The British people are coming to terms with yet another “lone wolf” terrorist attack in London. In what has become a favorite method by terrorists, a single assailant drove his vehicle through an area with multiple people walking and then crashed into a fence outside Parliament. The crash left three dead including 29 injured before the terrorist got out of his vehicle with a large knife and was confronted by a veteran police officer with 15 years of experience.
It is tragic that PC Keith Palmer, like most of his fellow officers, was unarmed and could not defend himself or others against an evil terrorist.
In the British Model of Policing, that prohibits many of those behind the badge from carrying a weapon, when terrorist attacks are increasing, you may ask yourself that at least that is not the way it is done in America.
While it is true that American Policing involves giving weapons to police officers, there is a cowardly trend of some that want the outdated British Policies on law enforcement to be translated in policy manuals here in America.
In it’s “Guiding Principles On Use Of Force”, by the Police Executive Research Forum, the organization and Chuck Wexler in particular discusses the value in their travels to the United Kingdom:
“This effort has benefited from numerous police officials not only in the United States, but in the United Kingdom as well. As described in one of this report’s chapters, Police Scotland offers valuable perspectives on the police response to certain types of calls—particularly those that involve people with a mental illness who are brandishing a knife or baseball bat, but who do not have a gun. Because the vast majority of Scottish police officers do not themselves carry firearms, they receive extensive training on how to resolve such incidents without using a firearm….In addition, Police Scotland sent representatives to Washington, D.C., where they provided information and perspectives as we developed the framework for our January 29 national conference which is summarized in this report.”
While the report and likely even Wexler would acknowledge that the problems faced by law enforcement in the UK and USA are quite different, Chuck Wexler has spent the last few years talking in a positive fashion of what the United Kingdom does in regards to police training.
Missy O’Linn attended a meeting in 2015 that precluded the 30 Guidelines Report from PERF.
“Initially I would like to say that I was very disappointed that the overall theme of the PERF meeting seemed to be that American policing is bad: bad cops; bad tactics; and bad training – that Wexler and PERF attributed to Calibre Press and the “21-foot rule” and a theme that included our officers adopting a plan to step up and take on knife wielding suspects like they do in the UK and Scotland,” Cited O’Linn.
While the ensuing Use of Force report issued by PERF in January 2016 has been largely dismissed by law enforcement, there have been movements within some agencies to adopt the principles. In particular, policies on “de-escalation” and the prohibition on shooting at cars has been the most popular by some administrators.
While I maintain that “de-escalation” is very important, I also believe that there comes a time when continuing de-escalation only places the safety of police officers and citizens at serious risk. This disturbing video from Fairbanks (AK) Police is just one example we have seen since the Guideline Report has been issued. Wexler’s report says that “De-escalation also involves keeping a low voice and an even tone whenever possible, asking open-ended questions, and listening carefully to the answers. By asking questions and paying attention to the answers, officers may obtain key information about the subject and the situation that provides a way to resolve the incident.”
Unfortunately, there was no amount of “low voice” and “even tone” that PC Keith Palmer could have done to stop a knife wielding terrorist on Wednesday and in some American cities, because of weak leadership, a terrorist can mow down countless citizens with a vehicle and the police would be breaking their own policy if they used deadly force on the evil among them.
So before we get all high and mighty here in the United States and wonder why British Cops don’t carry weapons to protect themselves or others, remember that there are political forces and leaders of police departments that are preventing our own officers from protecting those they are sworn to guard. Fortunately, the men and women behind the badge in cities around the United States would not hesitate to stop a terrorist, whether that would be violating a PERF inspired policy or not.
Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates is a current Doctoral Student in Strategic Leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for Law Officer (www.lawofficer.com) and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (www.courageousleader.org), providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.