Shift Training: Starting the Year Off Right

It’s 2017, and you the officers holding and walking that thin blue line are still here. Thank you.  You are a special breed…born to do what you do.
Even though 2016 dealt us some serious injuries and took some of our partners, we are a resilient bunch – we know how to take that punch, we maneuver, adapt and will overcome whatever is thrown at us. 
So, with the start of the new year let’s take a hard look in that mirror and remind the person looking back, not on my watch, even though evil may visit, not – on – my – watch. 
Come hell or high water, I will make it through 2017!  I will get my tired lazy butt to the gym and workout! I’ll be damned if I am going to be some statistic or name on a wall, that’s not going to happen.  I will fight until the very end, I will not go out without a fight!
My community and partners depend on me to be proficient with my weapon skills, so I am going to get to the range every month and practice.  My tools will be ready at all times –My weapons cleaned and lubed, my lights charged and full of fresh batteries, my body rested, fueled and prepared for the tasks that await me on a daily basis.
I recognize that to master my profession that it goes beyond the physical and that it also requires me to study and to learn skills and techniques that will make me a better public servant.
My community, depends on me and there may be some who don’t know me, or may even be afraid of me, so every day when I go out on patrol (and outside and apart from my police contacts) I will meet with and listen to at least one citizen per day. Together we will build confidence and get to know each other, because we are one, we are a family.  This I owe them.       
Promise to stay ready and be the one who brings the other’s back . . .
About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is a veteran law enforcement officer and supervisor with El Paso PD, a proud member of the International Tactical Training Association, and the Editor-in-Chief of tactical Solutions Magazine
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Breaking Contact – to walk back to your patrol car to run wants/warrant checks and draft citations; to walk back to your patrol car at the end of the traffic stop

Traffic stops consist of three phases, the start, middle and the end. Moving beyond those headers, they breakdown as follows:


  1. Identify or observe Probable Cause or Reasonable suspicion
  2. Make the Stop  


  1. Contact
    -Initial approach
  2. Breaking Contact
    -Want/warrants check
    -Drafting citation
  3. Re-Contact
    -Secondary approach
    -Issue citation
    -Arrest if necessary
  4. Breaking Contact (Final)
    -Going back to the patrol car


  1. Clear the Scene


The second most hazardous time for an officer on a traffic stop is when they re-approach the driver after having broken contact to run wants and warrants and draft citations; the first most hazardous time being their initial approach. Why, is this so hazardous, well because often, officers become complacent and lower their guard on their secondary approach. They forget that what they initially cleared needs to again be cleared in the same manner as they did on their initial approach.

So the question here is: why do we break contact? Think about it, if you are out on a subject check, do you normally go back to your car to run the want and warrant check or to write down the subject information? No, you place them at a disadvantage, and document and run your wants and warrant check from a position of overwatch and control.

So then why break contact on a traffic stop to do the same thing? Well the best answer is basically because that is the way that it has always been done. Yes, some will say that there is a hazard to remain, but unlike the subject check, you are separated by a physical barrier (a reactionary gap), which is the car door.

And, we mitigate any hazard, by staying on our toes, heads on a swivel and advising the driver to not be reaching for anything and to keep their hands in plain view (when solo). When full-crew, it is even easier as your partner remains in his cover position at the suspect vehicle while you complete the want/warrant check and citation (you must still remain alert).


Another area of concern in relation to officer safety is the when officers break contact for the final time at the end of the traffic stop and then walk back to their unit.    Again the question is:  Why do we break contact to walk back to our patrol car?  The answer again is because we have always done so.

I will offer two tips for you to consider. First, consider not breaking contact to go back to your vehicle and instead tell the driver that the stop is over and that they are free to leave and then hold your position until they drive off.  The second tip is, if you absolutely have to break contact and return to your patrol car, then utilize the Cover and Move technique. 

Cover and Move is a variation of tactical movement applied to a traffic stop.  Here the cover officer holds at the passenger door while the contact officer moves to the left rear bumper, holds and takes over as cover officer.  Then the partner moves to the right rear bumper, re-assumes cover duties while the other officer moves to the patrol car.  It is a calculated leap frog back.  These are tactical pauses where you look at the driver/occupants of the vehicle to assure that there is no threat before moving to the next position.

Too complicated, not really?  But why do this?  The times and general safety move us to mitigate risk to ourselves and as supervisors to the officers that we are responsible for.  No one walks back to their patrol car with 100% observation on the suspect vehicle.  What most actually do, is walk half-backward and forward (looking forward with glances to the rear towards the suspect vehicle).  Even if one were to walk backward some 20’ to the patrol car, that in itself creates a hazard on falling and not being able to see what is approaching you.

Cover and Move provides you with a solid platform from which to respond to any threat immediately and without having to turn and attempt to react from an unbalanced and twisted platform. 

