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.