Policy and Procedure Considerations
Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.
Col. David H. Hackworth
While the exact title may differ, just about every professional law enforce-
ment agency in the civilized world has some form of operational guidelines.
In the United States, it is a necessity-given the litigious society in which
cops nd themselves. However, the depth of coverage these policy and pro-
cedure manuals provide varies widely. This is especially true when dealing
with protective operations, which, while having a history in police work,
are not generally considered when the manuals are written. In the follow-
ing pages are described specic ways in which protective details respond-
ing to emergency situations, such as an ambush, can nd themselves in
violation of the procedures or codes of conduct. The goal of this chapter is
to make teams and administrations aware of potential problems and pro-
vide language that may serve as possible solutions. Prior to implementing
any policy changes, always consult with a city or county attorney.
USE OF FORCE
The rst policy that has the most to do with a team’s response to any ambush
is a department’s Use of Force policy. It is generally within this section that
they would expect to nd the rules and regulations to which they are held
accountable during the performance of their job. A common subsection
deals with the issue of shooting at or from a moving vehicle. Many police
departments address in some form or fashion shooting at a eeing vehicle.
Generally, it is discouraged unless the vehicle is being used as a weapon
and shooting at it is for protection of self or others and only when there
is no other means of eliminating the threat. The issue some departments
bring up when shooting at a vehicle is the potential of the driver becoming
disabled. While this would be the obvious objective of shooting at a vehicle
in order to eliminate the threat, should the driver in fact be disabled, the
vehicle could become an uncontrollable deadly weapon.
This issue could certainly come up, however, in protective operations;
it is exceedingly unlikely that an adversary attacking a protective operation
would act alone while at the same time driving a vehicle. However, should
this be the case, and depending on the region the operation is occurring in
and the adversary, the concern may be that the driver is, in fact, a suicide
bomber in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Police of-
cers are always authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves or oth-
ers, but with such policies in place, theoretically, should they be engaged in
a drive-by fashion (a far more likely attack scenario), they would be violating
the shooting at a moving vehicle prohibition if they responded in kind.
One of the reasons for the prohibition is the difculty of successfully
engaging a moving vehicle. Ideally, one should take cover. However, if
caught in the open, there may be little choice. This policy is understand-
able from the point of view of most uniformed ofcers. However, for pro-
tective teams dealing with a carload of adversaries actively attacking with
rearms, it falls far short. While there is no argument regarding the dif-
culty of hitting a moving target accurately, it can be done. For protective
teams, just as with other special operations units, training for this should
be a standard. As such, the policy should accommodate this.
A less common section of a policy and procedure manual on “use of
force” is shooting from a moving vehicle. Given the difculty of accurate
shot placement coupled with the normal lack of training in such tactics, it
is largely prohibited, if covered at all. While it is easy to understand the
reasoning behind the prohibition, for protective details it could present
some liability problems, at least for the ofcer. Statistically, the majority of
ambushes on motorcades take the form of shooting attacks.
to such attacks, protective members could easily nd themselves hav-
ing to return re while their vehicle driver is attempting to escape the
area. Rather than prohibiting it altogether, a better option to consider is
to allow shooting from a moving vehicle if properly trained and only in
self-defense or defense of others and when there is no other perceivable
means of avoidance.