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January 30, 2017

Stop Looking For “Threats”

When it comes to being able to recognize violent people or criminals, saying that you are looking for “threats” isn’t a good enough definition.  Being able to explain, very specifically, what will make someone stand out from the baseline and being able to recognize those behaviors is the mark of a true professional and someone on the path to mastery.


Additions to the video:

  • Download the cluster cards mentioned in the video to see a list of the indicators that make up each assessment.  You can find them here.
  • Take a look at the book Mastery, by Robert Greene in Amazon by clicking here.
  • One note: One question that we often receive is why are we looking for only high intensity cues during the hasty search when it comes to recognizing the anomaly.  The answer to this question that areas will often have people displaying dominance, submissiveness, discomfort, and comfort in order to accomplish their goal and fulfill their need for being in the area.  As the goal of the hasty search is to simply identify if there is anyone who poses a risk before going into a more detailed search, we begin the process by searching for high intensity displays, and will focus on more subtle displays during the deliberate search.

Transcript Of Video:

December 12, 2016

See What? And Say It How?

While traveling in New York City recently I noticed signs for the “See Something, Say Something” campaign around town.  For those who haven’t yet seen a sign or poster in their neighborhood, the slogan is intended to remind people that, when they see something that is out of the ordinary or suspicious, they should say something to someone of authority to raise awareness of the potential issue.  The program was originally implemented by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2001 and is now licensed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a nationwide campaign.  You can get more info on the campaign and ways to help drive the message here.

This campaign is a crucial step for getting the public involved in the process of stopping potentially dangerous events from occurring.  It also raises awareness and reminds people of their role in keeping themselves and those around them safe. While the concept itself is broad enough in scope to serve as a great reminder, the purpose of this post will be to expand on details of the program that also align with the work that we do here at The CP Journal. Together, this campaign and the work that we do, both serve as helpful tools to help build community involvement in threat recognition and this post will expand on a prior writing that outlined the three pieces to the threat prevention puzzle.

Many of the types of suspicious activity outlined in training programs and literature for the “See Something, Say Something” campaign revolve around physical actions, like stealing information, data acquisition, and weapon discovery.  These are all obviously important suspicious activities to report that have been gathered based on the study of prior threatening events, but the truth is that they don’t tend to

November 21, 2016

Building a Culture of Trust

Wells Fargo has been in the news recently regarding their internal cross-selling culture and the opening of accounts without their customer’s knowledge. Wells Fargo is not the only business that has a culture built around cross selling products, and they will probably not be the last to be found to violate customer trust in some way. These recent news articles have caused us to reflect on the role ethics and trust play in building and managing a business and we thought we would share a recent article that was shared with us.

In alignment with the recent news of trust at Wells Fargo, we were also recently sent a link from September 26, 2014, where Ignazio Angeloni, a member of the Supervisory Board of the European Central Bank, spoke on ethics in finance.

In the above link, Angeloni poses a series of questions that financial institutions can ask themselves when building their internal procedures and policies for helping customers. We found these questions to be helpful for us at The CP Journal and thought they might also be

November 14, 2016

Working Together to Prevent Threats

Events involving people occur at every moment of every day. In just one day alone you may say hello to a neighbor, meet a friend for coffee, make small talk with the teller at the grocery store, or sit in a movie theater with people that you don’t know. Throughout all of these interactions, it is highly unlikely that any will result in a threatening event or violence of any kind. With that in mind, however, Chapman University recently released their 2016 study of American Fears, which reveals that the threat of violence is something that the public pretty actively fears.

One fear that is prevalent for the American public that stood out to us at The CP Journal is the public’s fear of terrorism and their role in thwarting it. Based on the report, 38.5% of the American public is either afraid or very afraid of being a victim of a terrorist attack.[1] While the fear of terrorism currently sits at the top of the mind for many people, it is important to note that most interactions between people do not result in terrorism or violence of any kind. By working together to observe, actively and accurately, we can improve our ability to prevent violence between people, including terrorist acts. Using a recent event from the news as a framework, I will outline the three primary parties involved in threat prevention and how we can better work together, as an engaged public, to observe and report suspicious activity.

To serve as context for this post, we will share some recent articles that reported a recent situation that took place in Canada. The situation involved a person operating outside of what was normal for the area, a local resident calling the authorities, and law enforcement responding. In this example there was

October 12, 2016

Video: WTF Is Situational Awareness?

Take a look at this video produced by Alex Fox from the Capable Civilian website about situational awareness.  After being introduced to Alex, I’ve been able to do a podcast with him and get to know him, but after he took our online class, he went to the next level and summarized many of the main concepts about developing your situational awareness in this video.  It is well worth the watch because getting #LeftOfBang and getting into Condition Orange are the same thing.


