Over the past decade, ambushed on police officers have become a common theme. Whether they are responding to a domestic incident, traffic stops, and various other calls for service that police officers are sent to or self-initiate. I’d love to break them down in numbers but most of the data is officer deaths involved in ambushes. I’m talking about just everyday encounters to include, deadly encounters. Officers sitting eating lunch in their marked cruisers, writing reports, or even taking a break.
The police car is the officer’s most vulnerable position for any cop. There are so many distractions and blind spots when a cop is sitting there. The computer, the different amounts of technology dinging and ringing everywhere. It is very distracting in that police car. Here is a question for you. Should Police Officers be trained in counter-ambush techniques?
One night I was off, lying in bed, asleep. My phone went off, SWAT CALL OUT, ALL OPERATORS PLEASE RESPOND. I jumped up. I keep my gear on the other side of the bedroom, in my attempt to keep noise to a minimum so I don’t wake up my wife or son. I kissed my wife on the forehead, she mumbled something, and I kissed my son in the next room. I headed out the door with all my gear in hand. I went through the checklist in my mind. Radio, pistol, rifle, pants on, yep I was looking pretty good.
I got in my car, it was 2:00 am, and cracked open a Red Bull and I drove away. I made my way to the location and received updates. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENT, SHOTS FIRED, ARMED BARRICADE. I was already thinking, patrol officers, respond to a domestic incident, upon approaching they get shot at. I arrived on scene and sure enough, that’s what occurred. I later learned, one of the officers who was shot at was a combat veteran, he returned fire and got the rest of the officers out of harm’s way.
These stories have become or seem a lot more frequent. One of the reasons, I feel, is the modern media. From Facebook, Snapchat, News, and a multitude of other platforms make these things seem very common. The reality is, they are not as common, but they are increasing. All of a sudden, it is becoming the norm.
At the academy, recruits are taught very basic tactics. Tactics that are too basic for the recruit. Let me be blunt. Six months to become a cop is too short of time. Read my previous article called The Right Kind of Cop. You will see what I mean. The recruits learn enough to get by. Most officers, after graduating from the academy, if they seek self-improvement, have to seek better training. Most of the time this out of their own pockets because cities and towns can’t pay for pricey training. Eventually, it turns into a check in the box for most cities and towns.
The big question. Should officers be trained in counter-ambush? My answer is: absolutely. Now before I hear this is militarization of police, let me be clear. These tactics are necessary to learn, not to militarize the police but to better the communities they serve. With better training, you get a better breed of cop where these ambushes will be less likely to happen.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on in the west coast. Below I present to you a picture of a cop, this is a few days after Los Angeles County Sherriff’s deputies were shot shitting in their cruiser. They miraculously made it. The suspect was arrested a few days later. Now, these are officers, who probably were either on a lunch break or were told to go and sit at this particular area. They are exposed. They in a marked cruiser, which these days have become a target all by itself. They get ambushed and the suspect takes off. So now fast forward a few days and look at this picture below. It is a Seattle news KIRO Channel 7 segment of an officer, with a firearm unholstered as he was being confronted by some “activists.” The reason I put quotation marks on activists is that they are no longer protesters. When you’re throwing Motlov cocktails at police and other incendiary devices, you aren’t protesting, you are rioting and even borderline, part of an insurgency.
Let’s break it down. This is an officer, or sergeant, according to his rank, was probably told to go sit at this intersection in Seattle. Of course, we don’t see what was going on before the camera came on. What was going on around him? Now, given the fact of the hostile environment, the officer was placed in. I do not blame him for being proactive with his safety. Let’s not forget, this is a city where “rioters” overran the East Precinct and destroyed it. This is a city where their mayor and elected officials turned their backs on the police and fed them to the rioters. Below is a picture of the office with his firearm on his lap. But look at the vulnerable position he is in.
Seattle Police Sergeant with a firearm in lap
In the military, while in Iraq, we were taught to not take the same road twice, watch for people videotaping us, we changed tactics almost weekly. When populated areas were suddenly desolate, we prepared for an attack. There were so many things we learned. Why can’t police departments utilize those same tactics? Now, people in a modern western society are creatures of habit. We work 9-5, accidents tend to happen at particular intersections, certain crimes occur at certain hours of the day, schools start at a certain time, and the list goes on and on.
