What Would You Do? #3

By Jack L.

Actual incident:

Police have been the target of a recent sniper attack in a nearby city (90 miles away).   A call is received on the non-emergency line in dispatch.  This line does not have caller ID.  The anonymous male caller said he is just calling for a friend who does not speak English.  He wants to report that a black male is brandishing a pistol in a threatening manner.   He then proceeds to give very clear directions to the location of the subject.   As they speak the subject is supposed to be on foot at the far end of a dead-end ally, its only one block long.

This is an older commercial district and there is generally no activity in the area after 6 pm.  There are buildings on the left and an 8 foot block wall on the right.   The lighting is fair, the time is just after 10 pm.   Usually calls like this come in several at a time, but this is the only call, then again its a remote location.  You’re suspicious and wonder if this is a setup?

Tactically speaking, how do you respond, and you have to pick one of the following choices:

1.  You exit your vehicle with 3 other police officers and walk into the area using the diamond pattern, to cover the front, sides and rear.  Officers are about 3 feet apart and their weapons are drawn.  They move slowly down the center of the ally.

2.  You drive in with ally lights on (bright side-lights on the roof), your high beams are on and you sit low in the drivers seat, with a second unit is fairly close behind as back up, but with his headlights off and ally lights on.  You use the vehicle for cover and mobility.

3.  You walk in quietly, using what is called “bounding overlay.”  This is where two officers stay behind and take cover, then two other officers advance and then they take cover, then the two behind advance to the next place of cover and so on until the area is searched.  A leap frog kind of tactic – weapons are drawn.

4.  You drive in half way, flashing your spot light around and you see nothing, so you back out and report it as an unfounded call.  There’s nothing to warrant any further concern because it was just one call and it was anonymous.  No big.


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8 Responses to What Would You Do? #3

  1. Pie Guevara says:

    Send in Robo Cop.

  2. Tina says:

    If I were actually in a situation like that I’d call you, Jack! Immediately!

    • Post Scripts says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I would rather leave that up to the younger guys now. By the way, the last incident happened just a few days ago. If there is a point here beyond mere tactics, I wanted to show how tough the police job is at times. There’s no perfect answer to a lot of situations. There’s also plenty of room for armchair calls, but in the heat of the moment the call can be life or death, you just never know…and that’s the worst part. You really never know…Murphy’s law says the first time you relax will be exactly the wrong time to relax.

  3. RHT447 says:

    My first reaction is that this is a set-up. Of the options you gave, I’d go with #3. I’ve probably posted some of this before, but it is worth repeating here.

    24 June 03

    Your “Lizard Brain”

    In a recent conversation with good friend, Dave Grossman, Dave mentioned that he had recently talked with a gaggle of bearded, bespectacled psychiatrists (all with heavy, German accents). Dave was getting their advice on the differences between the human “front brain” and the “mid-brain.” They had a number of terms for the “mid-brain,” all with a minimum of six syllables and all difficult to pronounce. When Dave suggested to them the term, “mid-brain,” they all nodded in wavering agreement that the term was probably adequately descriptive and that longer and more difficult terms would never see general use anyway.

    What Dave, Gary Klugiewicz, and I all concur on is that lifesaving, psychomotor skills, intended to be used in an emergency must eventually filter from the frontal lobes (front brain), where they are first learned, into the mid-brain (primitive or “lizard” brain) if they are ever going to be accessible when one is in a hyper-stressful, crisis environment.

    The frontal lobes is where our intellect dwells. Its precocious and elevated development separates us from lower forms of life. In one’s frontal lobes lives discernment, understanding, and our ethical skeleton. However, the frontal lobes are also the residence of confusion, indecision, hesitation, and panic. The frontal lobes are never really quite sure of anything! The front brain is the “legislative branch” of our intelligence. The mid-brain is the “executive branch.” The front brain works just fine when we are, at a leisurely pace, contemplating our navels, but, in a life-threatening emergency, a shrewd front brain wisely hands off operations to the mid-brain.

    The mid-brain has no philosophy, no hesitation, and no regret. It knows only death, and life, and nothing in between! The mid-brain is never confused and never dithers. Its job is to get us out of this mess alive! It is poor at multitasking. It acts decisively and only does one thing at a time. It never apologizes, never looks back, and sheds no tears.

    Unfortunately, the mid-brain is ignored in the training philosophy of many institutions. We do too much training “in the abstract.” “In the abstract” is where all training must begin, because the front brain is the entry point for all information. Unhappily, that is where much of what passes for training also ends. As the student is gradually immersed in the training environment, stress levels must be increased so that important psychomotor skills begin to filter into the mid-brain. The mid-brain will only “know what to do” if the student has been “stress inoculated.”

    The hand-off from front brain to mid-brain must be seamless and immediate. The mid-brain has to “hit the ground running” if there is to be any chance that it can act in time to save your life. You need to “have a plan,” and it must reside in the mid-brain. Unhelpful thoughts, swimming around in your front brain, must be jettisoned before they contaminate your mid-brain. This will mean endless repetitions under physical stress and anxiety.

    Ultimately, your front brain will be of limited use during a crisis. In fact, it (and you, if you don’t permit a hand-off to the mid-brain) will be little more than a blithering, dithering buffoon! If the hand-off to your mid-brain is smooth, authoritative, and timely, and your mid-brain has been well trained , it will know what to do and will act decisively to save your life. Treat it well. Train it well!

    “We are ever confronted with two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. You can avoid one, but never both.”


    Much more good info here for free. Check out the “Quips” archive.


  4. Peggy says:

    I’d go with #4 since the suspect was reported outside and at the end of the ally.

    Then I’d call Jack and my daddy if I was wrong.

  5. Post Scripts says:

    This was an actual call and the suspect was found in the alley way, but no gun on him.

    However, the pistol was discovered wrapped in an old pair jeans near a dumpster. They think it may be tied to a homicide. Unfortunately they lacked evidence at the scene – so no arrest was made. But, that may happen if DNA sweat evidence places the weapon in the suspects custody…he was an ex-felon, not allowed to have a gun.

    Okay, so which system was best?

    That would be #3, the bounding overlay method. A little tedious, but better if it really was a setup. Military uses this method in hostile areas.

    The walking diamond pattern is designed more for clearing buildings, or close quarters. In the open it bunches the officers too close together when you want them spread out and closer to cover.

    #2 Isn’t very thorough, missing 50% of the ground and chances are the gun would have been missed and possibly the suspect.

    #4 May have to do if you were really busy, but otherwise you always want to do a thorough job. They did and they may soon solve a homicide.

  6. Tina says:

    RHT447 I read some of the quips and enjoyed it very much. The rules of engagement are worse than I thought. Ridiculous and sad!

    It is good to know that we still have men of grit, men who think like men, men who recognize and embrace the responsible standards of self defense, civic defense, and national defense.

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