Friday, January 6, 2012

Lethal Force

Today is my first back at the Department since Christmas vacation.  It started with putting a memorial band around my badge.  Something I have done all too often lately.

This time it was for Officer Shawn Schneider

Wounded Lake City Police Officer Dies - Schneider shot 11 days ago in domestic dispute
Updated: Saturday, 31 Dec 2011, 4:16 PM CST
Published : Friday, 30 Dec 2011, 10:52 PM CST

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Mayo Clinic says a Lake City police officer has died, 11 days after he was shot while answering a domestic disturbance call.
A statement from Mayo says Officer Shawn Schneider died Friday evening in St. Marys Hospital.
Schneider's family thanked everyone "for their overwhelming support and well wishes during this difficult time."
A procession of law enforcement vehicles has escorted the body of slain police Officer Shawn Schneider back to Lake City Saturday.
The Post-Bulletin reports about 15 police vehicles -- their emergency lights flashing -- escorted Schneider's body along U.S. Highway 63 to Lake City on Saturday morning.
A friend of Schneider's, Doug Wallerich, tells the newspaper that the officer's death is "hitting a lot of hearts."
Schneider had been in critical condition since he was shot Dec. 19. Authorities say 25-year-old Alan Sylte Jr. of Hager City, Wis., shot Schneider in the head, then took his own life.
A 17-year-old girl who escaped from the house told police she had broken up with Sylte the previous week.
A Wisconsin National Guard spokeswoman says Sylte was an Iraq war veteran who was in the process of being discharged for failing to report to duty.
Schneider leaves a wife and three young children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The number of Officers murdered in the line of duty has been increasing steadily over the last 3 years.

Officers killed in 2011

Before I go any further with this blog let me make clear.  I am not second guessing, judging or Monday morning quarterbacking Officer Schneider or any other fallen Officer.

Cops getting killed pisses me off, when I’m pissed I tend to rant on my blog.  That’s what this is.

So why are more cops getting killed?

I believe there are several reasons for this increase.
  • Some reasons include:
  • Officers missing pre-attack indicators
  • Officers putting themselves on subject’s victim profile
    • Fat
    • Weak
    • Sloppy
    • Un-aware
  • Fear of litigation
  • Officers starting too low on the force continuum
  • Officers using ineffective strategies / techniques
  • Never been in a fight
  • Never played a contact sport
  • Over reliance on taser
  • Over reliance on “Officer Presence” – The badge will protect me
  • Increased societal acceptance of violence against Law Enforcement

I’m sure there are several others.  All worthy of a blog of their own

Today let’s focus on
Officers starting too low on the force continuum
Officers using ineffective strategies / techniques

And let me hit the disclaimer again.  I am not second guessing the Officer in the following article.  I just want use the situation she was in to make some points.

Man accused of choking Coon Rapids police officer
By Sarah Horner
Updated: 12/30/2011 11:11:11 PM CST

An Anoka man was charged Friday with choking a police officer outside a Wal-Mart in Coon Rapids the night before.
Coon Rapids officer Briana Johnson was in the store's parking lot at
13020 Riverdale Drive N.W.
on Thursday when she came across Joseph Allan Ilstrup, 33, loading groceries into a car suspected of being illegally parked in a handicap space, said police spokesman Capt. John Hattstrom.

When Johnson asked the man to identify himself, he allegedly refused and swore at her.

He then put his hands around her neck and shoved her against her squad car, Hattstrom said.
"He was squeezing pretty hard," Hattstrom said. "She was having difficulty breathing."

Two witnesses intervened, and Ilstrup was shocked with a Taser, according to a criminal complaint filed against him in Anoka County District Court.

He then was put in the back of a squad car, where he reportedly continued swearing and started kicking at the car windows.
Johnson was treated for bruising at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids but suffered no other injuries, Hattstrom said. She was not available for comment Friday.
Ilstrup, who was convicted of disorderly conduct earlier this year, faces a fourth-degree assault charge in the Coon Rapids incident.

What can we learn from this incident?
“Be nice until it’s time to not be nice”
When someone refuses a lawful order they need to be placed into control.
It’s hard to choke someone when you are cuffed behind your back.

When someone who has refused a lawful order, and is exhibiting extreme / emotional behaviors  - yelling, swearing puts his hands around your throat that is a lethal force situation.

Don’t try some half assed PPCT soft hands control.  You don’t have the time and it’s not going to work.  END THE THREAT!

Why are choke holds at lethal force level on most law enforcement use of force continuums?
Because of potential to cause death!
If cops can only use “lateral vascular neck restraints” (P.C. for choke hold) when lethal force is justified, a criminal trying to choke you justifies USE OF LETHAL FORCE.

Watch this video of my man Judo Gene Lebell

When he decides to put it on, watch how fast the kid goes out.
Notice how long the kid stays out.

You can’t let subjects touch your neck.

Mentally / psychologically it is hard to jump from talking to high levels of force.  Most people need to work them selves up to violence.

1) That work up has definite recognizable “tells”.  Learn to recognize them and actively watch for them.

2) Officers need to start subject interactions (Presence / Verbal skills) assuming high levels of force will be necessary and violence is immanent.  There are no “routine calls”.  You don’t want to get stuck in the observe – orient loop and try to play catch up as you are taking damage.  Much better to be surprised / happy you didn’t need to use force than the other way around.

Same goes for physical tactics.  It is better to start at a high level and ease up as control is gained as opposed to start at low levels, fail to control, take damage, then use greater levels of force than would have been necessary if control had been gained quickly.

The longer the fight goes on the higher the chances of both Officer and subject being injured. 

Over in 3

OK rant over.  I hope I gave you some things to think about

Train hard, Train Smart, Be safe – It might just save your life


  1. I'm sorry for the loss of Officer Schneider.

    Excellent post, with a lot of good points. Going hand-in-hand with too little force, too late and using ineffective strategies is the concept of presumed compliance.

    Especially for those of working in so-called "nice neighborhoods" it's easy to get so used to the normal people who maybe will bluster, but will comply that we expect compliance and get shocked when we don't get it. That expectation of compliance leads some officers to start with too low a presence or presentation. You can start friendly, but there should never be a doubt who's in charge. it doesn't take much -- as I'm currently being reminded since I'm training a rookie, but you have to be in charge when you're on that scene.

    Another factor in using ineffective techniques or tactics links to presumed compliance. We use what worked in the past, and often get stuck when it doesn't work. I remember an incident where there I watched a partner try the same leg sleep repeatedly, and ineffectively. Why'd he keep doing it? 'Cause it had previously worked for him. We have to train to adjust and adapt our techniques when they fail.

    Yeah -- definitely stuff worth entries of their own.

  2. This why I treat all interactions with police as a potintial life threatning situation myself.