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How Police Training Can Help The Survivalist: An Officer’s Perspective, by N.D.

Something I have noticed among the “prepper/survivalist” community is a growing distrust of local law enforcement accompanied by the stigma of an “us versus them” mentality. I decided this would be a good place to start, and will provide some background on myself. I too am a survivalist. I am also a certified police officer in the state of Arizona. I am a double degree major in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism.  From my experience, most in law enforcement are like me: they get into this line of work for a desire to help those in need. I graduated from the police academy in 2006 with a 4.0 GPA and was proud and determined to do well as a police officer and felt strongly about helping others in need. I knew I was not going to become rich by any means from this job, but that was ok. I had a strong desire to look back at my life and feel I’d made a difference for the better. I had always had strong feelings about protecting those in need, and regardless of the dangers involved, helping those in my community was a reward money could never replace. Handing an abused child a teddy bear after responding to a domestic violence call and being there to help them in their time of need is an experience in itself that can never be measured in financial terms. This is why we do this job, and it begins to define who we are as individuals. If there was ever a quote that defined the ambition of a police officer, for me it’s The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. -Edmund Burke. The first time I heard this quote I was inspired. Once it’s in your blood, you are never the same. Just like the athlete has an internal driving force to exercise and compete, the officer has that internal force that pushes them to want to help. If there is a cry for help in the middle of the night, we want to be there.
Because I feel most in law enforcement share such a passion, it should be understood by the “survivalist/prepper” that we are not robots, or mindless minions that do the bidding of a government body. The vast majorities of police officers are family oriented, conservative, and hold the oath to uphold the Constitution on behalf of the people of the United States very seriously.

The police officer and the prepper share more in common then they may realize. In fact, many police officers themselves are “survivalist/preppers.” Like the “prepper”, police officers prepare for the worst case scenario as well. Police live in a state of “worst case scenario” every time they go to work. Just like any given situation can turn bad requiring the preparedness of the officer to respond and survive, so too can the stability of our fragile society, requiring the prepper to respond as well in order to survive. In a sense, the police officer and the prepper share a common bond, they both want to be prepared to safely and effectively deal with any SHTF scenario that may come their way, and not become a victim of complacency.

Many have asked….will the police become enforcers? This question gets asked a lot. While I cannot speak for every officer, my answer is pretty simple. I am a family man first and an officer second. If a crisis scenario was to take place and my family was vulnerable, they take top priority. While police will attempt to do their best to keep order, you are your best defense. Never rely on the police as your sole source of defense. When things get bad and civil unrest reaches a point of violence and looting, people become vulnerable. It’s not that police won’t want to help, it’s the fact they simply may not be able to do so. Most police with families will retreat to their homes and place their family above all else when it comes to priorities. They are human like anyone one else, and will not leave their families exposed to the elements or outside threats.

Officer Safety Tips for the Survivalist

In the case of a massive crisis, or “the end of the world as we know it” scenario, people will be stressed, distrusting, and scared. Most people want to avoid conflict; however there will always be those that will try to prey on the weak and vulnerable, and at times, will try to pose as friendly people you can trust. By utilizing the techniques used by police for officer safety, the survivalist can sharpen their ability to negotiate and interact with strangers during times of crisis, and limit their vulnerability and loved ones to that of predators. Here are some aspects of our training that you might find useful:

Police officers are trained in a unique way. While those in the military are trained to be aggressive and engage threats at a distance, police officers are trained in the opposite. Police officers must deal with potential hostile people face to face, and most times within reaching distances. An officer never knows if the person they are dealing with is armed and ready to kill them at any moment, or if they are friendly. Because of this, police go through training to read body language, get close, and deescalate a hostile situation with lethal force being a last option, but not the least of options. In the event that someone poses a threat, officers are trained to neutralize this threat as soon as possible. The amount of stress and danger that officers go through in a dark alley with a strange man or men is very real. Now imagine having to do this with no training in a scary world changing environment. Because both scenarios are very similar in how a person must deal with unknown threats, officer safety tips can be of great value to the survivalist. If things get bad, you must be able to interact with those around you without escalating tensions in people who are already stressed out to overreact with hostility.

