Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Years Resolution? Whats Wrong With This Year?

I've never been one to make a "New Years Resolution."  The turning over of one year to the next new year has held little sway over how I decide to change habits or decide to tackle a new skill, however I can see the appeal from a mindset point of view.  Its a new year, after all and all 365 days of the last year, whether they were full of procrastination or success, are over and the slate, at least mentally, can be clean.  Which is total bullshit.

Hear me out;  there's nothing new about the new year except for a new calendar, one different digit and the last time a new year held sway over the public in any meaningful way was 1999, everyone was partying like Prince and come midnight there was going to be a global computer failure or something (that was a long time ago, so I don't remember all the things that were supposed to happen but fixing it was part of the plot for Office Space, so I can at least thank Y2K for that.)  In reality, the new year means you are still you, your plans, habits and behavior is largely the same from 2014 into the first few minutes of 2015 and beyond.  The calendar doesn't hold such a monumental sway over your dedication that the passage of one year to the next can drastically change the way you think; these things don't happen so suddenly unless you have a Jamestown level of devotion to a moment, which is admirable unless you like poisoned kool aide.

You are the sum of all your mistakes and successes, bad habits and good, the lies you tell yourself and the truths you celebrate and a simple ticking of the clock isn't going to suddenly change that because if it could, you wouldn't wait for a new year to make it happen.  Changing your behavior isn't like changing a diaper, you don't have to wait for a reason, you can do it right now, any time you wish.  The idea of a landmark to wait for change is appealing because it gives us time to continue doing exactly what we want to be doing versus what we think we should be doing instead.  Thats right; if you think you need to change your habit of watching 8 hours of TV a night and instead get in the gym, think about why you watch 8 hours of TV a night.  You do it because its what you want to do.  If you wanted to be in the gym, you would be.  There is nothing so pressing on TV to keep you from that goal, even binge watching an entire season of House of Cards is no excuse, and may actually be the reason Kevin Spacey still has a career (great show, shift fire).

Think about it, when you want to do something, anything, you have all the motivation you need to do it.  From running to the store for a new thingymajig to starting a family, the motivation is reason enough to make it happen.  Oh, the more complex the want the more difficult the path to making it happen but it all starts with honest motivation, which shouldn't be calender dependent.  Is there some ethereal force in December, some chronological specter that will suddenly not be there in January?

Motivation is nice, discipline is better.  We need motivation sometimes to get us to discipline, which is why the idea of a resolution appeals to some people, hell, a lot of people.  In January of 2014 the gym looked like a Roman Ludus; hundreds of extra bodies exploring gym equipment for the first time, getting a feel for the tools used to sculpt themselves into whatever image they had in their mind.  They had all the motivation, nothing could stop them, with resolution in mind they set forth to become something better.  As January fell into February, the motivation was gone and all that was left was those who had found discipline and discipline does not emerge from the cocoon of motivation, it something you have to forge yourself with sweat, time and resolve.  The idea of what you want has to be powerful enough for you to suffer adversity (no matter how difficult) to achieve your goal and the closer you get to that goal, the less the goal matters.  The goal falls away and the lifestyle is all that is left; instead of getting a new version of yourself to fit into your existing patterns and habits, you change the way you think about those patterns and habits, you toss out the patterns and habits that don't fit with what you want.  Its not just a gym thing, its a way of life thing, an approach to all things.  Training to finding a new job to writing a novel or building a bird house.  The more difficult the task we have in mind, the harder it will be for us to find a reason to start it.  We are comfortable in routine, in what we know; the new and what we think of as hard leaves us with all sorts of reasons to not start right now, to wait a while, to set a resolution to begin soon.  We are creatures of habit, after all and those habits allow us to make excuses, to bemoan not having enough time or energy to do something, but the time is there and if it isnt, we can make the time.  We can stop filling an hour or two each day with sedentary entertainment and instead devote that time to our goal; nearly everyone has that time if they are willing to either move some things around or give up part of the time they spend doing other unimportant things.

Training is what we do to become what we want to be with a skill or a physical way of life.  Its an idea that appeals to us enough that we make a plan to achieve it and that plan shouldn't be calender dependent.  Setbacks are coming, excuses for skipping a day or a class or to not even start are coming; be ready for the lack of motivation or the crunch of time when other life activities threaten to steal some of your time.  Every second spent working for a positive goal is better than letting that second go to waste.  Be it 15 minutes or an hour you can give each day, its going to be better than saying some day.   If you want to wait for January 1st to begin, thats fine, but just like January of this year, dont be the guy or girl who has given up before the month was over.  Grind hard, make time and crush all the excuses until that goal isnt as important as your new way of life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Law Enforcement's Divide with the People.

East German Volkspolizei, 1955
We do not have a systemic law enforcement problem in this country.  We do not see the absolute abuse of power of law enforcement as seen in East Germany, cold war Poland or Iraq, El Salvador, Pakistan, India, or many nations in Africa that have historically seen state-supported and sponsored police behavior that not just bordered on, or was criminal, it violated the very essence of human rights.

