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Failures of De-escalation and being behind the OODA Loop.

The LAPD has been pushing out a lot of body camera videos and that is awesome.  We get to see the split second decisions officers are forced to make that are literally life and death.  This is extremely fortunate for those of us who are able to watch these events, gain from those officers experiences and then be able to apply it to our everyday lives.  This is an extremely educational video, one which I hope will be played in-service training days as well as during various new recruit training days.  The video is very short, you can start at around the 0:40 mark because the first part is the 911 call and the radio dispatch transmissions.

0:50 - Dashcam of a marked patrol vehicle showing people pointing towards a particular person/direction, then a red circle helps you see what the officers are looking at and the distance.  General rule of thumb, if you are showing up somewhere and people are pointing that usually means that particular person does not care about being seen or hiding his intentions.  Sometimes an EDP's (emotionally disturbed person) act like this.

0:59 - Surveillance camera video of the male with a folding metal chair and a knife in his hand, clearly dealing with other people around him.

1:04 - "Hey, Drop it!" One officer yells as the other officer is getting a non-lethal shotgun out of its rack.

1:18 - The EDP male begins to move towards the officers.

1:23 - Officer yells to "keep cover" - cover from...the knife?  Maybe telling the officers to check their backdrop, as there are a lot of people still around.

1:24 - At the top right of the video you see a woman who is just standing there, watching the whole thing unfold.  The EDP male is walking towards the officers disregarding verbal commands while pointing pistols at him.  This is the point when deadly force becomes a requirement to stop a potential innocent person becoming a hostage.  There is a man with a knife, disregarding police commands, walking towards the officers and there is an innocent woman in the way.  The moment he crosses in front of her, she becomes in the line of potential fire.

1:36 - Male is in between the officer and the innocent woman.  If the male starts to charge him, the officer will be forced to fire and there is a high probability of the innocent woman getting shot.

1:38 - "Bean bag up!" less than lethal is a great idea to start off with when you control distance, time and force.

1:45 - The officers start shooting the male with the bean bag shotgun.

1:48 - The EDP male starts to use the metal chair to deflect the bean bags.

1:50 - "move up move up" yes the officers are moving towards the threat and backing the EDP male into a corner

1:52 - The EDP male looks directly at the woman who is standing there and begins to move directly at her.  This is a SHOOT RIGHT NOW type of moment.  De-escalation has failed at this point, he is moving towards an innocent person for no valid purpose.

1:56 - The EDP male takes the woman hostage.  The left most officer immediately maneuvers to the left side, apart from the other officers to gain an L-Shape advantage and have a good backdrop.

1:58 - The left most officer beings to shoot the EDP male from a position of advantage.  The EDP male is exposed here, the officer has a lot of target to hit and his hit probability on the male is high while his hit probability on the hostage is low.

2:01 - You see the female hostage fall to the ground.  It is unclear if the body cam wearing, left most officer hit her by accident.

2:11 - The scene restarts with a second body camera of another officer.

2:16 - Officer is shooting his less than lethal bean bag shotgun at the EDP male and pushing him back.

2:25 - Officer dumps his bean bag shotgun and draws his pistol.

2:26 - Body camera officer fires after the officer on the left begins to fire.  The body camera officer's first shot is either ineffective or he misses as the EDP male did not fall.

2:30 - Body camera officer appears to shoot the hostage female in the head on his third shot, then fires two more shots into the EDP male as he is falling.

2:33 - Body camera officer lowers his pistol to see what happened.

2:41 - Video ends.

I have written and preached against "tactical de-escalation" and how it is garbage for a while now.  Over a year ago I wrote an article, De-escalation and Worst Case Scenario in which I talked about a situation very similar to this, the difference there was that an officer had a rifle and was able to deliver a single shot to instantly stop the threat from a distance.  The video at the top of this article illustrates the need for that type of approach, violence of action, as well as, situational disregard for any sort of de-escalation model.

When there is an innocent person in the way, even if they put themselves in the way on purpose (by inaction or otherwise) it is the officers absolute responsibility to stop any harm from coming to that person.  At that moment the officer's personal safety becomes secondary, they must act instantly, and decisively to stop whatever immediate probable threat may exist.  The innocent female bystander is as much responsible for her our safety as the officer's are responsible for her safety.  This is something which needs to be addressed as the police cannot help you if you do not help yourself.  She was in a difficult situation, one which she likely had a very high heart rate and probably put her into a "deer in headlights" type of situation, she was on autopilot and her autopilot told her not to do anything just stand there and see what happens.  You may be wondering why she didn't run away or try to move out of the way.  If you go through the video again, specifically around the 2:29 mark, you will see she is holding onto a walker, she probably had a serious mobility issue which prohibited her from moving.  That is something that needed to be recognized and dealt with immediately upon arrival and scene observation.

