29 April 2015

Talking points about Baltimore and policing from a retired MD cop

First off, I need to explain my history with the City of Baltimore.  After getting out of the Army after being the 523rd Military Police Company on Aberdeen Proving Grounds, my first civilian job was at the Union Memorial Hospital just down the street from Greenmount & North Ave where much of the violence took place.  

After three years at Union Memorial, I was hired by the Baltimore City School Police and attended the Baltimore Police Academy  Class 97-2.  After two years with BSP, I lateraled to the Aberdeen Police Department, about 45 minutes North up 95.

Both of my mentors, one for all things tactical and the other for investigations, were Baltimore City cops, as were many coworkers and friends.  Every police department in Maryland is heavily influenced by Baltimore City Police and Maryland State Police.  The reason being that when bosses retire from those two agencies they usually take positions as chiefs and sheriffs through out the state.

With this said, I would have to say that my police style was more Baltimore City than State Police.  Now here are my points-

Burning down where you live- the riots in Baltimore received world wide coverage.  The reason given was oppression by the police who are the agents of the government which the average person is most likely to interact with.  If their issue was with the police and the government, why were not government buildings attacked?  Because of the same reason that in a city full of criminals and illegal firearms nobody shot at the police.  The people involved were not interested in any civil insurrection or bringing attention to police brutality, they were interested in looting for free clothes, booze, drugs, food, and major appliances.  Had government buildings been attacked or police fired upon, you would have seen a very different reaction with people on both sides killed.  Instead, they largely stayed in their own communities to loot and burn.  Whatever they were trying to prove lost all credibility.

Freddie Gray, the man that sparked it all-  What we know is that he ran from police, was caught, handcuffed, and drug into a wagon for transport.  At some point he went into respiratory distress and was refused medical attention.  He slipped into a coma only to die seven days later.  Autopsy revealed that his spine was severed, but there was no other trauma to the body.

People run from the police for three reasons; 1- they are committing a crime 2- they are in the possession of contraband 3- they believe they have a warrant.  Number 3 seems the most probable here.  By all accounts Gray was just sitting on the stoop.  Doubtful he had drugs on him since by looking at his arrest record he was way above being a "corner boy" and was more into the production and distribution end, meaning if anything he was the money man and would not hold drugs.  Also looking at his arrest record, it looks like he had a drug arrest in December 2014 that was supposed to go to court in May.  In my opinion, he probably thought he had a failure to appear bench warrant for missing a preliminary hearing.

Based on my knowledge of police training and anatomy, here is what I believe happened.  In the video you can see police on top of Gray and he is screaming.  Although they are trained to avoid injuring the suspect, it is not uncommon for an officer to kneel on the neck of a suspect.  Believe it or not a healthy neck is pretty robust and it would be hard to injure by just pressing down at a 90% angle.  But if you have a neck that is already injured and an officer fell or jumped on that suspect's neck with his knee at a 45 degree angle towards the head, it could possible cause a detachment at the brain stem.  Like I said, I think that will turn out to be the case here.

On 01MAY15 the Baltimore Police Department is going to release the results of their internal investigation to the States Attorney's Office who will conduct their own investigation and decide if the officers will be charged.  So, those looking for answers on the 1st are going to be very unhappy.

People without understanding of what it takes to charge someone with 1st Degree Murder want all six officers to receive that charge. For that to occur, the case would have to basically be made that all six of the officers conspired before hand to kill Gray, tracked him down, and then executed him.  If any officers are charged, it will be one or two of them and the charge will be manslaughter.

Juvenile vs Adult Arrests-  the media wants you to believe that the reason police allowed the rioting to go on was that it involved mostly juveniles....that is bullshit.  The original show of force by city police was ant Mondawmin Mall in response to a juvenile issue.  Of the approximately 250 arrests made during the night of the riots, about 200 were adults and 50 were juvenile.   The reason city police did not use more force was because of orders from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake to "stand down". Some reports go as far as to say that the Mayor put out an order for them to not even wear black gloves so as not to look oppressive on camera.  When outside agencies answered the first calls to assist BPD, many left on arrival after being instructed to not wear riot helmets or carry riot batons.  So, don't believe all that crap about it just being juveniles.

Police training-  for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you have no doubt heard me rant about the lack of quality officers and realistic training.