How I arrived at these suggestions is through honest reflection on my own traffic stops in an attempt to mitigate risks to safety.  That is, I tested these techniques out on my own and have found them to be of benefit.  If you have a chance, please send me your feedback on these TTP’s and also your feedback after you have attempted them on traffic stops.

So ask yourself, why break contact and how can we break this habit and find safer solutions to make traffic stops safer for law enforcement as a whole.


About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is the Editor-in-Chief for ITTA’s flagship publication Tactical Solutions Magazine. Lawrence is a highly decorated officer serving as a field and training Sergeant with 26 years of service to the El Paso Police Department

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Shift Training: 07/07 Dallas PD Sniper Attack


Last night there was a coordinated attack against law enforcement officers in Dallas, TX. A sniper attack killed five members of the Dallas Police Department. Gunfire injured twelve including other officers and two civilians in the same attack. We now mourn the fallen in this mass killing and hold the line.

The targeted killing of law enforcement officers in Dallas was intended to intimidate and coerce a country and affect the conduct of government by assassination. But it does not change the resolve of sworn law enforcement to serve the people and bring justice to our respective communities.

Officers across the country will remember the fallen through their continued service. They are not deterred from the sworn duty to protect and serve.

Violent extremists who plot acts of domestic terror, those who are witting or unwittingly co-opted in their plans, and those who show their willingness to advocate, facilitate, or use violence for a political purpose will find justice. Law enforcement will not fail in any effort to bring justice to all those responsible for this heinous attack.

The murders of Dallas Police officers followed in the wake of an inordinate volume of hate sentiment and threat messaging directed towards law enforcement nationally. We remind the public that electronic threats may lead to arrest on federal charges under 18 USC §875, using interstate communications to convey threats of injury against an individual.


We ask the public to support their local police agency by reporting any suspicious activity or threats they may encounter which communicate an emergency involving imminent death or serious bodily injury. The immediate disclosure of this information may save lives. It will help prevent copycat attacks.

Officers are alerted to the very real danger of copycat assassination attacks. The threat of violent extremism, domestic and foreign terrorism is very real. Shortly after the targeted killing of two NYPD officers in 2014, there were three additional plots influenced by ISIL to behead people, bomb public events, and attack the police.


It is our continued duty to protect 1st Amendment rights and ensure public safety at frequent demonstrations, rallies, mass gatherings, and public events across the land. We must fail in no preparation.

Remember both fundamental and specialized training for mobile field force operations. Study and analyze problems faced nationally in these circumstances. Learn not just from success but also our failures.

Prepare for conflict resolution, confrontation, and ambush. The main course of action in planned assassination attacks is the ambush. Review and train quick reaction to ambush. Work to detect the predicate hostile surveillance which precedes all attacks. This is crucial to officer survival. Agency intelligence collection efforts must focus on hostile communication by networked extremists.


Equipment must be ready and available: Plate carriers, helmets, PPE, tourniquets, medical kit, gas masks, and patrol rifles. Prepare for both standoff and CQB engagements.


Beyond the strategic, operational, and tactical dimensions of police work is the matter of psychological response to critical incidents. We must dedicate ourselves to building officer resilience and recovery from the stress and grief. It is very normal to be upset and angry at the loss of lives as with Dallas. Talk to your partners. If you need someone else to speak to, agency services are available to help us through tragic incidents like this.


Stay ready and be the one that brings the others back……Semper in Via!

About the Authors: Lawrence Lujan and Aaron Cunningham are veteran law enforcement officers and proud members of the International Tactical Training Association. Please join us in the discussion at Tactical Solutions Magazine.

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Terrorist Communication

“In Vietnam we had air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, but we lost. So I realized there was something more to it…” John Boyd

We will also lose the fight against terror until local law enforcement takes a central role in targeting and detecting individuals inspired to commit terrorist acts by networked extremist organizations. Local law enforcement agencies are situated to act as prime collectors and sensors to see the indicators of a terror attack by non-state actors.

All attacks involve hostile surveillance, whether hasty or deliberate. All attacks by networked extremists entail communication. Activity based intelligence with a focus on terrorist surveillance and communication at a local level is key to public safety.


To stop, reduce, and mitigate these events we must rely on detection, recognition, and reporting at the lowest possible levels. The collection of information and action taken on the street by officers is more natural to the problem than applying the Goliath resources of the nation to protect the US homeland and its citizens.

Our national security entities do not entrust local law enforcement with intelligence requirements for terrorism. The current critique of fusion center activity effect is related to this persistent problem. Until the officer on the street is a fully vested stakeholder in the counterterrorism enterprise, our gains will be few and far between.

Electronic media and means of communication are proven to have enabled terrorist recruitment from afar. The initiation to terror now simplified to a declaration of allegiance. In 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) published a guide demonstrating intent to recruit low capability-high intent actors within criminal organizations and gangs. Gang members and criminals are vulnerable to recruitment as with Molenbeek and Paris.


The capability to provide individuals and small groups with abbreviated online training and simple attack constructs has real consequences. The evidence from San Bernardino, Molenbeek, and Orlando demonstrate this. And electronic media provide ‘moral’ encouragement, coaching, and even emotional support for those on the road to terror.


