Subject Behaviour / Officer Response

It’s been a busy few months in Delta with several dozen shootings along the Delta / Surrey border related to the street level drug trade.  I’ve been working as part of a uniformed Violence Suppression Team initiative.   Our mandate has been to be highly visible and check anyone suspected of involvement in gangs or drugs and to disrupt their business in the area.  Some of our activities involve priority response to shooting scenes, vehicle checks, curfew and condition compliance of known offenders, our Inadmissible Patron Program (removing anyone related to gangs, violence or drugs from licensed establishments) and street level drug and weapons enforcement. We’ve been quite busy.

As you may imagine, dealing with the potential violence of armed offenders with a predisposition to public violence, we have certain tools and force options at the ready.

In the photo above are a couple of the guys I’ve been working with. As the project and investigations are on going I can’t speak much about them.  I can talk about one call that my partner and I happened upon while working one evening though that speaks to our preparation and our deployment of force options.  This call actually combined the use of many of our specialized tools available to properly trained patrol officers in Delta.

To set the tone, I was working a Violence Suppression shift with my partner, my good friend who happened to also be my partner at the Academy.  We’ve been close since we got on the job and we work very well together, he truly is a brother (from another mother).

It was a dry night, just past dark and we were just leaving the Police Station, I was driving and he was probably making a joke about my control issues (I’m not a great passenger).  We got half way down the block away from the station and saw a male walking up the shoulder toward us drinking from a 40oz liquor bottle.  I’d passed him, turned around and got back in front of him. I stopped the truck, the male turned away, I turned the emergency lights on letting him know we were stopping him.

Partner and I both stepped out of the truck, the male turned back around at us, about 20 meters away, drew a knife from his pocket and began screaming at us that he was going to make us shoot him. This very routine pedestrian check just turned hostile and potentially deadly.   We couldn’t let him walk away and we couldn’t let him harm himself or us.

Have you ever seen how long it takes a goal oriented person to run 20 meters?  No time at all.  Knives are quite capable of inflicting lethal wounds.  Partner and I both instinctively drew our sidearms.  My partner had the male’s attention and began giving him commands to stop moving.

Put yourself in our shoes, let me walk you through this.  Imagine what you’d see, what you’d feel and what you would do;

You’re on a dimly lit street, houses on one side, a large school field to the other, police station behind you, more houses behind the person. An emotionally distraught person, with a knife, demanding that you kill him or he’ll attack you forcing you to kill him.  He’s 20 meters away and there’s nothing between you.

  • You’re holding a sidearm
  • You’re looking down the sights
  • Your finger is indexed, off the trigger
  • You have to get on your radio and let everyone know what’s happening.
  • You need to turn your light on to see him better
  • You need to talk to him
  • You need to think clearly
  • You need to de-escalate
  • You need to know if there’s someone behind him
  • You need to see if there’s someone else, a bystander, that he could attack
  • You need to understand what he’s screaming
  • You need to protect the public
  • You need to protect yourself and your partner
  • You need to protect the subject
  • You need to assess and decide on a “line in the sand” when you must deploy lethal force
  • Is this alcohol induced? Is this a mental health issue? Is this an emotional reaction?  Does it matter?
  • You have a microsecond.

Now allow me to illustrate what went through my mind and what steps we took; Seconds go by.  My partner begins to establish dialogue with the male.  Because we work well together, know each other’s training, have trained in reality based scenarios, we have confidence in each other.  Our tasks split.

My partner had dialogue and naturally took on the role of negotiator.  I took on the role of lethal overwatch and as resources started arriving, became the team lead. My partner is constantly assessing the male’s behaviour while actively listening to him and starting dialogue in an attempt to de-escalate.  He still has to protect himself and manage his force options.

I take a moment and quickly transition to my patrol carbine.  My carbine (rifle) has pin-point accuracy at a greater distance than my pistol, it also has magnified optics mounted on it so that I can assess the male’s behaviour from a safer distance.  I know that if I have to use lethal force it’ll be dynamic, extremely quick and close, I need to be precise and accurate.

My job now is to let my partner negotiate, but still stay engaged.  I may need to switch roles if the male’s focus changes to me.   I’m now lethal overwatch and my partner’s safety rests in my hands. Seconds go by.  I’ve let everyone know what’s going on and I can hear sirens in the distance and voices in my ear asking what I need and where I need it.

The male begins to close the distance, he’s walking toward my partner.  15 meters.  He’s still screaming that he’s going to make us kill him.

