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Responding to an attack at contact range

In  a recent article about the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report we made note of the fact that 24 of the 48 officers killed in the line of duty in 2012 were shot to death from 0-5 feet away from their attackers. Additionally, one officer was stabbed to death and another beaten to death or strangled by an assailant. These ranges are known as contact range.

Once you are within contact range, the less distance you have between you and your aggressor. This is also known as being "inside the kill zone" and there is a higher scale of injuries that you could suffer. The five points on the scale are: none (non-contact distance), minor (getting nicked on the hands or fingers), recoverable (slashes to the forearm), non-recoverable (deep wounds to the upper arm or chest) and fatal (cutting of the throat, slashing of the femoral, etc.).

As an officer, most of your violent encounters will be within this range. Most of these attacks will come quickly and without warning. When dealing with a violent suspect you need to control your range, mobility and position in order to survive a deadly attack. If you can control all three, then you can control the fight.

In a violent confrontation with a determined attacker, you have three basic options.

The first is to simply backpedal. This will extend your range and give you limited mobility. It does not change your position in relation to your opponent. This can buy you a few seconds to draw a weapon or less-lethal device.

The second option is to move off the line of attack. This gives you limited mobility once again and this time it improves your position, but still has you within range. Again this buys you a little time and allows you to counterattack, but it must be done quickly.

Your third option is to combine the first two: backpedal while moving off the line. This gives you back the three elements you need to control the fight. This is not always available depending upon your surroundings. You gain distance, improve your position and now have mobility.

Each of these three options allows you to regroup and recommit to the offensive from a position of advantage and control. Do not think of them as positions of retreat. You do not just backpedal and hope to get to safety or move off the line and hope the bad guy runs into a wall. This is when you re-launch and have the ability to control the fight by controlling your opponent.

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