Working From Cover

By Abner Miranda

On July 7, 2016 the Dallas Police Department, and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police (DART) were attacked by a gunman who used skill and bold conviction to exploit the inadequate training inherent in law enforcement. I want it to be crystal clear that the tenor of this article is one of respect for my brothers and sisters in uniform. However, the blood of our slain cries to us to learn from its shedding.

When I first saw the video of the DART officer being engaged at the pillar I said “that dude’s about to get...killed!” I saw it coming because I’ve trained extensively on how to work from cover. The officer literally didn't know any better, he reverted to the basic human instinct to seek shelter. He sucked up on cover to figure out what to do next. There’s no time to think, gunfighting is reaction to action.

Work The Angles

Let’s take that event and break it down so we can learn from it. The DART officer is trading shots with the killer. The officer works the cover from his right side and returns fire. The officer is keeping his left side to the pillar in an effort to remain as close as possible to the only substantial thing he can find to fight from. They trade shots for a moment, then there’s a momentary break in the action. The killer advances, the officer fires again, the killer fires back which causes the officer to roll back behind cover. Here is where the officer’s lack of knowledge caught him. Instead of centering on the cover and remaining in a forward facing position, he did what is humanly natural to do under such a threat. He placed his body close to the cover, in a head down position, and leaned into the only solid object he could find. It’s classic sensory overload with nothing to fall back on. I’ve seen it in force on force training and I’ve seen it in the live fire shoot houses many times. People just vapor lock when there is too much sensory input.

It goes contrary to what you want to do. To face the cover and stay off of it so as to be able to see around it is just crazy. However, that is what you have to do to be able to use both sides of your peripheral vision. This is hard to do when sim rounds are whizzing by you and It’s darn near impossible to learn when real bullets are coming by. Anyone who’s ever done force on force training knows that the instant that your opponent lets off you exploit it, and advance on him, and that is exactly what the killer did. He saw the officer roll behind cover, and he advanced.

The officers final mistake was that when the shooting hiccuped for the briefest of moments he rolled around the right side of the pillar using his head first, then his shoulder. He looked exactly where he’d last seen the threat. The killer, however, came at the officer from the opposite side from where he’d last seen the officer’s face. He jinked right, advanced quickly, and shot the officer all the way to the ground. Think about what that means, just by itself. He knew what he was doing and the officer didn’t.

Dallas Shooter Advancing Towards Officer

Could the officer have prevailed in that fight and come out with his life? Possibly. Had he worked cover aggressively he might’ve kept the killer at bay and possibly have even gotten some fatal hits on him. Likewise, the officer might’ve still lost his life in the fight, but as mentioned before, he might’ve inflicted deadly wounds on the killer, and taken him out before losing his own life. What is fact is that the killer used the officer’s lack of training against him. The killer was a predator and the officer was not. Is it wrong to be a predator? Nope! I’m a predator, I study violence because I want to know how best to defeat the enemy.


What could’ve been done to keep this from happening? The simple answer is that we have to train our officers. We need to stop treating our cops like they’re social workers and train them to be predators. We need to make it a felony, nationwide, to swing at a cop, spit at a cop, or even stick a camera in a cops face while he’s trying to do his job. Simply put, anything that anyone intentionally does to distract a cop from doing his duty needs to be treated as a felony. You think that’s too harsh a punishment? Shut the hell up! Clearly, you’ve never been a cop!

The reason that society will not stand up for the cops is because it’s easier to bury dead cops and pay survivor’s benefits than it is to spend the millions that are necessary to train all the cops and keep them trained.

Before you can fix the problem you have to identify it. If you acknowledge that there’s a problem (lack of training) then you are duty bound to fix it. The vast majority of agencies can barely afford to meet their yearly qualification criteria. The funding for training week can potentially sink an agency due to the overtime needed to pull that off. I’ve been a cop and can tell you first hand that I’ve seen how poorly agencies are funded. The LE agencies of our nation aren’t funded based on the choices of Chief’s or Sheriffs, they’re funded by politicians who are more interested in book clubs, and arts programs.

Several years ago, when I was still a cop, I sat down and figured out what it was costing me to go to tactical training courses. Take a three day class for example. Between time missed from work, ammo, hotel, food, fuel, and course cost you’re looking at somewhere around $1200 per class. For an agency of 200 officers to send everyone to tactical training, twice a year, comes out to $480,000. LE agencies are not going to get funding to do this sort of thing until administrators recognize that the town funded functions are less important than the lives of the officers who are out-skilled by the criminals. This is further aggravated by the general sense of apathy that pervades the ranks of a lot of agencies. This entrenched mentality squelches the advancement of new techniques and until it changes we’ll keep losing officers to violent deaths.

Abner Miranda from Cover

Warrior Citizen

My time in law enforcement was plagued by jerk cops who never saw the validity of my efforts to get myself trained. I wish I could tell you that there are more cops that are interested in being warriors than cops who are just in it for the paycheck, and the power trip, but, that’s not been my experience.

