Category: Michael A. Thiac

What Mass Shootings Mean for Good Police Work


In the weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre (please don’t call it a tragedy), the concepts of service and leadership have been churning in my head. As the events have unfolded, we’ve discovered four school resource officers were ordered not to enter, but to hold outside and secure a perimeter.

I started my police career a couple of years before Columbine.  One of the first things said to me in the academy is that police are not military, but paramilitary.  We share some of the same characteristics (e.g. uniform, firearms, legal authority to use force), but we were civilian authority, not military.  And one of the points put into us at an early part of training was that when you had someone shooting inside a building, secure the area and wait for supervision, instructions, SWAT, etc.

That all changed on April 20, 1999.

Anyone who’s served knows that when the shooting starts, the tunnel vision begins, and you instantly go back to your training.  The officers in Columbine did what they were trained to do: secure the scene and wait for specialized assistance.  And in the months and years after that, police all over the country knew that the training, or doctrine, if you will, must adjust to a new threat.  If you have someone actively shooting at civilians in an area, officers must immediately engage to stop him.  And as we look into a brave new world, we know we are at a disadvantage.

A fact of life and war is that the aggressor sets the rules. Some of the characteristics of active shooters:

1. They are knowledgable of the target area, while the responders may not be.  Klebold and Harris attended Columbine High School for years and knew its layout.  Omar Mateen scouted out the Pulse Nightclub in the weeks prior to his attack in 2016.  Syed Rizwan Farook worked at the San Bernardino County health department for five years prior to the 2015 attack.

2. Active shooters are motivated not by money, but by hatred or rage against perceived offenses.  The shooters in Columbine were the “outside” group.  Elliot Rodger, sometimes known as the “Virgin Killer,” attacked sorority women for their rejection of his advances.  Micah Johnson’s murder of five cops in Dallas was in response to perceived unjustified shootings of black men by police officers.

3. Escape may not be a goal.  In Columbine, both boys apparently planned to end their lives, as did Johnson in Dallas.  However, in Las Vegas, it appears that  Stephen Paddock planned to escape, but killed himself when he knew he would be captured.  This will make stopping and negotiating with the shooters unlikely to stop the killing, as was shown in Dallas and Orlando.

4. The aggressor selects his location to his advantage.  We’ve had active shooter situations before Columbine.  On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas and started shooting.  He murdered 13 and wounded 30 (and no, it was not with an AR-15 on “full semi-automatic” mode, but with a bolt action rifle).  In February 1997, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu, equipped with body armor, attempted to rob a Bank of America in North Hollywood, initially overpowering the first responders.

As the threats have changed, so have our responses.  Since the turn of the century, police agencies all over the country have adapted a military style of clearing a building, as well as closing and engaging a shooter.  Some question if this training and guidance was countermanded in the Douglas High School shooting.  According to recent reports, a Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) captain ordered four school resource officers to set up a perimeter, instead of engaging, which is what the BCSO states it trains its deputies to do and is in accordance with agency policy.

In the aftermath of Parkland, we as police must look at the events that unfolded last month.  It’s incumbent to review the actions taken, improve on what was done well, and correct what has to be rectified.  Initial reaction, tactics, etc. are all subject to scrutiny.  One thing must also not be overlooked: as one friend and fellow sergeant said it, “if you’re not willing to go in, turn in the badge.”

I’ll be the first to say a cop (or a soldier, for that matter) doesn’t know how he will react until the bullets start flying.  But one thing is certain: you must have your mindset right.  I’ve read in unconfirmed internet sources that Deputy Peterson was not wearing body armor.  If that is correct, he was not ready for the worst case scenario, which is what he is paid to be prepared for.

Another point I will bring out goes back to the men at Columbine.  An academy classmate ran our agency’s active shooter training a few years ago, and he made an insightful point about the officers responding to an active shooter: “I’m not going to second-guess them, but we all have a badge, and we entered this profession knowing what was expected of us.  And people have to know we will do what has to be done.”  Four SROs followed the orders of a captain while there were kids being murdered.  They will have to live with their consciences, wondering from this point forward, “Should I have just said, ‘Screw you, I’ve got to look myself in the mirror and there are kids in there’?”

