The AZTLOA Board is saddened today by the loss of not only one of our members, but also one of our good friends. MCSO TLO, Deputy Mike Traverse passed away suddenly this morning while out of state visiting his family.
Mike has given 20+ years of his life to the safety and security of not only Maricopa County, but over the last 4+ years he served as a TLO and helped to protect the State of Arizona. He will be truly missed. Information on services are on hold until his family can bring Mike back to Arizona. We will post more information as it becomes available.
Please keep Mikes family and his MCSO family and friends in your thoughts and prayers, as they cope with this tremendous loss.
Respectfully, AZTLOA Board
If you are one of the many officers who have used these your tools and training to save a life in 2014, please consider yourself one of the many Knights of Christmas By Lt. Dan Marcou
|Every year we at PoliceOne celebrate the ‘Knights Christmas’ — cops who have given many people the ability to enjoy Christmas and the coming year because of their life-saving actions.
Some of the incidents below would have been vastly different only a few years ago, because officers responding back then likely would have lacked the equipment and training which today is at the fingertips of first responding officers.
If you are a chief or sheriff who has innovative products and training tools such as Narcan, less lethal munitions, cutting-edge emergency medical care equipment, and the necessary training for your officers and tactical teams, you should also be commended. In doing so, you dismissed concerns of costs, liability, and accusations of over-militarization in favor of allowing officers to have and use life-saving tools.
Med Kit Use
Like a Ninja
Peel-and-Stick Chest Seal
Combining Equipment and Training
Narcan to the Rescue
Heart rate quickens. Pupils dilate. Body temperature increases. Adrenaline is pumping. This is the physiological response of any police officer facing an escalated situation. But it also describes an officer engaged in effective training.
Stress can affect how an officer reacts and responds to situations in critical moments. For this reason, it’s vital that departments have a comprehensive training curriculum integrating marksmanship training and judgmental training scenarios as well as live-fire components.
Today’s virtual firearms training or simulation systems can immerse an officer into a true-to-life training scenario that reproduces the same stress, ultimately making officers more effective and better prepared the next time they encounter an escalated event.
Today’s Intelligent Systems
Many who hear the term “simulation training” still think of Simunition, or role playing. This type of training is incredibly valuable and should be part of an integrated training program, but for the purposes of this article “simulation” refers to a virtual firearms training simulator that provides marksmanship and judgmental use-of-force training.
In the early days of simulation, it was only “shoot or don’t shoot.” In fact, the first system was nothing more than a light projector with a picture swapped out manually. Today’s intelligent simulation systems are designed to provide real-time data for after-action reporting on how the shooter performed. The system recognizes officer presence, verbal commands, empty-handed techniques, as well as use of baton, chemical spray, Taser and deadly force.
Along with an effective trainer, today’s training technology can escalate or de-escalate a training scenario based on the pre-determined lesson plan of the instructor and how the student is actually engaging the scenario. These responses, similar to shooting at a target and seeing where the bullet hits, can be seen in replay.
But in simulation training it’s not as much about how students react, it’s about why they do what they do and their ability to explain their decisions.
Today’s virtual training systems are about recreating an environment where an officer is forced to make the same split-second decisions in a non-lethal training environment that they may have to make in a potentially lethal or escalated situation out in the field. What’s critical with these systems or tools is that they are used to their full potential for both marksmanship and judgmental training, and are integrated into a full training curriculum.
Training to its Fullest Potential
These systems, such as Meggitt Training Systems’ FATSL7, provide marksmanship training for determining firearms-related issues and abilities, weapons handling, qualification, remediation and training between qualifications along with judgmental use-of-force training.
In “lanes” mode (marksmanship), the shooter runs through a pre-determined course of fire on various static or moving imagery, depending upon the training curriculum of the department.
“Very simply, from a weapons handling perspective, you are not expending rounds, it’s a teaching tool,” Lt. Bryan Hickey of the Suwanee (Ga.) Police Department says. “You can explain and then immediately train the officer on the basic fundamentals of shooting.
“The officers can see their shots in real time. They can see how they are handling and firing their weapon, as well as muzzle location and other critical elements in good shooting fundamentals. With the assistance of an instructor, all of the information that the system and the weapon provide help shooters self-diagnose without expending several hundred rounds trying to figure out what they are doing wrong.”
Suwanee PD uses tetherless, Bluetooth-enabled weapons known as BlueFire with their system. These are actual weapons purchased from the gun manufacturer and then stripped of their firing components and replaced with electronics that provide real-time data to the shooter and instructor through the system.
The wireless (or tetherless) weapons are critical to true-to-life training. Training officers have to ask themselves, “Why would we want officers to train with plastic weapons or with magazines that have limitless rounds when that is not the reality out in the field?” This simply leads to what is called negative training.
