Here in The CP Journal, we talk a lot about getting left of bang as a means of ensuring our personal survival and safety. The benefit of this concept, however, goes well beyond this single factor, and our ability to proactively recognize threats also has an impact on the people who live in the areas where we work. Dangerous situations are characterized by having a very limited time available to decide on a course of action. Because of that limitation, we naturally reduce the number of options that we even consider to be viable when in these situations. In the defense, law enforcement and security sectors, this often times leaves us with no other choice than to use very aggressive and decisive force when our safety is on the line. I’m certainly not saying that aggressive action is wrong, and sometimes it is a necessity in order to protect ourselves. However, there is a difference between actions that are necessary and actions that are ideal. In situations that result in a last resort decision, the cause can often be traced back to late recognition of the threat. When we are operating either at bang or right of bang, we are unable to consider the second and third order effects of our actions because of the immediacy of the situation we face. However, the public’s perception of our nation’s protectors is oftentimes shaped and influenced by aggressive tactics and the negative fallout that comes with them. Getting left of bang improves our ability to more thoroughly consider the far-reaching consequences of our actions.
As we strive to continually build upon the support of those we seek to protect, the earlier we can recognize individuals who intend to harm others provides opportunities to reduce the risk of alienating the public. This includes ways that ensures officer safety and considers the impact our actions will have on the viewing, and often critical, public. In situations such as these, the difference between the factors that guided your decisions and the way they are perceived by the public is something that all members of the military, law enforcement officers and private security professionals face. For example, let’s say a squad of Marines deployed overseas is pinned down in a residential compound by machine gun fire from a nearby building, and they decide that their only way out of this ambush is to bomb the building the insurgents are using for protection. While they know that their decision to destroy the house is based on the fact that they can’t move without getting shot, the only thing that the local villagers returning after the battle see is another house destroyed by American firepower. Even with an explanation to the affected parties and monetary reparations, this bombing has the ability to reinforce the perception created by the Taliban that Americans are targeting civilians and their livelihood. People often see the effect, not the cause. Would the decision be different if the Marines identified the insurgents a few hundred yards further away and were therefore in a less risky position? Maybe, but how to respond in that situation is a decision for the guy on the ground to make. However, with earlier recognition, there would certainly have been more options available to him, more time to consider what would lead to the best way forward and consider the impact that their actions would have on the locals, whose support is vital in a counter-insurgency fight. Being left of bang provides access to opportunities and options that being right of bang takes away.
The conditions of cause and effect exist for law enforcement officers operating here in the states as well as private security professionals operating around the world. The mandate to protect and serve is a double-edged sword. Sometimes aggressive action is needed to ensure your own safety but it also runs the risk of leading to a negative perception of your effectiveness and abilities. I’m certainly not saying that decisive action is never required, but when the perception of our actions is a great deal different than the reality of the situation, it can lead to an irreparable rift and divide between our nation’s protectors, and those we are tasked with protecting.
The theme of the September issue of The CP Journal is focused on perception of another kind: how well we have secured the areas that we are tasked with protecting. When we fail to make honest and objective assessments about our security posture, we expose ourselves to attacks from an unseen enemy that has found and exploited our vulnerabilities before we could plug those gaps. We start the September issue with an article that talks about the danger of a school believing they have created a secure anchor point, but actually treating the building as a habitual area. We set out to ensure security providers can make honest assessments about an anchor point, test their own security measures, and find new ways to further enhance their own safety.
Most of the time perception is reality and, whether we like that fact or not, it is the world that we live in. While it can be frustrating at times when our good intentions are misinterpreted and our words are twisted in the public’s eye, the worst situation you can find yourself in is one where there are only a few options available and none of them are ideal. When we are aware of our own abilities, limitations and how outsiders see our actions, we can recognize situations for what they are and shape the outcome that we hope to attain. We hope with this issue of The CP Journal, we can take a look at ourselves and consider how well we are doing our jobs.
Thanks for reading and welcome to The CP Journal.
Patrick Van Horne