Last week, I listened to a podcast from an organization called The Art of Manliness.  The host was interviewing Dale Dye, a retired Marine captain about his new book.  Dye mentioned another thing I have been pondering since.

On the day, at Quantico, Virginia, the day that I had been through Officer’s Candidate School, and been though the basic school, and I was going to be commissioned, I remember that morning getting up and getting my dress uniform ready, to go down and fall into formation and be commissioned with the other candidates, and I was shaving and I looked myself in the mirror and said, “You know, when the day comes that you can’t look your people in the eye and say, ‘Follow me, it is necessary that we die’…when that day comes, it’s the day you’re not leading anymore, and you should quit.”

It is a bit dramatic, but it is true.  Fellow peace officers, if the day comes that you cannot look yourself in the mirror and say, “I will risk life and career for the people I serve,” it is time to turn in the badge.

Michael A. Thiac is a police patrol sergeant and a retired Army intelligence officer.  When not patrolling the streets, he can be found on A Cop’s Watch.  

Image: Nick Gulotta via Flickr.

In the weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre (please don’t call it a tragedy), the concepts of service and leadership have been churning in my head. As the events have unfolded, we’ve discovered four school resource officers were ordered not to enter, but to hold outside and secure a perimeter.

I started my police career a couple of years before Columbine.  One of the first things said to me in the academy is that police are not military, but paramilitary.  We share some of the same characteristics (e.g. uniform, firearms, legal authority to use force), but we were civilian authority, not military.  And one of the points put into us at an early part of training was that when you had someone shooting inside a building, secure the area and wait for supervision, instructions, SWAT, etc.

That all changed on April 20, 1999.

Anyone who’s served knows that when the shooting starts, the tunnel vision begins, and you instantly go back to your training.  The officers in Columbine did what they were trained to do: secure the scene and wait for specialized assistance.  And in the months and years after that, police all over the country knew that the training, or doctrine, if you will, must adjust to a new threat.  If you have someone actively shooting at civilians in an area, officers must immediately engage to stop him.  And as we look into a brave new world, we know we are at a disadvantage.

A fact of life and war is that the aggressor sets the rules. Some of the characteristics of active shooters:

1. They are knowledgable of the target area, while the responders may not be.  Klebold and Harris attended Columbine High School for years and knew its layout.  Omar Mateen scouted out the Pulse Nightclub in the weeks prior to his attack in 2016.  Syed Rizwan Farook worked at the San Bernardino County health department for five years prior to the 2015 attack.

2. Active shooters are motivated not by money, but by hatred or rage against perceived offenses.  The shooters in Columbine were the “outside” group.  Elliot Rodger, sometimes known as the “Virgin Killer,” attacked sorority women for their rejection of his advances.  Micah Johnson’s murder of five cops in Dallas was in response to perceived unjustified shootings of black men by police officers.

3. Escape may not be a goal.  In Columbine, both boys apparently planned to end their lives, as did Johnson in Dallas.  However, in Las Vegas, it appears that  Stephen Paddock planned to escape, but killed himself when he knew he would be captured.  This will make stopping and negotiating with the shooters unlikely to stop the killing, as was shown in Dallas and Orlando.

4. The aggressor selects his location to his advantage.  We’ve had active shooter situations before Columbine.  On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas and started shooting.  He murdered 13 and wounded 30 (and no, it was not with an AR-15 on “full semi-automatic” mode, but with a bolt action rifle).  In February 1997, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu, equipped with body armor, attempted to rob a Bank of America in North Hollywood, initially overpowering the first responders.

As the threats have changed, so have our responses.  Since the turn of the century, police agencies all over the country have adapted a military style of clearing a building, as well as closing and engaging a shooter.  Some question if this training and guidance was countermanded in the Douglas High School shooting.  According to recent reports, a Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) captain ordered four school resource officers to set up a perimeter, instead of engaging, which is what the BCSO states it trains its deputies to do and is in accordance with agency policy.

