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.
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.
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.
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: https://www.youtube.com/user/daddycop3