'Red Teaming' the cop killer

Getting “inside the mind” of those who wish to do police officers harm can be an extraordinary tool to help cops win the fight when a cop killer crosses our path

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to introduce Fred Leland as the newest member in our roster of writers. I “met” Fred via the professional networking website LinkedIn, and just moments into our initial phone contact knew we had an opportunity to collaborate in the shared mission of helping police officers be safer and more successful on the street. Fred is not merely an accomplished writer — he’s an active Lieutenant with the Walpole (Mass.) Police Department who also serves as Founder and Principal Trainer of LESC: Law Enforcement & Security Consulting (www.lesc.net). In his debut PoliceOne contribution, Fred will “Red Team” the cop killer. I want to mention right here at the top that “this post is adapted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation report Violent Encounters: a Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nations Law Enforcement Officers. This study took from 1992-2006 and covered more than 800 incidents of felonious assaults against officers and direct interviews with cop killers.”

Let’s pretend for the next few moments that I am a cop killer. What is your preconceived perception of what I (the person who wants to assault or kill you) look like? Is it a person with raggedy closes, long hair, and a ratty looking beard who comes from the poor side of town? Or is it a Charley Manson lookalike you have in mind? Do you perceive the one who will assault or kill you if given the opportunity by only my size and physical characteristics? Have you ever given any thought to the cop-killer’s mindset — that which makes me tick? Have you thought about why on most occasions I will avoid you, the cop? But if cornered or about to be taken off the street and put into jail, I will do everything in my power to remain free. That “everything” includes assaulting or killing you if necessary.

You see, Mr. Policeman, long before I met you I had made the decision that I will not go... I will not be arrested... and you will not stop me.

The fact is, we cop killers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. But we cop killers do have some things in common the cop should be aware of, apply to his knowledge base and then develop the skill set to observe, orient ,decide and act accordingly when the cop, offender and circumstances encounter on the street.

A 26-year-old Male?
My life hasn’t been all bad, but neither has it been all that good, either. On average, the cop killer is male and 26 years old. I am single with no strong ties to family, although this varies as I may have been married and then divorced. My family background may have been stable as a kid, a good percentage of us cop killers grew up much like you in comfortable, average or marginal, but self-sufficient home economically speaking. Believe it or not, a small percentage of us (about 10 percent) came from advantaged homes while only about 15 percent of us cop killers come from sub-marginal (poor) economic homes. So we are in some ways not much different at least in how we were raised.

In many cases, the cop killer suffered from physical and psychological abuse. I learned to solve problems by using arguing, shouting, or physical violence. It seemed to work so I began to refine my techniques and I have used them often on the street. I learned to commit crimes and take advantage of the justice system early on as a child because the significant others in my life had been involved in criminal activity. I have learned my craft from the experienced criminal and someone I admired and cared about. This way of life feels right to me because it’s what I know. It’s how I live! You should remember this!

I have committed a variety of crimes. Some of those crimes are murder, rape, sexual assaults, robbery and burglary, as well as weapons violations. But us cop killers are not always participating in violent serious crime. Many of us participate in low-level crimes such as larceny and theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct. Many of us also abuse alcohol or drugs, making us even more unpredictable when you encountered by you. In fact, the vast majority of us (75 percent!) are involved in drugs.

An Unemployed Veteran?
I would describe my employment history as unstable, or in many cases I am chronically unemployed. Some of us cop killers hold jobs as laborers, clerks, or in the service industry or even sales but commit crimes to help support ourselves. About 25 percent of us have served our country in the military and have been honorably discharged. While in the military we received formal weapons and tactical training. This puts at least some of us on equal or higher ground with you when it comes to our abilities of reading our adversary and our environment and in our abilities to out-position you physically and psychologically. So often times you deal with me on a professional basis and have no idea I am the one if pressed who will not comply with your intent.

I learned from direct experience that crime pays, until you get caught! I do not want to get caught, so, I learned to deceive you and how to fight if my deception fails. This is how I adapted and got what I wanted out of life and you are not about to take that from me. Do you understand?

In no way do I want you to think that these are the only attributes and traits of a cop killer (now is as good a time as any to reveal that this post is adapted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation report Violent Encounters: a Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nations Law Enforcement Officers. This study took from 1992-2006 and covered more than 800 incidents of felonious assaults against officers and direct interviews with cop killers). There are many complex social and psychological issues that contribute to creating an individual who willfully kills or attempts to kill a law enforcement officer. But what I mention here are many of the commonalities you need to beware of to avoid becoming a victim of MY intent. You see, us cop killers have a say in this game as well and you best be aware!

We need to train smart and hard to create and nurture the proper mindset and fight complacency. Understanding the deadly mix of officer, offender, and the circumstances you find yourself in are the keys to your winning on the street. You must strive to understand more about every call, every incident, and every encounter as these three components converge as they greatly influence each event. Your alertness and ability to adapt to the situation and altering just one of these components may prevent the cop killer by disrupting his decision making cycle (OODA Loop), enhancing yours. The alternative is too high a price to pay.

Stay oriented.

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