Gloria Richardson, for example, was ZFG about Bayonets in her face. 
But we do have a serious and widening divide between the state represented by the police, and the citizenry.  This dichotomy between the "protectors" and the "protected" is not a new phenomenon; we have had public issues with the conduct and use of law enforcement as a tool of the government since the beginning of our nation, from the Reconstruction after the Civil War to the Prohibition of the 1920s and beyond, certain parts of law enforcement have taken it upon themselves, or at the direction of the state, to bend, circumvent or break the law in the name of law enforcement.  As with every new generation, someone looks back to the previous generation to show the progress that we have made.
In his assessment of the police, Bruce Smith wrote  in 1940 that, in spite of the still rather bleak picture, "the lessons of history lean to the favorable side."l He pointed to the fact that the then existing police forces had moved a long way from the past associated with the notorious names of Vidocq and Jonathan Wild, and he suggested that the uninterrupted progress justifies the expectation of further change for the better. It is fair to say that this hope has been vindicated by the events of the past 30 years. American police departments of today differ by a wide margin of improvement from those Smith studied in the late in 1930's. 'l'he once endemic features of wanton brutality, corruption, and sloth have been reduced to a level of sporadic incidence, and their surviving vestiges have been denounced by even generally uncritical police apologists. Indeed, police reform, once a cause espoused exclusively by spokesmen from outside the law enforcement camp, has become an internal goal, actively sought and implemented by leading police officials.
                    -Egon Bittner, Ph.D., The Functions of The Police in a Modern Society (1970) 

Now, the interesting part about this quote is that its from a study published in the 1970s and pays little attention to the abuses of law enforcement during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which should have been fresh in the author's mind yet is suspiciously absent.  I dont believe it was maliciously intentional on the part of the author, rather the public consciousness had not yet shifted to a point where popular opinion was one of total denouncement of the police practices in the south during that time.  Of course not all law enforcement abused their authority during the Civil Rights movement, but many did and they did so in the defense of a law, which may have justified it in their minds.  In hindsight we find their behavior unforgivable.  Hindsight.

circa 1920s, long before the Meme existed.
Every generation has its divide with law enforcement and at some point the divide must be addressed.  We are entering our own divide; NSA monitoring,questionable warrants, militarization of police, riot control techniques, enforcement of regulations (as opposed to laws) where force is used and the perceived or actual use of excessive force.  As the government grows, so does its sometimes unchecked ability to change the mission of law enforcement, which is dangerous ground.

My oath as a law enforcement officer is to defend the constitution and through this, the rights of the people.  By arresting a criminal for a crime, I am providing the first step in a remedy to provide the people with a legal solution to a crime committed against the public at large, or an individual citizen, specifically the victim of the crime.  It is my opinion that someone who breaks a law has committed a crime against the people, whereas someone who violates a regulation has administratively wronged the government.  A regulation is a rule of order that has the same power as a law, yet its creation or implementation is often without the express consent of the people and in many cases the violation of a regulation creates a victim in the state where no victim would be had the state not instituted such a regulation.  The often quoted victim-less crime can be found in the mass of government regulations that protect the governments interests, not necessarily the people.  I have no problem with a regulation that serves to ensure the public safety such as the DOT regulations for mandatory safety equipment and function on motor carriers, because an 18-wheeler with substandard brakes is not acceptable on the interstates...but I unequivocally do not agree with an arrest over unregulated cigarette sales or when enforcement of that regulation (where only the state is the victim of violating the regulation) leads to the death of someone.  The nexus of the death of Eric Garner isn't if he could breathe or not, its the enforcement of a regulation where no true victim exists.

This is for protecting and saving lives, not the enforcement of laws and regulations that have no victim.
But this is only part of the cause for today's divide as I see it; the other and perhaps more troubling reason is that some in law enforcement have adopted an attitude fostered by the very nature of law enforcement itself; and that is one of distrust of the public and the belief that a law enforcement officer is not part of the citizenry.  Well, Vox Populi and the law disagrees.  Cops are civilians too, and their primary mission is protection of the people, not protection of the state.  I have worked with many LEOs that "drank the kool aide" and see themselves as separate from the public, the venerable us versus them mentality that is an easy cold to catch because the vast majority of our interactions are with the criminal element, not the honest citizen (which is largely our fault for not taking the time to talk to the people).  If this was simply an issue of semantics in defining terms we could work through it, though the fostered divide leads to a shift in thinking that is very dangerous and that is when the police begin to see Constitutionally positive citizens as some sort of subversive or disruptive group. A more recent example of this attitude was brought to us by the Spokane County (WA) Sheriffs department and a Deputy's remarks when asked why the SO needed armored vehicles:
“We’ve got a lot of constitutionalists and a lot of people that stockpile weapons, a lot of ammunition.”
Essentially the officer, Deputy Jerry Moffett, appears to have the opinion that a pro-constitution opinion is a bad thing; which bothers me greatly seeing as this same Law Enforcement officer is granted all of his powers of office via this same constitution which he is sworn to protect.  Now, to pour gas on the fire, the Spokane Co Sheriff, Ozzie Knezovich says that the video is taken out of context and that
“The term constitutionalist has a widespread meaning. Some people say I am a constitutionalist,” he said. “But people need to understand that there are people who carry that title who have killed police officers.”
My opinion is that he is confusing "Constitutionalist" with "Sovereign Citizen" and should probably correct the definition in his mind before painting with such a broad brush; after all, law enforcement officers have been murdered by Christians, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, Boy Scouts of America Counselors  and many other individuals with respectable monikers, titles or affiliations and there are no law enforcement warnings about these groups.  Unlike the Sovereign movement, a Constituionalist is on the same team a police officer is supposed to be on and that is defense of the constitution from all threats; foreign and domestic.  The Oath I took when I first put on the badge has not changed and I have not forgotten that every aspect of my job as a law enforcement officer is granted by the Constitution; in order to protect the rights provided by the Constitution.

