September 2018 Warning Bells article

Now they want you to think!

A document has hit the LAN regarding Uses of Force. It is a Training Bulletin called “Command and Control (Volume XLVII Issue 4, July 2018). It does not nec­essarily apply when you are under fire. When you are under fire, or about to be under fire, thinking is not going to happen. Physiology will take over and you will revert to muscle memory and training. But when there is time, the Department will be bringing out this new publication to judge your actions. This will be especially true when you are dealing with the mentally impaired armed with a knife or club.

With your chances of an Administra­tive Disapproval running much higher than 50 percent in any Categorical Use of Force, career survival mandates that you be familiar not only with the Use of Force policy and the Command and Control document, but also the De-es­calation Directive (Directive No. 16, September 2016), and the Use of Less Lethal Force-Clarification from OAS. Recent OISs concerning hostages and multiple officer shootings have amplified the debate on the number of shooters and the number of shots fired during an incident. This is not a new debate. The IG published a critical report in 2012. Because of the recent publicity, the issue has now reawakened, resulting in renewed emphases on command and control. Although this ultimately will rest on supervisors, it also impacts the first officer on the scene or the senior officer on the scene.

According to high-ranking command officers, they do not want Robocops felony proning everyone in the Report­ing District every time a hot call comes out because that is what the manual says. They want you to exercise judgment and planning (thinking). This, however, will require Department management to understand that not every decision has a happy ending, but I guess we will have to wait and see if they can rise to the occa­sion. Remember that an Administrative Disapproval is an official opinion that the officer’s actions “substantially devi­ated from Department policy or training without justification.” You can violate policy or training if you have a good enough reason, but be aware that you are on thin ice. Thinking can be dangerous. A necessary component to any deci­sion you make will be the ability to articulate why you made it. The simple formula of expressing “I saw-I thought-I did” should be the mantra you contin­ually repeat in all your interviews and reports. Articulation is your best friend and, next to being a good shot, is the most important skill you can develop. So here are the Department’s expec­tations of you. By the way, the word “expectations” is not mine, it is a heading in the Command and Control Training Bulletin. Reasonable, or not, this is the lens through which a Use of Force Review Board will view your action, or lack thereof, on every Categorical Use of Force. In fact, the bulletin requires any commanding officer who has the respon­sibility to evaluate or adjudicate uses of force to identify who was responsible for establishing command and control during the incident and compare their actions to the requirements of this bul­letin. There is a new microscope.

Let’s walk through a typical radio call that is likely to end up in being a Cat­egorical Use of Force, “415 man with a knife.” You are assigned, and you roll. The first question that will be asked is “did you and your partner discuss tac­tics on the way to the call?” The preferred answer is “yes.” PATROL is part of both the Command and Control Training Bulletin and the Tactical De-escalation Directive. You get a twofer for discuss­ing tactics on the way to the call because the Pin PATROL stands for “planning.” And the expectation is that you will start planning right away.

So, you arrive at the scene. Sure enough, there is a man standing there with a knife just outside a residence. “Drop the knife!” you shout several times. He does nothing. Just looks at you and neither advances nor retreats.

Now a whole bunch of Department regulations hit you. Number one: Rever­ence for life from the Use of Force PolicyG the Command and Control Training Bulletin and the Tactical De-escalation Directive. If you don’t shoot him, you get a three-fer! (Just kidding).

Number two: The A in PATROL stands for “Assessment.” You have gained situational awareness. You are now required to establish command and control and start making decisions. The senior person between you and your partner is now by default “incident commander” and is expected to express this position openly so responding offi­cers will know who is giving orders and who is carrying out orders. Until an actual supervisor arrives, you are “it.” Now two acronyms run your life. You are still running the PATROL require­ments and now add the Tactical Four Cs. Control, Communicate, Coordinate and Contain.

The T in PATROL tells you to play for “Time.” While thinking about how to do this, you must consider trying to “Con­trol and Contain” the suspect. Does he have an escape route? What if he tries to go into the residence behind him? Any citizens in immediate danger?

