For as long as I have been connected to policing, since 1981, the best way to order a suspect into compliance was always, “Police Don’t Move!”  Where the heck has this, “Show Me Your Hands!” crap been taught?  What police tactics instructor is telling officers to say, “Show Me Your Hands!”? I want that person’s name!  I want to know what he, or she, was thinking. Realistically, I don’t think any police tactics instructor is teaching such a ridiculous, counterintuitive, counter-safety, and counter common-sense tactic.  I think cops, like the rest of society, learn a lot of incorrect things from TV.  “Show Me Your Hands!” makes for good TV drama but it’s definitely not for real-life cops!

Of all the things I remember which have been useful my entire law enforcement career, especially in the street, “Police Don’t Move!” was right up there with “Step to the Left”, and “Use Tactical Knowledge.”  I will explain the last two in other articles. Also, as a constant reminder, my locker, like every single locker in the NYPD, some 40,000 of them, had this sticker on the door so every officer, every detective and every supervisor had “Police Don’t Move!” indelibly burned into their memory.

“Police Don’t Move!” is the smartest, most effective, tactically sound way to do a bunch of things, including, Identify yourself as a police officer, Stop the suspect’s movement, Try to get the suspect to refrain from making furtive or dangerous movements such as reaching for a weapon, raising a weapon at the officer, and, Justify actions taken by an officer if the suspect moves in a way causing the officer to reasonably believe the suspect is reaching for, or drawing a gun. Of course, anytime possible, the officer should use available cover, such as a tree or a solid wall, to protect himself from gunfire.

When an officer says, “Show me your hands!” he, or she, has ordered the suspect to move his hands. This order allows the suspect a risky (for the officer) movement and increases the suspect’s Tactical Edge. The officer’s mind has adjusted for this ‘approved’ movement, which will decrease the officer’s reaction time to any movement made by the suspect. Therefore, an armed suspect whose hands are concealed from the officer’s view, who is intent on killing the officer, can use this split-second advantage to kill the officer.

Even without the delay time from using the “Show Me Your Hands!” verbal order, armed suspects have a quicker reaction time than officers, according to a ground-breaking study. In a 2011 study, funded by the Texas Governor’s Office, suspects on average were able to fire in just 0.38 second after initial movement of their gun. Officers fired back in an average of 0.39 second after the suspect’s movement began. The study, headed by Dr. J. Pete Blair, an associate Criminal Justice professor at Texas State University, also concluded: “The process of perceiving the suspect’s movement, interpreting the action, deciding on a response, and executing the response for the officer generally took longer than it took the suspect to execute the action of shooting, even though the officer already had his gun aimed at the suspect.” The study, “Reasonableness and Reaction Time”, by Dr. J. Pete Blair, Joycelyn Pollock, Don Montague, et al, can be accessed at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611111423737

In my opinion, here is another problem which may arise from, “Show Me Your Hands!” especially in these anti-police times and in anti-police communities.  Visualize this. An officer orders a suspect to show his hands to the officer.  The suspect is holding a hidden gun in his waistband and instinctively pulls out the gun but does not point the gun toward the officer.  The officer, fearing for his life, immediately shoots the suspect. Of course, the surveillance cameras, or slew of cell phone camera captures the whole incident. Did the officer’s incorrect command make him vulnerable to prosecution?  Wouldn’t “Police Don’t Move!” be much more effective and safer?

“Police Don’t Move!” has been taught to police officers for decades but with the overwhelming lineup of unrealistic police shows on TV, reality and fantasy has been blurred. Sadly, the obvious void in police training, lack of police training, or inadequate police training has led to officers emulating TV cops.  TV cops don’t get killed or prosecuted, but real cops do!

 

“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “

We couldn’t agree more.


 

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