The detection, recognition, and reporting of terrorist communication and surveillance is crucial to defeating attacks. And time is not on our side. Overt and covert electronic communications have shortened the cycle of attack from years and months to mere weeks. From planning and targeting to pre-operational surveillance, the advent of internet tools ramps up the entire cycle.

We buy time whenever we find terrorist communications or surveillance. Detection sooner than later is our preference. Catching real-time threats or attack messaging aimed at triggering a given terrorist event is important. Running toward the sound of gunfire or detonation is only part of law enforcement response.


Open source monitoring by local law enforcement of social media platforms, content analysis of text and images, electronic foot-printing, and link analysis all provide investigative support, a warning or indication with a local nexus. ISIL is active in all fifty states, and the frequency of attack plots is growing. ISIL demonstrates a real capability to act against both ‘near and far’ enemies.

Officers must hone their skill at detecting hostile surveillance by terrorist and criminal actors. Criminals employ the same counter-surveillance and counter-intelligence techniques as terrorists to avoid arrest and protect their criminal enterprise. British security forces learned to deploy forces in such a way as channel terrorist surveillance of targets for covert detection. Create the opportunity to detect hostility. Become adept at recognizing signs and evidence of clandestine messaging, physical and electronic.

Terrorist organizations flounder without reliable communication as the joint purpose derails. The prime function of terrorist command and control is to project intent and authority through a communication system.

Covert communication enables the terrorist underground to function, avoid detection, maintain cover, and transmit secret messages. This skillset is very different and unrelated to the discrete skills and methods of terrorist attack – homemade explosives (HME), small unit tactics, firearms training, and assault planning. The indicators are also very different. We must know how the communication method functions and what evidence or lack thereof indicates covert activity.

We will fail to interdict attacks time and again until local officers know the ground better than the criminal or terrorist adversary. Higher level collection efforts will rarely obtain the needed terrain association and understanding of local conditions. A studied knowledge of the street alone makes the invisible visible and illuminate an otherwise dark network.

Covert communication by networked extremists uses a system of couriers and cut-outs. The system may be physical or electronic or both. Voice, print, radio and electronic communications may all play a part. The hostile intent of networked extremists hinges on the ability to route messages through network nodes.

The redundant messaging creates reliability. Compartmentation in messaging produces security. Networked extremists and criminals balance these issues in a trade-off between the interest in counterintelligence and the need for exposure to develop support in populations vulnerable to terror messaging (or market-share in the narcotics trade).

Tightly structured terrorist groups like Al Qaeda before 9/11 used direct instruction in training camps to foster organization discipline. But loosely structured networks are more prevalent today. The trend is toward the dissemination of open source training with electronic media like Al Qaeda’s online electronic magazine Inspire or ISIL’s Dabiq publication.

With a large global audience, Dabiq and Inspire magazines focus on radicalizing the ‘Far’ enemy and encourage unguided attacks in the West. The Tsarnaev brothers were inspired by electronic media and acted out the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing from directions contained within.

The current use of various social media platforms currently facilitates radicalization across the globe with great success. Networked extremists use Twitter with effect for terrorist recruitment, attack messaging, and other command communications. These platforms are behind the problem of returning ‘Foreign Fighters’, lone wolf, and wolf pack attacks in Europe and the US.

We know our networked enemies thrive in a complex adaptive environment. This despite the energy and massive resource of numerous nation states dedicated to the counter-terrorism agenda. Light organizations decide and act faster than the vertical bureaucracies which oppose them. Whether tight and disciplined or loose and chaotic both drug trafficking and terrorist networks exploit the flexibility of horizontal organization. And both are unafraid to use violence to achieve goals.

The trend toward loose organizational structures makes them inherently difficult to infiltrate or penetrate with human sources and informants. Individual members do not promote to sensitive roles in these networks. High-level sources do not avail the counter-terrorism effort. Hence the failure to interdict recent attacks in California and Florida. Satellite imagery has little value when searching for children throwing rocks.

Strikes to capture and kill terrorist leadership are mitigated in flat networks with robust organizational continuity plans. Its network disperses its ideology and command intent despite the arrest. The center of gravity shifts in a system that readily replaces functions and roles.

Loose connection to the sprawling horizontal organization of ISIL is visible in the examples of Molenbeek, San Bernardino, and Orlando. It explains the lack of discipline, amateurish tradecraft, and absent counterintelligence protocol. This method succeeds because we are not listening or looking with enough focus at the local level.

These lethal amateurs have no direct contact with the central command of a terrorist organization but remain inspired to act by the extremist cause, cultivated perception of oppression and hatred of the West. Electronic media communicate hate speech and ideology with great effect.

Without access to Inspire magazine and the online teaching of Al Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki, the Boston bombing was unlikely. The internet is used for command and control to recruitment, finance, propaganda, training, and education.

