Monday, December 1, 2008

Training and Conduct Under Stress

Once upon a time in a previous life, I had some training in law enforcement. It occurred during a sideways phase of my 20 years with the US Navy. One of the many lessons that I learned at that time, which has only been reinforced by later experience was the truth of the maxim - "Train the way you will fight, because you will fight the way you were trained." This was especially practiced at the firing range. During my time in the Navy we switched from qualifying by shooting the NRA 25 yd pistol course of fire to a combat type course. Another change that was made on the basis of FBI research into law enforcement vs. bad guy gunfights was waiting until the end of the day to "police" (clean) the expended brass. Seems that in a number of gunfights policemen had been killed by majoring in minors, they were policing their brass while the fight was still on.

Still drawing on my Navy experience, as anyone with Navy or other Military experience will remember, much of our time was spent on drills. Practicing how to do things needed to protect the ship from damage / prevent further damage. In my one experience with combat / disaster, I was amazed at just how much of what I did was done on auto pilot and the amount of effort needed to do things that were outside of the trained responses.

Ok, so you are wondering where I am going with this. I've seen some questions about the terror attacks on Mumbai. I will not second guess the cops who were on the scene. The reason that I won't is that if you weren't there you don't know all of the facts. It would appear to me on the face of it that the Mumbai police department has a training problem. It has taken me a couple of days of thought to conclude that it is probably not an Indian psychology problem as their commando forces were able to take care of the terrorists once they engaged. I feel like I have stepped out onto a thin branch because even that conclusion is based on supposition rather than knowledge.

The closest thing that I can compare the Mumbai incident to is an attempted bank robbery in LA several years ago where the robbers, equipped with AK-47's, body armor and a large dose of ego, forced the LAPD into a stand off, until LAPD was able to borrow from a local vendor, the equipment that they needed.(1)

Don't bother telling me that I am comparing apples with tomatoes. North Hollywood was not a terrorist attack. The point is LAPD officers, out gunned, worked together to overcome the odds against them, get the needed equipment on scene and eventually control the situation. We will never know how many people would have survived in Mumbai if the police there had been more active in confronting the terrorists.

(1)North Hollywood Shootout

1 comment:

newine said...

re. 'going out on a limb'... welcome to blogging!! :)

Re. Mumbai police:

1) it's nearly impossible, knowing what we know now, to re-create the conditions of uncertainty faced by individual policeman on the ground.

2) I suspect that, like on 9-11 when fire and police radios interfered with each other when used at scale, that the Indian cops' lack of sophisticated networking (a la, for example, the mass murdering islamists with their Blackberries) was part of the problem, and with it, any broad situational awareness. (E.g., "I see what I see in front of me, but I can't appreciate the magnitude of the action and that restricts me to old modes of dealing with it that are more appropriate to isolated crimes than to what amounts to a battle in a war")

3) One cannot, by definition, train for the 'unimaginable' and, for the most part, large institutions (such as police forces) do not invest time or energy in going beyond the bounds of their history-colored, safe, slow-moving, blinkered versions of what is 'imaginable'.

4) We would not want, as you note, to have individuals with guns becoming overly imaginative in the moment lest dis-information by the bad guys evoke a response that took advantage of just that fact.