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
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So I hitched a few rides with a couple different units, back out where ever I was hiking as civy in the middle east, and I would stay that any of those units would be far better at staying alive while under fire than any normal person back in the us. Of course this caused many of them to freak out coming back to the us, as high strung and worried about some random person blowing up in front on them as an insurgent missed them and shot the person in front of them. There is two mindsets over there. One the hero’s they have not yet seen someone hit by 7.62 by 39 round that takes off limbs or blows out chest cavities at thirty feet. Ninety percent of shooting over there is with semi automatic rifle fire. Most of it is by insurgents who are dirty poor and told that there lives and their families lives will magically get better if… and that if changes based on what ever the people running these insurgents want. I still think who ever is running them is simply trying for wide spread anarchy to take over land once the people living there kill each other off. Most of the training that operators get is ojt the stuff that get in school is more about what do when you can not ask for help. If you can not shoot straight and make it through the obstacle course you never become delta force elect, which means that every solider in basic goes through the challenge course those that score high enough are shifted into a honor flight/platoon or advanced selection instead of AIT. That obstacle included crawling through sand while soaking wet with live rounds not blanks firing over head. It is timed and you can not raise up more than four inches if your a skiny guy and less if you heavyset… if you get caught in the barbed wire above you, you fail the course, wash back to a non selection flight or platoon. The joking being every infantry man is a rifleman first and foremost. The army says you are infantry man first and foremost because they feel doctors and medics are just as important even if they can not shoot. The air force requires you to hit a one foot target with sixteen bullets the issue they allot to every person on an air force base. Your score is based on your groupings. Mine was eighty because my grouping was the size of quarter with a dirty worn out M16, that I manages to clear a jam and finish shooting in less time than it took for a range master to grab one of the airmans rifle jam a 100 round drum in and empty it into a target cutting it in half, because it meant I eliminated sixteen targets and cleared a jam in less time than he could empty a drum mag which is nuts. Because if I can shoot that fast that accurately I could put rounds down field not effected by stress to kill with a M16, but I was already delta force elect at that point and they were going to make me a combat controller after that. Which means running all over the middle east lasing targets so that when a marine jet goes to bomb a building, the marine pilot knows there is someone on the ground that looked and saw no kids playing in the building. Other things came up but I still have the shred out in my military records. There are a look of actors running around talking about having been in the military and getting shot at that have never seen a bullet hit the enemy, talking about bleeding wounds… meh the only people bleeding out from small wounds got hit by shrapnel from the bullet hitting a solid object. Cops are supposed to be trained in pairs, so that there is always someone to their back or their six. Training them to deal with people are insurgents will run this country. Most people are basically decent people until greed or despair caused them to do stupid things. cops need to be better trained to deal with fire arms in general since most can not shoot accurately enough to hit only what they are aiming at. That is why you hear them complaining about over pressuring a wall… when you are shooting a hand gun into someone and round misses and goes through three or four two inch thick walls… well that is bad construction since the human body will deflect sixty percent of the rounds energy if the wall only deflects twenty percent it is too thin. But a cop that is trading bullets instead of shooting to suppress the target then disable is simply most cops. They are busy worrying about getting shot so the stress gets to them. On instructor told me to stop worrying about shooting and simply focus on shooting when I was kid. He also taught me to learn how to shoulder the rifle before thinking about the target or the bullets. I was camp edge in late eighties early nineties and treasure island and one other so I would go and get another rifle badge by simply not sewing any of my patches on so they did not know I had the badge already. Which meant getting range time every summer one of the range instructors I think caught because they used me as the example of how to shoot. They also had a couple Remington 700 that if you did well with the 22’s you got to try shooting. So when I started buying my own guns I was shooting remington 740, 7400, 750… the hand gun, well I shot a couple revolvers and pistols growing up but it was not until I was in the military that I shot an SF92. Most military shoot rifles so your average military enlisted generally may not know how to shot a handgun as only officers and operators carry pistols. The operators carry them as backup weapons so have to qualify on them. Someone who fails to qualify on any of the weapons they certified on usually has to shoot until they do and while the first thousand rounds come out the range budget every round after that comes out of the soldiers pocket, and you can not shoot reloads on a military range, usually… I know because I was trying to certify on a rifle that was up for duty selection for my unit, one time I went through three thousand rounds before the range master say hand me that rifle. He shot it and started laughing and said it was improperly boresighted which is why you are supposed to shoot without sights. He took it apart right there shot it without the scope on it and said here try it this way on the house. I aimed down the rifle and plinked the whole clip sub moa my normal quarter size whole. He was laughing at me for week as I had to work off the cost of the ammo, for not trying it without the scope sooner. It was only like two hundred bucks but I still had to work it off replanting strakes and policing brass. So having deal with active duty having to go through city where every one is eyeing you like you are some evil sprite to steal their wives and children but don’t want to get bombed in relation like their last government did when people started shooting most follow find cover even a curb a hedge anything to prevent the shooter from getting a good look at where you are… dropping straight down and shooting the legs out we laughed at the joke of legging a mech but I know one guy said that was a person how can you joke about it. I said you either laugh or you cry and I would rather laugh deal with the fact someone shot and me and now they are dead than sit their crying I could not figure out to shot them from shooting at me without killing them. The solider said I was just f’ing psycopath. I shrugged and said the next time you see you wife say a prayer to what ever god you belive in I was hear this time because four of the six are dead before you took any rounds. Next time you have to hope that your buddies kill the people with no hope because they are not seeing you as a person only something to gain wealth or something for themselves. Those people in the village if they get shot go ahead and cry but once some one is only trying to kill you for money don’t pity them. He reported it to his commander and they put another medal in my jacket. I was just getting a ride back to the tent city in saudi to go home. I shrugged it off but I am certain that I had no idea if the guy ever learned the lesson but out of fifteen guys on the truck the rest would have far better able to deal with disabling a target to question them once the shooting stops or some times even while it was still going on, than any civy that did not go through that mess in the sandbox. so your students are people and people have strenghts and weakness but to say that seal or ranger that came back from midcom, the shortest tdy I ever took over there was four days, during which their was five ied attempts, six random people shooting each other that happened over there in the area I was in, so the odds are really long that any operators that went over there did not have someone try to blow them up at least once and get shot at more than once. I have seen the fakers those I would not trust with any firearm but that about their ethics almost as much as expecting them to cover up lack of skill. Something to think about is that most of the military do things in active combat zones they never do on the range, mostly because on military ranges you get get back epr for those things that might save your life. Most of us would load the mag lock the bolt shut and carry the rifle on safe. The reg said unloaded. Since most of the rifles used gas blow back or gas from the firing to load the next round accidentally hitting the trigger was usually safe. The normal process is jacking the door open and then slamming it shut on the first round in the mag. So if you saw that then my guess is you should point out that your students might simply be better trained not to do what you some times have to do in a combat zone where people will target you because you look different or have a uniform on. I can pass for russian so it is hit or miss how they saw me over there. Some areas well looking russian was actually worse so I had to buzz my hair down and make sure to be clean shaven. Which most people over there simply assumed nato military with that having it’s own problems. But you really should tell what it is that you think your students do better than randomly saying they are better. Most people who don’t know how to quanity what it is that like, which have the time means they pad your ego, making you feel better while you may simply feel threated by scary people. Most operators get treated badly because people treat them like they are some kind of alpha male when most are really laid back guys because once you have confidence you don’t need attitude.
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.