But some elements never change. Both networked extremists and criminals continue to communicate by couriers and cut-outs. Messages are received and safely delivered to persons or places. The courier system maintains the network; it is used to deliver money, equipment, forged documents, contraband, weapons, and propaganda.

Dark organizations know that interception of the messages or contraband carried by courier creates jeopardy. The knowledge possessed by couriers threatens systems and plans. Tight networks like cartels or pre-9/11 Al Qaeda will continuously monitor its courier system for exposure to counter-terrorist forces or law enforcement.

Surveillance cells in cartels (known as halcón or ‘hawks’) communicate observation to cartel sector chiefs or ‘Plaza’ bosses. These leaders message the cartel ‘Central’ command. For tactical and operational communication, cartel relies on a wide-area covert radio network.


The radio network facilitates operations from Mexico to Central America. It is a vast system of radio antennas, signal relays, base stations, and handheld radios. The components in whole are less expensive than mobile options. Radio networks are easy to maintain but difficult to monitor, track, and disrupt.


The electronic methods are faster than the timeworn use of physical couriers, cut-outs, and drops. In Columbia, some strategic communication by Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel was sent by carrier pigeon. Escobar signed these airborne messages with a thumbprint for authenticity.


Recent strategic communications by cartel command use a system of cut-outs based on the hybrid use of BBM (Blackberry’s Instant Messaging) and the Internet. Every Blackberry BBM message has an encryption hash. Blackberry does not require name and phone detail to register for the BBM messaging service. It is secure and anonymous.

Cut-outs received BBM messages from both command and operational cells. The cut-outs change their physical location, WiFi access point, and IP address. On receipt of a BBM message, a cut-out transcribes the message to a laptop or pad. The message goes to a second cut-out by the internet. It is sent again by Blackberry to the final recipient.


The man-in-the-middle defeats cellular monitoring. Interception and identification complicated by disparate communication systems and cut-outs. The cut-out does not need to know or ever have direct contact with either sender or receiver.

Networked extremists enhance communication security with encryption, concealment, steganography, and multiple options for access and retrieval. They scheme to anonymize the use of electronic devices and access to the Internet. ISIL developed instruction and guides to secure communications for members.

The transnational operations of El Salvador’s MS-13 gang supported covert communications through gaming consoles, both Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox 360. This back channel skirts cellular communication but enabled voice over internet protocol (VOIP), group text chat, virtual world interaction, and video teleconferencing.


Despite the use of radios, pads, laptops, and cellphones, direct physical contact matters. Local law enforcement is best suited to detect it where it happens. Officers know the ground, the people, customs, habits, and social atmosphere where they work.


Covert methods like the ‘Brush Pass’ are familiar to law enforcement. Brief encounters between individuals with objects are common to street narcotics investigations. We draw an analogy between the mechanics of communication and transfer of objects that work for terrorists and criminal alike.


Law enforcement is keen to spot the ‘lingering’ and ‘lurking’ of persons in an area. These behaviors often precede a brush-pass. Officers may observe signals, hand gestures, eye contact, and following before exchange. These actions design to time a pass when both sides feel secure – always prepared to abort or hold off until ready.


Criminals and terrorists alike use ‘Dead Drops.’ Dead drops use concealment and camouflaged containers for messages or contraband that blend into a hide. Dead drops allow two individuals to switch possession of an object without direct interaction like the brush pass.


As with brush-passes, officers will watch for signals for filling or taking objects from dead drops. The use of silent signals may be more sophisticated with terror networks than drug enterprises. But the increasing prevalence of loose network structure says otherwise. Tomorrow’s terrorist will be an amateur.

Covert communication system selected by networked extremists and criminal organization will combine the elements of couriers, cut-outs, passes, and drops in a system. Depending on the transfer requirement, it may be physical or electronic.

By example, a senior leader in a network can send a command by courier to a cut-out at a designated location by dead-drop. The cut-out may then pass the command to a target cell at a second location (also using a dead drop). The cut-out never meets directly with the sender or receiver.


Urban areas offer congested streets, restricted field and angle of view, and dead spaces ideal for concealment and camouflage. And cities are conducive to criminal measures for early warning, security, and counter-surveillance. But an officer’s acute local knowledge of the ground will  make the invisible visible, and reveal the weakness and vulnerability of hostile communications and surveillance.

Semper in Via!

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Criminal Surveillance


In an example of spillover border violence, a Texas federal trial resulted in the recent conviction of two Mexican nationals and Beltran-Leyva cartel members for interstate stalking. They conspired to assassinate Los Zetas cartel attorney Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa in a Southlake, Texas safe-haven. The cartel kingpin had taken hiding in a luxurious million dollar home in upscale Dallas suburb. The Texas residence was meant to be secret. Chapa sought an anonymous existence knowing well that the cartel desired to murder him.


Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was a one-time interim leader of the notorious Gulf cartel. He was the primary attorney for Mexican drug lord Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, former leader of both the Cártel del Golfo and Los Zetas. He was also a US government informant.


