?

    Taser is a very misunderstood piece of kit (No I don’t work for them), but there is a lot of ill informed hysteria about. Particularly she who must not be named as she is certainly vain enough to have a G+gg!e Alert set up for her name.

    There is a 3 page independant report, that describes exactly how it works, how it’s designed to avoid disturbing the function of the heart. And the effects of cocaine on some one being tasered. It has a few technical bits but nothing major and it debunks the myth that taser delivers 15,000 volts.

    If I can find the link later, I’ll post it

  3. Lets try a very simplistic thought experiment.
    Assuming there a no weapons involved and all resources are equal and infinite. And that the goal is to capture with all involved unharmed.

    Let’s set up a base situation-

    10 males fighting, dispatch 40 officers. They each grab a limb and load the fighters into vans.

    Now lets shrink the number of officers, when you get to twenty, then given that all resources are equal. (i.e. both sides are equally good at fighting). The officers win but with a greater effort by each officer. Now an officers appointments and training should give them an advantage, but less than you would think.

    If we take the number of officers down to 10, in theory it should be a tie, but training gives the officer about 20% advantage (i.e. The fictional officer wins 19 out of 20 contests.) However if one officer is incapacitated, the odds shift back the other way (the officers have lost 10% and the opponents have gained 11.1% which sums to 21.1%), and it can start a cascade, if one officer is down, that means there is an extra person who can join the attack on another officer, overwhelming them. So that would tend to suggest that the minimum number of officers would be about equal to the size of the opposing force + 10%.

    But real world experience, demonstrates that those numbers appear lavish, and if you where to put in a budget request on that level, they would send you a room with rubber walls.

    So what is wrong with the simple model, well we are dealing with humans and not theoretical constructs. Most people who fight the police are nowhere near as efficient at fighting and don’t have any offensive or defensive equipment. So long as the police maintain the capacity to instantly escalate their response, they can contain the situation. (i.e. No one feels inclined to join in from the outside, because there are spare bodies on hand and they would be immediately stopped.) No rational person enters a contest they are certain to lose. Once the police have the upper hand they should win all contests.

    (Not all people who would fight the police are rational, those affected by MH or under the affects of drugs may have a an advantage of 400% in the example and require a correspondingly larger number of resources.)

    If we now introduce weapons into the equation, this changes things radically, now as this is my fantasy island, lets define a conceptual weapon. Small, light, requires no maintenance, and never fails, it also incapacitates immediately. Yes it’s a magic wand, but like all weapons it requires power to operate, and a willingness to use it. The last point is important, a weapon they know you wont use is no deterrent. Now provided only one side has magic wands and use them will win every time. If both sides have weapons, we are back to equation above. So to break out of this impasse, one side will seek out a bigger weapon, longer range, wider acting, faster acting. Classically this is usually the side with the greater financial resources (i.e. The state, hence the police.)

    If there are no other moderating forces, then my fantasy island will have dissolved into two armed factions, waging a constantly escalating war, until one side or the other runs out of men or material.

    This model is also faulty, because the streets do not run constantly with blood, why because when the state realises that such a situation is likely to happen the respond through the police with overwhelming force. For example if a gun is suspected the response would be 10 or so armed officers.
    So the answer would seem to be to have sufficient numbers of police officers available at all times to preserve peace and prevent disorder. Its a shame really that the government seems set on reducing the number we have.

  4. Spend the money on recording equipment to be used by all on duty officers (including plain clothes) and in vehicle video to justify their actions.

    Too many cover ups.

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