In the aftermath of Parkland, we as police must look at the events that unfolded last month.  It’s incumbent to review the actions taken, improve on what was done well, and correct what has to be rectified.  Initial reaction, tactics, etc. are all subject to scrutiny.  One thing must also not be overlooked: as one friend and fellow sergeant said it, “if you’re not willing to go in, turn in the badge.”

I’ll be the first to say a cop (or a soldier, for that matter) doesn’t know how he will react until the bullets start flying.  But one thing is certain: you must have your mindset right.  I’ve read in unconfirmed internet sources that Deputy Peterson was not wearing body armor.  If that is correct, he was not ready for the worst case scenario, which is what he is paid to be prepared for.

Another point I will bring out goes back to the men at Columbine.  An academy classmate ran our agency’s active shooter training a few years ago, and he made an insightful point about the officers responding to an active shooter: “I’m not going to second-guess them, but we all have a badge, and we entered this profession knowing what was expected of us.  And people have to know we will do what has to be done.”  Four SROs followed the orders of a captain while there were kids being murdered.  They will have to live with their consciences, wondering from this point forward, “Should I have just said, ‘Screw you, I’ve got to look myself in the mirror and there are kids in there’?”

Last week, I listened to a podcast from an organization called The Art of Manliness.  The host was interviewing Dale Dye, a retired Marine captain about his new book.  Dye mentioned another thing I have been pondering since.

On the day, at Quantico, Virginia, the day that I had been through Officer’s Candidate School, and been though the basic school, and I was going to be commissioned, I remember that morning getting up and getting my dress uniform ready, to go down and fall into formation and be commissioned with the other candidates, and I was shaving and I looked myself in the mirror and said, “You know, when the day comes that you can’t look your people in the eye and say, ‘Follow me, it is necessary that we die’…when that day comes, it’s the day you’re not leading anymore, and you should quit.”

It is a bit dramatic, but it is true.  Fellow peace officers, if the day comes that you cannot look yourself in the mirror and say, “I will risk life and career for the people I serve,” it is time to turn in the badge.

Michael A. Thiac is a police patrol sergeant and a retired Army intelligence officer.  When not patrolling the streets, he can be found on A Cop’s Watch.  

Image: Nick Gulotta via Flickr.



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Cops Going Galt


Study: Chicago stop-and-frisk numbers drop, more work needed

Lets look at those numbers.  Assume 650,000 investigatory stops per year, you’ve now dropped to around 110,000 per year now. One fifth of the previous numbers. What are the results?:

Chicago murders per year:

2013: 422

2014: 428

2015: 495

2016: 747

2017: 134 (As of March 28, 2017)

You read that right, murder increased 50% in one year. 

Not to be outdone, Los Angeles CA:

Police arrests are plummeting across California, fueling alarm and questions

In 2013, something changed on the streets of Los Angeles.

Police officers began making fewer arrests. The following year, the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrest numbers dipped even lower and continued to fall, dropping by 25% from 2013 to 2015.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department also saw significant drops in arrests during that period.

The statewide numbers are just as striking: Police recorded the lowest number of arrests in nearly 50 years, according to the California attorney general’s office, with about 1.1 million arrests in 2015 compared with 1.5 million in 2006.

It is unclear why officers are making fewer arrests. Some in law enforcement cite diminished manpower and changes in deployment strategies. Others say officers have lost motivation in the face of increased scrutiny — from the public as well as their supervisors.

…In Los Angeles, the drop in arrests comes amid a persistent increase in crime, which began in 2014. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck noted that arrests for the most serious crimes have risen along with the numbers of those offenses, while the decrease comes largely from narcotics arrests…

The arrest data include both felonies and misdemeanors — crimes ranging from homicide to disorderly conduct. From 2010 to 2015, felony arrests made by Los Angeles police officers were down 29% and misdemeanor arrests were down 32%.