The assassination was carried out on the evening of May 22, 2013. The ambush attack occurred when Chapa was seated and parked in the Southlake Town Square. Here two men pulled behind the Land Rover in a Toyota Sequoia. One exited the Sequoia to approach the passenger side to fire multiple 9mm rounds through the window, striking and killing Chapa where he sat. His wife was standing nearby but left alone unharmed.

The assassination was ordered years before by El Gato, leader of the Beltran-Leyva cartel. This operation – overseen by regional territory leader, ‘Plaza Boss’ and Commandante Alberto “Chico Malo” Mendoza – began by enlisting a prized surveillance cell led by Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda. This cell labored for two years traveling between Mexico and the US from March 2011 to May 2013.


For the physical and technical aspects of the operation, the team leader included his son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr. (32), and his cousin Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes (59). They had prior law enforcement experience working for the San Pedro Police Department in Monterrey. All savvy in the art of surveillance.

The plan began from a distance with a search of electronic records to acquire open source target information. They would develop their knowledge of Chapa’s Texas activity, his relationships, activity and transactions. They would study the local population and Southlake area where Chapa was situated to understand the mood and establish a baseline. They acquired two safe-houses to support them.


Between electronic information and details gleaned from technical options, the surveillance cell set out to develop a pattern of life for Chapa to aid in the assassination plan. In this operation, the cell decided to deploy as many as six GPS vehicle tags to track and locate key vehicles connected to Chapa, his family, and close associates. Their target was surveillance aware, and the plants would need to be ‘deep’ and undetected.


They also elected to collect details through static and mobile video surveillance. With video and game cameras deployed covertly, the surveillance cell had better control of the residence and area. A combination of close and long-range standoff cameras created an intelligence picture of Chapa’s coming and going, his habits, and security measures.

An outdoor wireless mesh network may have offered a practical and inexpensive method to deliver the combination of HD video, voice over wireless, GPS tags for tracking, alongside triggers and cues with both client and backhaul connections. IP cameras work as routers in a networked system using a base station and wireless LAN controller. And long range directional links could have extended the mesh network to 3 miles or more. Or was a simpler approach chosen.

We know that the overall system utilized surveillance cameras and game cameras placed in various locations throughout Chapa’s neighborhood, deeply emplaced GPS tags on vehicles owned by Chapa and his relatives, and the use of a fleet of non-descript rental vehicles to switch during the mobile aspects of the surveillance. This was a formidable equation.

The activity may also have leveraged cartel experience in wide area clandestine radio networks used to communicate and run intelligence operations from Mexico to Central America. We have developed knowledge about cartel structure from recent efforts to reduce and disrupt these same radio systems. The use of simple but reliable long-range communication systems composed of radio antennas, signal relays, base stations, and handheld radios is low-cost and easy to maintain.


From the radio related interdictions, we learn that cartel surveillance cells on the ground, whether individuals or small groups, are called halcón or ‘hawks.’ These surveillance cells report up to sector chiefs or ‘plaza’ bosses. In the Chapa case, Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda directed target and pattern of life details regarding to Plaza Boss’ Alberto “Chico Malo” Mendoza. Chico Malo would have controlled the command post for the operation, the cartel ‘Central.’


This type of information sharing enabled the cartel’s strategic level intelligence assets to digest and process the detail. In turn, Chico Malo could re-task or refine the priority intelligence requirements for the planned assassination. And when satisfied deploy his assassins, sicarios now armed with necessary details to be successful.

For Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa the final scenario was a soft-stop and ambush on a parked vehicle. This was over in seconds. The hard work that primed the brief but lethal encounter was a matter of months and years. Remember that all attacks are preceded by hostile surveillance — whether hasty and  short or long and dedicated. Your survival may hinge on studying and recognizing its many forms. Semper in Via!

About the Author: Aaron Cunningham is the acting President of ITTA

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Shift Training: Edged Weapon Incidents

