This video has gone viral. I wish I were a fly on the wall in every department, squad car, bar and office listening to people criticize the city, the training department, armchair quarterback on what these officers should’ve done. I can only imagine the comments: “I would’ve done this move when that punch was throw …” Or: “Why didn’t the officer pin the hand on the gun-grab and do that XYZ retention move?” And, of course, the malaise excuse: “These officer’s were too scared to react in fear of inciting another riot”, and “cops are not fighting back because they don’t feel they will be supported by their administration.” And so on …
We can blame the PD, the training department, budgets, politics, and so forth, and with good reason. This is a really difficult time to be a cop in America. It’s tough out there. The amount of disrespect for this profession is ridiculous and there are many people I’d love to throat-spear … But that’s only part of the issue.
Who is really responsible for your safety? Do you expect a fair fight? Because the predator has a use-of-force policy, right?!
Trained, or Untrained?
There’a favorite quote of mine in the movie “Man on Fire.” Denzel Washington asks: “Are you trained, or untrained?”
You wear a badge and gun for a reason. And as much as many do, you can’t blame your department for not teaching you how to fight. You can’t blame crappy budgets for not knowing how to protect yourself. You can’t blame politics for your lack of awareness and adaptive courage in a real fight! This is your responsibility. Stay with me.
Imagine watching your favorite team come out and everyone is overweight, out of breath and looked unprepared for every scrimmage? How would you feel? Would you blame the fans? The owners, managers and coaches? Sure, they may all be part of the problem. But it starts with the individual.
A serious athlete shows up at training camp in-shape and ready to go. The camp (the DT training curriculum is the metaphor here), works on strategies and plays that build on the fitness, athleticism and mind-set of that athlete. There’s no egalitarian bell-curve in professional sports, and there shouldn’t be one in law enforcement either!
It boggles my mind how many cops are completely out of shape and, more importantly, haven’t ever thought of the about the very worst thing that could happen to them on the job–and whether they’re ready for that. [Note: 25 – 35% of our students self-fund. These are cops that took their savings and invested in their ‘saving’ skills].
So I watched the video of this attack in Harlem and I saw everything discussed in the first paragraph, from the brazen crowd, the disrespect, the fear, the lack of situational awareness and scenario-based training. I also read the vitriolic comments online as well as compassionate ones. I get it. It’s not easy. But, folks, lets learn from this and stopping blaming someone else for our choices and movements.
Here’s a little exercise: Imagine you’re the DT trainer, imagine you’re on the roof of the squad and you can’t step in, all you can do is yell commands to the officers. Interesting, right? What should they do and why weren’t they doing it. This video should be dissected in every training department so that future incidents like this (and there will be many) don’t look like this.
The political climate is just that—a climate. Weather the weather. Get your game face on. Sure, you may be feeling apathetic. You may be feeling a little lackadaisical. You may be worried about the riot—but when someone starts throwing haymakers at you and then someone else grabs your partner’s gun, it just got real. Indignation must kick in and fuel your survival skills. It would be ideal if you had some in advance of the fight.
One of the first things we address in our courses is this idea that we are all human weapon systems. I believe that. I preach it, we even have a t-shirt to remind you of it! Fighting, survival instincts and functional movement are in our DNA.
For some, this fact is not so obvious. It’s been suppressed as societies became more domesticated. But I know its inside everyone one of us and we need to be able to “flip that switch.” So lets get something out of the way regarding mind-set, awareness, attitude and action. Yes, poor morale affects enthusiasm, which in turn, could affect judgment and therefore cloud decision-making and so on and so on. I get it, and I agree.
Here’s your new scenario: you’re disgruntled, fed up, confused. You’re at a park watching your kids play, when a freak walks over and starts an abduction routine with your youngest. Are you lethargic and apathetic now? I didn’t think so. You’d flip that switch in a heartbeat.
How is that different when you’re in a gutter fight? If you don’t win this fight, you might not be there to protect your kids.
I could be fast asleep, fighting a flu, tired from a work out, hung-over and sore, groggy from Tylenol PM, but if I hear one of my kids cry, I’m up and lucid and flying to their room. Same thing if I heard a window break or a door being jimmied—I’m up and I’m hunting. I know this because it’s happened. The point I’m trying to make is this: When your life is possibly in danger, you have a choiceless choice to make: Are you a Warrior? Or are you a worrier?
While training can enhance and inspire this, I truly believe the mindset to defend oneself is not mechanical or technical—it’s primal. If the fight is happening, you need to be in it. And that decision needs to be made long before the actual fight.
H.K. Slade wrote a great pace and referenced on of my favorite books, Living the Martial Way. His article “Are We Warriors“ is worth a read if you haven’t yet. If you have, reread it after this. Because, on game day, you’re either a warrior or worrier. And you’re either trained or you’re