Just mere life is not victory, just mere death is not defeat.

Search The Knowledge

Physical Dissonance and Preparing for the Fight

Nashville Officer Involved Shooting

On 3/12/21, Officer Baker made a vehicle stop believing that the person operating the vehicle had a felony warrant.  It was not the person who Officer Baker was looking for, however, it was someone just as dangerous.  What occurred next is a series of events that would leave Officer Baker critically injured and the female operator of that vehicle, an attempted murderer, being mortally injured.  Please watch the below Nashville press release video which provides information on the situation, as well as, body camera and dash-camera videos.

The first thing you should have noticed, that is the topic of discussions which I have had with others about this situation is that Officer Baker appears to be overweight.  This is a true statement that is not meant to be made in an effort to cause negative attention on him, or anyone else, it is made here so that there is a starting point of reference to this topic which is extremely important for everyone to consider.  

Having worked with many overweight officers myself, I know that weight or the appearance of being overweight is not completely indicative of physical or mental ability, but there is only so much performance which a person can generate given their physical conditioning.  You may have heard the term "cognitive dissonance" used before, there is a subset of cognitive dissonance that specifically talks about your physical ability, the level of physical prowess you may have, and how your body will shut down as a result of serious physical activity at a certain point due to a lack of conditioning.  This is physical dissonance, which absolutely will cause your body to shut down when you may need it to work the most.  This is caused by several issues, two of which I believe contributed to the events in the video.

When you find yourself in a condition black or reach the zone of above 175 heartbeats per minute your body enters a phase of autonomic cognitive exclusion and inclusion, this also covers your physical ability, as your brain controls how your body functions.  I wrote about this a few years ago in a previous article on Training to Think.  The more your heart has to pump to push blood in your body the less functional you will be.  This is a fact of biology, and unfortunately for Officer Baker, but fortunately for us having this as a big learning point, this is exactly what happened here.  At the onset of the short foot pursuit, the taser deployment, and then the quick shootout, Officer Baker's brain automatically made the decision to keep him semifunctional, rather than turning him off completely which does occur to people from time to time, you can see that in action during the situation in PA where a man shot two people and they just laid there, waiting to be killed.  Being in condition black, or riding the adrenaline wave as I like to call it, means that you have to wait for that wave to go over you until you are back in still waters.  The caveat is that once you are in a position to be hit by the wave, there is no way you stop it from hitting you.

You will always fall to your base level of mental, or physical, unconscious competency in any particular skillset.  Walking, or standing, regardless of what you've been told, is a skillset we have all developed over our lives, This is an obvious example of this type of effect.  If your body is already being pushed to a high level of performance due to a weight condition, or other health conditions, then that particular part of your body may fail or cease to function properly when you are in a situation that requires an output above your physical ability.  This is how physical dissonance manifests oftentimes in most people, they cannot perform the skillset they may need to most because their body does not allow them to do so.

To get into most police academies you need to have a baseline level of fitness.  Then, at the academy, you are PT'd (physical training) all the time and usually must pass a standardized test based on your age and sex.  This is important because LEOs should have a base level of fitness.  The issue we see in the USA is that unless that officer takes fitness seriously after their time in the academy, they will likely sidetrack or completely derail.  This is a national issue and while there are many programs in every department there are still some LEOs who just don't do anything, worse yet they are allowed to get away with it.  The extremely simple recommendation here is to run once or twice a week, do some pushups and situps and not eat junk food or drink soda.   Easier said than done, right?  The fact is, as many LEOs often find themselves alone during a deadly force confrontation, we are ultimately responsible for our level of fitness and capability.   

For the average responsible armed citizen, there is no standard, even those who were in the military at one point lose focus on their physical ability.  The fact is that we all need to focus on our physical capabilities and that will sharpen our mental abilities.  This touches on the mindset concept of preparedness.  What are you prepared for? How are you preparing for it?  What more can, and should, you be doing to be more physically prepared?  Always work harder.