Training Thoughts

When are security holsters bad, and why can't we just kick ass?

While models such as Blackhawk's SERPA are great retention holsters, some designs out there have so much security they can be hard to use. Simpler is better.

In last month's column, I discussed a few thoughts that came to my mind after attending the 2008 International Law Enforcement Education and Trainers Association annual conference. A number of additional thoughts on training have come to mind since then, and I wanted to share them with the readers of Handguns.

Is it just me or are we getting carried away with the security duty holster? It seems that a race is underway between the holster companies to see how many levels of security can be placed on a duty holster. Let me make this perfectly clear: The more levels of security placed on a holster does not make the officer safer; it actually endangers him or her.

For any holster to be effective in a fight, it must release the gun to the shooter's hand with a minimal amount of manipulation. Take a moment and place your hand above an imaginary duty holster and acquire a shooting grip. Take note of how the hand goes down on the grip/stocks and then closes in. If the holster's security devices cannot be manipulated/released while the hand performs some version of this action, then the release is too complicated.

Yes, I know that anything can be mastered with training, but the fact is that many officers do not take an interest in their duty holsters and, like it or not, this must be taken into account. Weapon security is the function of an alert officer who has the needed training to protect his or her gun, and this training should meet the task.

Let's face it, time must be spent on weapon security. It will either be spent on learning to draw the gun or on weapon retention techniques. I think a little of both is an excellent idea. But this can only happen if the holster is simple enough that the officer can learn to use it during in-service training.

Speaking of training, when did we start training our officers to use minimal force instead of reasonable force? I am now retired, so I can speak out without concern of retaliation, so I will just say it: I believe a large number of police administrators nationwide have become more concerned with liability and public relations than they have with officer safety.

I have seen a disturbing trend across America where hand-to-hand combat training is being replaced with "control tactics" or "response to resistance" training. A suspect coming at me with a 2x4 or a knife is not resisting, he is attacking, and I should have the skills to kick his ass.

This means that we need to train out officers in real fighting techniques where the hands, elbows, knees and feet are employed in the fight. Police sergeant Chuck Humes reintroduced his dynamic-striking techniques program at the ILEETA Conference and I, for one, was glad to see it.

I have nothing against grappling, joint manipulation or pressure points--they have their place. But they require constant training and re-training, while dynamic striking can be learned and retained very easily. Court cases Garner v. Tennessee and Graham v. Connor hold that police use of force must be reasonable based on the circumstances at hand. These cases said nothing about a minimal level of force.

Grappling a suspect to the ground (like is done on the UFC) and holding them there until they submit might be minimal, but it is also a good way to get hurt. What if the ground is covered with rocks or broken glass? What if your suspect has a friend you did not know about who decides to kick you in the head while you grapple?

I know that I don't want to go to the ground if I don't have to, and neither should you. Ground fighting techniques are great if you end up there, but I would suggest that you get up ASAP. There is even a move afoot to do away with Use of Force Continuums as officers seem to think that escalation through a series of steps is required and not just a guideline.

A few knowledgeable trainers think that Use of Force policy should be established and taught as case law instead of as a colored chart. Maybe, just maybe, its time to reevaluate what we are doing.

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