The firearms training in the Baltimore Police Academy was top notch.  Beyond that we mostly learned from the war stories of our instructors.  All police and correction training in the state of Maryland is overseen by the Maryland Police & Corrections Training Commission .  On the first day of the academy, you get a big book listing each and every thing that must be covered in your academy to become a certified officer.  During the last week of the academy, we were told to go through and initial next to everything that had not been initialed.  Someone asked how we could do that if we had not covered it.  They said "you'll do it if you want to graduate".

The Freddie Gray incident is different than most police use of force and brutality complaint issues because it does not involve any mechanical force options.  Most issues seem to come from the Taser and shootings.

The real reason that so many people are being Tased and shot is because very often agencies fail to comply with the standard set by the Supreme Court that training be recent, relevant, and realistic.

With some exceptions, much of initial police training involves little to no open hand combatives training being "arrest and control"  no training in arrest out of control.  Police are not pressure tested during physical confrontations.  They don't get punched in the face or have anyone punch them in the face.  Nobody chokes them out. Couple that with the squeaky clean background required to become an officer these days and what you get is someone who has little to no experience with physical violence.  You put that officer on the street, they get scared and they Tase and shoot people at the end of confrontations that started over something small and could have been nipped in the bud with a nightstick or open hand combatives.

If you think it is bad now, just wait a few months or years.  In the wake of Ferguson, good officers are just walking away from the job.  Soon the liberals will get what they want... nothing but Nerds and Turds wearing the blue suit.  Those with out the passion needed to be good police.  They will be there just for the pay check or to pay back those that bullied them in high school.  That is unless Obama gets his way and we have a National Police Force.  This is what is being put in place as the DOJ takes over city police departments one by one.

When I was still an MP my buddy got me a coffee mug for Christmas one year that read "A society that makes enemies out of its police better learn to make friends with criminals"  That is truer now than it was 20 years ago.  God Bless America 

28 April 2015

Killing sacred cows in Indianapolis

My two favorite myths to dispel during classes are that you will have the physical ability to see your sights much less use them within 5-7 yards. The other is the 21 foot "rule", misunderstood because people see it as a gun problem and not a fighting problem. We show you how to survive within 5 feet. Nobody in the class had any previous "knife" training but was able pressure test what was taught against the stun gun with just 3-4 hours of training. If that is how long it takes to learn it imagine how little time you need to practice it on your own with a partner to master it and gain confidence. In the same amount of time they became "masters" of IET, which the hardest part of as it is with the pistol is the ability to deploy it under stress. Once the knife is out, any knife, IET is intuitive, defensive, and defensible. Outstanding crew. Huge thanks to ACT for hosting. I could not be happier with this industry partnership. If you are in Indy these are the guys to go to to learn how to fight with your firearms.

15 April 2015

Why a 73 year old insurance man and reserved deputy was put in a position to kill

The only ones who don't know the answer to why Robert Charles "Bob" Bates was put in a position to accidentally shoot and kill a suspect are those who are not cops.  There is lots of hay being made out of the fact that he had donated thousands of dollars to the Tulsa Sheriff's Office over the years.  For those that are not familiar this is a very common thing in many jurisdictions and states.  More than ever agencies are hurting for money and looking to add money to their coffers from any legal source.  This was the case here.

In many areas affluent business and citizen give agencies money for everything from body armor to new vehicles and mayors, city councils, chiefs, and sheriff's are happy to take it.  Often these agencies have auxiliary and reserve units, that in days gone by...and not so gone by were basically a way for those who were not police to ride around with their buddies who were.  It only makes sense that a fella like Bob Bates who had done so much for the SO would be involved with their reserve program.

Now don't get me wrong, I am friends with and have trained some auxiliary and reserve officers who were better motivated and better trained than the full timers.  In most cases, they had careers that allowed them to make much more money than a police officer does, and came to a time in their lives when they had the time to volunteer for the department and fulfill a life long dream.  The problem is that very often they just want to wear a cop costume to get looked at.  Not surprising since there are lots of full time police that are the same way.  They want to wear the Superman costume but have no interest in fighting crime.  What do they both have in common?  Little to no interest in training, especially if it is physical training.

In my honest opinion, the majority of police excessive force cases could be avoided by two things, punching officers in the face during their interview, and continuing to punch them in the face during training.  Violence is the 800 pound Gorilla in law enforcement.  Sooner or later no matter how old you are, no matter what color you are, you will have to arrest someone who does not want to go.  In the days before OC and Tasers you had two options...use your hands, or use your stick/sap/jack.  This meant that officers were no strangers to violence and did not get flustered when people fought through OC or a Taser went clack clack clack with no visible effect to the suspect.  They did not automatically go to gun, they just hit them again and harder.

