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"21 Feet" What does it really mean?

1/13/2016 12:00:00 AM

Get this to those still in harms way.

"21 Feet" What does it really mean?

Dirk LowryThe Police Executive Research Forum recently released their report;"Re-engineering Training on Police Use of Force". (Report)The document contains an in-depth discussion of Lt. Dennis Tueller's 21-foot drill, often erroneously cited as the "21-foot rule". The comments within the document should be alarming. Many national police executives opine that the 30 year old magazine article written by Tueller has been misinterpreted as creating a "21-foot kill zone". While the evidence for this opinion is anecdotal at best - this article is intended to clarifyany misinterpretation.Facts on Tuellers 21-foot DrillBelow are the facts from the original article which you can read here:(Article):
  • An armed (edged or blunt weapon) suspect can cross 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds.
  • An officer may draw from the holster and fire 2 rounds in 1 - 1.5 seconds.
  • Those first rounds may not stop the threat.
These are Tueller's original recommendations:
  • Develop tactical awareness to spot danger signs early.
  • Spotting danger signs early will allow an officer to "probably" avoid the confrontation altogether.
  • "A tactical withdrawal may be your best bet".
  • If an attack is imminent, move to cover, draw your weapon and plan the next move.
Bottom line: Tueller identified a danger area of 21 feet for a holstered officer and made officer safety recommendations consistent with those contained in the PERF report. More importantly, Tueller's drill is the foundation for some of today's action / reaction time research. Research that should be correctlyapplied to trainofficer's to increase distance (when possible) in a myriad of situations. The distance increase is likely beyond what officers may have originally felt was sufficient. Submitted as evidence:Suspect Movement Time Studies
  • A study by Duane Wolfe has shown seated suspects can cross 5 feet at an average of 1.3 seconds.
  • A second study by Wolfe shows standing suspects can cross 6 feet at an average of 1.1 seconds.
  • A study by the Force Science Institute shows standing suspects can cross 25 feet at an average of 1.6 seconds.
Officer Movement Time Studies
  • A study by Alexander Jason has shown officers draw (multiple holster types) and fire 1 round from the holster at an average of 1.5 seconds.*
  • A study by the Force Science Institute has shown officers draw and fire 1 round from the Level III holster at an average of 2.0 seconds.*
  • A study by FLETC / Bruce Siddle has shown officers reacting to a threat can fire from a high ready position at an average of 1 second with 30 percent accuracy. The accuracy increased to 90 percent with a response time of 2.3 seconds.**
  • A study by the Force Science Institute has shown officers can fire from a high or low ready position at an average of .83s.*
*Laboratory result based on sound stimulus. Officer already knows the response and only has to react without the decision making time of a real world encounter.**Laboratory result based on Force Options Simulator.What does it all mean?The evidence listed here is not to suggest an expansion of any type of perceived "kill zone" or area where a use of deadly force becomes automatic.*** The evidence does suggest that officers should be trained to increase distances BEYOND 21-feet when facing an armed suspect (when possible). When able, slowing down and using good tactical decision making based on observation from a distance is my recommended approach. Understanding how quickly a situation can go bad is a vital officer safety tool that can save lives on both sides of the badge (see video below). Ultimately, each circumstance is unique and while action / reaction time is vital to the equation there are many other pieces for consideration (equipment, competency, accuracy, stress, and the fact that a bullet does not always immediately stop threats) . Dr. Ron Martinelli (Expert Forensic Death Investigations) wrote an in-depth article regarding many of these unique variables that should be read by all.***There is no such thing as a "kill zone" in Law Enforcement.
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