One of our readers, a patrol sergeant, told of a training range incident in which one of his officers wound up splashed with paint; like up to his elbows and with splatters on his uniform and belt gear. While the officer held out his dripping arms, he asked his boss to secure his sidearm before it got gunked-up as well. The sarge tried to remove the gun from its level-three security holster. It took him about 45 seconds to accomplish this, despite Drippy’s frustrated instructions to, “Push that down, rock that forward, no, not that way! Push again, then no, don’t …” It was comic entertainment for on-looking officers — but not for the sergeant and Officer Drippy.
In the aftermath, the lesson wasn’t lost on the sergeant. In an emergency, could his lack of familiarity with that security holster cost lives, one of them perhaps his own? At line-up, he discussed the incident. Among 10 officers, there were six types of level two and three holsters with three very different retention systems. No officer present could quickly and surely operate all of them.
One officer said he had read online in a belly-down prone position trying to pull his sidearm, if his holster’s hood was prevented from freely rotating forward, blocked by the ground or other obstacles, he wouldn’t be able to draw without rocking up on his side. He had tested it, and it proved true. He wondered if other security holsters used by squad members were also subject to this or other restrictive conditions. They didn’t know; it would have to be tested.
From that point the colloquy went geometric: Were all squad members familiar with each other’s firearms? No. Did everyone know who carried what backup guns, where, and could all operate them? No. One officer was surprised to learn his 3-nights-a-week partner carried a micro-compact pistol in a second handcuff case. When asked why he hadn’t told his pal, he replied the subject hadn’t come up.
Four carried different types of alternative cuffs in addition to standard handcuffs. How did they work? Only one cop was carrying plain single-loop restraints. Others required minimal training to use quickly and properly, but familiarization was required.
Another sergeant recently told how two of his young cops — room-mates — spent part of a day off, until they were rescued by a girlfriend who just happened to drop by unannounced. Apparently, they had seen a movie in which two superhero cops were handcuffed and taken hostage by bad guys. The instant they were left alone in a room, they coordinated action to retrieve a hidden handcuff key and unlock each other’s cuffs. The process took seconds. Now remember, the sergeant described them as young officers not bright, young officers. I think you can fill in the details of the rest of this scenario, can’t you? No, they didn’t first try it individually.
When I was a rookie back in the Jurassic, every street cop I knew carried multiple handcuff keys, usually one taped to the interior surface of the back of the duty belt or trouser belt, and one taped behind the buckle. When the Hide-a-KEYper came along, nearly every officer got one — but they didn’t give up those other “stash keys.”
It was not rare at all to see cops of every length of service practicing their ability to free themselves from cuffs whether cuffed in front or back, standing, seated and prone. This just went along with practicing other skills, like baton strikes on the heavy bag in the locker room, fast revolver reloads with inert rounds, weapon takeaways, hoisting simulated unconscious victims from different positions into a fireman’s carry, tying a rescue drag loop, and much more.
True, this predated the demand for technical skills like computer operation, and there was far less emphasis on trained, artful psychological persuasion and more on “tell ‘em three times then commence ass-kickin’,” but — have we devalued the simpler skill sets and knowledge once considered basic, and could still be critical? It’s up to you to find out, and fill in deficiencies.
Consider the subjects mentioned above, and then take it further. Mentally review every piece of equipment used by your officers. Pay particular attention to gear determined by individual officer preference, where there is a higher probability of operating differentiation, as with sidearms. On a single squad you could find Glocks, SIGs, Smith & Wesson M&Ps, Springfield Armory XDs, Berettas and more. How about getting your squad together to operate — shoot, reload, clear and render-safe — all primary and backup weapons? How long would it take at lineup to demonstrate tying a blind rescue bowline?
Make a list of skills and knowledge you need to address; areas overlooked during in-service training. Don’t get hung up on prioritizing your list. In fact, if you’re not already conducting informal lineup training, I recommend starting with the easiest, least time-consuming subjects. They may be old school skills, but learning outside the box may be new school to your troops, so ease into it. Good luck!