It is this lack of inoculation to violence and reliance of things that spit a substance or electricity that causes excessive force.

Back to old Bob.  He was a reserve deputy, but in every agency there are guys like him that should not be carrying a badge much less a Taser or a gun.  These guys are usually thought, called, or considered "goofs'.  They would make a good neighbor, or in this case an insurance salesman, a nice enough guy, but not a cop.  They usually have no interest in firearms or any officer survival related skill sets and stand in the back of the group.  In Bob's case, the bosses would not be very happy if the instructor said something and Bob stopped cutting checks.  But in most cases, they are regular officers who if pushed by an instructor will do one of two things, either fake an injury and cause a loss time injury, which is the death null to a training program, or just call off sick that night because they are sore.

As soon as society and police administrators come to grips with the fact that policing can be violent and the ability to recognize when and how much violence to use early on in a situation will cut down on the injuries to officers and offenders we will be better off.  I am not holding my breath.  Don't Tase me bro.

09 April 2015

NEW COURSE- Parent & Children Protection Course

Course- Parent & Child Protection Course

Course Description- This topical two hour course taught by a retired police officer and experienced dad, is intented to give both the parent and child confidence and peace of mind in their ability to deal with the dangers our society.  The information is delivered in a matter of fact way that is as non threatening as possible while still providing attendees with the skills needed to stay safe.  Through a combination of discussion, scenarios and drills the kids learn the following-

  • What is intuition and why do I need to trust it
  • How do I know if I am being bullied and how to stop it
  • How to use my voice to get help
  • How to spot good guys fast
  • Bathroom safety
  • How to physically get away from someone who is bigger and stronger 
  • What to do if someone gets me in their car
  • How to remember someones description, including their car

This course is intended to be attended by one or both parents and any child between the ages of 7-12.

Please call 717-889-1753 to host this course.

07 April 2015

Invicta 19258- The Poor man's Observer Watch

Actually, Invicta calls it the Men's 19258 I-Force Analog Display Japanese Quartz Black Watch.  My love of watches started about 20 years ago I guess, at times I have had as many as a dozen or so. Right now in my stable is about six.  Before this Invicta, they were all Seikos and Citizens.  Recently, I got the itch for something new.

Since I am a little bigger than the average bear, I like bigger watches, usually over 44MM.  With the exception of my Citizen Nighthawk, my watches were all divers.  My favorite thing about the Nighthawk was that it was big and flat.  The only thing I don't like is how busy the dial is, hard on my old eyes.  I wanted something that was big, flat, simple, easy to read, with good lume.  That is not too much to ask, is it?  Usually the more you want, the more you will pay.  Not in this case.

After doing some research, I realized that what I had in my mind's eye was the same thing they issued to pilots & observers during WWII.  Commonly called observer watches, they had a big, simple, easy to read faces.  They also had lume so as to be easily read in low light conditions.  If you want a real one, you will spend thousands.  Even an authentic reproduction is going to run you $400-$500 and then go up from there.  Below you will find some of the quality reproductions that are out there.  You can see where Invicta got their inspiration for this homage (a watch that inspired by another watch, usually a very expensive classic).
Observer by Laco

Observer by Zenno

Invicta Observer

The Invicta 19258 is available on Amazon for around $80.  For some reason, you will always see the list price for all Invicta watches at about 3-4 times what they actually cost, and I am not sure why. At any rate, many watch purists will thumb their noses at Invictas.  For this reason, I hesitated to purchase one.  But at the end of the day, it is the only way I was going to get an Observer watch, and I am so happy I did.

The 19258 is 45MM wide, but in my opinion, looks bigger on the wrist because of the simplicity of the dial.  At this price point the lume is very impressive, at least on the minute and hour hands, which is really all you need.  After exposed to very bright light, you can make out the lume on the minute numbers but it does not last long.  Spending a lot of time riding a motorcycle, it is important to me to be able to read the time fast and the hands on the 19258 make this fast and easy day or night.

Something else that is very cool that you seldom see on inexpensive watches is that it is "hackable" meaning that when the crown is pulled all the way out to set the time the second hand stops allowing you precise time setting using this site.  I have been wearing this watch for two weeks and it has not lost a second.  The Japanese quartz movement sees to that.

The band is 22MM which I have found to be the most common size.  The black band with white contrast stitching featuring a silver buckle was of good quality.  My only issue, and it is a personal one, was that it was of a tapered design and I prefer otherwise.  Currently, I am wearing it on a black leather Zulu type band but plan on ordering a brown leather one to further pay homage to the original Observer watches.

