Friday, June 10, 2016

Learning From San Bernardino and Terrorist Attacks

The San Bernardino shootings were a tragic terrorist event by extremist Islamists. But there are many things we can learn from this tragedy.

There are some opportunities to look at what happened and either make changes to your training or redouble your training in expectation that similar attacks will happen again in the near future.

The hit ratio for law enforcement averages 12%, 15%, or 20% depending on the study. Usually you can use this data to improve your own training program.

I don’t like studies. They can be too skewed and crafted. But these numbers I fear are incorrect. I live in a place that has a lot of law enforcement. I’ve shot with many of them and I can assure you they shoot better than 20%.

I fear in today’s political climate it does not look good to the public for the local PD to have hit numbers that equate them with Wyatt Earp. Being a trained killer is not good for elected officials when it comes to election time. Many departments don’t keep or don’t report any statistics at all.

So, we’re left with individual department statistics, like NYC, Chicago, LA, Baltimore, etc. and FBI & DOJ compiled statistics. On the surface, these reports support the low hit ratios. But dig down one shallow layer, and the story gets VERY interesting.

On one hand, that number includes sniper engagements with a scoped rifle, instances of SWAT shooting out street lights before a hit, suicides, negligent discharges that resulted in hits, and shooting animals…whether they’re attack dogs or putting down deer/moose/elk that have been hit by a car. Keep in mind that some departments report these types of engagements and others don’t.

But here’s where San Bernardino fits in…

Law enforcement hit statistics are a jumbled mess. They mix together the examples I gave above and treat carbine, shotgun, and pistol engagements equally. They treat engagements where the attacker had a bolt action, semi-auto, and full-auto equally. They treat distance equally. They treat light levels equally. They treat single vs. multiple attackers equally. They treat single vs. multiple officers equally. They treat the attacker’s weapon or lack of weapon equally. Some departments omit incidents where officers fired at suspects and missed altogether, regardless of the number of rounds fired. They mix them all together and out pops the 15% statistic.

San Bernardino had a number of these factors…shoulder mounted weapons, multiple suspects, multiple officers, and distance.

And, unfortunately, without knowing it, I’ve done my part to perpetuate the myth of the 15% statistic. The numbers are factually accurate, but they lead to false conclusions. And now…. the rest of the story.

The Police Policy Studies Council and Force Science Research Center published a study several years ago that is quite revealing.

Even though it’s over 10 years old, the truths in it are self-evident and explain how the 15% statistic can be both true and deceiving at the same time. It is also an indication of what kinds of things we should be practicing.

Some of these will be applicable to San Bernardino, and some won’t.

To start with, officers generally shoot 20-30% worse in low light conditions than in full light conditions. This one’s simple…do low light training! 80% of law enforcement shootings occur in low light conditions and it’s fair to assume that civilian numbers are similar.

4 years of data from LAPD showed that hit ratios were 51% when one officer was involved, 23% when two officers were involved, and 9% (an 82% decrease in accuracy) when more than two officers were involved. When multiple officers are involved, the average number of rounds fired increased by 40-118%. (This is particularly important for concealed carry holders, volunteer company security teams, and volunteer church security teams to understand).

Keep in mind that things get real complicated quickly…multiple officer shootings are 3 times more likely to involve attackers with long guns (rifles/carbines/shotguns) and this tends to increase the shooting distance.

You simply don’t know when you’ll get in a gunfight, what you’ll be armed with, and what the bad guy will be armed with. If you do know you’re going to be in a fight, you’d have a group of friends with carbines and someone on overwatch with a scoped rifle and pick a time and place that stacks the odds ridiculously in your favor.

That is not the nature of reactive shooting. It’s not what most law enforcement or almost all civilian defenders will face. The initial terms and conditions of the fight will be dictated by the bad guy and you’ll have to work with the tools, training, and ability that you have with you at that instant.

