No two crisis incidents are the same but some general rules still apply. It’s safe to say that we should seldom rush into a situation where someone is holding himself as a hostage. You know the drill… they call and threaten suicide, you try to save them from themselves, but what you’re able to learn about their method of killing themselves will dictate how you deploy. For example, if you have good information that the person has taken poison or cut himself severely you might elect to rush in. However, if they are threatening to shoot themselves, the rules have changed.
It’s also probably safe to say that we should never rush into a situation where someone is threatening to kill himself with a gun, as he might decide he’d like to take you along with him. Then, there’s the so-called “suicide by cop.” What about a gunman holding someone else hostage or a lone barricaded gunman? Your wheels are probably turning back to a situation you were involved in or that you know of. That’s a good thing. Could it have been handled better?
The reason I bring these questions up is because I continue to hear about scenarios where officers or deputies have responded with lights and siren, front where deployed and rushed into a situation they didn’t have sufficient information. Such calls are a common way to lure officers into an ambush or get them to leave an area where suspects plan to commit a crime in order for them to make a clean getaway. The problem? When officers respond like that and come away smelling like a rose, it reinforces negative training. I call it negative reinforcement.
Prevent the killing. Stop the killing. Prevent the dying. Call it PSP or whatever you want but remember it because a first responder’s duties are “PSP” in that order, not forgetting that preventing the killing pertains to the officer first (dead cops are no good). You may not be able to prevent the killing (or injuries), but you might be able to stop it. This may be with a precision shot from your patrol carbine or even your pistol. If your chief or sheriff won’t let you carry a patrol carbine, then they will be the one to get sued before your city or county gets taken to the cleaners if you could have prevented a death or injury if you’d have had such a tool.
Okay, this is where that split-second decision-making comes in handy. You hear screaming or gunshots. Maybe your backup hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe there isn’t any backup. Based on everything you’ve ever read, everything everyone has told you, every piece of experience you’ve had, you have to decide what to do right now, knowing the answers to two questions. Are you trained or not trained, and are you ready or not ready?
If the answers to these two questions are affirmative, your chances for success will be much better than otherwise, but they are two questions you should know the answers to every time you go on duty. This is especially true of question #2, as you might be trained, but are you ready physically, mentally and with regard to your equipment? SWAT Talk? Yes, but I believe that every first responder should consider themselves SWAT on patrol.