In the wake of the recent fatal shooting in the suburbs of Minneapolis, there are several topics I believe we need to address. I will cover stress and the impact it has on the human brain, some of the hundreds of different physiological effects it can have and how they influence our decision making. We will also examine different tactical considerations when deploying a ‘Taser’ or other less lethal devices.
When we talk stress, nearly everyone who reads this can relate on some level. We have all been under stress from someone of something at some point in our life. I think that we could agree that being a police officer is at the top of the most stressful occupations one could choose.
Now, that statement is not meant to lessen the stress from any other occupations out there, I just want to highlight and examine law enforcement.
When officers are in stressful situations, they can experience things known as tunnel-vision. This is when someone loses their peripheral vision while maintaining their central vision at a very intense level. They only focus on the threat or stress-causing object in from of them.
Auditory exclusion is another. That is where a person experiences a temporary loss of hearing. An example can be when an officer discharges his weapon without earplugs yet has no ringing in his ears.
Stress can have debilitating side-effects and can cause us to say and do things we did not intend to say or do. One such phenomenon is called ‘Slips and Capture.” Slips and capture is a term that can be applied most recently from incidents involving officers who thought they were firing a Taser and were, in fact, holding and discharging a firearm.
These incidents, tragically, resulted in the death of the subjects struck when it was the shooter’s intent to immobilize the subject with a conducted electrical weapon or ‘Taser.’ Slips and capture refers to when the mind intends to perform one act and due to stress or outside influences mistakingly performs another.
How can law enforcement avoid slips and captures while improving Taser retention? Can this be accomplished through off-hand or non-dominant hand positioning and the utilization of the off-hand for Taser implementation in the field? As a master Taser instructor for nearly a decade, I have seen very few instances of officers carrying their Taser on their dominant side.
Numerous departments require, through policy, that officers carry their Tasers on their non-dominant side in an effort to reduce the possibility of mistakenly drawing the wrong weapon system. Others will only employ Tasers in bright colors such as green and yellow. This is to assist the officer deploying the weapon system and others around him that it is indeed a Taser and not a firearm.
The theory being that a black Taser looks too similar to a firearm. Could, or would, the color of a Taser impact or aid an officer? Considering tunnel vision, stress and looking down top of the barrel of the weapon at the threat, would an officer even see the color of the weapon, itself?
SO, MY QUESTION IS THIS: How do we reduce incidents of weapon confusion?
We cannot eliminate stress or stressful situations. So, how do we train our bodies and most importantly our brains to be more alert and cognitive of our actions? Every officer is trained that through repetition that we can develop muscle memory. We can train ourselves to perform an action almost instinctively by continuously performing that action over-and-over again.
Should we reconsider the cross-draw technique and draw the Tasers with our non-dominant hand? Should we not even use our dominant hand to hold the Taser? Dominant hand, gun only and non-dominant hand, Taser only? It is an option that would take retraining our brains to a different technique for sure.
The question remains, how do we avoid something like this from ever happening again? What measures can be taken to help officers from making these deadly mistakes?
I hope this never happens again. We must train ourselves to handle stress better and be more aware of our actions.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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