Here are four recent edged weapon incidents where the responding officers were forced to deploy deadly force.  It happens in the blink of an eye.  Be ready.
·         Retreating From The Threat:  a tactical retreat may at times be necessary.  However retreating backwards as in the Gallatin video without knowing what is behind you can cause you to fall, giving the suspect the advantage to hurt you and kill you (look at what happens @ 12 seconds and also @ 32 seconds). Also look at the Camarillo video (@ 33 seconds) to see how retreating backwards can cost you your life.  Where and when possible, it is better to move laterally away from the deadly threat.  Our peripheral vision allows us to see barriers that exist to our right or left, but not to the rear.  If you trip or fall, know that you have to immediately move and get up before the threat is on you.  If you failed to get up and move on time, and the suspect is on you will be forced to fight from the ground, so be ready for this.
·         Proximity To The Offenders/Reactionary Gap:   Sgt. Dennis Tueller, Salt Lake City, UT; in SWAT Magazine 1983 wrote an article called “How CLOSE is TOO Close?”  The article and tests that he ran came to be known as the Tueller Drilland later as the 21 foot rule. He demonstrated the danger that a suspect armed with an edged weapon presents to an officer with a holstered weapon at distances of less than 21 feet.  Long story short, it is a totality of the articulable active and lethal threat circumstances that control (demeanor, hostile actions, hostile language, closing distance to you or another innocent person etc.) not just the fact that they are 21 feet or closer.  Split second decisions that we will have to make and articulate afterwards. Maintaining a reactionary gap is in our favor so do your best to do so at all times. See the TOO Close – Don’t Underestimate the Knife video for more examples of threat that edged weapons present when in close proximity.   
·         Relying on One Round to Stop the Threat-Don’t: There is no magic bullet that immediately stops a threat or that causes a body to fly backwards when shot.   Society has been programed to think like this through movies and television.  In the Gallatin, Camarillo and the Glendale video, you see the deadly threat take rounds and continue to pose a deadly threat by closing with the officer.  In a situation like these where the offender is closing on you, it will take more than one round to stop the threat. 
·         Shot Placement:  What is, capable of causing a threat to cease to exist or stop is shot placement, for example, a head shot (s) in the “t-zone.”  However many are not skilled or confident enough to be able to consciously make this type of shot especially in a fast moving incident of this type where both you and the deadly threat are moving.. Remember your target zones:  The 1) T-Zone/Head shot 2) Thoracic Cavity and 3) Pelvic Girdle area.   It may take a combination or multiple combinations (Mozambique for example) or repeated fire to any of the individual zones to make the threat stop (see the target example below). 
·         Verbal Commands:  The situation is volatile and escalated.  Oftentimes the offenders are agitated and may not be in a proper state of mind so keep verbal commands simple and limit it to only one officer giving the commands.  This helps to prevent confusion and any furtive motions caused by the suspect responding to multiple commands from multiple officers who may be saying “stand up, lay down, kneel down etc.”
·         Hesitation:  Do what you need to do legally, quickly and efficiently for the betterment of all.  You are in a volatile and deadly situation, you need to be on task and focused on the task at hand without having to worry about what may or may not be said in the media.  You have been trained on when you can and cannot use force, and how to effectively use force so act accordingly.
About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is the Editor-in-Chief of Tactical Solutions Magazine
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Roll Call Training: Blue on Blue

All units respond to multiple suspects dressed in black, wearing hoods, just got off of black suburban’s, carrying AK-47’s, and kicking in a door to a home
All units respond to reports of armed men who just surrounded a vehicle, took out its driver and dragged him into a warehouse, closing the overhead door behind them
Two incidents that occurred in my area of operations.  Living on the border of Mexico, both incidents fit the pattern of a drug cartel takedown or kidnapping. In both instances, officers responded as trained and equipped (patrol rifles at the ready).  In the first instance the federal team had already cleared the scene and in the second, the federal team was still on site.   These are just two of many incidents that occurred, where federal agencies, neighboring jurisdictions, or local undercover units conducting raids, “buy-busts,” etc., almost resulted in blue-on-blue incidents. 
On all of these, the danger to all of the involved units was self-inflicted. A failure to communicate with local agencies when executing raids, a failure to deconflicta failure to communicate— is what almost resulted in a blue on blue incident.  In addition, officers responding to on-duty incidents while plain-clothed or while in an off-duty capacity can also contribute to a blue-on-blue incident. 
A blue-on-blue incident is the last thing that anyone would ever want to happen, it is fatal on both ends.  We need to assure that we are not a contributing factor to these incidents.  A 2009 NYPD report found that 1 in 6 undercover NYPD officers had been mistaken for offenders and that 10 officers had lost their lives since 1930 in blue-on-blue incidents. This video from Albuquerque graphically highlights the tragic ending to an incident of this type. 
Some risk management tips to consider:
·        Field Sergeants—if you hear a call like this and there is no active shooting taking place and you think that it may be another unit or agency (like what occurred in my jurisdiction); get on the radio and have communications check all channels to see if someone is running a mission in your area; also, have communications check event deconfliction with your Fusion Center, Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS), and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) to see if someone is working an operation in your area. 
Hopefully, you can get this information before you and your line officers get on scene. Until they are on scene and until you get confirmation that there is another unit or agency that is the cause of this call, you and your units must and will respond according to the information that has been received—armed suspects. 
In the first incident described above, the agency had already cleared the scene (not telling anyone who they were) and it wasn’t until some 30 minutes after the initial call and active attempts to identify who was involved (suspects for law enforcement) that we were able to track down the involved agency.  In the second incident, units arrived on scene and confronted the plainclothes officers from that agency.
·        Field Officers—know who your TAC and plain-clothes units are. This is your job as an individual officer and your job as an FTO to show your probationary officers who they are.
·        Field Officers—when responding, look at the entire person, not just the hands. UC units are undercover units for a reason, and that is to blend into their environment.  So look at the whole picture.
·        Undercover/plain clothes officers or off-duty officers—properly identify yourselves, abide by UC protocols or safe-words, and if you responded in a plain-clothes capacity and hear marked units arriving, make yourselves as small a threat as possible.
·        Team Leaders—if you are using patrol marked units as your rescue teams, and they come from outside of your team, it is your responsibility to clearly identify your UC to them.  
·        Team Leaders—if you are concerned about OPSEC, then at the very least get on the radio and advise the local jurisdiction once your operation has kicked off; telling them that you are in the area and that you have unmarked and plain-clothes units on scene.
·        Team Leaders—if you are going to request marked units to assist you, it is your duty to fully brief the responding units to the threat level of the operation and offender.   
·        Team Leaders—make sure to deconflict your operations. It reduces risk to all units (those on task and those that may respond); also reducing risk to the community. Event deconfliction is vital to officer safety. 
·        Team Leaders—if someone misses the mission briefing, then they do not participate.
·        Team Leaders—if someone misses the mission briefing, then they do not actively participate. It is that simple. Lieutenants, sergeants and operators alike, that means you. Don’t get upset, don’t pull rank, look at what happened in the video.
Stay safe, stay ready and be the one that brings the others back…..
About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is the Editor-in-Chief of Tactical Solutions Magazine
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Roll Call Training: Sign of Things to Come?


