police encounters

Police Encounters – For Citizens – Part 1

Police Encounters for Citizens: Part 1-Why Do They Act Like That?

This article is part of our invited guest author series.

By Travis Birney, Federal Law Enforcement Supervisory Special Agent, Firearms Instructor, Tactical Instructor with 25+ years’ experience. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the position of any particular law enforcement agency.

“Show me your hands.” This phrase isn’t reserved for just murderous bad guys. Police use it everyday with every person they meet who they feel might have a weapon or the intent to cause harm. Bad guys have police encounters regularly and know to expect this, but what about the average citizen who has found themselves in a bad situation? Do they deserve to have orders rudely barked at them and treated like a criminal? To find the answer, we have to look at it from the police officer’s point of view.

Law enforcement training

               Law enforcement officers attend training before they hit the streets. This is called the academy and it includes training in law, firearms, physical restraints, driving, and dozens of other subjects they need to know in order to perform their duties. From day one until they retire it is drummed into every cop that they are a target and people will try to kill them simply because they wear a badge. They are responsible for their own safety and one mistake can mean widowing their spouse. Hundreds of officers are killed every year and thousands are seriously injured. The threat is real and it is scary because these injuries come from another human being who maliciously wants to kill them even though they typically have never met.

               Police officers routinely get ambushed by thugs, kids, little old ladies, and hidden gunmen. They get shown videos of it happening to other cops all over the country. The result is a heightened sense of awareness and distrust of every person they encounter. You will see a police officer keeps his or her hands in the “ready” position in front of them so they can quickly block a blow or go for their weapon. They blade their body into a stance that puts their own firearm as far away from a suspect as possible. They keep their eyes trained on the person they are talking to and they always watch the hands. Hands are what are used to attack. Hands kill.

Police encounters after you have drawn your gun in self-defense

               So what happens as a citizen if you are forced to draw your weapon to defend your life or the life of someone else? A police officer is going to be dispatched to your location. They are going to be told there is a weapon involved. They won’t know who is the good guy, bad guy, the circumstances, or who is at fault when they arrive. How would you react if you were the officer? If you are smart, you treat everyone as a suspect until you are certain they aren’t. Plenty of people we thought were “good guys” turned around and killed the officer because they were wanted by police or mentally deranged or both. Officers are likely to treat you as a suspect from the moment they arrive until they leave. It’s nothing personal. It’s how they make sure they go home safely to their families that night.

Officers watch for weapons during police encounters

Understanding the law enforcement mindset will help you survive your encounter with the police. Every year unarmed men and women are tragically killed by cops. Many people don’t understand how most of these shootings are ruled as justified. The reason is that someone rapidly reaching to their rear pocket or the glove box to pull out their driver’s license looks identical to someone reaching for a firearm. If the officer waits long enough to visually identify whether it is a gun or a wallet, it is too late for them to react. No human being can see what is in the other person’s hand, mentally identify it, and then react in time to save their own life. Scientific study after study shows it takes too long. That is why they are trained to shoot if the totality of the circumstances leads them to believe that the other person is deploying a weapon. If they don’t react and shoot first, they won’t be alive to shoot second. This is their training. This is their mindset. Knowing that will help save your life.

Listen to the Officers instructions during police encounters

               When you hear, “Show me your hands” you should slowly take your hands out of your pockets or wherever they are and make them visible to the officer. If you want to show them your identification or the card with your attorney’s phone number on it, simply tell them what you are doing first. If they tell you to stop, simply stop. You may have just survived a deadly force encounter with a bad guy. Don’t end up the victim of a deadly force encounter with the police.

To learn about our recommendations during traffic stops, click here!


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