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Weapons Training for the Public Safety and Security Officer

Here we cover the other aspect of security or public safety operations capability, which is the ‘shoot’ aspect in ‘shoot, move and communicate.’  I decided to use the common military operations doctrine in this discussion due to the dominance of people with military background in public safety and security fields in the Philippines.  Although there are similarities, the execution of public safety and security operations differ in critical elements that can determine your effectiveness and success.

The mindset of urban crime fighting is the same as that of a military operation, which is to go out and look for the bad guys and engage them, except that in the military, their weapons are their primary tool for attack, while in public safety or security, it is arrest of the criminal and the weapon is for self-defense. On the street, communications is the most important, and then comes mobility, with weapons for self-defense bringing up the rear as a back stop.

What one wants in a public safety weapons program is to be able to train and maintain a standard of proficiency to insure that the officer has a safe and effective way of protecting himself whenever he needs to resort to his weapon. A weapons program for security or a public safety department should aim at providing the officer with a process by which they can develop their skills to a level wherein they are proficient enough for when they are required to use their weapon.

The goal is not to become a highly refined competition shooter, but to attain a realistic competence so that in the event they have to bring their weapon to bear on a threat, they possess enough skill and confidence to maintain their tactical edge and deliver on their mission.  A state of confidence in their skills, with their defensive weapons, relieves the officer of one less item to worry about during a high-stress situation. This increases their survivability and provides a safer environment for the public.

The program should not be confused with tactical team training or developing competition shooters, it should aim to develop a standard of safety and competence for an entire force.

By maintaining a standardized weapons proficiency program, an agency can develop a training program to bring their officers to a certain minimum proficiency and maintain or continue to improve such proficiency indefinitely. The program then should be able to measure the level of proficiency of their entire force over time, as long as that standard is maintained.  From year to year we can have a specific expectation from every member of the force. Periodic testing or diagnostics is done to maintain that standard of effectiveness.

The real measure of effectiveness for your standard weapons program will be gauged in the actual performance of your officers in the real world.  So in order to have an effective weapons program, we start with basic known requirements for street patrol officers working in an urban area.

We would like for our officers to achieve a competency with their defensive side arm to that level where they are safe with the weapon at all times.  When they choose to deploy the weapon, it is at the proper venue and within accepted legal norms of the use of force.

Factors to consider in your weapons program are basic training module and skills maintenance module.  You should be able to conduct regular diagnostics or proficiency tests. It should determine what operationally acceptable performance level is and provide for remediation and not just hand out attendance certifications. The instruction should be delivered in a uniform and consistent format. Most importantly, the program should provide the officer with survivable tactics.

I believe we have all heard of “Train as you fight,” and thus, it is recommended that when the officers train, they carry exactly all the equipment they normally wear on patrol, including the type of uniform. Much like in driving, one should familiarize with exactly the vehicle they will be driving as each type of vehicle, like weapons, will have different dynamics. As public safety or security officers, they should carry their equipment on a ‘Sam Browne’ and use a holster with at least one retention device.  The manipulation of this retention device is part of the exercise. How you train should be the way you expect to fight and this will dictate how you live or die.

Weapons holsters for public safety and security officers require that it holds the weapon securely in place while the officer is engaged in some type of moderate to heavy physical activity, like running after and fighting to control a suspect. It should also prevent easy access by suspect(s) of the officer’s weapon via a gun grab. A loose firearm during a struggle with a suspect adds an unnecessary dangerous dimension to the situation.

Part of the weapons training should include the proper combat mindset, such as insuring one has a loaded weapon when they come to work, fortifying the principle of ‘treating a weapon as always being loaded.’ When on the range, don’t allow the officer to relay on the range officer for help when their weapon ceases to function. They must learn to keep fighting and keep their weapons functioning.  Include an exercise where they have to do a rapid reload and consider concealment, cover, or at least go down on one knee to reduce their silhouette, during this period.  Keeping the weapon up, at high ready cover, after the engagement, and then conducting a visual area sweep for any other threats. Do not rush to holster the weapon. Keep your weapon loaded and ready for use at all times, until you have to come off the entire exercise.

More importantly, do not teach bad habits, such as activating the trigger to confirm that the weapon is unloaded.  The trigger was designed to discharge the weapon and for no other purpose. If you want to teach the officer to confirm the weapon is completely empty, conduct a visual and physical check, then return the weapon to the condition it was designed to be carried or stored.  If the weapon is a single action semi-automatic and when a round is in the chamber, insure that it has a fully functional safety and is engaged.

Do not recommend teaching the officer to carry the weapon empty, either without a magazine or without a round chambered. These two ideas may have come around due to the incompetence of the operator officer, but the proper decision should have been not to arm that officer.  The officer should be able to bring his weapon to bear with one hand, while the other maybe occupied manipulating a flashlight, door knob, or radio communication device. This is also a habit that needs to be implanted in a public safety officer, the use of the offhand (non-weapon hand) to manipulate their radio, flashlight or other non-weapon device. This becomes more critical when you realize that statistically, majority of deadly encounters have occurred during low light or the hours of darkness.

It should also incorporate the need for speed and accuracy. It has been observed that majority of encounters that resulted in a fatality, occurred within ten (10) feet, with two (2) rounds fired over approximately at three- (3)second time span. Knowing this and wanting to survive such encounter, the officer needs to be able to discharge the 2 rounds in under 3 seconds, impacting those rounds at center mass. One must consider that the officer is reacting to a threat and has to draw that weapon from a holster with a retention device applied.

Going back to the holster and the Sam Browne belt upon which it is mounted, the belt must be stiff enough to keep the holster fixed in an upright position, where the grip is readily accessible for the operator.  There should be no obstructions on the weapons grip area, such as retention straps or clothing material. The retention strap should be placed over the hammer and loose clothing inserted in the ‘jacket slot’ behind the grip of the weapon and close to the operator’s body.  The weapon does not need to be covered with a jacket as it is not going to get a cold from bad weather nor should it malfunction.  After all, the public safety officer’s weapon was chosen after a thorough reliability trial which included, I hope, immersion in dirt and water.  The holster should be mounted securely on the Sam Browne belt and its position fixed, so that the operator’s draw on the weapon can be fixed in his muscle memory and is part of the total motor skill we want to develop.  The magazines or spare rounds should be kept close to the front area of the operator, where they are readily accessible, close to the weapon, and maintain a narrow silhouette for this operator.  One does not need to conceal this equipment since we are not operating undercover, but in full uniform. One wants to be able to conduct a weapon reload without reaching far around the body, enlarging your silhouette, and distorting the shooting platform. Seconds count, too.

Bingen pic 1

Bingen pic 1 Bingen pic 2

There’s more to combat tactics which we can address elsewhere at another time. I will just say a few of them here in order to give some reason to the whys that will be asked over the procedures. As always, be sharp and stay safe.