As Rawles states in one of his books, “Show restraint, but always save recourse to lethal force.” (Rawles, 2009).

He also wrote: “My father often told me, It is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.’ I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity.. (Rawles, 2009)

By using Officer Safety tactics, you can interact with people while maintaining a safe and strong position.  The following areas I will share with you are things to consider when the world as we know it ends.

Known as “verbal judo,” refrain from making threats or being outright hostile. Don’t use harsh language or aggressive tones. This will cause people to immediately go on the defensive. In return, their immediate response of defense could cause you to misconceive their intentions toward you. The same holds true for you and their perception as well. This will cause immediate distrust between parties, causing tensions to quickly rise and possibly lead to unnecessary violence and loss of control. Remember to remain calm and to speak clearly, calmly, and respectfully. If you do all three of these when engaging in dialogue, it will give you the advantage and persona of taking control, but not in a hostile way. This will also help you understand the other parties’ intentions more clearly. If you are cool, calm, and collected, but the other party is strung out, edgy, and overbearing, it creates a clear picture of their true state of mind and possible intentions toward you. It also rules out the fact they are simply reacting to any aggressive language on your part, and may have ulterior motives.

Body Language:
Often referred to as your “X-ray vision,” body language can be very telling. When interacting with a stranger, pay close attention to what they are not telling you with their mouth but are telling you with their body. When people anticipate confrontation, subtle behavior will begin to present itself. They may begin to pivot frequently, even if standing in one place. If they are wearing a hat, they may take it off, this is often a sign of preemption, reason being that a hat gets in the way and lowers a person’s situational awareness. People will often remove a hat even though they are not cognitively aware why they are doing it. Watch for the balling of fist, or clenching of their jaw. Their eyes may dart in many directions even though they are speaking to you. If it looks as if their trying to scan their surroundings, that’s because they are! These are all signals that one is preparing for confrontation, and may become aggressive.

Always Keep Your Strong Hand Free:
Always make sure you keep your strong hand free. If you are right handed and have a holstered sidearm, always be sure that you use your left hand to hold objects, such as a flashlight. You never want to have your strong hand occupied if you need to draw your weapon in defense. The time it takes to drop the object in your strong hand can mean the difference between life and death. If it is dark and you need to hold a flashlight, always hold it in your weak hand.

Watch the Hands:
When interacting with someone new, watch their hands! The hands are the instruments used to kill, and this is where the threat will come from. When speaking with unknown people, politely request that they keep their hands out of their pockets. Just because you cannot see a weapon, you must never let down your guard. Remember, a razor blade can do tremendous damage and is easily concealed in the hair, a hat, or even one’s mouth.

Are They Concealing a Weapon?
When dealing with an unknown person, it is reasonable to be concerned if they are armed. The following are tips that are useful when it comes to determining if a person is armed:

  1. Determine a person’s strong side, and Pay attention. This can be done by observing their behavior. A right handed person may lead with their right hand while speaking. They will use it for subtle actions, i.e. scratching their face or holding an object. Another clue that can be observed is a wrist watch. Typically, a person wearing a watch will do so by wearing it on their weak arm. If you still have trouble figuring out what hand is dominant, you can count on the fact that the majority of people,( approximately 75%) are right handed.
  2. The two most common places someone will conceal a sidearm is by tucking in the front right, between the belly button and hip, or the small of the back. Unless the person has carried often concealed, and has a good holster to secure the weapon, most people will have an unsecured weapon tucked in a waistband. This can cause a weapon to move around and puts the carriers in a mental state of constantly having to reassure themselves that the weapon is still present by touching it through their clothes. They may even unconsciously touch it periodically for assurance, giving away the fact they are carrying. This is bad for them, but very good for you! Even as a trained officer, I have found myself doing this from time to time with a holstered weapon that is concealed. There seems to be an unconscious sense of security that needs to be confirmed at times by verifying the presence of your first line of defense, your side arm. A person may walk with a shorter stride on the side a weapon is located. If they take longer strides with one foot while shortening the other, especially the side of their strong arm, this may be a good indication they are carrying a weapon concealed.
  3. Are they wearing baggy clothing or does it fit the season? If they are wearing a jacket during a warmer part of the year, this could be a sign of an attempt of concealment. If you suspect a person may be carrying concealed, observe the clothing and look for any odd bulges or disruptions in the way a shirts falls against the body. While it may look normal for the most part, weapons often give subtle disruption to curves that say “here I am.”

