In my 25 years as a cop in Tallahassee, I have interviewed a lot of bad guys. I’ve read Miranda enough to have it memorized. I’ve looked in the eyes victims and their families and I’ve been in many homes, delivering mostly bad news. As a parent of four children, from ages 3 to 19, I understand how parents feel; that fear of the unknown, of accidents, crimes and bad news delivered in the middle of the night. I’m the one who has to deliver it. My business partner and I have dedicated our business, our retirement years after law enforcement and our energy, to stopping this downward spiral. In case you didn’t read it, Tallahassee has been ranked as one of the more violent cities in Florida in which to live.
As I climbed the ranks and served in different units, it was all about moving up, doing, learning, and yes, serving. One of my greatest desires along the way has been to be there for the victims, not after the worst happened, but, before. I am not a crime prevention specialist, I am a protector, a cop, the guy you call to fix things. But, fixing things after the fact won’t stop them from happening.
When we train law enforcement and civilians, the first task is to train the mind to be vigilant. A heightened level of awareness is the key to crime prevention. If you are not paying attention, it’s obvious. If you look like a victim, walk like a victim and talk like one, well, you know the old adage about ducks. You are one.
Col. Jeff Cooper was a famous gun writer and taught his concept of color coded awareness levels. Condition white, yellow, orange, red and black are the levels we can find ourselves in. Think of white as that moment we are driving and a dog just appears in front of us. With no warning and no time to react, we just grip the wheel, slam on the brake and hope. We panic. Have you ever missed a turn or an exit? You were in condition white. Yellow is where we should keep our minds. Condition yellow is the state where we are aware of our surroundings, there’s no threat, but, we’re paying attention. As we drive, the road is clear and we’re scanning the area. As something appears, like a dog walking towards the road edge, we notice it and are aware of it, but, it presents no real threat. We start to formulate a plan, just in case. Our hands are at 10 and 2 and are aware of the lanes next to us and what is behind us. This is condition orange, a heightened state. Now, the dog suddenly darts in front of us. You steer slightly to avoid the dog, using threshold braking to stop, avoiding the collision. That last moment was condition red, what would be the fight in a different situation. This is better than the first scenario. When you were in white, you didn’t see the dog and didn’t react in time; you went from oblivious (white) to panic (black).
Now, take this and put yourself in a dark parking lot at night, condition white, texting and walking to your car, totally oblivious to your surroundings. Suddenly someone appears from the shadows and speaks in a sharp voice. You go from white to black, panic. Even if this person is not a threat, you experience a dump of adrenalin, your heart rate spikes and you lose control of the situation. Even if you were armed with some weapon, it is too late. The other option is to walk out, look around, consider a few things that might happen, the layout and positioning of your vehicle that you strategically parked under a light, away from bushes. You confidently walk to your vehicle and go home. The bad guy saw someone who was clearly not a victim and left you alone. Even if you saw a potential threat, you had time to go back inside and call law enforcement to drive through the area. If you saw a person lurking around the area, you did so because you were paying attention and you had time to react, to formulate a plan.
Plans come from forethought. Playing “what if” games is the key to being prepared. What if your house caught on fire? What if you were at an ATM and someone got a little close? What if….. Think about it, have a plan. This is not corny or silly. I have played this game for 25 years on Patrol, SWAT, and everywhere I have been.
I want to teach you to change your habits, your mindset and your life. If you have questions about personal safety or training, please feel free to contact me directly at Charlie@talontraining.com.
Lt. Charlie Strickland is a 25 year veteran law enforcement officer and Watch Commander at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. He has served in and supervised a number of units in his time there from the Robbery Task Force, Violent Crimes Unit, Patrol, Training, Field Training and Special Operations to Traffic and Motor Unit. He served as the SWAT Team Leader and spent 17 years on the team. He serves as the Agency Armorer, and a High Liability Instructor. He holds a B.S. and an MBA from Florida State University and is a Co-Owner, with JD Johnson, and CEO of Talon Training Group, Talon Holsters, and the Talon Range in Midway, Florida. Talon boasts around 2,000 members and has trained over 5,000 locals in firearms safety and personal safety.