The divide is not an epidemic, at least not yet but it is a problem.  It seems more prevalent than it is do to the magnification by the media/social media, though perception is often reality and the few bad apples mentality is often dismissing the problem instead of addressing it.  As law enforcement officers, we cannot avoid the perception of our actions any more than we can avoid the consequences of that avoidance.  I dont think we "need to open a dialog" because those are platitudes that have as much active use as "hoping for change."  What we need to do is change how we view our daily actions and use officer discretion to honor the color and letter of the law, to remember our oath.  The enforcement of the law is protection of the people and recognizing the defense of peoples rights versus the defense of the governments wants will go a long way towards repairing and improving our relationship

  Our duty is not to administration, office, government, supervisor or shift Sergeant, it is to the Constitution and by that definition and truth, Deputy Moffett is sworn to the same; hes supposed to be a Constitutionalist, too.

To end on a lighter note:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Flashlights: Just do it one way?

There are enough opinions on any given piece of gear or technique that picking the right one comes down to either what appeals to you or how much research you are willing to put into it.  The thing is, there often is no "one way" but multiple ways and multiple tools that address the same job.  Opinion rules for the most part, hopefully its an informed and trained opinion.

I recently saw an exchange over handheld Vs weapon mounted lights and which to use.  My opinion is that the question was too broad.  Use for what? Should be included but that's just my opinion. Some spoke about weapon mounted being the way to go, others were all for a handheld and each side had reasons.  One of the most common detractors against a weapon mounted light is that it draws fire. It sure can; so can a hand held, a bic lighter, a cell phone screen or any other source of light in the dark.


I can get in a shooting.  So im not leaving the house.

Wait, I can get in a shooting at home, so im leaving the house.


Just because something can occur does not mean it will, and throwing your hands up in the air when the can  realization strikes is the quickest path to being totally unprepared.  Training and proper practice help give us tools, not plans.  There is actually very little within our control when it comes to self defense but those few things we do control are some of the most important factors towards staying safe and effective.  Our gear, and how versatile we are in the use of that gear is one of the most important factors under our control.  I believe that the software is the most important part of self defense, but the software needs adaptable hardware.

Just a bit of history.

The Seely Light; available in
Call of Duty: Olde Tyme Warfare
So weapon lights can draw fire.  Despite this they are continually used by individuals who get into gunfights for a living (the military) and by individuals who may encounter a gunfight as part of their job (law enforcement).  The first handheld flashlight was patented in 1902 by Conrad Hubert, the first known weapon mounted light was patented by George Seely in 1911. Since then we have seen continued advancement in the technology; law enforcement has used weapon lights since the 1960s, the NYPD arguably being the first.  Today, mainly thanks to the innovation and miniaturization of the weapon light by Laser Products starting in the 1970s/1980s (which became what we know now as Surefire) the weapon light is common gear for the majority of work rifles and handguns.

So if the weapon light can draw fire, why is it used?  It sure sounds like its potentially a horrible idea yet its considered essential equipment to professionals and personal defense-minded individuals everywhere.

Doesnt need a weapon light, handheld or even a weapon.
Not because he was born in and molded by the dark
but because hes a fictional character.
Could the distrust of a weapon light be an issue of training? I would say yes.  We know that all light can draw fire, which is partially responsible for there being so many variations of handheld light use with a firearm; yet the potential catastrophic use of weapon mounted lights because they can draw fire has not caused the shooting world to throw them in the trash.  The fact is, proper light use minimizes the chances of the light being used against you in a use of force and the alternative is what, exactly?  In low/no light situations, you need a positive target ID and you get it with light.  Just knowing how to turn a light on/off isn't being trained in how to use it for self defense.  I know which end the bullets come out of the gun, and how to make that happen, does that alone make me trained in self defense shooting?  No.

Doesnt need a light because he is the light.
Everyone else does.
Weapon lights are great tools for confronting known threats or entering into situation where there is a high likelihood of only encountering things deserving of gunfire.  Outside of that, the weapon mounted light is more decoration than help. A weapon mounted light only helps me when the gun is out and the gun is only out when there is a reasonable expectation of using it.  I can not deter a potential threat with a weapon light.  If I am standing in line at an ATM at night or walking to my car in low light and observe an individual lurking in the shadows with no obvious purpose, how does the light on my holstered weapon help me?  It cant.  How would the handheld light in my pocket or on my belt help me?  I can have it in hand, the light itself is not recognized by polite society as a weapon, and I can illuminate that questionable individual and ask a polite question:

"Do you need help with something, sir?"

A quick flash to their face, then pulling the beam down to their chest.  I have already done much to control the situation and diffuse a potential violent encounter.  I no longer look like food.  I am alert and the potential bad guy knows this.  By pulling the beam out of his face I am aware but not confrontational and I am leaving them with an out.  Mindlessly drilling them in the eyes with the beam during the exchange could actually cause an escalation.  A purposeful flash of his eyes ruined his night vision and gave me a second or more of superior situation awareness.  This can easily be apologized for while I maintain ready light control.