If you’re looking for other articles about Cooper’s Color Code and the role it plays with situational awareness, here are a few more articles and videos that we’ve written about the topic.

Transcript of the video:

Alexander: You’ve probably heard the term situational awareness, but if you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “What the hell is situation awareness, really? And how do I do it?” well, you’re

September 2, 2016

Three Ways To Make Situational Awareness Second Nature

This article was originally written for the Illinois Tactical Officer’s Association

We all know that person at work who can seemingly read every situation they find themselves in and turn it into something beneficial for them. It’s like watching action heroes like James Bond or Jason Bourne, people who can seemingly pick up on everything that is happening around them and then use that information to make better decisions than those with untrained eyes. We find ourselves in awe of those naturals who have learned how to dissect situations, find the patterns and seemingly predict the future.

Life might not be like the movies, but those same deliberate observation skills can be developed. While it certainly takes a lot of work to become skilled at recognizing pre-event indicators, for police officers looking to get and stay left of bang, here are three tips to make situational awareness second nature.

#1: Begin With The End In Mind

The way that these naturals so adeptly navigate complex and difficult situations is what often attracts our attention and carries an air of mystery. However, how they find the solution isn’t the first step, it is the last. Before you can

August 27, 2016

Training For Adaptability Means Creating More Options


This article was originally written for and posted on

Picture yourself in a situation where you have to approach someone to ask a question while on patrol. You might need to ask them where a particular person lives or if they know anything about a particular person you are investigating. What I want you to think about is how you would react and what you would do when that person refuses to help you. What is your initial response going to be? What is going to happen if your instinctual response to their refusal still doesn’t drive the person to cooperate? While officers often learn how to adapt their approach to a situation like this by honing it throughout their career, training adaptable officers means that we have to ensure they have multiple options available to them to handle situations like this from the earliest points in the career.

In Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, where my co-author Jason Riley and I wrote about how the Combat Hunter program taught deploying service-members how to recognize threats, we talk about the four mutually exclusive ways we can assess an individual person based on their behavior. Since every single person we are observing can be categorized as either being dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable, these four categories become the four options that an officer has available to them when the person they are talking to refuses to cooperate. In this particular situation, the options are:

August 23, 2016

“Left of Bang” and the OODA Loop



  • While explaining the OODA Loop, I misspeak and refer to John Boyd as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. He was a Colonel.
  • While explaining the decision tree for civilians, I say that our options are to “Control, Call, Capture,” the anomaly, when the decision tree is to “Control, Call, Contact” an anomaly that you identify.
  • Further reading: “The Tao of Body: How to Master the OODA Loop,” written by Brett and Kate McKay at The Art of Manliness.

Video Transcript

In today’s video we answer one of the most frequently asked questions that we get, how do the behaviors written about in Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life support people as they go through the OODA Loop.

August 20, 2016

Bridging The Experience Gap: Recognizing Threats With More Time To Prepare


This article was originally written for and posted on

When I talk with veteran police officers about what has made them successful in their careers, many bring up the fact that with five, ten, or fifteen years on the job, they have seen so much criminal activity that they have become pretty capable of identifying people who require attention. But with the rising threat of officer ambushes today, how does an up-and-coming officer become capable of ensuring their own safety without the opportunity to gain those five, ten, or fifteen years of experience? Preventing officer ambushes begins by learning how to establish the norm that exists for the areas and situations you encounter every day.

In our book Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, my co-author, Jason Riley, and I discuss how the Marine Corps Combat Hunter program was designed to help Marines recognize the pre-event indicators to attacks so that they could deal with threats proactively instead of being forced into a reactive situation. This approach to recognizing criminals and attackers starts with an acceptance of the underlying premise that the behavioral cues that will cause a criminal to stand out from the crowd are always contextual. Even though they will be identifiable using universal and uncontrollable elements of behavior, because “threat” cues are situational, improving an officer’s ability to understand and define that context, the baseline, is the most important step in the process of ensuring officer safety. This is required before we can start to talk about pre-event indicators to violence. While recognizing anomalies is the goal, being an anomaly is a relative term. To stand out, you have to stand out from something. That something is the baseline for the areas and the situations that you encounter everyday.

One of the reasons why veteran officers are typically more capable of identifying criminals is because of the experiences they have accumulated over their years on the job. With this extensive database of scenarios encountered, they are able to intuitively size up a situation and know whether something is normal (part of the baseline) or not normal (an anomaly worth investigating.) The challenge is in passing those experiences and that understanding of events on to younger officers. Since these skills have often been developed and accumulated through countless hours on the street, it has historically been a problem to quantify and package that intuitive understanding of the baseline into a concise and mutually understood terminology so that more junior officers are able to benefit from that knowledge.

