From the beginning, there have always been target indicators during conflict. These indicators are a part every cop’s daily routines, whether they realize it or not. Officer’s can’t be in a confrontation without these indicators being present. Think of them as projections of yourself, your location or the actions of suspects that may endanger an officer’s life.

Failure to recognize target indicators — and eliminate them— can provide our opponents target opportunities that will get you killed. On the flip side, if officers are smart enough to realize these indicators exist, they can reduce the negative effect they might have. If you know what target indicators look like, they can be used effectively against the very threat the officer is facing. They can be made to work for us if we know what they are. And indeed, will work against if we don’t.


Don’t use the radio — those squawks and buzzes are also great target indicators.



Movement draws the eye. I’ll bet yours went right to the cop in the picture.



Any sound qualifies here. The cycling of actions, the shuffling of feet, the rubbing of uniform jackets or armor against walls during movement, a radio-breaking squelch or talking, all can contribute to the problem. All of these sounds project where you are to the bad guy.


How many deer would get killed the first day of deer season if they all simply stood still? Not many would die because most people don’t use their eyes very well.

Arriving in a squad car, or walking to the door, going inside the house, chasing a bad guy down the alley all require movement, and movement deletes camouflage whether issued by God or K-Mart.

Your job requires movement, yet that very movement catches the eyes and draws attention. Try to use available shadows or darkened areas on your approach. Remember: Your movement will draw attention to you.


Shiny badges look cool — and are great target indicators too.



Quick, find the cop against the block wall. Keep contrast in mind!



There seems to be a contest in America to see who can put the most reflective tape on a squad car door. I know we need to be seen, but do we need a neon sign on the car door? Here’s a fun thought, the reflective tape emblem is exactly were I am seated and belted in. The last two years I lived in Texas I can think of four cops shot and killed while seated in their cars. Did the reflective tape con-tribute? I can’t say so for sure but it sure was a good reference point to aim at. On top of this add the reflection off the backs of our hands, our faces, our badges and buckles, our glasses and watches. You get the point. Tone down the reflection and shine as much as possible.


This one’s very simple. How about a dark uniform against a light-colored building at night? Think of a hunter wearing an orange vest in the woods— contrast. Lucky for us the deer don’t hunt back, even for just one season. I can remember my dad wearing a white police uniform shirt 40 years ago as he went out the door to work the night shift. He looked spiffy, but he was a friggin bullet magnet. It’s not just dark versus light clothing either, it’s the contrast between what you’re wearing and the background. People will shoot you if they see you, and they see you because you let
them. Don’t let ’em see you.


What you look like backlit.



The bad guy backlit. A much better picture!



Outline might better be called silhouetting. I’m intrigued with the thought our lights blind suspects as we approach the car. Then again, we may look like a candidate for an archangel, silhouetted by the headlights of our own car. Don’t stand in front of the opening of the doorways you may move to.

A window can outline you whether you are inside or outside the house. Backlit stairways and hallways aren’t such hot ideas either.


People say: “What you’re telling me is I’m gonna smell the bad guy?” Well maybe, then again it might be even better. I’m a SWAT, Narc or uniform patrol guy entering a house and as I sneak down the hallway in my demon of darkness, master of doom, colossal collision black ninja costume, I get a good whiff of ether or methane, it doesn’t matter which. Do I really want to fire my gun or toss a Bang into this environment? “ Bang, FLASH — BOOM.” Rewind the tape on that thought process. Meth labs and gunfire —you be the judge.

Ladies and gentlemen of the law, ignorance, arrogance — or an unwillingness to control target indictors —can lead to the collection of interest on a potentially lethal loan. Aware-ness of target indicators may give you good targeting in a mean world.

Be safe, be careful — and good hunting.

Thanks to Sgt. Luke Campbell and Sheriff Phil McDonald, Lake County, Oregon Sheriff’s Office for their support of this project.