Nuances of Detecting Danger

In my family I am known to spot celebrities on a regular basis. What is more horrifying is that I usually talk to them. This super power is a side effect of my habit of sizing up and assessing people.

Why do I do it? I’m looking for suspicious behavior. I’m doing threat analysis. As a police officer I tell citizens to pay attention to and potentially report suspicious behavior or incidents. It seems most of the time I need to explain what suspicious means. Suspicious can be something just plain out of the ordinary that makes you focus on the person or event in a cautious manner. If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, don’t ignore it.

 Your subconscious picks up slight cues in body language, posture, or appearance you may not notice that are warning flags for potential danger. Some examples of behavior outside of the norm are: intentionally not making eye contact with people, pacing near an entrance, or fidgety, wringing hands. There are also physiological signs which are out of our control – pupil dilation, pale or flushed skin, and accelerated breathing. A guy wearing a swimsuit in a snowstorm versus guy in a winter jacket in the summer – which has the potential to be up to no good? Both.

Another example: a dude comes up to talk, maybe beg for change, and starts looking around. He’s probably looking for witnesses, or cops, before he makes a move. Do people normally nervously look around during a conversation? Pick up the clues others leave for you.

This constant assessment is a major part of my situational awareness; this also includes assessing your immediate surroundings. There are many ways to maintain an optimal situational awareness in public – this includes knowing where exits are and knowing the general layout of where you are. This is especially important if you’re with others such as family members, children, or coworkers. Knowing appropriate actions and layouts of where you are helps in keeping people you are with safer. There is a reason cops like to sit with their backs to the wall.

The ability to identify potential problems is of no consequence if you aren’t equipped with the right tools and training to maximize your skill with said tools. Training gives a student an idea of where deficiencies lie. This is not something most people realize without training. Why? It is because they can only rely on their own frame of reference. An experienced and qualified instructor has the ability to assess the shooter’s issues and provide diagnostic feedback to improve performance. Additionally, great instructors can provide additional insight to reinforce the basics – which in shooting, is all about the basics.

The equipment we choose needs to fall in line with what our mission and intent is. As Pat Rogers would say, “Mission drives the gear train.” I carry my sidearm, at least one reload, handheld flashlight and a tourniquet. I have no intent of getting into a gunfight, but I have equipment available immediately to me be that is beneficial if I find myself in a situation. For duty I carry two spare magazines with my sidearm because there is the potential that I will have to purposely respond to a gunfight, and also have a carbine with multiple magazines readily available. This does not mean I will not intervene while off duty, but engaging in gun fights is not the mission when I leave home.

Something I learned early on in my police career is the “what if” game. This consists of actively processing your current situation, thinking about potential outcomes that may unexpectedly occur. Most of us, police and civilian, do this actively when we drive. We watch the traffic around us and have a plan in mind as to how we’d respond if someone cuts in front of us or brakes suddenly.

This works hand in hand with having a plan, knowing the layout of where you are, being cognizant of your environment, and assessing people around you. Taking all those factors and now analyzing potential outcomes will put you ahead of the power curve. As a police officer I have pondered a thousand times how I want to respond to a traffic stop where the driver and passenger exit quickly and shoot at me. When/if that happens, I am already prepared and have an idea of how I will react, and my OODA loop will not be delayed. Put this in your daily life and process it.

Look for things out of the ordinary or outside accepted social norm. Twice now I’ve been in a theater with my dad on when someone’s bizarre behavior caused us to focus on the unusual person and mentally plan out (what if game) our actions if he became violent. This is a prime example of why we need to be prepared with the proper equipment. In a dark theater, do you have the means of identifying the threat? Is that 60 lumen light sufficient? [Probably Not.] Do you have the training and is your weapon sufficient to engage a threat at a longer distance?

In my experience in interacting with professionally trained and experienced gunfighters, these are normal habits they encourage. All of this is a lifestyle and it works well with carrying a firearm.


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