By Robin Kipling
“Of everything, first ask what it is in itself.” — Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations.
There has been a lot of discussion around the tactical water coolers and in publications centered on the future of the “tactical dynamic entry.”
How long will officers continue to blast into rooms, risking exposure to potential awaiting gunfire, and risk lives for the purpose of preventing the destruction of evidence, people question.
This hardly seems worth debating as no right-minded individual would ever argue that a police officer’s life is worth any drug seizure.
I think the missed point is that when criminals and illicit activity are suspected in a house or other building, eventually the police will inevitably have to proceed into that structure. When they do, the question becomes at what speed will they proceed?
The term dynamic conjures up images of blitz-style, door obliterating, sensory overwhelming entries and the compromising of safety measures to complete the mission or objective as rapidly as possible. Perhaps it is not the dynamic entry itself that needs to be questioned but the perceptions and stigmas attached to the dynamic entry that need to be investigated further and understood.
What is a “dynamic entry,” really? A better question is: what should it be?
The term dynamic is defined as “characterized by constant change, activity or progress. ”At no time is there any mention of speed, surprise, or violence of action in the definition of dynamic. Yet any mention of the word dynamic implies an overwhelming assault on person, place or thing.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be discussing ending the use of dynamic entries, but rather trying to understand the word dynamic. What exactly does it mean to dynamically enter and search or clear a location? The word tends to be associated specifically with speed, but I suggest that the speed of the operation is not an appropriate measure for this type of description and therein lies the confusion.
If “dynamic” by its essence is characterized by constant change or activity, then isn’t every tactical operation dynamic? Or at least shouldn’t it be?
A tactical operation is a complex process involving intelligence and environmental and adversarial factors that all have a significant impact on what tactics should be employed. The entry of operators past the threshold of a structure is one very small, but necessary part of that operation. All reading this will agree that breaching the threshold and penetrating the target location needs to be executed prior to the completion of the operation. We have to go in at some point.
The implication of dynamic as a reference to speed, though, is the first flaw in our thinking. Speed is the rate at which we move and should be considered a completely different category. When we attempt to identify rates of speed, how about we adopt some simpler terminology. How about slow, medium or fast? The problem is these terms are not very tactical sounding, but they would certainly clarify things.
As you can see, the controversy surrounding the tactical dynamic is quickly becoming one not of tactics but of semantics.
If you’re looking for the proper terms in which to move as a team through the environment, my suggestion would be to move carefully and optimally, given the circumstances. The ideal rate of speed at which an operator moves has commonly been believed to be to move as fast as you can accurately shoot your firearm. But I would edify this; the optimal speed to move as a tactical operator should be as fast as you can cognitively process information.
If the information your senses are feeding your brain are overloading your ability to make meaning of that information and to formulate a reaction, then you’re moving too fast. If you are giving up your position and allowing your adversary the advantage of locating and reacting to you more optimally than you can to the same to them, then you’re moving too slowly.
Even in a situation where an armed suspect is potentially lying in wait for the first officer to go through the door—an absolute worst case scenario—even then, that criteria for your rate of speed should apply. The tactics that you employ up until that point will vary drastically. If the intelligence that an armed male is inside and refusing to come out is reliable (big if), we’d deploy chemicals and use technology to our tactical advantage and do whatever we could to bring him out of his hiding spot before proceeding into the potential kill zone. But ultimately, we will have to go into that room, even if the suspect surrenders. And when we do go into that room, it should be with the same fluid cadence that allows us to process the information our senses are receiving, assess that information and respond appropriately.
Conversely, if the intelligence of the threat is unreliable or proven false or if reliable intelligence is that the weapon is not within immediate reach of the suspect, such as in a hiding spot, will it then be advantageous to move decisively and without stagnation to eliminate the suspect’s time and space to access that weapon or formulate a plan of attack on officers?
Risk aversive actions are sometimes more hazardous than the dangers they are intended to mitigate.
All of these things need to be considered when formulating a tactical plan, but if the conversation turns to the extinction of the dynamic entry, we’re referring to the dynamic entry as it is perceived, which is rushing in to a unknown environment faster that we can process the information we are taking in, regardless of the intelligence.
If the end of the dynamic entry means the end of haphazard tactics such as these that put officers’ lives in jeopardy, then I’m for its demise.
The truth is the dynamic entry will never be extinct because good tactics should never be stagnant. What needs to change is the terminology we use and the reasons we employ the tactics we do. If we are moving into an environment to control a suspect and we are doing so fluidly, without pauses, then we need to be prepared to justify the tactical advantages we feel we have gained in employing that process.
We not only need to better understand the language we use, we also need to incorporate it into our lessons plans and educate executive members of our services, lawyers and judges so that they understand them as well.
That simple understanding must be this: dynamic does not equate to speed, it equates to progress.
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About the author:
Robin is the author of: The Active Killer Fallacy: A Tactical Training Primer for Police Officers, a 24-year police veteran, a former tactical operator and close quarters tactics trainer, court declared use of force subject matter expert and the founder of Kipling Consulting Group.