I see the current trend to train CQB and focus on Hostage rescue using CQB tactics, and I think, Good. Operators should know how to efficiently, not just quickly, move through a location, processing information at a pace that is faster than a typical covert or High-Risk Warrant movement. As I see more and more teams seem to focus on the speed, surprise, violence of action, and combatives, I wonder, “Are they practicing the no shoot scenarios too?”

In the special weapons arena, we have long espoused the need to practice, practice, practice. We spend many hours honing our shooting skills, our defensive tactics, and violence of action.  In my classes I have seen operators who have spent most, if not all of their training time engaging threat targets and encountering resistive suspects in scenarios training. How do I know they do this?

They shoot the wrong person. They either get surprised during movement, or because they assume, they will need to shoot, they shoot. Or they get stuck when they just need to get someone in handcuffs. They yell and scream, and really get more confused than their years of experience on a team would suggest they should. Several years ago, after watching this go on, I realized that not all teams practiced the way my team did. We practiced shooting and combatives and all that. But we also practiced taking compliant subjects into custody. We practiced the no shoot.

Practicing the no shoot is as critical as practicing the shoot situation. We often think we don’t need to practice the simple situations because we do them every day. It is true we may handcuff people every day, but this is rarely done in a team environment like a SWAT deployment movement through a location to suspect contact. It is usually on the street, with one, maybe two backups. This is a different mindset than in a SWAT scenario. We should practice the no shoot scenario for a couple of reasons.

First, we rarely shoot people. We contact a lot of people in SWAT deployments, whether warrants or barricades/searches, and we usually do not shoot of fight with the suspect. Teams who are routinely shooting or fighting with suspects should seriously look at their decision-making and tactics.

The whole goal of using a tactical team is that, though it is a higher use of force, it makes things safe for the officers and suspect, because of more personnel, better equipment, and increased skill at staying out of problems. If a SWAT team is consistently getting into direct confrontations in events other than hostage rescue, they are not full utilizing the tactics, concepts, and resources available to them. In short, they are not doing their due diligence to their agency nor their community.

Second, in mastering a skill, it is said one must perform the action 10,000 times. If this is so, then we must practice team tactics for taking compliant suspects into custody, just as much as we practice shooting threat suspects. Maybe even more, since again, we rarely shoot people.  

“Everything we do is a perishable skill”, I have heard many police trainers say over the years. Everything must also mean the skill of dealing with the no shoot. When I teach I often say the shooting is easy. We just come in, see a target and shoot, because that’s why the target is there. We condition ourselves to see a target and shoot. This cuts down on that decision-making time that may put us behind the suspect in the OODA loop. We train any time we see what appears to be a gun, or a body positioned like it is holding a gun, we shoot. And we see how that works for police in real life.

There are many more reasons, but based on just these two, we should see the importance of practicing the no shoot as much as the shoot. IT is not a cool. It is not as sexy. It doesn’t highlight our shooting skills or our MMA abilities. But, if you think about how many SWAT deployments you have been on, and how many times you have had to fight or shoot someone as opposed to simply take them into custody, you realize it is also a skill that is perishable.

Think about the new operator who doesn’t quite understand the team aspect and moves in front of a gun or into an unsecured area to cuff a suspect rather than slow down, get the team coordinated and bring the suspect to the team, where there is strength in numbers?

Remember, CQB is a tactic, not an overall operational philosophy. Practice the tactic of CQB, and also the practice of no shoot suspect contact. Dealing correctly with compliant suspects is just as important to the case as dealing with noncompliant suspects is to officer safety.

Train smart, stay safe, be better