  • I’m looking through my rifle scope, assessing what’s in his hands. It’s a fixed blade knife.  40oz bottle in the other hand.  Something heavy in his coat pocket, another bottle? a gun?
  • Where’s my partner
  • Where’s my line in the sand
  • I need less lethal options
  • I need police to surround the area and make sure no bystanders get close.
  • I need a K9 officer
  • Do we have a helicopter up in case he runs?
  • Can we stop traffic?

My next two police officers arrive, now I have 4 police officers here.  I have pistols, rifles, a bean bag shotgun and conducted energy weapons (CEWs or more commonly known as Tasers).  We also have our batons and OC Spray however with a lethal force threat, such as a knife, batons and OC are not viable force options.

The 12ga bean bag is an extended range impact munition.  Think of it as a baton launched from a shotgun.  The injury potential from the beanbag may be higher than that of the baton depending on the range deployed and the area of the body targeted.  The bean bag, while potentially causing some injury, is mainly a pain compliance tool.  As with OC Spray, if a subject is goal oriented or impervious to pain stimulus, the bean bag may be entirely ineffective.

The CEW typically fires 2 barbed probes at a subject, when the 2 probes make contact with a subject, the electrical component of the CEW creates Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation (NMI).  Simply put, it disrupts the bodies ability to control muscle response.  NMI is very effective in stopping a subject’s threat.  However for NMI to be effective the police officer has to realistically be within at least 12-15′ (5m) of the threat, both probes (which leave the CEW at an angle to each other) must contact the subject and then the NMI is limited to 5 seconds.

This subject wants us to harm him, it’s what he’s been screaming for what seems like an eternity but has only been 2 or 3 minutes.   I believed deploying bean bag rounds would only stimulate him. We are not close enough to use a CEW.

He’s still 15m away.  We’ve moved to a position that puts our police car between us.  My partner is still negotiating.  I communicate a plan that involves us holding our ground at the police car and a layered force approach if the male comes at us where we attempt to employ less lethal options to stop him before having to use lethal force. I do not want to use force on this male.  My deployment of force is going to be based off his behaviour.

  • I’m still focussed on my role as lethal overwatch.
  • I now have a negotiator and 2 officers with less lethal options out that I have to protect.
  • I also have to keep my eyes up for bystanders coming into our area.
  • I direct other police resources to strategic points to control the male if he decides to run
  • I have to make sure each of those containment points has proper layered force options (firearms, CEWs, bean bags)
  • I have to keep the bosses in the loop, I’m also the eyes for incident command
  • I have to formulate and communicate contingency plans, what if the male starts stabbing himself?  What if he charges us?  What if he runs away?  What if he finds a bystander?
  • I’m still watching his hands, now he has 2 knives, a fixed blade and a box cutter
  • He’s still upset but is maintaining dialogue with my partner
  • My partner is still maintaining efforts to de-escalate and doing a great job given the behaviour of the distraught male.

I have to formulate a plan, if this male begins to critically harm himself how are we going to intervene?  We don’t have the luxury of risk avoidance, we only mitigate risk.  We might have to physically intervene.

My intervention plan, should the male begin to critically injure himself includes us closing the distance, deploying bean bags to change his focus until we’re close enough to deploy the CEW so that we have 5 seconds to get our hands on him and stop his self-harm.  This is an incredibly dangerous plan and involves us launching force options and causing harm, but less harm than the subject is causing himself.

One of our K9 officers has arrived.  We decide that the K9 deployment is a last resort as we don’t want to force the male to injure the police dog.

I broadcast all of the contingency plans.  The 4 other officers I’m with have to know their roles.  The containment officers need to know their roles and incident command ultimately has to approve our plan to deploy force (incident command approves plans for a planned response, for spontaneous threats, the individual officer still maintains the authority and discretion to deploy force).

Just as my partner has to keep assessing the male’s behaviour, the environment and all of the circumstances, I have to formulate and broadcast these plans while maintaining lethal overwatch, assessing the environment and all of the circumstances.

This is complicated by the male himself who is intent on moving around, walking through a fence line into the school field and forcing us to move with him maintaining as much safety as possible while I manage and shift containment teams. The male begins to violently stab himself in the abdomen.  At least that’s what it appeared.  Do I launch my intervention plan? I have microseconds.  One last assessment through my magnified rifle scope and I can just see that he’s using the butt end of the box cutter, not the blade.  Apparently in an attempt to get our attention.