Here is the supremely sad part about all of this. The vast majority of cops don’t even know what they don’t know. I once taught an AR-15 familiarization inservice at my agency. I had everyone clear their weapons with the command of “clear and lock.” One of my sergeants looked at me sheepishly and said “Miranda, can you show me how to get my mag out again?” Folks I wish I was making this stuff up. When you hear the phrase “highly trained officers” you really should chuckle a little because I’ve yet to see but a handful of such cops. I could tell you stories of some of the SWAT Operators I worked with during my time at INFORCE. It was harrowing the level of ineptitude I dealt with. My former boss can attest to a great deal of it because we used to sit and talk about what we saw with absolute shock. Folks this is painful to write, but this apathy must stop. Too many cops are being slaughtered for lack of training.

I can say, with steadfast authority, that the private citizens of our nation are far better trained than most cops, soldier, or SF operators I’ve trained with. And yeah, I’ve trained with Cops, Soldiers, SWAT Officers, US Marshals, FBI Agents, DEA Agents, ATF Agents, Delta, Rangers, SEALs, and Marines. Few, precious few from the aforementioned list have even come close to the Doctors, Nurses, IT Technicians, Photographers, Welders, Plumbers, and Soccer Moms I’ve had the privilege of training with. Once again, I wish I were making this up.

Training From Cover

The fact is that when I attend a training class of roughly 23 people, three might be cops, the rest are private citizens who want to learn. On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed cops make statements such as “if they want me to go to training they need to pay for it” or my personal favorite “if it isn’t issued, I don’t need it, and that goes for my training too!” That mentality is killing our cops.

Why does this bother me so much? Because I have a heart for those buddies that are still in uniform. Also, because America needs cops to stand in the gap and fight for us. You can lie to yourself all you want, but when trouble comes looking for blood no amount of bravado will see you through that encounter.

As always, God bless you all, get those guns out and practice. Have a good one!

~Abner Miranda is a former Police Officer, an FBI trained Hostage Negotiator, a First Responder, and Spanish Interpreter. He is currently a Firearms Instructor, an Armorer, and a regular contributor to our industry of both written and digital media. You can see more of Abner’s work on his YouTube channel:




I was a bit butt-hurt to comment further before, but I wanted to pickup where I left off::

I think we need to avoid criticizing folks and still get the message across without marginalizing or making blanket claims to the lack of skills witnessed by our clients as instructors. I would never discuss my clients deficiencies and label it with blanket statements that most cops or military have poor skills, and that civilians show more initiative in their training endeavors.. While I understand what you are observing, but we need to be careful to not judge others before we understand the limited access to resources that many of the police and military folks have. I understand that you are trying to send a message to incite civilians and police into awareness that this problems exists, I get it. We also have to remember that police and military are in fact civilians, when they lay down the uniform.

These populations are pressed for time and resources. And I totally agree that they need to make time for better training. Unfortunately as you mentioned we live in a Return on Investment ROI world, and if it doesn’t have a clear quantifiable ROI, it’s probably not going to happen because of the institutionalization and bureaucracy that is systemic in our society.

We face many challenges, and it would serve us far greater to send the message that good life saving training, will probably not come down the line, and we have to take it upon ourselves to get motivated and spend the time and money to prepare ourselves for what the criminal element will throw at us. If you take the other route you risk alienating yourself from clients, and in certain cases making false claims.

I really love your material, and I liked where you were going with the beginning of the article. But I had a difficult time chewing through all the training deficiency claims to get through to the meat and potatoes of your write up.


Nice article sir, I work with a handful of cops who actually work on there shooting skills, but most could give a crap less. Guys are there for the paycheck and benefits nothing more they could care less if they write a ticket or affect an arrest. They always expect the high speed training on the jobs dime. Thx for shedding light on the issue of proper training can save your six.


I’m not sure who you train with but most civilians are terrible and have zero real world experience to understand the point of the training. You kind of ruined your credibility on that one.


So you are claiming that a SEAL has less training than many of your civilian students? I call BS.

Abner Miranda

David, don’t worry I intend on covering that in a future article and a follow up video too. There’s only so much room I have to work with when dealing with the allotted word count of a blog.

Abner Miranda

Jeff, thank you for your comment. Can you expound on what you meant regarding the CEU’s? Yes I know that it means Continuing Education Units, but what are you referring to?

David Kozicki

I was hoping to read an article that provided some insight into the proper use of cover and positioning. After 35 years in the field, I know what the “systemic” problems are. It would be helpful if you wrote a follow up article with some nuts and bolts solutions for practioners like me.

Todd Nicoll

While l agree that more funding needs to be made available to train police officers, maybe police officers need to take it upon themselves to become better trained. It is stated in the article that some civilians are better trained. Well, civilians sought out training courses on their own time and with their own funds. A little off topic, in general, care needs to be taken on the kind of articles published. This is the kind of ammo the anti gun nuts like to use to disarm civilians.

Jeff jaroszewicz

Great article, very informative. To bad it doesn’t count for CEU’s… The article gave me a much broader view on the merits of tactical training… Thank you!!!

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