No...just dont.
Already, the handheld light is a superior tool.  If I need my weapon, the handheld doesn't suddenly lose its usefulness.  There are issues with shooting grip while using a handheld just like there are issues using a weapon mounted light while shooting.  Its a more complicated procedure that is made easier through practice, not academic debate on this vs that.

Circa 1965 Breeding weapon light; we
have been doing this for a while now.
Any and all light can draw fire, supposing there is fire to be drawn.  Not all bad guys use guns just like not all situations escalate to a point where things can be predicted.  Some assaults are literal surprises and very little can be prepared for.  Personally I prefer a handheld light because in my every day carry world I use that light for many administrative and deterrence tasks.  The weapon light is there, waiting, but the handheld is helping me not to need it.  I guess I will never know how many (if any) violent situations the use of a handheld light helped me avoid.  I'm good with that.  At work, its mostly a weapon light affair because my intent changes.

There are a few things where one way is the best way, maybe even where one tool is the best tool.  Light isnt one of those situations.  Have both, or at the very least a handheld.  The only situation I could say where a weapon light is far superior is home defense and only then because of the situation.  For those that say you cant illuminate an unknown threat with a weapon light without muzzling that unknown person I would suggest a reality based low-light class focused on self-defense, not burning ammo.  Splash lighting, especially indoors, is a very useful technique that keeps us from muzzling things with WMLs until we want/need to.  Its a trained technique and there doesnt seem to be much knowledge of it outside of those who have been trained how to do it, which means those of you who have been trained how to do it are letting your buddies/loved ones down by not passing it along.

So weapon light or handheld?  Both.  Do flashlights draw fire?  They can.  The risk far outweighs the reward when used correctly.

If you want to read more on my approach to weapon/light use you can check out the two part series I did for Breach Bang Clear: Part 1 and Part 2. Or the two part I did for Monderno Part 1 and Part 2.

And since the question has been asked, here is my feeling on the Taurus Curve.

Just dont.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Straight From The Sheep's Mouth: Okay With Being a Victim

Today I read I Was Mugged, and I Understand Why by Oliver Friedfeld and, well....

Oh man, I don't even know where to start with this.  Imagine, if you will, someone so sheltered/ignorant and or idealistic that when mugged at gun point, they direct no anger at their mugger and instead blame themselves because of their "privilege."

Hold on, let me put this in perspective.
Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as “thugs?” It’s precisely this kind of “otherization” that fuels the problem.
Thats a direct quote from  Oliver Friedfeld, a senior at Georgetown University in Washington DC, who, along with his roommate was recently mugged at gunpoint (wait, a gun in DC?)

Take a deep breath.  Okay, Oliver has the opinion that since he has so much, and the criminal has so little, he has no right to blame them for robbing him and Oliver takes this circus-train of thought one step further by suggesting that referring to his muggers as "criminals," "thugs" or "bad people" isnt fair. 

Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine.

Once again, Oliver tells us so much about his way of thinking with very few words.  He places trust in a mugger, armed with a gun, and is certain that no harm would come to him.  The fact that he wasnt hurt is somehow justification for the idea that he couldn't have been hurt.  Oliver's wealth of experience in the criminal world comes from...well having relatives in Mexico City, as he says, so he considers himself not "shielded from poverty." So hes basically saying the socioeconomic equivalent of I have black friends.

Honestly, This sort of thinking isn't unique to Oliver and as much as I wish it wasn't, the idea of "checking your privilege" seems to be growing, especially at the college level where academic idealism supplants education and the radicals of the 60's and 70's are now passing along their theories to the students and leaders of tomorrow.  I dont belong to that world, never have so perhaps I cant understand it as well as someone who clocks in every day to learn how they have it so much better than other people because not they, but their parents, grandparents or ancestors put in the hard work to see their family provided for and allow for young Oliver to go to Georgetown and feel sorry for having the opportunity.  Just trying to track that line of thought hurts my head.
yeah, he probably didnt buy that...
Well I have some bad news for Oliver.  Oliver is a sheep, he is the textbook definition of food and his way of thinking isnt going to win over the hearts and minds of the unfairly treated criminals.  Oliver's philosophy creates victims-in-waiting; people who are accepting of being victimized because the criminal must certainly need what hes taking, otherwise why would he be taking it?

When we play along with a system that fuels this kind of desperation, we can’t be surprised when we’re touched by it. Maybe these two kids are caught, and this recent crime wave dies down, but it will return because the demand is still there, and the supply is still here. We have a lot, and plenty of opportunities to make even more. They have very little, and few opportunities to make ends meet.
Again, I dont know Oliver but I think it would be a safe bet to say he doesnt know how a shovel works, or how one uses a lawn mower.  Oliver may be totally out of touch with the ideas of manual labor because its looked down on in his world.  Getting a job with a construction company or installing carpet may not be considered a "hand up" in his world.  It may not be seen as worthwhile work, because, you know, Georgetown.  There isnt a single job unworthy of someone to work it.  Oliver makes excuses for those who dont have what he does when in all actuality he probably wouldnt have what he does if someone else had not have worked for it.  The men who mugged him made a choice to take rather than to earn, and who better to take from than someone at the end of a line of other peoples hard work?  Oliver's opportunities were created by someone else.  That doesnt mean he isnt capable of creating wealth of his own, Im sure he is, but to assume his muggers couldnt have chosen a different path, done honest work and built themselves up to a comfortable life is the real "privilege" thinking.

but have no fear, for Oliver really lays down the gauntlet at the end...

