Know the Enemy & Know Yourself - Patrol -

Know the Enemy & Know Yourself

Lessons for the street from Sun Tzu



Kevin R. Davis | Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sun Tzu was not a street cop.The Art of War treatise he authored related to mortal conflict and strategy in battle with armies not the war against crime on the streets of America. He didn t wear blue polyester nor did he drive in a patrol car with light and sirens, but one of the many things that Tzu said way back in the 2nd century B.C. still resonates today: It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

Know Your Enemy
We police in a violent age. For many of the modern day thugs and gangsters who ply their trade and prey on the innocent human life simply has no value. With no conscience whatsoever and armed with whatever weapons they can steal or buy on the street, these vermin think nothing of busting a cap on whoever stands in their way police included. Now, touchy-feely programs would have you believe that you can talk these hoodlums into cooperation. After all, they re just misunderstood victims of society.The truth: Although tactical communication is a vital street skill, it must be backed up by the threat of force (i.e., Either you do what we want voluntarily or we make you do what we want ).Knowing your enemy means you research and study. You understand the need to know:

  • Who the players are;
  • Their propensity to attack or resist;
  • The probability they re armed; and
  • The playing field in which they operate.

Whether by scanning the MDB on the way to the call to learn the suspect s history or searching arrest or court records while on the hunt for a suspect with warrants, you need to dynamically and methodically develop intel on the bad guys you re hunting and recon the target area. Learn to look beyond the surface and constantly survey your environment. Look for weapons the obvious ones and the tells that armed suspects give, such as clothing readjustment, subconscious touching of the weapon, clothing that sags where a heavy object may be secreted and bulges in the belt line or elsewhere. Scan a suspect s vehicle or home for steel objects (e.g., guns or knives) in easy reach. Develop dynamic intel on a traffic stop based on what the driver or passengers are doing. Are they making movements that are consistent with someone hiding something or retrieving a weapon? Is that suspicious person in a car or on foot readying themselves for attack? Is their posture changing (e.g., Are they transitioning from a neutral, non-aggressive stance to an attack posture)? Hundreds of law enforcement officers have died because they didn t take the time to know who they were dealing with and failed to acknowledge the suspect s propensity for violence.

Is your gut telling you something s amiss? Are you listening to those survival signals (as author Gavin DeBecker calls them) those subconscious gut instincts that it ain t right but I can't tell you why feelings based on good old-fashioned cop sixth sense? Or are you dismissing them? Are you modifying your approach, tactics, readiness or armed preparation based on these perceptions and feelings? Why not use a call-back tactic on that traffic stop instead of approaching the car? Why not increase the distance from the drunken suspect that just shifted his posture into a fighter s stance? Why not draw your pistol when approaching the possible drug dealer on the street that keeps touching something under his shirt in his beltline? Why not deploy with a shotgun or carbine on the man with a gun or armed suspect call?

Knowing your enemy means studying whether it s a specific suspect you re dealing with or general threats against law enforcement. Knowledge acquisition isn't passive, and it's not a luxury; it s vital to your very survival.

Know Yourself
Let s be honest. What is your current state of preparation to defend your life? If you were taken to the range or to the mat room and dynamically tested, how would you fare? Are your empty hand and firearms skills where they should be? How about your fitness level? Knowing yourself starts with an honest self-assessment identifying both your strengths and weaknesses, and then toiling to maintain and improve your strengths while focusing on and improving your weak areas.

Often, positive growth involves discomfort. Muscular size and strength, for instance, are developed by taxing the involved muscles through resistance. To expand the muscles comfort zone, either the weight or the number of repetitions is increased. The muscle fiber grows back stronger. Learning to fight, whether with empty hand or firearm, requires not only the physical aspects through repetition and resistance but should give you experience through dynamic confrontation simulation. Only through force-on-force simulations can you get used to the physical, psychological and physiological changes that take place within you, courtesy of your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Although no training simulation can fully recreate an actual encounter, dynamic training in which you re forced to act with, react to and control role players in a dynamic chaotic environment allows you to know yourself in a whole new way. Striking an air shield in a mat room is one thing. Striking a drunk, resisting suspect in a crowded barroom with other suspects around and loud music blaring in the background is something else entirely. Training needs to take you there. It needs to recreate the actual operational environment as much as possible. You can t learn to swim in a bathtub. You ve got to start in the shallow water, but then progress with a qualified instructor or coach to the point at which you re in over your head.

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Kevin R. DavisKevin R. Davis is a full-time officer with more than 25 years in law enforcement.


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