The recent confirmation that the police ambush shooter in Philadelphia attacked after pledging allegiance to the Islamic state raises concern of things to come.  Israel recently suffered over 13 terrorist inspired knife attacks.  While these events appearing to be unplanned, uncoordinated, and largely unpredictable “Lone Wolf” type incidents, they were linked to networked violent extremist ideology of foreign terror organizations and the Islamic State (ISIL).


ISIL propaganda provides guidance and encourages “individual jihad” and small cell operations, Lone Wolf, and Wolf Pack attacks in Western countries and the US. In September 2014, ISIL spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani called for Lone Wolf attacks in the West by ‘any means possible’ and specifically identified law enforcement, military and government officials as prime targets. ISIL operatives are instructed to attack Law Enforcement with firearms, knives, vehicles, explosives, arson, and poisoning.

Little Rock 2009, Fort Hood 2009, Boston 2013, Garland 2015, Chattanooga 2015, and San Bernardino 2015 mark the increased rate of terrorist incident within the US. There were (209) arrests for terrorism related charges from 2001-2012. (73) US persons were arrested with connection to Islamic State since March 2013, of which (58) were arrested from January 2014. Approximately (250) US citizens have traveled to join the Islamic State. In October of 2014, the FBI indicated there are 900+ active terror related cases.

In general, ambush style attacks have claimed the lives of 115 officers and injured 267 from 2002-2014 (FBI 2014). Know that related ‘Hit & Run’ terrorist attacks are not always suicide missions. Although willing to die, these individuals intend to carry out further attacks.

Proactive intelligence: Our intelligence officers and field officers need to be alert for specific threat messaging and extremist propaganda promoting this new type of attack against officers (in-vehicle ambush) as it is capable of radicalizing and inciting those predisposed to act in this fashion.


Preparation and Training:  Beginning in December, we prepared and trained our shift on weapon deployment from within the vehicle.  This is dry-fire, shift training, averages approximately 15 minutes per officer, and does not require sending your officers to the academy, and can be done in your station parking lot (use your sergeants, SWAT/TAC officers, but definitely use dedicated and motivated instructors) .  The training addresses the issue of in-vehicle ambush and or having to deploy their handgun, shotgun or patrol rifle from inside of the patrol car.  It creates mind maps and ingrains the steps necessary to effectively deploy their weapon from within the vehicle. Specifically, it:

  • Teaches officers the front seat hazards and response zones
  • Allows the officer to practice the actions and steps necessary to deploy their pistol, shotgun or patrol rifle from the vehicle
  • Assures that the officer is carrying their patrol rifle or shotgun.
  • Familiarizes officers with the rifle/shotgun lock release button.
  • Familiarizes officers with the two most common types of rifle/shotgun racks.


In light of the attack in Philadelphia, this is timely proactive training to run your shift through. Work to carefully understand terrorist targeting and vehicle related ambush. Prepare your standoff defenses against rifle attacks at 25 meters or more against adversaries wearing armor and rifle plates. Prepare also for fast emerging close range attack with handguns and hand held weapons (like the 2014 NYC axe attack and 2013 machete attack against a soldier in the UK).

Stand ready and be the one to bring the others back….

About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is the ITTA’s Editor-in-Chief for Tactical Solutions Magazine.


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Shift Training: Subject with Knife Call Ends in Lethal Force

Indianapolis units respond to a subject with a knife call that ends in the use of deadly force.  Officers can be heard attempting to de-escalate the situation as well as advising him that an ambulance was on scene. 
·         What does this scenario present to you?
·         What environmental factors do you need to take into account?
·         Did the initial gun shots stop the offender?
·         What can you do to attempt to de-escalate the suspects actions?
·         What tools can you deploy in this scenario?
·         If you were the officer that shot, how would you articulate the reason   for doing so?
·         The scene deteriorates with community and family members angrily     attempting to enter the crime scene. 
o   What do you need to do and to be concerned with?  Explain. Click and Watch the Video, Explain your Actions.