I get that at certain times, patrol officers need to be deployed to prevent traffic offenses, so accidents do not occur, as crime prevention, traffic control, etc. As officers, we need to be aware of our surroundings too. Is there someone videotaping us? Or taking pictures of us while we conduct our business? Are they gathering intel for a potential attack? I’ll give you a personal example.
I was working as an undercover cop at one of our city’s train stations. The TSA along with police officers would conduct random screenings of passengers getting on the trains. The officers set up outside the station and randomly chose passengers based on a pre-determined number on a sheet of paper. One officer would have a number clicker and count passengers coming into the station. Once the officer hits a number on the piece of paper, that passenger would get screened. As an undercover cop, I observed the behavior of the passengers. Did a passenger come in, see that and then turn around and leave? Did a passenger secretly record the officers on camera? I was watching for those behaviors.
I saw this guy walking around for a while. Not buying tickets to get on the train and just wandering. Now, this is normal, if he was waiting to pick someone up from the train. I noticed the guy looking at the officers conducting these random checks. He then walked outside and started looking in their cruisers. So out of curiosity, I walked out there and started to do the same thing. I spoke to the male subject, just shooting the shit with him. I did not identify myself as a police officer just yet.
I learned he was a college student from a nearby university. He studied Structural Engineering and was waiting for a lady friend to pick up. We spoke for some time. I learned his name, his country of origin was China, and found out he lived nearby. At this point, I felt something was off with this guy. All of a sudden, one of the uniform officers calls me over because they had an incident occur. Of course, at that point, I was revealed as a cop. The male subject disappeared and I couldn’t find him.
I passed all this information to the intelligence unit in the police department. They started an investigation and learned, according to video surveillance, the male subject never picked anyone up, he left as soon as he learned I was a cop, the university revealed they did not have a student by that name. Even using pictures from surveillance, the university was unable to locate him. The question is, who was this guy? Was he a potential terrorist? What information was he gathering? Who was he working for?
Was the sergeant in Seattle dealing with a cameraman distracting him while his friends were up to something? Was it a decoy for something more nefarious? These are the questions that have to be asked to better prepare officers for these new threats. Again, being in a cruiser is the most vulnerable position for an officer. The weapon holster we have is typically a 3-point retention system. This means an officer has to manipulate 3 different buttons on the holster before they can draw their gun. That is hard to do while sitting in a cruiser. Wearing a seatbelt makes it nearly impossible to draw your weapon quickly to engage a threat. I hardly ever see police training include exiting a cruiser and drawing their weapon. Like everything else, the movement needs to be repeated 100s of times before it becomes muscle memory.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on October 6, 2020.
Ayman is an Army Veteran who was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and became a police officer in 2007 after 8 years of military service. He has worked in the patrol division, in a plainclothes anti-crime unit, as a Metro-SWAT operator, and as a detective in a major crimes unit, as a narcotics task force detective with the DEA, and as an operator with the DEA Special Response Team (SRT). He also helped organize SRT operations in Southern New England.
As an assistant team leader, he assisted and coordinated the planning of operations as well as conducted various aspects of training. He has investigated high-level drug traffickers, gang members, and conducted numerous operations. He is currently the Officer in Charge of the Problem-Oriented Policing Unit. Ayman is a law enforcement firearms instructor, a less-than-lethal weapons instructor, a certified use of force instructor at his police department Ayman’s hands-on experience with law enforcement operations at many different levels coupled with his compassion to save lives has brought him to coordinate “Project Sapient.”
This initiative is a joint effort comprised of law enforcement professionals of all levels combined with the Special Forces philosophy of winning hearts and minds. Ayman has found that to reach more officers and departments, it is important to share his experience with media outlets that reach law enforcement.
He regularly contributes to The Havok Journal, writing articles that provide insight into current law enforcement trends and methodologies to help officers become better equipped to handle an ever-changing work environment.
Project Sapient is currently a Podcast. Ayman’s vision of Project Sapient is to eventually train other law enforcement officers and civilians alike in stress inoculation. Something that is sorely needed in the Law Enforcement profession. In his writing, Ayman draws from his hands-on experience as both a law enforcement professional and his military service.
For years, Ayman has seen the trend in lack of training policing. Whether it’s budget cuts, political enemies, or ineffective policy, Ayman has made it his mission to bring innovation, unconventional policing methods, and to have those tough conversations and instruction to assist law enforcement to better relate with and advise communities.
He sees firsthand the need for better training and tools for law enforcement to serve their communities most effectively. A better-trained officer is what policing a free society requires.
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