In recent blog postings we talked about weapon disarming training. Another important aspect of weapon disarming, or officer hostage training, that is often neglected is the scenario where there is an officer being held hostage and there is one or more another officers (we will refer to them as cover officers) at the scene.
In the past, various organizations and agencies advocated that you have a code word with your partner that you rehearsed and would use in this situation. The code word would let the cover know that the hostage officer is about to move out the way allowing the cover officer to shoot the subject. This can be a sound strategy providing that officers work in long term partnerships and that officers not only discuss this but train it in context on a regular basis. There are several limitations with this however, including:
- The officers have not practiced using the code word in context and under the stress of the situation one or both officers are unable to recall it.
- Auditory exclusion prevents the cover officer from hearing the code word.
- The cover officer is not the hostage officer’s regular partner, and may in fact be an officer that they have never seen before and may even be from a different agency.
Officers need to train for the scenario where there are multiple officers at the scene. This should be part of every control tactics training program as well as officers personal mental and physical training.
There are a number of factors to consider when training for this scenario including:
- The hostage officer needs to consider becoming quiet and allowing one of the cover officers to become the contact officer. This will allow the hostage officer to focus on formulating their plan while the subject’s attention is drawn to the other officer. This is an opportunity for the cover officer to practice their crisis intervention skills while assessing the subject and waiting for or creating the opportunity to shoot the subject.
- If the hostage officer decides to take action by breaking free and creating distance they need to be drawing their firearm and preparing to immediately engage the subject. The subject may still be focused on them and they cannot bet their life that the other officer(s) will take action. As the hostage officer breaks free the cover officer needs to train to immediately engage the threat. This can be done first with rubber training weapons then the training can progress to using non lethal training ammunition (NLTA). Once the progression to NLTA begins all the appropriate safety rituals must be implemented. If you have not done so already make sure you read Ken Murray’s book Training at the Speed of Life available atwww.warriorspiritbooks.com.
- Officers need to also practice scenarios where the hostage officer begins to fight with the subject over the gun rather than breaking free and creating distance. In this case the cover officer needs to quickly close the distance and shoot the subject from inches away. This can be practiced safely with rubber training guns. It is important that when using these training weapons that the officers train to put their finger on the trigger and go through the physical actions of pulling the trigger until the threat stops. It is not necessary to make ‘bang, bang’ noise, but it is necessary to train to pull the trigger.
- Remember to always train with Imagination and Emotion. This means training as if this was real, and always training to take the situation to its conclusion. Officers need to train not only to take the action to defeat the hostage situation but also what are they going to do after. What will they say on the radio, how will they deal with the subject, what steps need to be taken to assist the hostage officer, etc.
The challenge to all of us is to be continually evaluating and assessing our training looks for gaps and for more comprehensive and effective ways to deliver the training.