This detention officer certainly shows us the importance of empty-handed skills that we talk about all the time at Active Self Protection, and the inmate who helped him deserves recognition as well.
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Original video of the inmate helping the detention officer is available in our Instructor Development Portal.
News story with more details on the detention officer’s fight: https://get-asp.com/lv68
What does this detention officer teach us about protecting ourselves against an ambush like this?
- Situational awareness is your best friend. It doesn’t mean that you always are paranoid or living in “condition orange,” but it does mean that you know Col. Cooper’s color code of awareness and you live by it. Pay attention to your surroundings! It’s really easy at work to get lulled into a sense of sameness, and that can really impede your awareness. I am not saying that this detention officer was unaware, just reminding all of us to continue to be curious in our work environments!
- The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the hands are the windows to the intent of a person. The inmate who attacked the detention officer shows that pretty well. If you’re in a potential conflict, ALWAYS pay attention to what the aggressor is doing with their hands. They might have a force multiplier in their hand, or they might be hiding their hand so that you can’t see what is in it or using their hand to conceal something. If their hands are empty, there is a difference between someone with fists and someone whose hands are open and relaxed. As a self-defender your situational awareness must include seeing the hands of any potential threat in your vicinity, so watch the hands!
- In any territorial or predatorial violence, the attacker gets to set the time and circumstances of the attack. They will almost always launch that attack from ambush, or as we like to call it in Umas, from “obscurity.” Surviving that ambush is one of the most important keys to successfully defending yourself. Here, the detention officer had to survive the initial ambush and get his head back in the fight, and he did pretty well at that!
- The concept of a reactionary gap is important to consider as self-defenders. This is normally taught as something like the “21-foot rule,” though that’s a principle and not a rule. As a self-defender if you’re in a situation where an attack is a possibility, leaving yourself some distance to allow for additional time to respond to an attack from ambush is very smart. Even 2 or 3 feet of additional space allows the reactionary gap to successfully defend the ambush and get into the fight. For this detention officer it might have meant staying another 2 feet back from the door to be able to assess a bit as the inmate comes out of the cell.
- Empty-handed skills are absolutely critical for self-defenders. First of all, more conflicts you will encounter as a self-defender will require empty-handed skills than will require firearms skills, simply because more self-defense encounters are physical than deadly. Second, since a firearm is a tool of last resort, self-defenders need to have non-lethal options that include empty-handed skills to protect themselves from likely incidents. Third, in the moment of the encounter you may not have the time to get to your gun before you can fight your way to it. In the jail, this detention officer is not armed with a firearm, and most of us sometimes are in that same condition (whether our jobs require it, our state laws don’t allow us to CCW, etc.). Empty-handed skills are important for us!
Attitude. Skills. Plan.
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