Blue Line

Trade Show – Defensive Tactics 1

September 28, 2011  By Andrew Dugdale

Looking back at a career that began in 1987, having taken me from the streets of Montreal in municipal law enforcement, to private sector security, protection and investigation assignments, right to the numerous international security operations in less than touristic areas of the world, my operational equipment kit or gear has always been a priority.

This being said, I must admit that the equipment available to officers, be they in the military, law enforcement and/or security spectrums, has both evolved and increased in variety since my humble beginnings. Although efficiency is extremely important when considering how our tools help us do our job, it somewhat alarms me to see exceptionally equipped officers performing in a less than exceptional manner, often due to a possible false sense of security created by our “Kick-Ass” equipment.

At the risk of angering some of my colleagues in the industry, I ask you to bear with me for a moment while I explain my point.

Since the early stages of my professional life, I saw a constant battle and struggle between agencies, departments, divisions, units and guys and gals on the job, in regards to what guns we were using, the types of body armour we were supplied, the accessories and gadgets they gave us and those we had to buy ourselves on our less than sufficient salaries. Point in case as to why not so many of us invested in our own safety and made do with what the boss gave us. 


I, always having been one to constantly ask myself “What if?” did invest in newer, lighter, more advanced, better researched, more efficient, better looking, as seen on TV type equipment, and will admit that being ahead of the game in gadgetry was sometimes sexy. But when it came to getting down and dirty on the job, the last thing on my mind was how good my equipment looked while wrestling with the scum who just tried to jam a knife in my gut. A moment in which what really protects you is your training, how much you practice staying alive, your instincts, and how much you want to get back to those you love.

Modern day departments, due to industry evolution, equip their officers with a variety of tools that were not available to some of us earlier on. I believe this to be a natural progression in the safety of officers in the field. Although this is true, the equipment industry has also evolved and continues to manufacture sexy equipment that the departments still today cannot manage to include in their budgets. Hence, some officers are still personally investing in newer, lighter, more advanced, better researched, more efficient, better looking, as seen on TV type equipment. 

Unfortunately as time goes on, officers went from having to rely on their personal size and strength, to demonstrating a readiness in terms of equipment, to today sometimes resembling the soldiers we see on CNN causing a sense of panic as opposed to a sense of calmness.

As a law enforcement and security trainer, my job in regards to teaching about officer survival today has increased in complexity. My students often confuse survival to be directly linked to the efficiency of their equipment as opposed to the state of mind enabling them to use their equipment efficiently.

In a world where we constantly talk about community policing and public service, our streets are patrolled by officers wearing increasingly bulky and intimidating tactical body armour with everything that we used to carry on our duty belts now being carried on our upper body. Handguns, knives, handcuffs, tie wraps, pepper spray, communications, ammunition, utility tools etc. Not to mention built in features like back pockets and drag handles to be used to pull our fellow officers out of an emergency situation.

Although the operational advantages of this re-orientation in duty gear can be debated, the tactical disadvantages to an officer in a fight are undeniable to those of us teaching our officers to stay on their feet. The false sense of security created by the thicker layer of protection that our tactical vests offer us, is much to easily defeated by the possibility of an assailant manipulating an officers upper body, wrestling them to the ground and even using one of the weapons available on their tactical vests to kill them. 

In order to counter this new reality, tactical instructors have to expand their training as to not only include the survival mentality, the use of hand to hand techniques, intermediate weapons and primary weapons, as well as the all important weapon retention to avoid falling victim to our own weapons, but a whole new module on how to avoid being physically defeated by those trying to do us harm, because of our sometimes less efficient, sexy equipment developed by field analysts as opposed to field operators.

More flash, more efficient, more comfortable, more apparently operational, sometimes becomes more bulky, easier to grab and more dangerous!
How much is too much?

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