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The Modern CERT Warrior and Self Audit

STL Joseph Garcia

You Can Get There from Here!

In the April CERT e-letter, you saw a chart that broke down the equipment and operational capabilities of CERT units from levels one to four. We shared that chart with you because during the past two years, our trainers have identified a promising trend in CERT operations: Team self-audits.

I am encouraged by the increasing number of teams that are doing the hard work of self-audits. It’s important to take stock of where you are, to benchmark your capabilities against those of comparable size teams, and to chart your future direction.

In this article, you’ll learn a little about the “TO&E” (Table of Organization and Equipment) of CERT units on levels two through four (the status of most teams). You’ll understand why it’s critical for you to determine where your team stands, and the operations you are capable of executing. Finally, you’ll read about some of the skills operators at all levels need to win!

Simply stated, self audits are critical because they remove the guesswork from CERT operations. Moreover, they help push your team to a higher level of performance. And these days, with inmates growing stronger both physically and mentally, leading edge CERT units understand they need to move away the old school mentality and join the dynamic era of correctional emergency response. Those who refuse to evolve will jeopardize their team and the success of future missions.

In my experience, the quickest way a team evolves is by making sound and informed purchasing decisions, and matching their new gear to upgraded tactics. In the other lead article of this e-letter, you read about the importance of the CTN certification standard, so I won’t address that here. I’ll merely repeat what I say to teams that are trying to move ahead: If you’re purchasing new equipment or modern technology without changing your tactical mindset, you’re not maximizing your equipment. You’re just wasting precious funds.

That being said, just who are these Level 2 – 4 units, and what separates them from other CERT Units? First and foremost, these units benefit from the full support—budget, training time, etc.—of their respective administrations. They are properly supported and properly trained.

Here’s a snapshot of what it means to be one of these teams.

Level 1: Very limited training time, limited resources, limited budget and will definitely require the assistance of outside personnel.

Level 2: Less lethal capacity and are restricted primarily to low less lethal situations (Traditional Yard Riot Control, Limited Close Quarter Riot Control, Cell Extractions and internal High Risk movements). Their weapons are limited to normally enough for about a 1/3 of the team. In the event of a larger emergency, Level 2 teams generally require partial outside assistance.

Level 3 and 4: These units are capable of handling the most extreme situations both inside and outside their respective facilities. They have sufficient equipment to outfit 80 – 100 percent of the team members. They have monthly training that is structured and aggressive. Some of these teams range from part-time status to full-time operationally ready. These teams do not require outside assistance.

Yesterday CERT Gladiator vs. the Modern CERT Warrior

Over the past five years, CERT tactics have evolved to a new and powerful level. If you haven’t followed this as closely as I have, you may ask, how much can tactics really have evolved? My response to that question is, just look at the proliferation (and variety) of new technology and new inmate threats.

We are in a new age of accountability. A lot of CERT units say, truthfully, that they no longer do the “Goon platoon” thing. Now, that may be fine in theory, but their words don’t match their actions. They haven’t changed their tactics, and these tactics generally require operators to go hand-to-hand with inmates as a primary first strike option. This old school option is simply unsafe for operators (I will clarify this a little later so stay with me).

There’s an alternative to the old school option: The CERT Warrior Battle Plan. In 2002, the CERT Council of 100 and the Council of Senior CERT Operators voted unanimously to approve this approach as an operational standard which all units should adopt no later than 2006. Thus far, nearly two thirds of the world’s top 100 CERT units are using the CERT Warrior Battle plan and tactics.

Hands to Hand CERT Tactics – Traditional CERT Gladiator Style – Personal (Emotions)

If you’re equipping your primary operators with batons, riot sticks, old big round shields, and cans of OC, you’re asking them to be subjective in their use of force. The reason so many teams get in trouble in this area is that operators’ use of force is compared to other operators in the same position.

Example: Take the average 200-pound operator and put him in a situation in which he has to use his baton to strike an inmate to gain compliance. Now add the following: He’s wearing a poorly fitted gas mask, cannot adequately communicate with other team members and leaders, and his response criteria are based on a “robot operational mentality”. To further complicate matters, let’s say the operator is white and the inmate is a minority of some sort. The operator strikes the inmate five times before gaining compliance. Now, take the same situation and apply it to the same type of officer, except this time the officer requires only two strikes to gain compliance.

Result: The operators who used five strikes may be charged with excessive force and violating the inmate’s civil rights. The operator who used two may not be questioned.

Like it or not, when you place an operator into a situation in which he has to go hands on with an inmate, you inject highly volatile emotions into an already extremely tense and stressful situation. The following variables heighten that stress: Adrenaline, combat environment, potential lack of confidence in equipment, self-pressure to be ready to fight and not lose, fitness level at the time of operations, inmate physical ability, mental determination, homemade weapons, etc. An operator has only milliseconds to process all this information, yet the reality is they are judged by a jury that will take days—if not weeks—to analyze their decision.

Final consideration: In a fog of battle, how can a trainer, commander, team leader gauge each operator’s use of force?

The fact is, these tactics have resulted in numerous lawsuits, deaths, serious injuries to operators and inmates. Every hit will be dissected over and over! These obsolete tactics have been reviewed by the legal systems and many times the ruling goes against an entire unit (agency) because they used these old school tactics.

Reach out and Touch the Threats – CERT Warrior Tactics -Business (Impersonal)

CERT units are using the CERT Battle Unit™ concept with great success. This is a new operations standard based on small operator units know as CERT Battle Units or CBU’s. These teams use tactics that “prep the beaches” for a final overwhelming assault. CBUs use special unconventional tactics that first soften up a hardened or reinforced target area and then they deploy the larger unit for direct action.

Sometimes the action of a CBU is enough to gain compliance and make it unnecessary for a full assault by the larger CERT unit. The bottom line for CBUs is, “once compliance starts, escalation of force immediately stops”.

For example, an operator’s immediate response of a double tap (depending on weapon of choice such as the FN303 with the SE532 green laser active optics system) in the appropriate primary area should get immediate compliance. If the inmate fails to comply, the operator automatically goes to secondary and third target areas until compliance is obtained.

The proper and appropriate use of equipment and tactics such as those mentioned above are an important part of CERT self-audits. Additionally, self-audits help team determine their operational capabilities and therefore help administrators determine exactly when and how to deploy their organic CERT resources. In the final analysis, self-audits help operators and teams get to where you want to go by pinpointing your current CERT status and charting a course for future training.


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