Training and Practical Tactics, by Southwest LEO

First and foremost let me say that this is in no way meant as the definitive way to do things. This is only one man’s opinion of things that I have used in my job and have kept me safe over 15 plus years on the job (I am also not a tactical operator–I am just a beat cop). Also know and respect your local laws when training. Safety is also a factor. I have done live fire training and even with all safety being a priority wearing body armor and having an instructor right next to you my pucker factor goes way beyond heightened. I also want everyone to know that live fire training should only be done at training facilities with proper safety procedures in place with professionals.

Tactics defined “is a planned action accomplishing and end or the science for maneuvering forces in combat and also the skills of using available means to an end” as defined by the Webster Dictionary.

Practical defined “is relating to or shown in practice” as defined by the Webster Dictionary.

Also understand the difference of cover and concealment. Cover is something that you use to keep bullets from hitting you. Concealment is something that probably won’t stop bullets but you can hide behind.

So this puts in layman’s terms is a plan that has been practiced over an over again to end a threat. Many times over my career I have had to implement a quick action plan on the spot. No situation ever has a perfect plan to fit every incident. You have to sometimes fly by the seat of your pants so to speak. In saying that, I have also trained for a lot of situations and from that training I have been able to overcome most situations I have encountered by using that training, adapting it and overcoming whatever has been presented before me. I also use everyone’s training and thoughts that was with me. I use each persons strength’s, weaknesses and abilities to achieve the ultimate goal which is to neutralize and bring a safe close to the problem minimizing the risks of life to all.

Example of this is clearing a house. I do this regularly everyday in calls for service. Usually these are mobile homes and trailers which believe me are not easy to do because of space limitations and fatal funnels encountered. We respond to an unknown trouble at a house. Door is open and there is no response inside. Usually we do this with two but three or four is better. The more eyes and hands you have the better the advantage you will have. Take note of all points of likely opposition (POLOs), windows, doors etc. You need to be aware of these as areas of ambush by bad guys or points of escape from victims. If you have the resources available have them covered by someone. Most of the time we don’t have this luxury available so we move on. The door, or the fatal funnel as we call it, once committed to entry it can be the most dangerous part as you don’t know what is waiting for you (remember that this is more than likely someone’s house, someone that knows every nook and cranny, they have the home field advantage here and you know nothing of the layout inside). Usually we have cleared as much of the house as we can from the outside using windows, but again be careful when using these as you present a target and you can also give away your advantage as the bad guy know knows you there and where your going.

You are at the door now and have committed to entering. You must move slowly. Think of it as slicing the pie. Taking each small piece at a time. By doing this you may be able to see a small part of the bad guy and be able to react to the threat. Present the smallest part of you to the bad guy. Slowly you pie the doorway, taking time to observe what’s inside, hallways, other doorways and objects that can be used to hide behind. Once you have done this, you and your partner must communicate your actions to each other. Using hand signals is best I think and these must be worked out ahead of time so there is no confusion. I am usually the shortest in my squad so I take the low approach. As you enter slowly your partner must also enter over you taking/covering whatever side your not. You must both enter at the same time to cover each other’s backs. Remember slowly take one slice at a time so you can react to any threat seen. Once done and making sure entry is safe you enter, each person still covering their are of responsibility. Also if you have an area of responsibility you must stay on it. You must trust your partner has your back. If you take your eyes of this area you may miss something or leave you open to attack.

Once that room is clear (the standard for clearing a building is 1 minute of clearing for every 100 square feet) you begin to search each room and corner. Again hand signals work best, the lead man must communicate to the second what his intentions are and what he’s doing. The second man usually holds on to the lead mans duty belt so they stay in constant contact with each other. Also if the lead man or second see’s or hears something the other does not they can warn the other and stop, back out or address the threat.

As you move slowly you both have to cover each other. So this means if I the lead man am covering the front, the second has to cover any area not covered by the lead man. If you have more than two people this becomes easier as you don’t have as much area to be responsible for. You do this same technique for the rest of the house. I can tell you that hallways and big open spaces are a LEOs worst nightmare. Be careful of light and sound discipline. Stay away from walls. If you brush up against them you can telegraph your location to the bad guy. Also do not constantly use a light source, again your telling the bad guy your right here. This is something that has worked time and time again for me and I have been able to accomplish the task minimizing the threat to me and my partners.

Another scenario that we have trained for is an active shooter. This is a quite different approach. Over the years we have developed reaction plans to this having learned hard and sad lessons from the old approach of waiting for backup. An active shooter posses the most danger and must be dealt with swiftly. On this type of situation you must forget the slow and go. I know this goes against all sound reasoning to any sane person but remember there a sheep and sheep dogs. Sheep run away, sheep dogs engage the threat.

Example, you respond to an active shooter at a school. You must quickly stop this threat to preserve life. You don’t have time to plan out a response, you don’t have time to wait for backup. This means often going alone. You also have to keep in mind that another person may be doing this from another point of entry. Having a rifle greatly increases you chance of winning the fight and being able to engage at a distance. Also everyone is naturally more accurate with a rifle than a pistol. You must listen to the shots, the screams and move to that area, quickly scanning as you go. You must be able to identify quickly friend from foe. You must be at the ready but keeping that finger off the trigger and along the slide so as not to shoot a friendly. Believe me moving your finger from slide to trigger takes a fraction of a second. Once you have located the threat you must engage it and end it quickly, be sure of your target and what’s beyond, remember your goal is to stop the threat and preserve life. Once that threat is neutralized you must secure the area and treat the most severely wounded first.

These are but two examples of a vast amount of situations you can encounter. I practice for these constantly both in training and in the real world because I am presented with these everyday. I have to constantly adapt for each situation and react in seconds. Also remember that real life encounters can be good training also. Debrief each training exercise or incident. Valuable skills and knowledge can be gotten from debriefs. Remember to listen to each person’s view and opinion on your team because no man is an island or knows it all. If you think you know everything than I suggest you retire. I can tell you even the rookie can have valuable insight and make you sometimes rethink a situation.

You must train constantly because like anything if you don’t do it regularly you can become rusty. You must know your firearms, train with them constantly to know your abilities, limitations and the weapons capabilities. If you have a group and want to train use finger guns or paint guns, making sure to wear protective equipment so as not to sustain unwanted injuries. If you have access to a training facility sign up and use it. Make sure though it’s reliable and reputable. You don’t want bad training or to break any laws. Mix up the training have someone plan a scenario then execute it. Try different approaches, go slowly at first, walk through it several times so everyone knows there part. Then start to speed it up and before you know it, it will be like second nature to you. You won’t have to think you will react.

There is no secret formula to tactics. Its training over and over again for something. It’s not rocket science, you don’t have to be a special forces person to do this. It’s common sense tempered with practice.