  • I have to observe
  • I have to keep my team safe
  • I have to keep the public safe
  • I have to keep the subject safe
  • I have to communicate what I see
  • I have to decide, launch less lethal and intervene or hold?
  • I have to decide to deploy force and jeopardize my team’s safety
  • I’m on the radio, I’m focussed on the subject, is the area still safe?

A microsecond, a split second decision. Go or no go.

No go.

The male realizes that he didn’t force our hand.  My partner is still talking to him.  The dedicated negotiators have shown up, they’re backing up my partner, he’s still primary because he’s got a rapport and doing a great job. I’m back to lethal overwatch, ensuring I’ve got all the resources I need.  Is everyone safe?  I’m back to being the eyes on the radio so the incident commander knows what’s going on. The male tries to force our hand again, rushing toward us.

  • Do we pull back to a point of safety?
  • Communicate on the radio
  • Ensure the safety is off on my rifle
  • Aim, Breathe, Concentrate
  • My team mates with less lethal have to launch first when he crosses their threshold
  • He’s almost there, if he keeps going I may be forced to use lethal force.  I don’t want him to force me to press my trigger but I can’t let him harm my team or me.

He stops, just before our line in the sand to launch a bean bag as if he knew. This back and forth, negotiation, constant focus, constant assessment continues for 4 hours.

In the end our most valuable tool was communication.  We were able to take the male into custody without deploying force.  We had everything available to us out and prepared.   Each person and each force option had a specific purpose.  Our combined purpose was to preserve life.  Our response is driven by our subject’s actions.

My partner and I spoke to the male after he was in custody and had calmed down.  His plan was to come into the police station and attack someone forcing the police to kill him, a concept known as “Suicide by police”.

We have all of these force options available to us.  We train with them, we train with each other.  Some of these tools look pretty scary but they all serve a specific purpose.  I hope I’ve given you some insight into what the purpose of each is, and how we can deploy with them.  From this call though, I’d like to highlight how important our ability to communicate is.

Once the male was in custody, we all took a breath, ensured the required investigational steps were completed, knew there’s some paperwork ahead and headed back out on the street for the next call.

This sounds a lot like “My partner and I…” and a little bit about the rest of our team.  The reality is that I could write intimately about this specific incident because I was there but this is what we do and by we, I mean the policing profession as a whole.

This was that “Police incident, road closed” report that you never see further details about.  This was that time you saw a police car parked, emergency lights on, but no one around and didn’t think anything further of it.  This was that call at 2am on your street that you slept right through.  This is the 99.9% of the time that police deploy force options and aren’t forced to use them.  This is the professional work that police do every day, in every city across North America that never results in a media story.

24 thoughts on “Subject Behaviour / Officer Response”

  1. Best written article I believe I have ever read on such an incident Jim. Extremely well laid out and tells it like it is…you should be proud of yourself and your team, and your willingness to take the time to share the incident and all the nuances of the decision making process are excellent and ideal for any trainer to share with new recruits as well as in house regular training. Can’t say enough about it. Good Job!

  2. The dynamic nature of police/LE contact are often misunderstood by the general public. Hollywood and media shows the citizenry what it is like to “police”, when in fact the dramatics and artistic licenses taken by producers and directors are rarely thought of by those who watch these fantasies.

    Unfortunately, when real events unfold in a manner that obviously deviates from that of fiction, the “educated” public begins to berate and question the competency and the actions of the officers.

    This detailed, and almost exclusive view into an officer’s thought process throughout this volatile, and dynamic situation should be taken by the public over the dreamed up works of Hollywood.

    Layered force options, communication and tactics saved the subject’s life that day. These are the stories that are rarely, if ever reported on because success stories don’t sell papers.

    Keep up the great work Jim and stay safe out there.

    1. One word…Amazing….well written and opens up the eyes and mind of the general public into the consistent battle an Officer in all aspects of Law enforcement goes through in high stress and split second situations that can change a lot of lives and affect the publics view on many topics.

  3. This is an exceptional article! The most valuable component is the importance placed on communication and the ability to maintain an open dialogue. Understanding the complexities an officer has to to go though, both the physical and the mental dialogue you must have with yourself when confronted with a potentially life threatening (and public safety) altercation is the questions you pose to yourself and your partner (with verbal and non verbal cues). Thank you so much for sharing your insight, your considerations and the patience to deescalate the situation without the use of unnecessary force. Great work!