If I’m in a Super Wal-Mart alone in the gun department and shooting breaks out 100 yards away in the produce section, I’m going to beat feet on out the door and call police.

But if my wife and kids are buying groceries when shots are fired in produce, I’m flipping the switch and getting in the fight without hesitation, regardless of what the bad guy’s armed with, what I’m armed with, or how far away I am… so it pays to live by Clint Eastwood’s line “A man’s got to know his limitations.” You must know your strengths and how your weapon works. What is your guns limit and what is your skills limit?

So, what can you do right now based on what happened in San Bernardino and the clarified officer involved shooting statistics?

1. Practice low light dry fire and, if possible, low light live fire. I’ve been fortunate to have had the places I shoot at allow evening and night shooting. This is a great advantage if you can find it.

2. Train like your life depends on it, because it may. Then train some more. To get the most bang for your buck, I suggest that you do the bulk of your training at home with dry fire. (Benefits of Dry Fire 5/19/2015, Dry Fire: Cheap, Effective Training 12/9/2015)

3. Have a personal active shooter plan. In addition to looking for exits, I always look for fire extinguishers everywhere I go. (Improvised Weapons: Fire Extinguisher 2/27/2015) You can always spray them with the white stuff (It uses a specially fluidized and siliconized monoammonium phosphate powder) at a distance (usually about a maximum of 20 feet) & hit them with the red thing (the tank) to predictably and effectively eliminate a threat. Thanks to irrational fear about deaths from structure fires (which are way less common than deaths from cars or attacks), fire extinguishers are legally required for all commercial buildings in the U.S. Usually in multiple locations in plain sight and often with lit or glow in the dark signs.

4. Body armor is designed to save life, not injury. Bullet force will hurt, can break bones, or can even cause the receiver to blackout. You can be taken out of the fight even though you’re not bleeding. Don’t give in to the “Hollywood training” of being knocked down by a round to a vest. Even if the dirt bag is wearing armor, the fight is not over! Never stop.

There are many things to learn from mass shootings concerning how we operate personally. Terrorism should not change our daily life in a way that keeps us from enjoying our freedoms. If it does, they win. What we should do are things that will secure us and our families. This is wise practice whether we are dealing with terrorism or crime. In an article titled “How to Respond to Terrorism Threats and Warnings” by Scott Stewart, October 7, 2010 on the website it says:

“The world is a dangerous place, and violence and threats of violence have always been a part of the human condition. Hadrian's Wall was built for a reason, and there is a reason we all have to take our shoes off at the airport today. While there is danger in the world, that does not mean people have to hide under their beds and wait for something tragic to happen. Nor should people count on the government to save them from every potential threat. Even very effective military, counterterrorism, law enforcement and homeland security efforts (and their synthesis — no small challenge itself) cannot succeed in eliminating the threat because the universe of potential actors is simply too large and dispersed. There are, however, common-sense security measures that people should take regardless of the threat level.”

As we’ve mentioned having your own active shooter plan.
Work on and improve your situational awareness.
Be prepared. Have pre-positioned items like non-perishable food, water, a mask, first aid kit, etc. at home, in your car, at work or school. That way if a terrorist act happens and you are sheltering you’ll be ready.
Practice security. Be security minded.

Stratfor also said:
“If people live their lives in a constant state of fear, those who seek to terrorize them have won. Terror attacks are a tactic used by a variety of militant groups for a variety of ends. As the name implies, terrorism is intended to produce a psychological impact that far outweighs the actual physical damage caused by the attack itself. Denying would-be terrorists this multiplication effect, as the British largely did after the July 2005 subway bombings, prevents them from accomplishing their greater goals. Terror can be countered when people assume the proper mindset and then take basic security measures and practice relaxed awareness. These elements work together to dispel paranoia and to prevent the fear of terrorism from robbing people of the joy of life.”
"How to Respond to Terrorism Threats and Warnings is republished with permission of Stratfor."

Semper Paratus
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