The millennial generation is taking over the reins of the world, and thus we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past. As young people, we need to devote real energy to solving what are collective challenges. Until we do so, we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins. I can hardly blame them. The cards are all in our hands, and we’re not playing them.

"Reins of the world"?  How does this kid hope to do so when he is obviously accepting of  being a victim?  Oliver actually thinks that he, and those like him, will suddenly find themselves in a position to change the world because they are the first ones to "understand" the criminal?  Well, I have news for him.  Every single senior class since forever has had similar ideas and we still have crime...that must mean we haven't spread the wealth around enough, right?  Or maybe it means that the more our education system produces people not able/willing to fight back and the more these same people push government to support the "less privileged" through entitlement programs, the more we are going to have this problem.  You stop the majority of opportunistic crime by changing the views of honest work, and making the crime so risky as to dissuade those too good to have an honest job from trying to take what isnt theirs.  Ditches need dug, lawns mowed, trees trimmed, buildings painted, cars serviced, windows washed, food cooked, cabs driven, dump trucks loaded, metal welded and bridges built.  Those are all honest jobs, and being okay with working them goes a long way towards not being a criminal.  I guess since everyone in America is a temporarily embarrassed millionaire, some people will keep looking down on those jobs.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Officer Down: Why No One Cares.

The vitriol, violence and nonsensical behavior of many in public, fueled and televised by the media (and on the internet, Dr. Ben Carson did a wonderful job of showing his firearm training and use of lethal force ignorance, for example) in regards to the Ferguson situation got me thinking.  Have no fear, this article isn't about Ferguson specifically because im sure we are all tired of hearing about it at this point, however, had things gone differently, would you have heard about it at all?

Think to yourself , when was the last time a police officers death made national news?  Have you heard the name Deputy Christoper Smith? What about Chief Michael Pimentel?  Sergeant Michael Joe Naylor, Deputy Danny Oliver, Constable Robert Parker White or Officer Shaun Richard Diamond?  All of these officers and many more this year, were killed in the line of duty in a fashion normally interesting to the news media; they were shot or beaten to death.  Yet no national news, only local news coverage and the major networks aren't interested in picking that up.  If Darren Wilson had lost control of his firearm and been murdered my Mike Brown, would there have been marches, protests, riots?  Would there have been a call for better police training, for new body armor, for smart guns or for more officers?  Would there have been a call for more community focused anti-crime programs?  No, there wouldn't have been.  Wilson's death would have been given the same media attention given to the opening of a new park, or a ribbon cutting for as new expressway.  The Media doesn't care about murdered officers, that is self-evident in their lack of attention to their deaths.  The public perhaps cares more, though as many are driven in their knowledge by what makes the front page of CNN or they catch on the radio on their way to work, you cant care if you dont even know it happened.  Its fairly evident from whats seen on social media that the relationship between law enforcement and the public is broken anyway.

People don't trust the police; not nearly as much as our idealistic memory tells us they did so many generations ago.  No-knock warrants, "militarized gear," DUI check points, traffic stops, police brutality, shooting unarmed but violently dangerous suspects, the list of reasons to not like the police is long.  The divide between cop and citizen gets wider and wider until we literally don't know each other and the mentality is one of us versus them.  If the cop is your frinemy, or someone who makes your skin crawl when they sneak by in a patrol car, if you believe Alex Jones or subscribe to the idea of the police state, why would you care if a cop is murdered?  If you enjoy breaking the law in the form of doing 10 over the speed limit, smoking some weed or stashing away an illegal short barreled rifle for use when the shit hits the fan why would you care if a police officer is beaten to death or shot while sitting in his patrol car doing paperwork?  The police represent, at the very least, a punishment for breaking the law and maybe you want to continue to break the law.  You aren't hurting anyone, after all.  What about all those who are?  Thats different right?  I totally agree, it is different, respecting the fact that it is different is important.

I'm going to be honest, I am biased.  I serve in law enforcement and have for many years.  However I still remember what it was like to hate the cops as a teenager, as a young adult ducking the MPs on post while in the Army, and again as a civilian after the army.  I remember that police officers had no interest in me if they were not there to see me.  Closed off from the world in patrol cars, silent in lines at a fast food restaurant, suspiciously watchful because of what I drove or maybe how I was dressed.  I remember getting the looks.  I also remember giving them years later.  I became, in a way, the officer that I didnt care about, the officer that would shake me up or ruin my night with a traffic stop. I never felt that way about a firefighter or an EMT because they only come to help.  The police, well they can come to help, or they can come to take you to jail.

We don't care when cops die because they aren't people to the mass of the public, they represent money lost to a ticket, an arrest or maybe even a physical altercation.  Their supposed inherent evil and break-the-rules mentality has been captured by film and TV; some of us were told as young children that if we didn't behave that police man would take us to jail.  The divide between citizen and police has been shoveled deep on both sides.  Some cops don't think themselves as civilians, some have a deep seated distrust of the public because the majority of their interactions with the public are with the worst of society (its sort of a job requirement).  We don't trust each other because we don't know each other.

Shockingly, not an accurate representation of the police.
Yesterday I saw a police officer helping a woman change her tire.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw that.  Its not his job to do so; but its not his job to not, either.  I did it a few times as a patrol officer, not as many times as I could have.  Serving the public is a phrase in law enforcement, maybe not as much of a practice as it should be.  We know the uniform, the car, but do we know the cop?  We don't care when a cop is murdered because we didn't know him.  There are officers with an invested interest in their community, I know there are, but do you?  Have you met an officer, got to know an officer who has no connection to you other than patrolling where you live or work?

