Image credit: RIA Novosti, Mikhail Mordasov
In Part 1 we discussed the initial step to deal with a verbally compliant subject, when you have a firearm pointed at them. We use a decisive, clear, and “alpha” command to freeze the subject’s movement. The command of:
meets all of our criteria. It is simple, concise, and understandable. It also allows us to evaluate if the subject will be compliant to our verbal commands.
If at any time the subject becomes a lethal threat, you could always shoot him.
Assuming the subject freezes and follows your verbal command of “don’t move”, our next step is to stabilize the subject. Stabilization describes a step by step process to move the subject into ever increasing position of disadvantage while visually clearing the subject for weapons. Every movement instruction we give needs to be clear and concise.
We need to focus on the subjects hands. Hands carry weapons. Hands can hurt you. This is the reason police officers get nervous if they can’t see your hands during any interaction.
The next step in the stabilization process is to get the subjects hands away from their waistline and confirm they do not have a weapon in their hand(s). The next verbal command is:
Most people who carry weapons, carry them on their waistline, usually around or near their center of gravity, from the hip points forward.
The waistline has numerous advantages for weapons carry and concealment. It is stable, even during movement, it allows for concealment with shirts and jackets, it offers a stable structure to secure a weapon (belt or pockets), and it is easy to reach from a seated or standing position. Additionally a forward of the hip point carry allows for a smooth draw of the weapon, even under less than ideal circumstances.
Additionally, reaching towards the waistline for a weapon could be masked by common everyday movements like placing hands into pockets. Therefore most criminals, law abiding citizens, and law enforcement officers carry their weapons at their waistline.
In summary, our first priority, after stopping the subjects movement, is to see their hands and confirm they are not holding a weapon. We then instruct them to move their hands as far away from their waistline as possible.
We want the subject’s hands as high in the air as possible. This accomplishes two objectives.
It places the subject in a vulnerable position where aggressive movement is difficult; and
it will usually expose the subject’s waistline.
Stand up now and reach your hands as high up in the air as you could.
Were your palms facing forward? They probably were.
Did your fingers naturally spread apart? They do for most people.
What would you have to do to attack someone? The first thing you would do is lower your arms. It’s difficult to generate forward momentum with your hands stretched into the air.
This accomplishes numerous objectives in the stabilization process. We want to see the subject’s palms. We want to place the subject at a positional disadvantage and make movement difficult.
Most of you also noticed your shirt rode up over your waistline. If it didn’t ride up, it got tighter around your waistline, tighter for some more than others!
This allows us an initial visual clearing of the waistline for concealed weapons. We are looking for guns, knifes, clips on the subject’s pockets, or any bulky object.
If we see a weapon we will tell the subject we see the weapon and if he reaches for the weapon we will shoot him.
Once we have visually cleared the front of the subjects waistline, we need to clear the back of the subjects waistline. We are also going to continue to put the subject in a more disadvantaged position.
EXPOSE THE WAISTLINE FOR VISUAL CLEARING
We now want to raise the subjects shirt or jacket higher, to expose the waistline further, and impair the subject’s vision.
We can accomplish this by having the subject reach behind his head, grab his shirt at the collar, and pull the collar of his shirt over his head. The commands we use are:
REACH BEHIND YOUR HEAD AND GRAB YOUR SHIRT.
PULL THE COLLAR OF YOUR SHIRT OVER YOUR HEAD.
The subject’s hands will remain on his head from this point forward and we will continue to observe his hands. If his hands stray from his head, we raise our voice and order him put his hands back on his head.
We now instruct the subject to begin to slowly turn around, one step at a time.
WHEN I TELL YOU TOO, I WANT YOU TO BEGIN TO TURN, ONE STEP AT A TIME.
DO IT NOW.
When the subject begins to turn observe his waist line for weapons. Control the speed of the subjects turning with voice commands. You could have the subject stop at any time. We want to subject to turn 540 degrees.