Contact and Cover: When approaching a person or group of people, it is important to be friendly but stern in your presence. Standing upright and squared does much for those sizing you up for the first time. If you find yourself having to get close, always have someone there to cover you as a backup. In a crisis scenario, people may try to take advantage of perceived weakness.  Havening someone there as a lethal force alternative is paramount for safely interacting with individuals with unknown intentions. Remember….before you ever allow anyone to enter into your home, camp, etc. always check for weapons. In a crisis scenario, people become desperate and will do radical things in order to survive. Just like an officer must check for weapons before putting someone in a patrol car, the same principle applies here.

The proper way to do this is by having a cover person with you. Make sure your cover is at least half to the size of the group you are speaking with if possible. Remember. …if they approach you with a request, it’s your safety. If they refuse to submit to a pat down, send them on their way. There is no need to put you or your loved ones at unnecessary risk at such times. While searching an individual, have any others with them sit on the ground facing away from you. While being covered, and only searching one person at a time, have the person to be searched face away from you, and interlock their fingers on top of their head. Put your left foot forward between their legs and your right leg back. Wrap your hand over their interlocked knuckles and squeeze. Use your right hand to sweep their body on the right side and search for weapons. To sweep the left side, repeat the steps by reversing your locking hand and foot. Never go to your knees or kneel down. You must bend down to sweep legs, but never compromise your feet in how they are anchored or your locking hand while sweeping someone for weapons.

Protect Yourself When Conducting a Search:
Don’t go fishing in pockets unnecessarily. If gloves are unavailable, use great care when sweeping an individual for weapons. Needles and razor blades pose a serious threat, and fishing without proper gloves could result in disaster. The gloves I recommend are Turtle Skin Severe Gear or Turtle Skin Police Search Gloves, they will protect from edged weapons and most importantly, they will protect you from needles!
Remember, your main concern is concealed firearms, but do not discount the threat of a knife either. Knives are devastatingly dangerous in the hands of a skilled person.

Body Armor:
Body armor is paramount in its ability to save lives and becomes a force multiplier. While police are very familiar with the use of body armor, many civilians may not be. Kevlar body amour is legal to own and purchase by anyone in most jurisdictions. However, like any tool, it must be used correctly for the right purpose. Not all body armor is created equal. Kevlar body armor comes in many ratings, and it’s these ratings that indicate the level of threat they can deter. When it comes to soft body armor, the two common threat levels are level II and level IIIA. Soft body armor will NOT stop a rifle round. This requires hard plates, either steel or ceramic, and is rated from level III to IV.

NIJ Level Ratings

Type II
(9 mm;.357 Magnum [1])

New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 398 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1305 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 379 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1245 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I and IIA].

(.357 SIG [2].44 Magnum [3])

New armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point [4] (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point [4] (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, and II].


Type III

Conditioned armor protects against 9.6 g (148 gr) 7.62x51mm NATO [5] M80 ball [6] bullets at a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, and IIIA].


Type IV
(Armor Piercing Rifle)

Conditioned armor protects against 10.8 g (166 gr) .30-06 Springfield [7] M2 [8] armor-piercing (AP) bullets at a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides at least single hit protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, IIIA, and III].

(National Insitute of Justice, 2012)
In conclusion, the police are everyday people. They do not look at survivalists as the “enemy.” They are family people like anyone else and would rather be there to protect and help you in the event of a crisis. In a crisis a law enforcement officer would be someone with a valuable skill set to have around, as they can provide training to those around them to become proficient in security and personal safety. If you are fortunate to know a law enforcement officer, ask them to teach you such valuable skill sets, more often than not, they will be more than accommodating in doing so. For those that don’t have such an option, my hope is that this article will provide others with some food for thought and arm them with the knowledge needed to help protect themselves and loved ones in the event of a “the end of the world as we know it”, or any other crisis.  


National Insitute of Justice [9]. (2012, January 23).
Rawles, James W. (2009). “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It” [10]. New York: Penguin Group.