The 19258 is water resistant to 330 which should be more than enough since this is not a dive watch. Another attractive feature is the date observer where you can not only see the current date but also the day before and day after.

Of course the most striking thing about the watch is the dial.  The minutes are in the prominent position usually reserved for the hours.  Inside them in red is the 12 hour clock, and inside of them is the 24 hour clock.

Overall the watch is very attractive and I have to admit I cannot stop looking at it.  This is the first watch I have ever reviewed so some may wonder why I am doing so now.  A quality watch has always been part of my EDC since high school.  Add that to the fact that we like to review gear that anyone can afford and you can probably see why now.  If you are on the market for a new watch, and like the look of the Observer type, don't hesitate to pick up this one from Invicta.

31 March 2015

Bullshit and Fairy Dust- The business of making the simple complex

Albert Einstein said- If you cannot explain it simply, then you don't understand it completely.  The truth is this applies to everything, especially fighting and self defense.  The problem is that there is no money keeping it simple.  

In classes I always tell people that if you are practicing a martial art 3-4 nights a week in a dojo and suffer no serious injuries then don't expect what you are learning to work on the street.  But these days with everyone wearing an Infidel Punisher t-shirt, there is a bigger market than ever for the five finger death punch and Spetznaz only tactics.

Complicated will get you killed.  Too many choices will gets you killed.  Hesitation will get you killed.  People spend lots of time and invest considerable amounts of money learning things that have nothing to do with their application.  If you enjoy being a Tactical LARPER read no further.

Experience tells us that you are much more likely to be punched in the face than be stabbed or shot.  Experience also tells us that about 95% of the time that punch will come in the form of a roundhouse.  But if you go to a dojo or double top secret Ninja camp you will find very little time being dedicated to effectively defending against a roundhouse punch.  The reason is that the teacher knows there is no money in the fundamentals, and the student is interested in learning about the other things that "could" happen.  

The other interesting thing is that usually when someone gets punched in the face they momentarily forget about the gun or knife on their hip.  But training in those skill sets seems to make some believe it will stop them from getting punched in the face.

So the idea of this rant is to remember that everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face, so make sure the first time you get punched in the face is in training and not in the street.  Once you realize how much it sucks consider learning how to effectively defend against it before moving on to fancy crap.  Instead of adding more techniques, consider changing the conditions by defending against the roundhouse from the right and the left, from the flanks, after being spun around, while sitting, while getting out of a car etc.  You will be surprise at how much you can learn while concentrating on fundamentals.   Don't forget if both you and your training partner are not feeling it, you are dancing, not fighting.

18 March 2015

First Look- Yukon Outfitters Torent DryBag 25L

One of the new pieces of gear I picked up at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg was the Torent Dry Bag 25L from Yukon Outfitters. For years I have been using the old USGI wet weather bags, contractor bags, and zip locks instead of more expensively priced dry bags. Most of the time these bags were used in the woods. Starting a few years ago, I started doing about 90% of my traveling from early March to late December on my motorcycle. Unfortunately getting wet often goes hand in hand with motorcycling. The need for a proper wet weather bag for the bike along with the "Hyper Green" color of the Yukon bag put me over the edge. 

 On a motorcycle, visibility is everything, so I figured the bag would be great for the back of the bike. Yesterday I picked my bike up at the shop after getting new tires, plugs, brakes, and such. I wanted to take my spare motorcycle cover to where I work and began thinking of how I was going to accomplish this. Then I remembered the Torent Dry Bag that had been sitting in my closet since February. I have the 25L, the smallest of the Torent series, its big brothers are 30L and 40L respectively.

. The cover, designed for a V Twin Harley Davidson, only took up about a third of the bag. Rolling and then securing the buckle on the bag gave me confidence that water did not stand a chance of getting inside. In the future I plan to do a dunk test even though the bag is marketed only as water resistant. The bag also sports attachment points for the included adjustable sling strap. This came in handy for securing the bag horizontily across my Mountainsmith Red Rock pack that was already on my bike with my EDC gear. During the 25 miles to work, the bag stayed put. Having its neon color on the back of the bike is a plus. I plan on getting one of the larger bags for motorcycle camping this summer. At under $19 from Amazon this bag is cheap insurance to keep your gear dry. Here is some of the info from the company. 

  •  Keeps Your Gear and Valuables Dry 
  • Durable Water Resistant Construction 
  • Welded Seams with Watertight Roll Top 
  • Closure Integrated Grab and Go Shoulder Sling 
  • UTX Buckles