Because BlueFire simulators are actual weapons, they are true to form, fit and function of the duty weapons the officers use in the field. The weapons weigh the same, are balanced the same and all the components, such as the safety and trigger, are in the exact same position as they are on their duty weapon. Another element to consider is the smart magazine. Officers are operating in real life, not in the movies, and they do not have magazines that never empty, so they should not train that way.
One of the primary benefits of tetherless weapons is that they enable officers to move freely within the training space and still send and receive feedback on the shooter. Tethered weapons are connected by a cable that sends data to and from the weapon, but restricts movement to a fixed location and distance. Both weapon systems have their advantages, but most agencies are moving to the wireless technology.
How it Works
While many departments use simulation systems for both marksmanship training and scenario-based training, the majority use them for judgmental use-of-force training.
“The system gives the trainer the ability to induce stress and see how the officer interacts with participants within the video scenario and, depending on how the officer engages the suspect, as the trainer I can manipulate the situation by escalating or de-escalating,” Hickey says.
The system is simply a projector, a laptop with a touchscreen or tablet, a screen on which the scenario is projected and the weaponry. Officers stand facing the screen and engage the scenario as they would based on departmental protocol using all available tools.
Using the tablet or touchscreen, the trainer controls the scenario by reacting to the officer’s commands. If the officer reacts appropriately, the officer can choose to select a “branch” where the assailant complies. Or the trainer could choose to see how the officer would react to a use-of-force situation and select a branch where the officer needs to engage using Taser, chemical spray or baton.
All systems come with a library of scenarios that range from a traffic stop to an active shooter. The scenarios are filmed from the officer’s perspective, along with all possible outcomes or reactions. These “branches” are the options that a trainer has during the training.
“One of the reasons we chose this particular system is because it has the ability to edit scenarios that we film within our department,” Hickey says. “We have been doing significant active shooter training within our community and we plan to create an active shooter scenario in the very near future that we hope will be combined with a live training exercise.
“The scenarios on the system typically end with the officer using force or compliance, but I take it a couple steps ahead,” he continues. “If we have a situation where the officer engages and uses force, I do not allow the officer to stop once they engage and ‘end the scenario.’ At that point, as the trainer, I take over and I become the suspect because I want them to carry through as they would on the street.”
This type of hands-on approach is what makes these systems effective. Lt. Hickey has taken an approach with his training that not only uses the system and all its features, but takes it to the next level by adding in all phases of an incident. Different departments and trainers have different styles, but departments that integrate classroom instruction, role playing, simulation and live fire see the greatest success.
Hickey reinforces the importance of a blended training curriculum. The order of integration depends on the training officer’s curriculum, so some departments will use simulation first and then move into a live-fire scenario, while others might use live fire first and then use the simulator to reinforce and/or remediate.
Within the live-fire component, officers are trained to handle a deadly weapon by incorporating: knowledge (classroom), skills (range time and teaching how to fire) and abilities (range time and practicing proper reload techniques, quick target identification and reaction). This also holds true with intermediate weapons such as baton, chemical spray, taser and empty-handed techniques. Training officers can incorporate these knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) through the same core path as weapons training. But it’s through these evolving technologies that officers are able to practice, test, remediate and be accurately evaluated through the use of simulation training.
“Training is what you make of it,” Hickey says. “With our new facility, we now have the means to do things. It comes down to maximizing the capabilities of what you have within your department or a shared facility. Putting officers under stress is critical. This is what prepares them for situations down the road. The officer encounters a similar situation out on patrol and thinks, ‘I have already experienced something similar to this in training’ and now the step of reacting becomes instantaneous. I begin each training by reinforcing that ‘You are going to train like this is the real thing. This is not just another exercise. This is going to indicate how you are going to react when it comes down to it.’”
How to Begin
Every department needs to look at their current training program and ask: Is my current training meeting expectations? Are my officers better prepared, more knowledgeable and do they possess better skills for what they will face in the field? Is my current training hampered by minimum standards, costs to maintain or lack of administrative support?
Once a department has a sense for where it is going and what it wants to accomplish, they can then begin the process of determining what systems and facilities are needed and how they can be funded.
Hickey, for example, says the new Suwanee facility was funded through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) within their community, but he added that grant funding is another area being investigated and is a viable option for other agencies.
According to Hickey, the department and the community have already seen value.
“We built the facility in a part of town that needed to be revitalized because we wanted to benefit the community as a whole,” he says. “From a departmental perspective, the simulation system allows us to train the officers during their regular shifts, which cuts down on overtime and provides flexibility for officers on a completely opposite schedule. We also see savings on costs associated with ammunition. Overall, it’s training done right.”
