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SHOT Show 2014: Day 3 of LEEP had lights, sights, lasers, and Wes Doss!

The classes in the Law Enforcement Education Program enhanced the value of the conference for police

At SHOT Show 2014, there were officers from around the country and around the world. The lineup of LEEP classes certainly added to the benefits of attending. Being a first-time attendee, I will go home with sore feet — and a much better understanding of what people mean when they say, “SHOT Show is BIG.”

Lights, Sights, and Lasers U.S. Tour
In the seminar subtitled, “Lessons Learned by Training Law Enforcement Across the Country,” Wes Doss briefed us on the tour (it will happen again in 2014), which provided a full free day of training (not including ammunition) for military and law enforcement officers from 236 different agencies across the country. Wes explained the reason for the tour was to educate officers in the use of lights, sights and lasers on duty firearms.

He said one of the first things they needed to do was to let officers know what the products are and how to use them. He explained that a lot of officers don’t consider using any other sight on their gun than the one that it came with because they didn’t know that all sights aren’t the same.

He also explained that some departments will not allow officers to change sights because they think it will void the warranty on the gun.

Many officers who are given lights to mount on their guns never receive any training. As a result of that lack of training — and, apparently, a lapse in judgment — officers have been known to use their gun-mounted lights to direct traffic, check driver’s licenses, and conduct traffic stops.

The laser isn’t immune to these types of misunderstandings either, with some officers believing that the beam can blind people or even burn them. Fortunately, these beliefs are held by a minority of the officers that come to them for the training.

The tour’s eight-hour class includes four hours of classroom and four hours on the range. The officers must provide the ammunition to be used. I think most people would consider the class intensive, with 600 rounds of pistol ammo being fired in four hours. Shotgun and patrol rifle instruction is also included.

So check out the website for details of the 2014 schedule. They are also looking starting to work on the 2015 schedule.

Low Light Training: Using Lights with Handguns and Long Guns
The LEEPs training has been really heavy on lighting use this year. Despite that, I chose to go to John Meyer’s class, based on his reputation. His long experience as a trainer for H&K and Team One provide a level of knowledge not shared by most.

John emphasized the need (as all the instructors did) of ongoing training in low-light conditions. For most officers, that consists of shooting on the range from several different flashlight positions. John said departments and officers need to be doing much more than that — specifically, they need to practice how to use lights searching, arresting and handcuffing, while administering first aid and on traffic stops.

He showed us several methods of using the light. While searching, a quick burst of light lets you identify and locate suspects. “Painting,” or turning the light on for less than a second while moving the light to cover a broader area, helps with navigation.

John emphasized that while searching, you want to light those shadowed areas that you can’t see well, while using those areas to hide your own position and movement. Oftentimes officers turn the light on areas that they can see fairly well, wasting the effects of the tool.

He recommends you only use the strobe function on your light (if you have one) when you have located a subject, and even then for no longer than 10 seconds. His reasoning is that after 10 seconds, the brain gets used to the strobe effect and it no longer is as effective in disorienting a suspect.

When arresting a suspect who is prone, he advocates having the suspect look towards you, putting your light into their eyes briefly, stowing the light and then moving in to handcuff. By briefly affecting their vision, you create an advantage as you close in to make contact.

Another suggestion he has was for dealing with bright strobe lights at night. To negate their effect on your vision when you have to look towards them, place your hand up to block the light from your eyes and turn on your high intensity light. This virtually washes out the strobe effect, something to keep in mind on that next night traffic stop or accident.

He also suggested taking your squad car out into a low-light area and turning on the overheads, computer, etc. to allow you to see what a suspect sees when looking at you in those conditions. That gives you a better understanding of what you look like in your squad and what you can do to put yourself at the best advantage when responding to calls.

Emergency Breaching Techniques for the First Responder
Probably one of the best-known police situations when officers needed breaching equipment would be the shooting at Virginia Tech. In that case the suspect chained and locked the door shut, delaying the officers’ entry into the building.

Will Mercado suggests a minimum of a Hooligan tool and a sledgehammer in each squad car. When creating your breaching kit, he reminded us, a hardware store meets all of your needs. You will, however, need to paint the tools black if you want to make them truly “tactical.”

A Hooligan tool is just a fancy crowbar. He suggests looking in your evidence room for burglary tools. If all else fails, you can go to your fire department and see if they might have some old equipment they can give you.

To make your kits more complete, you can add a bolt cutter, a ram, and axes and hatchets. I might suggest a splitting maul — it has a blade on one side and a sledgehammer on the other: two tools in one. He next suggested deciding how to carry the tools — in a back pack or a sling. Check to make sure you can utilize your long gun or pistol while toting the breaching kit, just in case.

He also explained how a shotgun can be used for breaching. I won’t go into the details because this information won’t be secure, but needless to say any firearm can be used as a ballistic breaching tool if the situation requires it.

He also reminded us not to fixate on door entries. In a lot of cases, windows are easier to get into than doors. How you best make use of your tools is depended on the style, type and construction of the windows and doors.

Breaching isn’t just for active shooters or SWAT raids. Medical emergencies, fires, and aggravated assaults in progress all may require the need to gain entry.

Understanding how and having the tools will be the “key” to your quick entry.

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career, he served as a patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., use of force and firearms instructor. He was a full-time law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Technical & Community College in Alexandria, Minnesota for 28 years. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.