About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is the Editor-in-Chief for ITTA’s flagship publication, Tactical Solutions Magazine. He serves with distinction as a Sergeant with El Paso PD (EPPD-MVRC).
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Shift Training: Ambush Attacks


With the recent ambush attacks against law enforcement officers, it is important that remember that this is not something new. In the 1970’s the Black Liberation Army ambushed and killed 7 LEO’s. Other extremist groups and individuals have done the same.  Do not let it detract from the important role that we serve, nor from the service that we provide to the community.  Our role is that of guardians and protectors of those who need our help at their most vulnerable moment–men, women, children, the elderly, the widows and the orphans.  We are not an occupying force at war with the community. In fact there is really only 5% of society that is typically intent on committing crime and evil against the honest citizens that we serve.


Here at El Paso PD, we constantly train to identify crime trends, to respond to them and also on how to properly identify threats to others and to ourselves.  We maintain the best training, equipment and instructors available at EPPD.  It works to insure officer survival.

Seek the guidance, knowledge and operational experiences of your senior agency partners. What you face today is not something new. In fact, the old dinosaurs on your shift have lived it and through it.  Look for the officers that came on in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and ask them about how things were then—what led to the LA riots, the gun and gang violence of those days, the ambush tactics against law enforcement in those times, and the methods and tactics used to successfully overcome those threats to law enforcement and the community in those days.  Then look at the current threats, train, and be ready to serve and where necessary to respond and fight for the greater good.


There is a three book series by Caliber Press (Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters; The Tactical Edge: Surviving High Risk Patrol; and Tactics for Criminal Patrol: Vehicle Stops, Drug Discovery), shift training and self-initiated training.  These books provide you with legal and survival knowledge learned at the high cost of lost officers lives.  Talk to the old gang guys who worked city wide TAC and CRASH back in the 90’s for ideas and tips on effective traffic and subject checks.  Later this year, you will also be exposed to Traffic Stop training at the Academy.

Do the recent attacks and ambushes against law enforcement cause us to become hyper vigilant, to become occupying forces, to take on an us versus them attitude, to fear using force when necessary, or to slow or stop our protection of those that we serve and who need us the most-men, women, children, the elderly,  the widows and orphans?  That answer is a resounding NO!

We will continue to stop and to help those most in need, that is our duty, and that is our calling……

Some common and often repeated Street Survival Tips:

  • Maintain situational awareness–on the way to duty, at duty and on the way home from duty
  • Don’t wear your uniform on the way to or on the way home from work
  • Wear your vest.
  • Keep your head on a swivel–stop lights, on approach, when pulling up to the station, when leaving the station, basically at all times.
  • When you break for 7, talk to each other and set up your areas of responsibility (Partner I have the front door to us, partner I have the back door and bathrooms to us).  Don’t assume you have a plan, talk about it and you will do it
  • Carry your survival tools–pistol, rifle, shotgun, Taser, baton, Less than lethal launcher
  • There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop
  • Do not always make the same approach on a vehicle stop
  • Call out when on a traffic stop or subject check, give a cross street if possible, and give a visual description so that others can get to you (in the rear of the Walmart etc.)
  • Know your responsibilities when you are the Contact or Cover Officer
  • If you are a citation oriented officer, look beyond the citation.  As the statistics from the recent operations in NERCC show–people are driving with illegal guns, knives, and drugs in their cars.  Just think about how many times you walked away from someone who you stopped and who you did not thoroughly check.  The criminal learns that they are not being thoroughly checked and will carry their weapons and illegal drugs and use them against the community once they realize this.
  • If you hear you partner call-out–at the minimum do a drive-by to make sure that they are ok better yet, since most of us ride solo, stop and be the Cover Officer.
  • Conduct felony stops when necessary and don’t rush the car.
  • Focus on the task at hand-not when is your 10-7, or your 10-10 or what you are going to do after shift.  You stopped that car or that subject, now focus on them.
  • Put that damn cell phone away–Facebook, twitter et al., can wait
  • Supervisors, we need to stop texting officers with assignments, that is what the radio is for.  How can we expect them to get off of them if we tie them to it.
  • Look at people, let them know that you saw them–this is not mad-dogging, but a simple “how you doing”, “I see you”, “How Can I assist you”
  • Say good morning, how are you etc., to those in your district, in neighborhoods, in public areas (the lady or gentleman watering the lawn, the shop owner)—build community trust and support as well as opportunities to see what is going on in your area.

Stay alert, stay alive and be the one that brings the others back………

About the Author: Lawrence Lujan is ITTA’s Editor-in-Chief for the flagship publication, Tactical Solutions Magazine.



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