While a vocabulary to clearly define the baseline may have previously been considered unattainable, the advances

August 17, 2016

How Team Rubicon “Knowledge Bombs” Can Help Self-Taught Professionals


As I write this, much of Louisiana is underwater due to flooding. People in New Mexico are digging out after floods of their own, and residents in California and Utah are rebuilding their homes in the wake of widespread wildfires. Because natural disasters often don’t provide a great deal of advance warning before they hit, for the military veterans, first responders and medical professionals who volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief organization, the ability to provide relief to communities affected by natural disasters is the result of ample preparation before disaster strikes. With only a minimal amount of time to ramp up efforts once Mother Nature hits, the work of each volunteer while left of bang of the storm is what allows for a fast and effective response.

To help educate their highly experienced volunteers, Team Rubicon has produced over 40 “Knowledge Bombs,” one-page infographics that educate responders about the various risks they can expect to face in their duties. As understanding risk is a crucial concept for warriors, police officers and security professionals, these easily sharable reminders about dangers on the job offer a great opportunity for professionals to deepen their knowledge about how to prepare for threatening situations. To make the most out of these bite-sized lessons and better retain what you have just read in the long term, self-taught students need to have a strong mental model to quickly make sense of what they are learning that will allow them to improve how they operate when they get to the field.

The Challenge of Being Self-Taught

Team Rubicon as an organization is comprised primarily of volunteers, meaning that the people they are seeking to educate often also have day jobs that bring their own sets of continuing education requirements and have families and other commitments that need to be taken care of before extra-curricular activities can be pursued. These time constraints aren’t unique to Team Rubicon volunteers and are obstacles that any self-taught learner faces as they seek out resources and experiences to improve themselves. This challenge is compounded by the fact that, in our current “knowledge economy,” for any topic you want to learn about there are insurmountable numbers of resources available to you online, making it difficult to filter through it all and fill specific gaps in your understanding

August 13, 2016

Training to the Decision and Trusting An Officer’s Judgment


This article was originally written for and posted on

As a leader in law enforcement, there are likely many things that keep you up at night. With the recent increased public attention and scrutiny of police officers, questions about how well your officers are prepared to operate in the highly uncertain situations that characterize your field are likely near the top of your list. While having a high degree of trust in an officer’s judgment can minimize this anxiety, developing decision-making skills in younger officers has often been a challenge. While this is often because the ability to articulate the conditions for situations that are characterized as anything but black and white has been lacking, one of the original goals for writing Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life was to empower leaders with the ability to use a clear and common language to explain their intent to their organizations. While the terminology that comes from the four pillars of observable behavior discussed in Left of Bang can be applied to any situation that a police officer might face on the job, in this article I’ll show how a leader can explain to their officers what de-escalation is, why it is beneficial, when it should be applied, when it shouldn’t be utilized and how to plan their approach when attempting to calm a situation.

Step #1: Start With the “What”

To ensure that techniques are presented in the simplest way possible, all that de-escalation entails is taking a person who is displaying the dominant cluster of observable behavior and transitioning them into the comfortable cluster (here is an explanation about the clusters). For the situations that permit de-escalation tactics, defining what it is doesn’t require a complicated definition and there is a straightforward explanation that comes from the four types of nonverbal behavior they see every single day.

Step #2: Explain “Why” an Officer Would Want to De-Escalate a Situation

While there are big picture pros and cons to the use of de-escalation techniques, a discussion about the why de-escalation should be used should be focused on the benefits to the individual officer on the ground. For instance,

August 6, 2016

Three Questions to Assess the Tools Your Training Provides


This article was originally written for and posted on

Has anyone ever told you, “Here is another tool for your toolbox.”  As a Marine, I hated hearing those words, and I still cringe when an instructor utters that phrase to our nation’s police officers during a training seminar. The phrase often implies that the key to professional competency is to pack as much information into a student’s brain as possible, regardless of its future usefulness. When it comes to developing an officer’s ability to make effective decisions, quickly making sense of a situation doesn’t come from having more information or even more “tools” to use, but instead from applying finely tuned mental models to adapt to rapidly changing situations. It’s through these mental models developed over an officer’s career that they can quickly identify present patterns and use the information they have more effectively.

As a police officer, the only person responsible for ensuring your professional development is yourself. To get the most out of your time spent in training, it requires that you have a process to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the topic being taught. To help you assess the tools that instructors and authors are trying to provide you with, here are three questions that can help you determine how important that tool is.

Question #1: Where in your model does the current class fit?

As a police officer, it’s