Two other measures of police productivity, citations and field interviews, have also declined significantly…

…“Those are dramatic numbers that definitely demand scrutiny and explanation,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the Public Safety Committee and represents the Westside. “If crime was dramatically down, I wouldn’t have a problem with arrests going down. But if crime is going up, I want to see arrests going up…”

Mr. Bonin, you are a supergenius, to steal the term from Wile E. Coyote.  Let me explain something to you:

Effective law enforcement is, by its nature, proactive.  Cops have to go out, meet people, observe the actions on the street, know the “usual suspects” who commit most of the crime, terrorizing the people of these, mainly, minority communities.  They need to concentrate their efforts on the relatively few people who do commit the crime.  And once these criminals are put in jail, guess what?  Well, while they are in jail, they cannot rob or murder the people on the street trying to go on with their lives.  The fewer the people who are victims of crime, the lower the crime rate is.

A patrolman, seeing a known narcotics seller in areas known for narcotics, will watch him and if he makes suspicious actions (i.e. appears to conduct a drug sale), the officer initiates a stop.  As part of the stop, he can conduct a quick pat down of the suspect for safety.  He feels a knife or gun in this pocket, he handcuffs the suspect so he cannot get to the weapon and pulls out a pistol.  He now has a known felon in possession of a firearm, he is arrested for that, his parole for his last offense is violated and he is taken off the streets.

The results not noted is that when this man is stopped and put away, he did not go to meet a fellow gang member and the group of them see members of a rival gang with the wrong colors, and have a shootout where five people are dead. That is what proactive policing does for the people in a community.

But something has happened on the way to more murders and mayhem.  The Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch Justice Departments, in coordination with radical groups like Black Lives Matter and the ACLU, have made the police the targets of lawsuits, interference, harassment and other efforts to stop enforcement of the law.  It climaxed with the railroading of six officers from Baltimore Police Department after the death of Freddie Gray.

The results:  In many communities, cops are withdrawing to their safe space and going to fireman mode.  Fire trucks do not patrol the street, looking for a fire. They are at their stations waiting until a call comes in.  Effective policing, cannot act like that.  In order to prevent crime, a cop must scan the streets looking for the proverbial “smoke.”

We, for the moment, (can’t say what 2020 will bring) have an administration and an attorney general supportive of law enforcement.  However, cops are not trusting by their nature, and after seeing officers being lynched for doing their jobs, will not stick their necks out immediately.  Besides their own lives, they have families to worry about, finances, reputations.  Darren Wilson did nothing wrong when he shot Michael Brown, yet he is the one who lost his job and is basically in hiding.  Brown’s family is suing Wilson and Ferguson for a fortune.  So until cops think they can police without being targeted for a political lynching, crime will go up, and the people hardest hit will be “women and minorities.”

Michael A. Thiac is a police patrol sergeant, a retired Army intelligence officer and has a great RN wife who helps edit his primitive English. When not patrolling the streets, he can be found on A Cop’s Watch. 

Cops are pulling back and yes, “women and minorities” will be “hardest hit.”

I recently read an article on the results of the “reforms” of the Chicago Police Department from the Obama “Just-Us” Department and the American Criminal Lovers Union.  And the results:

Study: Chicago stop-and-frisk numbers drop, more work needed

“CHICAGO — A study of the Chicago Police Department’s stop-and-frisk procedures released Friday revealed a dramatic decrease in the number of stops since an American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois lawsuit, but found that officers were still targeting racial minorities.

The report by former U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, the first one issued under an agreement the city reached with the ACLU in 2015, was not surprising to ACLU officials. The organization expected the decrease because of changes in the law and a deal the organization reached with the department that requires officers to fill out more detailed reports of stops than they once did.

According to the report, the number of investigatory stops fell from more than 1.3 million in 2014 and 2015 to just over 54,000 in the first six months of 2016…”

Lets look at those numbers.  Assume 650,000 investigatory stops per year, you’ve now dropped to around 110,000 per year now. One fifth of the previous numbers. What are the results?:

Chicago murders per year:

2013: 422

2014: 428

2015: 495

2016: 747

2017: 134 (As of March 28, 2017)

You read that right, murder increased 50% in one year. 

Not to be outdone, Los Angeles CA:

Police arrests are plummeting across California, fueling alarm and questions

In 2013, something changed on the streets of Los Angeles.