The U.S. government is warning about the potential for retaliatory attacks from home-grown, lone-wolves who may be inspired to act in the name of al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin after the airstrikes were launched against extremists in Syria, telling law enforcement to “be vigilant.” Officials have said there is no credible specific threat at the moment.
One of the groups targeted in Syria is an al Qaeda-offshoot called Khorasan.
Taking advantage of the lawlessness inside Syria, Khorason — a terror cell of veteran al Qaeda operatives — has been working on new hard-to-detect bombs that can be smuggled aboard airplanes, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.
Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday the group was “nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland.”
Al Qaeda has experimented with non-metallic bombs that may be hidden in shoes, clothing, cell phones, laptops and tubes of toothpaste.
That intelligence prompted the TSA in July to tighten security for U.S.-bound flights from two dozen foreign airports.
Sources tell CBS News Khorasan, which takes orders from al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri, includes explosives experts who may have been trained by al Qaeda’s top bomb-maker, Ibrahim al Asiri. Asiri, who is based in Yemen, is the architect of bombs hidden in underwear and computer printers.
Unlike the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Khorasan is not battling for territory. Instead, it’s plotting external attacks against the West and recruiting American and European radicals.
Western passport holders who have joined the jihad in Syria could be used to carry bombs onto planes.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Yahoo News that Khorasan “is a group that has been known to us for two years.”
“I can say that the enhanced security measures that we took [in] the aviation sector some months ago [were] based on concerns we had about what the Khorasan Group was planning to do,” Holder said.
The fear that American passport holders will take part in Khorasan’s vision of attacking the homeland has led to a proposal for a new approach in tagging potential terrorists, Holder told Yahoo.
“It will be focused on people who have terrorist connections and come up with new ways in which information is shared between INTERPOL members that, frankly, don’t exist now,” he said. “We have red notices that we use for people who are charged with crimes. But we’re gonna come up with a new kind of notice that deals with people who are suspected of engaging in terrorist activities.”
Attacks funded and orchestrated by a transnational terror groups such as al Qaeda, AQAP, al Shabaab, and ISIS merit consideration, but lone wolves and the grassroots Jihad remain the biggest threat
While fears of a complex attack funded and orchestrated by transnational terror organization merit consideration, law enforcement must remain vigilant against lone-wolf attackers and small homegrown groups.
There are observable behaviors and activities prior to a terrorist attack which generally represent the best opportunity to detect and disrupt the terrorists’ plans. What follows is a synthesis of similar resources that can be found online as well as information gleaned from a variety of books I’ve read on the subject. This not intended to be a complete or comprehensive list. It’s a starting point for a much larger discussion, so add your own thoughts on this in the comments area.
1.) Financing Activities — Watch out for evidence of transactions involving large cash payments, deposits, or withdrawals. These are not just signs of criminal enterprise, but also may indicate terrorist funding efforts. Collection/solicitation of financial donations and “white-collar” criminal activities are potential warning signs.
2.) Surveillance — Not just glassing a target with a pair of binoculars, a long camera lens, or a laser range finder, this can include timing the movement of vehicles and persons within an area, as well as simply transiting the area at various times of day and recording the activity levels at the target. Evidence of surveillance operations can also be found at totally different locations — if there are hand-drawn diagrams or building plans in the house you just did a warrant entry on, ask yourself “Why is this here? What could this be used for?”
This still image above from an undated video released by Islamic State militants purports to show journalist Steven Sotloff being held by the militant group. Imagine the chilling effect on the collective American psyche from some lone-wolf Jihadi kidnapping a random citizen on American soil and posting an online video of their beheading. (AP Image)
Two current storylines playing out in the mainstream media — ISIS operating in Mexico and missing airplanes in Libya — prompted me to have a discussion with terrorism expert Scott Stewart, who serves as Vice President of Analysis for geopolitical intelligence firm STRATFOR.
Stewart is a former Special Agent with the Diplomatic Security Service and has been involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations, most notably the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-on New York City bomb plot investigation, during which he served as lead investigator for the U.S. State Department.
Addressing Two Terrorism Rumors
Stewart and his team at STRAFOR see no real evidence of ISIS operating in Mexico. Stewart wrote an analysis on the border issue after Governor Rick Perry sent National Guard troops to the border, essentially noting that the move was more political than practical.
“Quite frankly, if we’re going to be worried about a border, we need to worry about the Canadian border,” Stewart said. “There are over a million Muslims living within an hour drive of the U.S. border there. If even one half of one percent is radicalized, that’s a much larger threat than what we might have in Mexico, where there are only a few thousand Muslims living in the entire country.”
