Violent Lessons From Last Night

I’m a believer in the idea of Kaizen: Constant Intentional Improvement through analysis of what is and isn’t already working well. Last night we stopped some fights about to happen, and put hands on some people already fighting. It went very well, but there’s still room for improvement. Here’s what happened, followed by what I hope happens better next time.

7-11: Two Almosts

We maintain a pretty good relationship with some of the local bouncers and security guards. Some of them have our phone numbers, and some of them have our frequency on their radios. We respond to their calls when we can help, and they’ve responded to ours. Last night we were at a local convenience store for a couple of noteworthy incidents:

1) Invisible Men to the Rescue

In one case, a dirty-looking man was sitting directly in front of the only door into or out of the store, and the security guard on duty was tasked with removing him. We approached, witnessed the guard trying to order and even push the shoulders of the seated man, with no progress. What to do? The person is causing some problem, but is not a threat, and it seems a waste of resources to call the police if it’s avoidable.

The solution came in the form of another unkempt man, speaking some of the time to the seated man, the guard, the Guardian Angels, himself, and some other people nobody else could see. Sure enough, we heard him being calm and loud, telling the seated man to move, proclaim his own ROTC experiences, and a constant announcement of a phone number (one that couldn’t actually work). The end result? the seated man got up and moved along, the guard didn’t put anyone in danger, and we were wondering what made it work so well.

If you’d like to read some of the best advice available on dealing with emotionally disturbed people in a tactical situation, do yourself a huge favor, and read Talking Them Through: Crisis Communications with the Emotionally Disturbed and Mentally Ill: by Rory Miller

2) The Loudmouth Begs For a Beating

Just out in front of the same convenience store, we saw one young guy and his girl-friend talking trash to a group of five MUCH bigger guys. The group was trying to let him off the hook, and he just kept pushing their buttons, taunting them, generally just letting his fragile ego run his mouth for him.

As our patrol approached, he even told the group of guys they were “acting tough because those guys with the red berets are here to back you up.” Incredible. We convinced the group that this loudmouth wasn’t acting in his own best interest (with which they agreed), and we convinced the loudmouth to keep on moving. Even his girl-friend didn’t quite seem to understand, which is rare. Usually I’ve seen the ladies keep a cooler head, realizing that it’s not a good idea to dare a big group of guys to fight you alone. Wow.

Ivar: Multiple Take-Downs, Bouncer Assists, Handcuffs and Teamwork

We were on the corner where our Chapter had seen one of its most violent nights, watching and listening to the crowd empty out and wait impatiently for their cars from the valet. Looking down the street, I saw two guys standing face to face. I even turned to my partner and said, “You know, if I were standing like that, it’d be because I expected to hit somebody” … and nothing happened. They smiled, laughed, kept talking … and we looked away.

We turned back, and there were three guys, two pounding on the other. We ran down, those two took off running … until the first two Guardian Angels caught up with them. We made it a short get-away, and a quick trip to the ground. We got some assistance from the awesome bouncers working the club helped us walk those two guys onto the sidewalk against the wall, while they talked about self-defense (from the one guy they were beating into the pavement).

That was all fine, until some random person jumped on one of the bouncers. We grabbed him, ever-so-gingerly placed him on the sidewalk, cuffed him, and searched for weapons. Another person was upset that “he spit at me – that’s assault!” The bouncer decided it was no big deal, so we uncuffed the subject … who was then joined by his friend – the same guy he had just spit on! and they walked into a taxi together to leave. Unbelievable.

How to Improve Patrol

1) Leap-Frog is better.

I’d like to see a faster acceptance that the first Angels to intervene with each person can do a decent job of handling that person, freeing up the other Angels to continue on the next person(s) to be handled. Otherwise, without this method adequately drilled we will move too much like a group of five year olds playing soccer, always chasing the ball in a group. If we have six Angels on patrol, and two fighters, it’s rational to expect that the first three Angels will handle the first fighter, and the latter three Angels will handle the second fighter. Each group should maintain appropriate Contact & Cover, making it easy to manage any needed communication between groups. This leads us to the second improvement:

2) Bring more Cover and less Contact.

Ok, I admit it: it’s exciting to get your hands in, break up the fight, put the combative subject on the ground, apply the cuffs, etc. It’s a lot less exciting to maintain eyes on the scene, managing activity, and watching all the interesting parts happen. But this isn’t about fun – it’s about stopping violence, and that’s pretty serious business.

If eight of us decide to break up a fight between two people … most of us should be watching – only the minimum safe number of Angels should be directly involved. We need to keep our eyes on the general scene: looking for other potential trouble makers, and watching for the appearance of weapons.

3) Position to Win

Similar to the last point, most of the patrol members present can and should position themselves strategically as a situation develops. If a “Monkey Dance” is going on, some Angels can maintain a perimeter to keep the unwary from wandering into the problem, and to help detain one of the aggressors if he decides to hit-n-run.

We can maintain useful positions better if we’re willing to let others get a little more of the glory. Be aware, that is not the same thing as kicking back and relaxing while somebody else handles the trouble. As “cover” you are responsible for a much larger physical environment AND the safety of your partners. You must constantly battle for the right position: keeping yourself close enough to help immediately, far enough to see more of what’s happening, and subtle enough to allow the aggression to dissipate if possible (too many people closing in on already aggressive people will increase the chance of violence).

  • Andy Cawston via Facebook

    Kaizen gets no better than this, Peter: brilliant! Jeez, I could learn alot from you, and from your Chapter.

    Struggling for any other ideas: women in first, men protecting the perimeter? Most guys still have a “thing” against hitting women. And almost all guys have a “thing” against having their asses handed to them by a woman who knows what she’s doing.

    Women tend to defuse. Men don’t tend to defuse. And most guys will take the opportunity to decompress and calm down, if presented with that opportunity by a rational, female Guardian Angel — particularly if the alternative is for the guy to have his ass handed to him by her.

  • Jill Shames

    What suggestions do you have for training,organization or pre-patrol preparation that might promote this? It’s not easy to resist the call of adrenaline, that tends to narrow our vision and propell us into the fray.

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