Police officers began making fewer arrests. The following year, the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrest numbers dipped even lower and continued to fall, dropping by 25% from 2013 to 2015.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department also saw significant drops in arrests during that period.

The statewide numbers are just as striking: Police recorded the lowest number of arrests in nearly 50 years, according to the California attorney general’s office, with about 1.1 million arrests in 2015 compared with 1.5 million in 2006.

It is unclear why officers are making fewer arrests. Some in law enforcement cite diminished manpower and changes in deployment strategies. Others say officers have lost motivation in the face of increased scrutiny — from the public as well as their supervisors.

…In Los Angeles, the drop in arrests comes amid a persistent increase in crime, which began in 2014. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck noted that arrests for the most serious crimes have risen along with the numbers of those offenses, while the decrease comes largely from narcotics arrests…

The arrest data include both felonies and misdemeanors — crimes ranging from homicide to disorderly conduct. From 2010 to 2015, felony arrests made by Los Angeles police officers were down 29% and misdemeanor arrests were down 32%.

Two other measures of police productivity, citations and field interviews, have also declined significantly…

…“Those are dramatic numbers that definitely demand scrutiny and explanation,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the Public Safety Committee and represents the Westside. “If crime was dramatically down, I wouldn’t have a problem with arrests going down. But if crime is going up, I want to see arrests going up…”

Mr. Bonin, you are a supergenius, to steal the term from Wile E. Coyote.  Let me explain something to you:

Effective law enforcement is, by its nature, proactive.  Cops have to go out, meet people, observe the actions on the street, know the “usual suspects” who commit most of the crime, terrorizing the people of these, mainly, minority communities.  They need to concentrate their efforts on the relatively few people who do commit the crime.  And once these criminals are put in jail, guess what?  Well, while they are in jail, they cannot rob or murder the people on the street trying to go on with their lives.  The fewer the people who are victims of crime, the lower the crime rate is.

A patrolman, seeing a known narcotics seller in areas known for narcotics, will watch him and if he makes suspicious actions (i.e. appears to conduct a drug sale), the officer initiates a stop.  As part of the stop, he can conduct a quick pat down of the suspect for safety.  He feels a knife or gun in this pocket, he handcuffs the suspect so he cannot get to the weapon and pulls out a pistol.  He now has a known felon in possession of a firearm, he is arrested for that, his parole for his last offense is violated and he is taken off the streets.

The results not noted is that when this man is stopped and put away, he did not go to meet a fellow gang member and the group of them see members of a rival gang with the wrong colors, and have a shootout where five people are dead. That is what proactive policing does for the people in a community.

But something has happened on the way to more murders and mayhem.  The Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch Justice Departments, in coordination with radical groups like Black Lives Matter and the ACLU, have made the police the targets of lawsuits, interference, harassment and other efforts to stop enforcement of the law.  It climaxed with the railroading of six officers from Baltimore Police Department after the death of Freddie Gray.

The results:  In many communities, cops are withdrawing to their safe space and going to fireman mode.  Fire trucks do not patrol the street, looking for a fire. They are at their stations waiting until a call comes in.  Effective policing, cannot act like that.  In order to prevent crime, a cop must scan the streets looking for the proverbial “smoke.”

We, for the moment, (can’t say what 2020 will bring) have an administration and an attorney general supportive of law enforcement.  However, cops are not trusting by their nature, and after seeing officers being lynched for doing their jobs, will not stick their necks out immediately.  Besides their own lives, they have families to worry about, finances, reputations.  Darren Wilson did nothing wrong when he shot Michael Brown, yet he is the one who lost his job and is basically in hiding.  Brown’s family is suing Wilson and Ferguson for a fortune.  So until cops think they can police without being targeted for a political lynching, crime will go up, and the people hardest hit will be “women and minorities.”

Michael A. Thiac is a police patrol sergeant, a retired Army intelligence officer and has a great RN wife who helps edit his primitive English. When not patrolling the streets, he can be found on A Cop’s Watch. 



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The Republic Strikes Back



The Trump revolution is primarily a re-emergence of the American republic.  Take a look at the history.



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