The moment the EDP male began to move towards the innocent female standing there while disregarding the officer's commands, deadly force would have been justified.  There is no good reason a person with a knife, who is disregarding commands, walking towards police officers, would have to be near an innocent female.  As police officers we can make legal inferences based on the circumstances.  We are allowed to use the minimum force required to stop a deadly force threat as it materializes.  I would say that a clearly hostile EDP male walking towards several police officers and the probability of an innocent female who cannot get out of the way falling victim to the EDP male was higher than it would be if the EDP male was shot.  The officers are following their training, which is to attempt to de-escalate the threat using non lethal means.  Bean bag shotguns, tasers (which were not used here), they are all part of the LAPD's playbook.  They work miracles and all of that is well and good, when there is no innocent person in the immediate area who cannot get out of there.

I will re-iterate this point.  Any form of de-escalation should be immediately disregarded when there is an innocent person in the immediate vicinity of the subject, in this case a completely unpredictable, armed, EDP male.  This is not something which most police departments train for, in reality they actually train towards various forms of de-escalation.  It is not, and has never been, a one size fits all solution.  Maybe it solves most situations, but here de-escalation failed completely.  That is indictment of the LAPD's training and current trend of de-escalation beaten into officer's heads due to liability.

The officers in this particular situation did exactly what they were trained to do and more.  They moved aggressively towards the threat, met it with less than lethal force and began to attempt to mitigate any undo loss of life.  The issue is that police officers are human just like anyone else, we are subjected to the same impulses and issues which come with any high speed high stakes situation developing in front of us.

To put it in more technical terms, the officers were feeding the situation on their arrival, they had the right of way.  They determined what occurred, the timeline during which it occurred and at what distance.  The moment the EDP male began to walk towards them and crossed the threshold of the female the officers instantly gave up space and began the tug of war of time with the EDP male which they were using their respective OODA loops to gain positional advantage.  The EDP male was unaffected by the bean bag shotgun rounds due to his improvised metal folding chair shield, but he still began to walk backwards.  He became the feeder as soon as he reached the threshold of the innocent female bystander and moved towards her.  The officers pushed him into that corner unintentionally but that allowed him to control time, space and force immediately resetting the officers OODA loops.  The concept of time, space and force, I first heard from Tuhon Tom Kier and it is universally applicable to all interpersonal violent confrontations.  One indication of the OODA loops being reset is the complete lack of verbal communication.  It stopped immediately upon the EDP male moving towards the female.

The first officer who moved over to the left, developing an L-Shape and gained positional advantage on the EDP male in order to put positive rounds on him did that well and seamlessly.  He took his time, aimed and put rounds on the EDP male.

The second officer, in my opinion, had a mixture of sympathetic fire and an autopilot response because in training he likely never went from his less than lethal shotgun to his pistol and did not shoot the target.  Having been in very similar situations myself on several occasions I can tell you them not shooting when other officers are shooting is extremely difficult, especially for those who have every reason to shoot.  Verbal communication would have been a great working solution for this type of situation.  If the first officer yelled "DON'T SHOOT I GOT THIS" or "ONLY I SHOOT" maybe something along those lines, it would give a very clear indication to the other officers not to shoot.  Speaking of which, did the other two officers, to the right of the second officer discharge their pistols?  One of them did, the other still had his less than lethal shotgun in his hand.

LAPD trains their officers in a "precision head shot" in these types of situations.  What happens when three officers begin to try to take a "precision head shot" at the same time.  Furthermore, what happens when none of the officers know who is firing first and once they begin to hear gunfire they instinctively have a startled/sympathetic response to that gunfire?  When does an officer have to calculate probability of solid hits on target from his specific position.  LAPD's Chief said that this is the first time in 13 years that the LAPD has killed a bystander or hostage, except that several days after this particular incident an LAPD officer killed a manager at a Trader Joe's while shooting at a suspect who was shooting at them.  He also said that the LAPD is going to be looking at other non-lethal means of stopping these types of situations.  More training on violence of action would be the ticket here, less de-escalation for these specific types of incidents.

I know that the second officer likely shot the innocent female in the head, that's what it looked like from the video but there is not way to tell until the LAPD releases their ballistic evidence report from this incident.  This is important because we need to know who did what.  However, this may not happen anytime soon as the deceased female's family will likely file a lawsuit and that will delay any release of any more information on this particular incident.

While there are many that want the second officer instantly fired, and/or charged with murder, I will simply say that he may have made a serious mistake if he was in fact the officer who killed the innocent female.  That mistake will haunt this officer for the rest of his days.  This is an incredibly unfortunate outcome to a very volatile situation which required an immense amount of training and experience to overcome with any level of success.  These officers did exactly what they were trained to do and while a regrettable loss of life occurred the fact is that the LAPD, as an organization, has real culpability for this situation due to their reliance on the concept of de-escalation over violence of action.  Why did none of these officers have an SBR or a rifle with a decent optic handy?  Would that not have instantly hit a switch of the EDP male with a single shot?  Pistol ammunition is very ineffective at stopping people cold in their tracks, rifle ammunition works really well for to this end.  There are few situations which require the immediate use of a hammer, this was most definitely one of them.