You are now at the R of PATROL; “Redeployment and/or containment.” “Communicate and Coordinate” from the four Cs also come into play. Tell your partner what to do. Try to establish verbal contact with the suspect. Is he capable of communi­cating with you or is he in a world of his own? Can you box him in?

O standing for Other Resources is next in PATROL. Request more units. Request an airship. Request a supervisor. Maybe MEU or a SMART team, if you have indications that you are dealing with the mentally impaired. Heck, if you have time, request the Chief. See how he likes being Incident Commander. In short, you will be judged on attempting to get enough resources to deal with the problem.

And now, hopefully, the resources arrive. Command and Control now kicks in big time. I predict that alloca­tion of the responding resources by the Incident Commander will bring about the highest danger of Administrative Disapprovals. Remember, in the opin­ion of the Police Commission, too many shooters and too many rounds fired is their major concern. This may be best illustrated by quoting directly from the Command and Control Training Bulletin.

“For example, officers arrive on scene where a single subject is threatening suicide with a handgun. Two officers are already at scene with lethal cover on the subject. The arriving officers must decide (unless given other direction) if the situation requires additional officers to provide lethal cover, or, if fulfilling an ancillary role (less-lethal options, traf­fic control, perimeter responsibilities, etc.) would better serve the overall goals of Command and Control and de-es­calation. In this example, the arriving officers decide they do not need to deploy additional lethal cover, but instead, assume ancillary roles.”

I can sum this paragraph up in one line: The days of multiple shooters are over.

Continuing with our example, you have dispersed your troops, limited your shooters, contained the subject (who is still just standing there glaring at you with the knife in his hand) and, thank God, a supervisor arrives.

OK, Sarge. The problem as it exists when you arrive is now yours. First, you must advise everyone that YOU are now the Incident Commander. The microscope now leaves our senior offi­cer and places you on the glass slide for study. Go down the PATROL and four Cs acronym for yourself to make sure that they have been complied with.

Now the next problem, what to do with a suspect who just stands there with a knife, refusing all commands. That brings up the Office of Admin­istrative Services’ Use of Less-lethal Force Clarification Notice. It says this: “Less-Lethal force options are only permissible when: An officer reasonably believes the suspect or subject is violently resisting arrest or poses an immediate threat of violence or physical harm.”

Unless you have this, according to the “clarification,” you cannot use OC spray, the baton, the TASER, the bean­bag shotgun or the 40mm launcher. The suspect will not violently resist arrest unless you send officers in to put hands on him. He is not an “immedi­ate” threat unless he advances on the officers or a civilian while holding the knife. You and your team have been effectively disarmed if he just stands there. This gets really complicated if the call was “415 man with a gun” and you have a suspect who is just standing there refusing to take his hands out of his pocket. Do you approach? Retreat? Leave?

The League requested a Meet and Confer with the Department when this “clarification” came out. The Depart­ment refused, saying that this was not a policy change, just a clarification. The Department promised to provide sce­nario training.

The only advice I can give you, for the man with the knife, is keep talking until he falls asleep, dies of old age or makes an aggressive move. The advice for the man with a gun? I think you use less lethal to gain compliance, and don’t forget to have lethal ready. The stakes are too high in that situation to take a chance. However, you may be Admin­istratively Disapproved by the Police Commission. Paradoxically, some­times you just may have to take one for the team. In this case, the team being your officers’ and civilians’ safety. The League, of course, will do everything possible to back your play.

The Department has promised a new round of training on these concepts. Not e-training or checkbox training, I hope, but real training with real scenar­ios taught by real experts. Stand by and pay attention when it comes. The career you save may be your own. It is getting crazier every day on the street.

The League is trying to put together a one-day school, similar to our Rep schools, to educate officers on making it through a Categorical Use of Force investigation. The Department seems receptive. The next best protection to a bulletproof vest is knowledge.

Be legally careful out there.

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