Pictured:  Something you will never see again.
There is no social duty to respect the police, nor moral requirement to care when they are murdered in the line of duty.  No manner of law or pressure can make an individual feel anything.  We are not obligated to mourn, nor attend a funeral, donate to the surviving family or protest against the acquittal or light sentence of an officers murderer.  Thats exactly as it should be.  Respect is earned, not required and caring about someone requires a general and meaningful interaction. Knowing just how dangerous (or sometimes boring) a police officers job is requires a genuine interest.  The feelings of some against the police should be evident that they can organize and protest when they feel the police are wrong.  Some are simply interested in rioting or looting but just as many have an honest distrust and/or hatred of law enforcement because of real, imagined and media inflated situations where the police broke the public trust.

Well that never happens.
No one is in the streets protesting criminal behavior against cops, but they should be.  Its so easy to dehumanize someone; from rival sports fans to dirty faced kids in Africa, we recognize who we align with or who we are apart of.  When the police are seen as a faceless mass, a machine that's only function is to punish you for breaking a law (that are never written or passed by the police themselves), the police become inhuman and therefore not worthy of our compassion.  This isn't the citizens fault, it is the cops.

I do blame us in law enforcement because we are the only ones in the conversation who know what its like to be a citizen and a cop.  Despite some stories to the contrary, not even the most cop of cops is born a cop.  Most of us grew up with, at the least, a general distrust of the police.  We remember what its like up until we get a badge, say some words and go 10-8 and then its us against them.  We interact with the worst of society, we begin to form prejudices based on neighborhoods or streets, zip codes or clothing and we lose that feeling we used to have because we are the police now.  We are the ones with the power to change public perception one kid at a time and we fail each and every time we don't have the conversations.  If we want the public to care, we have to be willing to care first.

This isn't a blanket statement, because I know there are others out there who do put in the time to know a little more of their community than those the dispatcher sends them to meet (or see again for the 12th time this month).  If the only time we break and interact is on a call, we are wrong.  If we want the public to be rightly outraged when an officer is assaulted or murdered, they need to know who we are.  If we want the public to support our actions when they are justified, they need to understand what we do.  The Us Vs Them mentality is an epidemic that we can fix, provided we try.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Too Busy Working to Riot

I honestly dont have anything to say about the situation in Ferguson that isnt already being said by people far more eloquent than me, so I shall resort to sarcasm and give everyone in the working class world a way to show their solidarity with not being able to find the time to riot for days on end even if they wanted to.  Because nothing says America like stealing shit to show you are upset with a court decision, right?  No, wait...

So here we go....

You can get one here.  Too Busy Working To Riot.

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Books That Made Me a Better Shooter: Mindset Edition.

If you dont read, I feel sorry for you.  I'm not talking about articles like this (only, anyway) or the latest gun porn magazine, I mean actual books (even in electronic form).  Books, after all are the place where a society chooses to store its greatest lessons and knowledge and knowledge really is priceless (though some knowledge ends up in the discount bin, even better for you).

The firearms and training industry occasionally produces a great work of sound advice, but sometimes they read more like instruction manuals on "if A happens, you must do B" which can turn a lot of readers off.  Now, self-defense is a wide ranging topic that doesn't begin at violence, thats where it ends.  Because of this fact, I tend to read outside of the topic on things that relate to it in ways that can make me a better teacher, shooter or help me more effectively shape a self defense mindset.

I know, I know here we go with the mindset thing again.  Well I have a secret about mindset, take all the academic color codes and states of awareness and throw them in the trash, because thats a borrowed mindset.  The information is useful in an academic sense, but it doesn't help establish a new method of behavior without you first accepting that a new behavior is needed.  These neat little graphs also do little to change your mindset because they are someone elses mindset, not yours.  You are getting the end result of someone elses train of thought instead of taking the journey yourself.  The best way to validate (or ignore) the academics of the color code or whathaveyou mentality is to dive into it yourself as a topic.  So, this post is only for the most interested of readers because there will be no memes, little satire and probably way more words than usual.  Buckle down or close the window.

"10" is an arbitrary number, I could have went with "20" or "100" but I wanted to highlight my 10 personal favorites in hopes that you pick up one and it takes you down the rabbit hole.  I have no suggested destination, no color code or awareness diagram, just a sincere hope that you learn something new. Oh, and these are not actually in order of most favoritist to least.

1: Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century Howard Bloom (2001).  Link.

Jesus Christ, this guy blew my mind when I read his first book, The Lucifer Principle and Global Brain kept it going.  Global Brain from a self-defense position teaches us some interesting occurrences in the old fight or flight model and pounds the second "O" in OODA, Orient.  I read Global Brain when it was still a new release and have read it 3 times since then.  I thought I knew Orient until I read this book.  Want to know what makes you, you?  This is a damn good place to start.

2: The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood James Gleick (2012)  Link.

