How To Back Up What You Say You Are: Liability Section
STL Joseph Garcia
Operators this section is meant to cause you to think about how you’re training and how you’re documenting your training. Trainers, commanders and operators, because you wear the big CERT, SOG, SOU, ESU, PERT, SAT, SORT, SWAT and the dozens of other acronyms on your chest you better be prepared to back it up in court.
This is not meant to scare you but to wake you up to the reality that your team is going to be placed in situations where your actions will be called into question and your training records will be examined closely.
How many times have you heard that we can do this or we can do that only to have what you’ve done or said not match up on the given training?
If you say you can do something, you better have the training time to back it up and the records to prove that you’ve trained and are qualified in the specific areas of operations.
Why am I stressing this? Simply because Correctional Hostage Rescue is an area in which teams consistently overrate themselves. To clarify: If a hostage situation occurs in your facility and you kill someone trying to free the hostage, it’s a certain bet that when the investigators come to review the incident – and believe me, they’ll come – I guarantee you they will want to review your training records.
In other words if a bystander gets hurt or if the hostage got hurt and it is proven that your failure to act could have been prevented or the death could have been avoided or the accidental person who was shot by a round that ricocheted from an operator on your team, your team and your facility may be found liable.
The fist thing we teach in Correctional Hostage Rescue is that there is no such thing as less lethal Hostage Rescue. Using that term in any way where death is associated opens you and your agency to potential liability. It makes no difference whether you call it Correctional Hostage Rescue, County Hostage Rescue, or Innocent Bystander Hostage Rescue (joke!), hostage rescue is hostage rescue. When it happens inside a secured facility only makes this type of operation very specialized.
Rescuing a hostage inside a correctional facility often involves the use of deadly force – know this right out of the box, period. To use anything other that the most accurate weapon is nothing short of reckless. Again, there’s no such thing as less lethal hostage rescue. Don’t say there is… And don’t say I didn’t tell you!
Mind What You Say!
Commanders and Operators: We know inmates armor up and that when it comes to less lethal operations, your weapons need to be as accurate as possible. I have seen inmates take dozens of rounds with the paintball types of weapons and from a distance you’re lucky if you can even hit somewhere on a target. Additionally, if you hold the weapon incorrectly before going in, you will have a mis-feed right from jump street. Bean Bags have accuracy issues from certain distances as well – and in some brands, terrible inconsistency problems.
You absolutely do not want to use a less lethal weapon that will only piss off the inmate. In correctional hostage rescue if you deploy any munitions or weapons, you better make completely sure that when you pull the trigger you STOP the inmate!
MN DOC SOG, Solano County SO SOU – CA, San Joaquin County SO SERT – CA, Worcester County SO SOG – MA, CA DOC – SERT, NYC DOC ESU, CT DOC – SOG are a few of the teams we’ve trained in correctional hostage rescue. We’ve trained them to understand that need to quickly neutralize the inmate hostage taker. When an operator squeezes the trigger, he has no doubt that the shot will neutralize the inmate. Extensive training pays off in that moment.
This is an example of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Do it in training so you don’t need to do it in court or in front of a review board.
Rely on Reality… Not Perception!
When your administration sends you into a situation that you know in the back of your mind your team isn’t ready for it’s probably because you have communicated to the administrators – whether on paper or by demonstration – that your team can handle the situation.
Be careful with how your administration perceives your teams’ capabilities. Take every opportunity to share with your administrators via a ‘field status check’ or paper update of your team’s status. Invite administrators to your training so that they get a genuine snap shot of the status of your team. Even better, retain a firm like USC-SOG to conduct a Professional Audit. You might be surprised – either pleasantly or unpleasantly – regarding your team’s status, but at least you will identify areas where you require additional training.
Let’s say that your team was responsible for doing a hostage rescue operation. During the event you used a chemical agent on the hostage taker. Training would have showed you that individuals who have been exposed to OC feel little pain because their sensory system is overloaded and they subconsciously go into self preservation mode. In other words we know chemical agents are not 100% effective and that they affect people differently.
Say the hostage taker got a chemical agent in his eyes and with the back of his hand he tried to wipe his eyes. One of your operators interprets that movement as a hostile gesture and shoots the hostage taker. Here are some questions that will arise from the inevitable investigation into the shooting:
- Was it a justified shooting?
- Did the chemical agent used in the situation cause the inmate to move or was the inmate’s movement merely self preservation?
- Does your team mix less-lethal and lethal in the same stack and if so do you train that way?
Remember this: When a bullet or less-lethal munition misses its target, your team and your agency become liable for each round. If your team trains infrequently in hostage rescue and is called to respond to such an incident, to what kind of potential liability are you subjected yourself?
Train Hard, Train Safe and Most of all train right!