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By Kevin E. Bedore , Canadian Federal Correctional Officer
Published: 09/30/2013

Burden In the last article I wrote “Us Versus Them & Surviving Violent encounters”, attempt was made to demonstrate some very differing truths between offender and officer mentality when it comes to violence and aggression. We learned that there are at least two distinct types of aggression likely to be encountered. Some suggestion on harnessing the two types of aggression to win in violent encounters was recommended to counter the predator type of aggression consistent with some inmates one might find them self face to face with. In summary the importance of preplanning and thinking it out ahead of time before the event was what was needed to be brought home. An equal emphasis was placed on knowing your policies, laws and how your choice of effective tactics needs to fit in. The aim was to better confidence for taking decisive action and simply not allowing victimization to occur by only going into work with half your tools.

In this article we will explore some of the problems that occur when trying to apply this to real life and a couple very common pitfalls that often occur in trying to practice what was previously mentioned.

Cognitive Dissonance is defined as: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. (Merriam Webster - Encyclopedia Britannica Company)

Further defining material suggests that there is often discomfort when this occurs which can bring about feelings such as frustration, anger and anxiety to name but a few. Not the best feelings to be having when your and others lives are at stake and everything you do must count.

So what does all this psychological blether have to do with surviving a violent encounter with a predator? It directly pertains to how officers often are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to legal justification of use of force they are legally required to use and the actual application of it. Too many lives have been lost trying to figure this out while under fire.

You probably have seen this in your jail, those that have conflicting views that preclude them from properly performing the lawful duties required of them as CO’s. For clarification, these are moral, ethical, spiritual and individual values which are the root of a person. Some of these personal conflicts I have been witness to are just plain crazy. Here for simplicity sake we will focus on the most troubling of this - the officer that doesn’t want to or second guesses to use force because of what will happen administratively or even in a different regard altogether afterward. They have entered one of the most dangerous places a person can go and should know all too well that use of force is an essential albeit unpleasant reality of making it home alive to see another day. More important morality is the extension of the officer’s legal duty, responsibility and mission to protect other persons by using force if necessary as well.

I have witnessed this on more than one occasion. I have heard some attempt to rationalize these deficiencies by trying to qualify their conflicted state with things like, “I can’t get into trouble here and lose my job – I have kids to feed” and “I can just talk my way out of anything that ever happens here”. Their points may have some skewed validity, however these individuals need to fully come to terms with that ugly part of our jobs that few want to think about. The truth is that they are in an environment that this unpleasant and fact is an actuality they must truly be prepared for and in agreement with from beginning to end. Maybe it is a lack of confidence, improper mental conditioning and being dishonest with oneself by accepting the job they aren’t prepared or willing to do. Whatever it is needs to be worked through immediately before the damage is done. Seeking a different livelihood is also an alternative if this conflict can’t be properly squared away! A bank teller or clerk is not required to use force on a regular basis to save lives as a job requirement! I have admired more than a few brave in other ways people that realized they weren’t cut out for it and did the right thing by leaving.

The other problem is not ethical, moral, and spiritual or anything of the sort mentioned it is an operational problem.

When the threat has presented itself and whether or not you were sharp enough to catch the indicators ahead of time the central nervous system has kicked in and the brain shuts down most non essential functions and the midbrain survival portion takes over. The problem here is that this process trades clear thinking for stamina, strength and power.

I learned some time ago a term that explains many things about physical tactics and survival in one term. Jangled...

Getting jangled is a term that essentially refers to operationally based cognitive dissonance through conflicting priorities regarding what tactic to employ at the moment of need. It is very much if not directly related to what has been termed Hicks Law. In the last article it was mentioned at the time of the event there is seldom if ever enough time to properly process information to any valuable degree. Decisive action and deploying an effective tactic will need to be immediate and in a fraction of a second (if possible sooner would be better!). A second is no longer a long time. Fractions of a second are now the measurement we must consider. Modern law enforcement arrest, control, officer safety, self defense and various weapon curriculums increase constantly in a well intended attempt to cover nearly every possible situation that could ever likely occur. I said well intended because it is. Many experts have worked hard to balance personal safety with effective safe methods of physical control tactics with and without utilization of weapons. Many Use of Force Models and continuum models change and modify on such a regular basis it is difficult to remember one from another and recognize differences in any of it. The problem is that it often overwhelms officers.

Another popular topic among law enforcement training circles is Hicks Law which examines this problem of time versus choice of proper tactic. It is referred to as a serious compounding problem. Let’s just take a peak shall we?

By now we have established that time is not something that is readily available, however a decisive action is urgently necessary. When you add what many might agree as too many techniques for too many situations, not to mention building anxiety and sense of urgency of the officer there is a real big problem. In the ‘jangled’ attempt to choose the appropriate technique that precious little time that you didn’t have to begin with disappears all together.

An officer becomes jangled when he can’t decide on what would be most appropriate and yes best choice in line with policy and law. “Paralysis by Analysis” is what has occurred and the officer defaults to do nothing. A rule of thumb that has gotten more than a few out of a tight pinch is doing something – a bad tactic is better than none at all.

If you are the unfortunate jangled officer that lets the CNS take over not doing anything and allowing yourself to freeze up I can assure you very bad things are quickly coming your way. If you are lucky you might learn from this bad experience, but maybe others will be learning on your behalf! There are enough sad stories of lessons learned in blood that sadly might have been prevented had there been greater awareness well ahead of the critical time or should I say lack of.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Kevin E. Bedore has 28 years experience in law enforcement, 23 as a Canadian Federal Correctional Officer. He began writing as a form of personal therapy to combat the negative effects that the correctional environment was having on him. He then realized that he had discovered something truly amazing that definitely needed to be shared with other officers facing the same challenges he had.

Other articles by Kevin Bedore


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