I was trying to find out more about Claude Shannon and stumbled upon this book.  I read it, and I have to say that Claude Shannon's information theory  (all information exchange should remain as simple as possible at all times I wrote about it here and here.) is just the tip of the communication ice berg.  Is communication important to self-defense?  Yes; not just the verbals but the physical cues.  This book talks about "information glut" and how we can lose the most important bits of information by viewing them emotionally instead of on their merits alone.  Taking Shannon's theory to a whole new level, this work helps you better understand OODA, Hicks Law and helped me shape my teaching methods when it came to confronting potentially violent threats.  reading this book also gives you new mindset into the Internet Troll and lazy commenters in general.

3: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain David Eagleman (2012)  Link.

So you want a better understanding of how the brain works, what limitations it puts in our way and how to decrease reaction time and fine tune your methods, this is a damn good place to start.  I really thought I had a firm grasp on reaction time and startle responses until I read this book.  How reliable is your short term memory, long term memory?  How do you harness the power of unconscious competence?  If they made this book into a movie it would star Johnny Depp and probably gross $10 billion dollars; forget what you think you know and go into it thinking this the brain named itself. 

4: Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are Joesph Ledoux (2003)  Link.

I really don't even know where to start with this one, Someone recommended I read The Gift of Fear so I did.  Dont get me wrong, its a great book but its not going to make this list.  If The Gift of Fear is a trickle of information, Synaptic Self is a world-changing-fundraiser-with-Bill-Clinton-Asking-You-For-Donations-Nuclear-Reactor-Destroying-Clint-Eastwood-Movie-Featuring-Matt-Damon-Making-Tsunami of biblical proportions.  Diving feet first into the emotional and deductive activities of the brain, Synaptic Self forces you to look to your own memories and see your responses to fear, anger and other stimulus in a new light.  Not only that, it will help you recognize and call bullshit on hokey/gimmick self-defense techniques as soon as you see them because you, if nothing else, will come away with a great understanding of how the brain processes threat stimulus and what we can and cant do to change its method.

5: Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement Jim Glennon (republished 2012)   Link.

This fucking guy.  Jim Glennon is a cops cop and no matter your feelings on cops, hes been interacting with, fighting and arresting violent felons longer than many of us have been alive.  I had the pleasure of listening to Jim speak at a Street Survival seminar and bought his book because he was hilarious.  So is the book, but its a candid, layman-esc look at conversations with criminals and the clues they give you to help predict their intentions, diffuse a situation or avoid them all together.

6:  Just Two Seconds Gavin De Becker (2008)  Link.

The Gift of Fear is De Beckers most well known book, and one that was very successful outside of the "shooting community" though Just Two Seconds is directed at the armed (and sometimes unarmed) protector and takes a look at over a thousand violent encounters to glean the anecdotal commonalities in violent encounters and potential violent encounters.  This book doesnt have a specific mission, rather its a clearing house of data that presents a very unique picture of the problems we face as shooters when "planning" for an attack.  Theres what you can and what you cant control and this book does a great job of showing the differences.  A warning, this book is George R. R. Martin long and its unlikely that HBO will make it into a show staring Peter Dinklage so you will have to read its 650 pages or not get the information at all.

7: Once an Eagle Anton Myrer (1968) Link. 

This is a work of fiction, but so what?  Once an Eagle follows the Army career of a fictional Sam Damon and it is an epic story of leadership, dedication, humility and resolve that spans over 800 pages.  Despite this length, ive read it twice and each time I find unique lessons in personal discipline in the character interactions.  The bad guy (or antagonist, if you want to be literally literal)  is a scum bag officer that Sam cant seem to get away from and one who tries to manipulate, subvert or destroy each chance he gets.  I cant really do the book justice in a paragraph or ten but I can say that if you want to read one work of fiction that will get your synapses firing and make you genuinely angry at situations that never happened and people who never existed, this is it.  this book was (maybe still is) required reading at the Army Staff College and for a reason.  Speaking more to the esoteric nature of mindset than directly to its plan, Once an Eagle is well worth the time to read it.  Easily in my top three favorite books eva'.

8:  Shooting to Live W.E. Fairbairn, E.A. Sykes (republished 2008)  Link.

Before Forward Isosceles was a thing, Modified Weaver ruined self defense shooting for a few decades and Kinesthetics was a science applied to self-defense, there was Fairbairn and Sykes. Shooting to Live is a book on handgun combatives written on first and second hand experiences from the 1930s during Fairbairn/Sykes time with the Shanghai Municipal Police, now before you discount it based on where the experience was gained, Shanghai in the 1920s-1930s was more wild west than our exaggerated history of the actual wild west.  Fairbairn is (rightly) critical of taking too much from the lessons of competitive shooting and trying to fit them into self defense shooting and he lays the foundation for which the modern fight pistol training is built on.  In today's world, the instructors with actual gunfight experience come from the military (not quite the same thing as citizen focused self-defense training) or law enforcement (a bit closer).  Fairbairn/Sykes gained combat-like experience in the urban environment armed with (arguably) less than the average CCW carries in the way of gear.  This one is a must read, some of the lessons are period dated based on the technology at the time but many of its lessons are timeless and show just how forward thinking Fairbairn and Skyes were.

9:  The Gun C. J. Chivers (2011)  Link. 

Unlike Presidents, books still win internationally recognized and prestigious awards based on their content.  The Gun is about the history of the AK-47, but so much more at the same time.  From the reason why the Army went .45 (hint, it had nothing to do with the Moro rebellion and everything to do with John Gatling, a basement and some hanging pigs) to the how and the why of the M16 debacle.  This is a book about gear, and the only one i'll put on this list.  I put it here because it gives a great account of gear focused behavior and how the mindsets behind the weapons drove their successes and failures, adoption or ignorance.