  4. I think there is something that we as civilian members of society fail to realize and recognize. Too often when we read the words on the side of a patrol cruiser “To serve and Protect”, it evokes this cynical yeah right response. What people often do not understand is the fact that an officer’s duty to serve and protect doesn’t just extend to the innocent everyday citizen, it also extends to those who are either in the commission of a crime or those accused of a crime. With that being said, police officers are first and foremost human beings, subject to the same prejudices and emotions as the rest of us. I am constantly amazed and awed by the fact that there are young men and women who are willing to put it all on the line for our society AND put their own personal ego aside to deal with situations like this with extremely high levels of self control and discipline over extended periods resulting in a positive outcome. To all the officers involved in this situation..Well Done, And Thank You. I would also like to thank you for taking the time and expending the effort to give us all a glimpse of what goes on in reality inside your head. More people should take the time to read this article and to encourage other officers to write similar enlightening articles that may educate the public on just what exactly you submit yourself to on our behalf. Thank you for your service. Thank you for this incredible insight.

  5. Reblogged this on Amputee Shooter and commented:
    When the armchair warriors get all up in arms at the use of force by police; perhaps this article will shed some light for them. Incredibly well-written piece about how many split second decisions LEO need to go through assessing a potential violent and fatal situation.

  6. Excellent piece – this is a great example of the dynamics of a situation that the general populace doesn’t necessarily get to hear or experience ever. It’s never black and white, but most people when discussing use-of-force – try to make it that way.

  7. A very important and well written article. Thank you for the valuable insight into police handling of a critical incident, highlighting the importance of good communication and explaining the effective use of layered force.

  8. Cst. Ingram states that he has control issues, which states that he himself has either a low self esteem or a lack of trust but on ward continues talking about how much trust him and the delta force have within one another. There was no reasoning to reveal any more weapons than the standard side arms. It shows how weak and insecure the Delta Police Department is by having to use a Carbon Rifle and a shotgun while the offender only has a knife and a box cutter… Which continues to show how unprofessional the department really is, I hope this will be an eye opener to all Delta citizens who are continuously abused by Delta Policing where their situations ” don’t deserve a write up “. Some changes need to made and it lays within the Department only to do so. – Thank you

    1. I fail to see where in Brendan’s comment he identified himself as a psychologist to comment on the Constable’s trust or esteem issues. I further fail to see where he indicates that he has any expertise in law enforcement or mental health, which you might expect him to possess to support the statement that there is no reasoning behind the escalated efforts. Some of the weapons brought to the scene by colleagues would be considered to be less force options than sidearms. So it makes sense that they were deployed and considered. The reason for the carbine was also written in his article. Should a weapon need to be fired there would be less potential of collateral damage as a more precise shot is expected from carbines. At least that is what I understand from both the article and from what I know of law enforcement.
      In the end, instead of a man with a lethal weapon attacking someone and then being shot himself. as was this man’s admitted plan, the officers were able to secure him with minimal amount of force, and no casualties. I fail to see how Brendan could consider this unprofessional conduct.

    2. Brendan, it is apparent from your post that you have no clue about what you read, or the realities of life. It’s also apparent that you have some personal issues, likely stemming from low self esteem that you need some help with. First of all, the “control issues” that Cst. Ingram were referring to, were in the context of the tongue and cheek ongoing ribbing that takes place between friends and partners when they work together. You may not have had the experience of having a friend who depends on you for your their life, or who you also trust with your life, but there is a unique bond that takes place that someone who has not experienced it would not understand. In fact, from your attack here on someone from behind the courage of a keyboard, with a total lack of understanding, or even keeping what was written in the correct context, is indicative of your own lack of understanding. I’m actually embarrassed for you because all you have done here is shown that you are lacking in basic civil courtesy. You have no idea what any officer deals with on a daily basis. Few people do. Had you run into this situation where someone was threatening you with a knife and a box cutter, I suspect you would have done two things immediately.

      1. You would have run like hell.
      2. You would have called 911 pleading for someone to come and help you.

      At that point someone just like Cst. Ingram, or maybe even Cst. Ingram himself would show up to save your ungrateful skin. And you know what’s really special about that? He would even do it, and stand between you and the perp even if he was aware that you felt like this about him or what he does. You see, that’s the difference between you and those in law enforcement. You show your lack of self esteem by attacking from a keyboard, like a fear biting dog, you will slide in and attack when you know you are safe from any ramifications, but you would never have the courage to face real life circumstances.

      Your post shows your lack of intelligence, your innate hatred towards any type of authority, a total lack of concern for the normal laws of the land which allow you to live in a relatively safe environment.