Regarding the aircraft allegedly gone missing in Libya, Stewart said, “We’ve seen the reports, and we wrote on it in August. At the time, we had the Moroccans and the Algerians increasing their air defenses, which led us to believe there might be some credence to it. Then we also saw the UAE do some interesting night bombing on targets at airports across Libya. I don’t have any proof, but I suspect that may be related to the same thing, just because of the targets and the timing.”
Because intelligence agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere have been looking at the potential problems posed by those planes for almost a month now, Stewart said that even if terrorists do have possession of those airplanes intact, he thinks “it would be extremely difficult for them to pull off an attack with them.”
Examining Grassroots Jihad
So, those things aside, where might there lurk a true terror threat to American citizens?
“Since 9/11, we haven’t see al Qaeda successfully be able to carry out a spectacular attack in the United States. The only people who have been able to pull off any attacks in the U.S. have been grassroots people,” Stewart explained.
Stewart stated further that because the threat has migrated to the grassroots, that makes the grassroots defenders — cops on the street — even more important.
“We have so many examples in the past of cops thwarting attacks just through good police work — whether that’s a traffic stop or questioning an individual,” Stewart said.
Remember the foiling of a plot hatched by Kevin James (a.k.a. Shaykh Shihab Murshid) and three others in 2005? Two of the men were arrested in connection with a string of armed robberies in and around Torrance (Calif.) — upon investigation, it was discovered that the men were planning attacks on synagogues and American military installations. The robberies were committed to fund their operations.
“Police officers are far more likely to run into these guys than an FBI agent. You have maybe twelve thousand FBI agents, and only a small portion of them are working CT, and only small number of that group is working the street,” Stewart said.
Compare that with the estimated 750,000 LEOs in the country and you quickly get a sense of how important the beat cop can be in counterterrorism efforts.
Shifting from Dramatic to Doable
Because of the repeated failure of individuals and small cells to pull off the ‘spectacular attack’ — think Mohamed Osman Mohamud, Faisal Shahzad, Najibullah Zazi and the abovementioned foursome in California — I’ve often wondered what’s preventing these guys from going low tech.
For example, imagine the chilling effect on the collective American psyche from some lone-wolf Jihadi kidnapping a random citizen and posting an online video of their beheading. Logically, that would be a tactical shift that radical Islamists in the U.S. would benefit from, but realistically, it hasn’t happened.
“That was a forecast I did in 2010, and I was wrong. I said, ‘Listen, these guys keep botching these huge attacks. They’ve got to go to the simple attacks that work.’ Even the ideologues say, ‘Brothers, emulate Major Hassan.’ But they don’t do it — they keep trying to do these spectacular attacks,” Stewart said.
“I don’t know if it’s just the mentality of the type of person that is drawn to that kind of radical Islam that they want to do the spectacular thing, of it’s just ‘Hey, if I’m going to give up my life for something it’s got to be a big bang not a little bang’.”
It’s a good thing that for the most part, these attackers haven’t figured this out, because it is so easy to kill people. Obviously, the Tsarnaev brothers got it, and they were successful, but those are few and far between compare to the guys who want to blow up Wall Street.
“Look how long the Beltway snipers went around. Just with some old clunker car and an AR-15 you can create massive mayhem,” Stewart said
Terrorism is a Tactic, Not a Tribe
Dating back to Sun Tzu and Genghis Kahn, terrorism is a tactic not unique to groups like al Qaeda, AQAP, al Shabaab, and ISIS. It is the calculated use of violence — or threat of violence — to coerce or intimidate governments or groups into action (or inaction) that matches a prescribed goal that is generally political, religious, and/or ideological.
“We can’t do the whole profiling thing because profiling doesn’t work. Terrorism comes from different actors — it’s not all radical Islamic actors. We have to worry about domestic terrorism, whether it’s neo-Nazis or some of the environmentalist causes, or Sovereign Citizens. Terrorism doesn’t have a face, but there are operational activities that all these guys have to do — they’ve got to do the surveillance and they have to acquire their weapons. That’s where cops really can focus and make a difference.”
It’s increasingly difficult for anyone to acquire the ingredients to build a large bomb, but as we saw in Boston obtaining the requisite precursors for a couple of relatively small ones remains doable — there will always be legitimate needs for ordinary citizens to buy ordinary household items from Sally Beauty Supply, Home Depot, and Radio Shack.
On patrol, establish good connections with the proprietors of retailers and suppliers who sell weapon precursors, letting them know to contact you if they see something ‘hinky’ in their stores.
“We can’t protect everything, and that’s where the public needs to help us because they have a lot more eyes than the cops do,” Stewart concluded. “We don’t want to live in a police state, so we really have to all work together to help our security — on every level.”
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his “spare” time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.