In other words, the subject starts by facing you, you then turn the subject around once, so he is facing you again and then have him continue to turn until he is facing away from you. From this point forward, we don’t want the subject to see us or get a visual fix on our location.
If he cannot see us he cannot orient to us and it makes it very difficult for him to attack us.
We now need to make the decision to
MOVE THE SUBJECT or
PIN THE SUBJECT IN PLACE.
We will cover moving or pinning in Part 3 of this article series.
Let’s take a step back and talk about our own actions.
If at all possible, we should be behind cover. Cover means you are behind an object or structure which will stop incoming rounds. Our weapon is up and pointing at the subject. Our finger is, ideally, at ejection port register (your trigger finger is resting on the ejection port). Your trigger finger needs to be off the trigger and at least resting on the slide.
APPROPRIATE COMPRESSION AND EXTENSION OF FIREARM ALONG THE HORIZONTAL LINE OF PRESENTATION
Our weapon is appropriately compressed or extended along the vertical line of presentation.
- This means, if you are close to the subject your arms should be compressed into your chest, the farther away the subject is the more extended your arms could safely be.
- We do not want the horizontal plane of our arms and our firearm to block our ability to see the subject’s waistline.
- Holding the weapon out at full extension will become fatiguing, quickly. The closer the pistol is to our center of mass, the less fatiguing.
- We can shoot at any time in the horizontal line of presentation. Of course the closer the pistol is to our body, the less we rely on sight picture and the more we rely on body mechanics to keep the pistol pointed at the subject.
VOLUME AND PITCH OF OUR COMMANDS
We often observe students shouting commands during training. This is partly due to the stress of the training and partly to impart how important the commands are. Think about the last time you were yelled at. Did you feel like following the yellers instructions or did you feel like fighting back?
Yelling or barking orders is effective when it is sudden and outside the volume of normal interaction. We should establish a calm modulated vocal volume and pitch. All orders should be slow clear and calm. Only when the subject does something we don’t want them to do or intentionally disobeys a command should we raise our volume and tone.
Use your voice as a weapon.
If we give the command of “hands up” and the subject does not immediately comply, we then raise the volume and tone of our voice to HANDS UP!!!! The sudden change often triggers an adrenaline surge in the subject and may induce an acute stress response.
Establish a calm, slow, and controlled vocal baseline, only stray from the baseline when you need immediate compliance, when you achieve compliance drop your vocal volume and tone back to baseline.
DON’T USE THE WEAPON AS A POINTER
Another action we see during stress is students using the firearm as a direction pointer. We will see a student instruct the person to get on their knees, followed by the student point the muzzle of the firearm down to the ground. Don’t use the firearm as a pointer!
The person most responsible for promoting this material is Craig Douglas in his excellent Armed Movement in Structures (AMIS) coursework. While observing me teach a class a Managing the Don’t Shoot Yet class, he coined the term:
This was a term designed to describe students who, upon obtaining compliance from the subject, began to creep or walk closer and closer to the subject. We believe this happens because, subconsciously, the student wants to exert additional control over the subject and closeness implies control and because he or she felt safer due to the subject’s compliance.
We do not want to close the gap with the subject, unless absolutely necessary. We will discuss reasons to close the gap with the subject in Part 3 of this series.
To review: In an armed encounter with an apparently unarmed and complaint subject:
Ideally from a position of cover:
- Order the subject to stop movement: DON’T MOVE.
- Order the subject to move his hands away from his waistline: HANDS UP.
- Expose waistline and impair subject’s vision: REACH BACK AND GRAB THE COLLAR OF YOUR SHIRT, NOW PULL THE SHIRT OVER YOUR HEAD.
- Visually clear the subject’s entire waistline: WHEN I TELL YOU TO MOVE, I WANT YOU TO TURN AROUND, SLOWLY, ONE STEP AT A TIME…DO IT NOW.
- Move the subject 540 degrees so the subject stops facing away from you.
The subject is now initially stabilized and we need to make a decision to either pin the subject in place and wait for assistance or move the subject.
In the next article we will discuss reasons for pinning or moving and detail instructions for each decision.