      I doubt very much the email you left in order to post your rant was even legitimate, simple proof unto itself you are exactly who I have described. You know, it’s sad there are people like you in the world that people such as Cst. Ingram put their lives on the line for every day, but in the end, they believe it is worth it, even if you are the most ungrateful soul on earth…because it is through their example people like you have an opportunity to live long enough to turn their lives around to become productive and eventually grateful citizens in the community. Here’s hoping that you someday you too have that chance to grow up…

    3. There have been several responses to Brendan’s comment that have been dropped because they contained inappropriate language or were entirely disrespectful. Please feel free to comment but keep the dialogue respectful.

      1. Another example of true professionalism. You allowed his comment to be posted, he belittles you in that post, and you choose to protect his right to do so. That says it all… Couldn’t be more proud of you. Stay safe.

  9. I have be privileged enough to work with some wonderful officers and as friendly and silly and playful as they can be when we are socializing, I always have the security of knowing that no matter what happens, they WILL protect us. Whether you agree with the laws or not, and acknowledging the odd exception, these men and women are good people and just like jobs where we show our care differently, their sole purpose is to help. Thank you all. This is an article that needs to be shared!

  10. Hi; At first thought, this seems like a lot of packing and filling verbiage. You SAY the rifle and scope has pin point accuracy, Ok then, hit the guy in the leg or upper thigh. At this close range, a shot gun aimed low would hit him in the lower legs, or at least scare hell out of him.
    This seems to be an overly detailed story for an incident only requiring basic quick action, which you claim you had the tools necessary for that.. Just say’n .

    1. Ken,

      That’s quite an interesting take on the situation. The injury potential from a firearm (pistol or rifle) is so high that any use is considered lethal force. A gunshot to the leg can do irreparable damage, and in extreme cases cause death.

      “Basic” quick action as you describe it, has an extremely high potential for injury both to our team and to the subject. Where possible we want to (and the public expects us to) avoid injury. In fact the criminal code states that we’re “justified in using as much force as is reasonably necessary”. Our goal is to layer the force options, in other words, to have less lethal and lethal options ready should we be forced by the subject’s behaviour to use them.

      Our goal is to take someone into custody using as little force as required. That level of force is dictated by the subject’s behaviour.

      There’s an expectation in law and by the public that we do not just rush in and use unnecessary force. We have all of these tools available to allow safe communication and dialogue, we’ll only deploy force if the subject makes the decision to force our hand. Every one of us would prefer to use communication and time before causing a devastating injury to someone.

  11. Very impressive article. I believe this people can give the public a more educated opinion of the police, their use of force, and the purposes of the tools. Thank you, Cst. Ingram, for taking the time to write this blog.

  12. Well written and well done. This provides a detailed description of what happens in a split second. Hopefully it wlll enlighten some who are quick to rush judgement without knowing all the facts. The outcome could have been very different because in the end it comes down to being able to deescalate the situation and the individual’s response.

    I continue to be proud of the standards of policing in this country, and deeply regret the loss of life when it does occur, both police officers and civilian.

  13. This is A Riveting Read. Bless our police forces, first responders and our armed forces for doing their best to keep us safe; for thinking things through in a split second, rather than firing that gun. You could not pay me enough to do this job.

  14. OK, Jim; my comment, your page. Long term problem is that we still have a now known mental case still looking for some police to take him out.
    You might see him again, Act 2 .

  15. i also say, well laid out…a gently bubblin flowchart….. well managed, on the whole….. the excrement failed to strike the device, and so on…… i have to say, as a pro-social , but often not-quite-legal old guy…. y’knah, grampa wiff a ponytail, neh?…… i feel the poh-leese, in their interactions with me, at least, have always been well professional, often empathetic, and seriously merciful…….. oh, a glitch here n there…….. but on balance, grasping the essence of what it means to “maintain the peace”……. no, i don’t think it’s the tuffest job….. psychiatric nurse springs to mind…… but it sure ain’t easy…… and most of you are pretty good….

  16. This was really well written.

    The public is drawn to shows like “Cops” and Youtube videos because violent crime is a novelty. Until you sit in a police car for five years, you can’t understand that violent crime is not the exception; it’s the rule. By that time, the exposure to violence has completely desensitized you. An “objective observer” is an impossibility.

    This article bridges that gap by itemizing and quantifying all the underlying considerations that the cop processes unconsciously. Laying it out in the daylight like this is an eye-opener to both sides.

    Thanks for an excellent read.

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