10:  Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond  (1999)  Link.

Oh look, another Pulitzer winner.  Jared Diamond is probably my favorite anthropologically focused writer and with good reason, Guns, Germs and Steel gives a great account of how society created the warrior class, fostered the warrior mindset and how society works to destroy that which it creates.  A historical tale of winning the geographical lottery and how being in the right place helped historical empires come to power.  More of a broad focus on societal mindset than individual, this book will answer questions you didnt know you had about the myth and fact of power.  More academic than directly useful information, its still an excellent read for those interested in the history of the fighting mind.

I only gave myself room for 10 books, so a lot of books didnt (and wouldnt) make the cut but any one of them can take you down a road that will help you fine tune your approach to mindset.  Books specifically about self-defense are fine, though they lack the depth of knowledge that history and the sciences can give us.  As the mind is the true weapon, it needs just as much focused training as the tools it uses to fight.

As always, if you like it, share it, comment, give it a +1 below and train accordingly.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Co-Witness: How to Most Effectively Negate Your Optic

Red dot/holographic sights are pretty much a requirement on the modern fighting rifle, You really aren't going to get any respect from the internet by posting photos of your high end AR with a simple set of folding irons, or worse, committing the sin of having fixed sights and a parade sling.  Just as important is setting up the best possible photo setting to really capture the essence of how awesome your gear is.

But in all seriousness, the red dot has a place on the modern rifle and that place is mounted without the interference of iron sights.  The first known use of a red dot sight in combat was the Son Tay Raid in 1970.  The Optic was a Single Point Occluded Eye Gunsight and for 1970 they were the cutting edge in communist shooting optics.  Its also interesting to note that the OEGs were used for props in Star Wars, which makes them hard to come by now days.
who wore it better?
It was not until 1997 that the US Army adopted a red-dot for widespread use (the Aimpoint Comp M2 or M68 CCO) and co-witnessing was something that was not optional because of the rifle at the time (mainly the M16 A2 ) did not have removable/foldable sights.  Another reason (one that is more of a point of contention) is that the red dots were not considered reliable enough and co-witnessing was done so that the irons could be used the second the red dot failed.  We have come so very far from the early days and optic reliability is to a point where they are just as durable and reliable as iron sights.  This is more of a personal belief for me, though I can say that in my career I have broken two front sight posts and zero Aim Points, so there's that.

get to the point.
So what is co-witnessing?  Well its basically having fixed rear/forward traditional sights with the red dot optic in the middle.  Why is it bad?  The advantage to a red dot optic is simple; it reduces the number of focal planes needed to shoot accurately.  With a red dot I superimpose the dot over my desired point of impact, use my mechanical fundamentals and boom, four more and I get a drone strike (well, it was a drone strike in my day, I don't know what the kids are getting these days).

When using iron sights I must focus on the rear, align it to the front, confirm my POA on the threat, then go back to focusing on the front sight, thats three focal planes.  When it comes to shooting, 2 is better than 3.

So if I am co-witnessing, what am I really doing?  Using 4 focal planes.  I have a rear, a red dot floating in the middle, a front sight post and then my target/'threat.  While I can ignore the rear sight reasonably well, that front sight is still in my field of vision and the entire package makes the eye work way harder than it should.

Yes, Xibit, you are on now.
Back up iron sights are just that and should be folded down when not needed.  This isnt an epidemic, as the newer generation of shooters who may have never used a fixed sight rifle are coming up with the red dot being the primary experience (which means their iron sight skills may be less than adequate but that's a conversation for a different time).

Now, we have become confident in the red dot sight for rifles just in time to not trust them on handguns.  The red dot is becoming more popular for range toys and as a realistic carry option for your EDC, however the co-witness problem is ever present as the common configuration places the red dot right back between two fixed sights.  

AYFKM? I thought we were past this.
When a slide is milled to accept a reflex sight (red dot) the pistol generally needs suppressor height sights to make use of the iron sights possible. that rear sight is not only much more pronounced and in your field of vision, it is also something we are hard wired through years (or decades) of pistol shooting to pick up on unconsciously.  
The common configuration, beard not included.
By placing the rear sight forward of the optic you will still have use of the iron sights if they are needed but you are able to pick up the dot in the optic first, as the optic is the first object your eye will track to as the pistol comes into your field of vision.
Like so.  its hipster because you probably havent heard of it.
This rear-sight-forward configuration is given sideways glances by some because they feel as if they are sacrificing a great deal of sight radius and therefore accuracy when using the irons.  It is true that you are giving up alot of sight radius, a Glock 17 in this configuration has less of a sight radius than the compact Glock 26, though does it affect accuracy that much?  In my experience, no, it doesn't. Practical accuracy remains unchanged and the average shooter can still get respectable accuracy at distance, though realistically do you really think you are going to need your irons for 100 yard self defense shooting?  Highly unlikely.   The Reflex style red dots popular for handguns are durable, none more (in my opinion) than the Trjicon RMR.  I have been using the RMR on pistols and rifles for a while and have yet to break one despite running my guns pretty damn hard.

like so.
So until someone invents a set of folding pistol sights, I will continue to run my rear sight forward of the optic to prevent the focal plane confusion and avoid co-witnessing all together.  Just something to think about.

As always, if you like it, give it a +1 below.