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A shooting is different than a shootout. A shooting is an exchange of bullets between two individuals. Whether in extreme close quarters or at distance, this event ends after one party has been eliminated or fled the scene. Although still extremely dangerous, this is different than a shootout.

A shootout relates to complex attacks such as ambushes in which there are multiple attackers shooting from multiple positions. These types of events are less spur of the moment and can be the result of weeks of prior coordination. Traditional law enforcement training structured around lethal encounters prepares officers for shootings, not shootouts. Although there are specialized units designed for combatting complex attacks, the scope and nature of day-to-day policing does not immediately demand uniformed police officers be prepared to respond to these crises.

Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics: Skills for Today's Survival-Conscious Officer

Regardless, this does not mean that a patrol officer is excused from being the first responder to a complex attack. Lone-wolf terrorists, ISIS sympathizers and coordinated gang members have demonstrated the need for all law enforcement officers to be prepared to respond to shootouts.

Traffic Stop Tips

However, the tactics used during these altercations can be different in nature than the methods used for a short-duration shooting. Forward-thinking police officers are recognizing these differences and are challenging traditional training methods.


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Central to much of their debates are vehicles, because vehicles are central to all policing activities. The standard OIS [officer-involved shooting] occurs within 7 yards and is over in five seconds. That is good data to know, but it sometimes becomes the extent of our tactical training. The quoted officer refers to the incompatibility of techniques designed for OISs that occur at traffic stops, versus firefights that occur under any other criteria. His comment also highlights the issue with setting the highest level of training at the median threat, as opposed to scaling back from the most dangerous, yet still likely, encounters.

Unlike a traffic stop, shootouts and ambushes do not afford officers the opportunity to narrow down where the opposition is located before the gunfire starts. In fact, unless you are already aligned with a threat, it is really hard to tell where incoming fire is originating from. In a one-on-one shooting, an officer can maneuver at offset distances of up to 10 or 15 yards behind a vehicle.

The reasoning behind this states that because the officer is at distance, he decreases the chance of excessive movement that might overexpose his silhouette. In addition, it is argued that because bullets can deflect off of vehicles, officers stand less of a chance of being struck by errant bullets if they remain farther back and under the angle of bullet deflection. In a fight against multiple gunmen or even a single gunman that continuously moves , however, offsetting cover by 10 to 15 yards dangerously overexposes an officer on his flanks.

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Distancing himself from terrain also causes him to expose more of his silhouette than if he were up close. Even if he crouches to compensate, because he is at distance, his sense of spatial awareness is still distorted. This highlights another problem with the argument regarding bullet deflection because it relies on the enemy being a bad marksman, thus reinforcing the earlier quote about focusing on the wrong aspects of data.

Another oft-ignored variable regarding offsetting or moving close to vehicular cover is violence of action, or lethal decisiveness.

Strategies & Tactics of Patrol Stops (STOPS) Instructors Course

Unaware of this variable, an individual is more likely to mislabel significance when dissecting a shooting. For example, dashboard and security camera footage will be misused in arguing for or against offsetting cover, when in fact violence of action was the determining factor. If an officer can continue to drive his vehicle, he should continue to do so.

Vehicles offer unpredictable amounts of ballistic protection but have traditionally been codified as poor cover. However, because OISs that originate from traffic stops can result in the minimal exchange of gunfire because either the suspect or the officer is dead , it creates a false sense of security and the incorrect assumption that vehicles afford more protection than they actually do. Ambush sites are selected based on the characteristics of terrain. Whether hasty or preplanned, an ambusher selects a kill zone based on his perceived ability to inflict the maximum amount of damage when a victim is within that area.

If a victim attempts to fight strictly from a kill zone, he will be fighting from a disadvantaged position the entire time until he is likely killed.

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However, even the best selected ambush site is exploitable by movement. Regardless of location, every kill zone has left, right, front and rear limits in which the terrain no longer affords the attacker an advantage. This is why movement is stressed and officers are not encouraged to attempt to fight from their vehicles when ambushed. Maintaining situational awareness during a complex attack is critical.


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By the end of the seminar you will be able to immediately implement new tactics and techniques which will increase your confidence and dramatically improve your officer safety skills. This class is ideal for both young officers and seasoned veterans!! This course is constantly evolving, incorporating current events and relevant supporting material that meet the professional needs of Law Enforcement.

Scott remained active in the program until the age of 21 when he entered the police academy. Major Hughes has been recognized as a subject matter expert by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission in traffic stops.

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Major Hughes is a contributing writer and Instructor for Calibre Press. There is no course fee to attend. Enrollment for this training session is limited.