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Thread: Knives and the 21 foot rule

  1. #1
    AIWB Cultist Lon's Avatar
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    Knives and the 21 foot rule

    Here’s a Caliber Press article about a recent 9th Circuit decision involving the shooting of a suicidal subject armed with a knife who was 55ft away from Officers when he was shot.

    https://www.calibrepress.com/2019/09...bd79-176940745

    Here’s the most mind boggling thing from the article:

    The dissenting appellate judge challenged his colleagues’ conclusion that the attacker posed an “immediate” threat warranting deadly force at a distance of 55 feet. By its written policy at that time, he pointed out, the officers’ department “provides that a person armed with a dangerous weapon, such as a knife or bat, constitutes a danger to the safety of [an] officer when that person is at a distance of 21 feet or less from the officer.

    “Thus, under the Department’s own 21-foot rule,” the subject “at a distance of 55 feet presumptively did not pose an immediate threat” when he was shot, the dissenter argued. “The point of the rule is surely to guide officers’ conduct as to whether and when a suspect poses a threat…. [O]fficers are trained based on the policy, and the reasonable inference is that this training should affect our assessment of what a reasonable officer would believe and how he should react.”
    Why on earth would you actually have that written into your policy? “Totality of circumstances”, anyone?

    Wisely, they have since removed it.
    Formerly known as xpd54.
    The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of my employer.
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  2. #2
    Site Supporter Zincwarrior's Avatar
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    I think the portion where the shootee was running full speed at the officers is very important here.

  3. #3
    LE Forum Moderator BehindBlueI's's Avatar
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    That strikes me of a policy written by someone that:

    1) Didn't know or care their general orders didn't match up with case law

    2) Didn't know or care that the Tueller drill is just that, a drill. The originator himself has said the distance was arbitrary, for training/demonstration purposes, and not based on any real life studies of human bio-mechanics, etc.

    The "21 foot rule" is a term that needs to be stamped out whenever it's found. It's baseless in both reality and the court system.
    L'otters are not afraid.
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    Quote Originally Posted by UNM1136 View Post
    Maybe with talented students I would lube up with baby oil and then go at it.

  4. #4
    Member cor_man257's Avatar
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    I don't often poke my head into the Law Enforcement section. Other than MP school, some unit training, and a smidge of detainee handling overseas I have little experience to offer.

    I remember being taught "the 21 foot rule" as a constant unchanging rule with no mention of Tueller while in MP school (2009). Later, when I took it upon myself to learn more about defense I came to think of it more as the Tueller principle, with distance and time being variable with many factors. I've always thought of the 21 foot "Tueller drill" as a simple way to demonstrate the principle to those who don't understand it.

    Obviously a 23 year old high school football stand out isn't going to be the same as a 250lb 5'8 woman.

    In general, do LE academies teach Tueller as a principle or as a hard rule? I ask because it's pretty surprising to see it written into a department policy. It seems like it was nothing but an opening for this judge to rip against officers.

    -Cory

  5. #5
    LE Forum Moderator BehindBlueI's's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cor_man257 View Post

    In general, do LE academies teach Tueller as a principle or as a hard rule?
    I can't speak for generalities, but here it wasn't taught at all. Deadly force vs edged weapons was taught as fluid and based on the opportunity for the attacker to do you harm. Totality of the circumstances, to include apparent fitness of the individual, the terrain/obstructions between you, suspect's actions (charging vs fleeing, posture and various pre-attack indicators, etc.) where the decision making points.

    Sometimes LE runs behind the times. It took us a long time to get a use of force policy that was in line with case law, was easy to explain, and wasn't riddled with exceptions. When I came on the the guideline was "+1", you could use one level of force higher than the bad guy. He was verbally non-compliant, you could use soft hands, he was using soft hands you could use hard hand strikes, he used hard hand strikes you could use your baton, etc. However the policy had to be riddled with exceptions because what if multiple attackers are using soft hands, or what if the suspect is significantly larger, stronger, and more skilled than you? What if you see pre-attack indicators but the suspect hasn't swung yet? +1 was baseless in case law as well. If granny in a wheel chair punches you, you can whack her with a baton because +1? No, of course not.

    Now we've got a "reasonable" standard, which is in line with court cases. The downside is, of course, reasonable is somewhat subjective. We'd prefer bright line rules, but with use of force bright line rules are very very difficult to pen. There's simply too many variables and scenarios.
    L'otters are not afraid.
    WWOMJD?

    Quote Originally Posted by UNM1136 View Post
    Maybe with talented students I would lube up with baby oil and then go at it.

  6. #6
    unhyphenated american blues's Avatar
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    We were taught it, if not at academies, then at in-service firearms training.

    Strangely enough, I used to think it was b.s. because I could always draw fast and fire quickly enough to hit the rushing target...

    ...but that was only because, in hindsight, I was already prepared mentally and physically for the challenge.

    The truth is, on the street, the chances of being prepared, (out of the blue), to assess the threat, react, draw and fire in a timely fashion is greatly reduced.

    Just another instance of unrealistic training methods employed at the time.
    “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu | "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." - Mike Tyson

  7. #7
    Member cor_man257's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blues View Post
    We were taught it, if not at academies, then at in-service firearms training.

    Strangely enough, I used to think it was b.s. because I could always draw fast and fire quickly enough to hit the rushing target...

    ...but that was only because, in hindsight, I was already prepared mentally and physically for the challenge.

    The truth is, on the street, the chances of being prepared, (out of the blue), to assess the threat, react, draw and fire in a timely fashion is greatly reduced.

    Just another instance of unrealistic training methods employed at the time.
    Makes sense. Having your OODA loop kinda of preloaded is going to benefit you on the range. Other than having if-this-then-that scenarios ahead of time you can't shortcut an OODA too much. Even so that only shortcuts the decision making aspect, and you simply can pregame enough scenarios to do that every time. I guess that's why I try to rely on truly knowing what my capabilities are, and improving them where I can.

    I appreciate the input guys. I'm not LEO, and at this point chances of heading into that field appear to be waning. However, I think department policies and how LEO train and deal with things offers insight for myself as a regular dude. LEOs are unique in that they experience far more conflict escalation and deescalation, violence, and legal and physical after math than most folks. To me that makes you guys an incredible resource of information.

    Thanks for what you guys do. I'll see myself out.

    -Cory
    Last edited by cor_man257; 09-05-2019 at 09:21 AM.

  8. #8
    Site Supporter Rex G's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cor_man257 View Post

    In general, do LE academies teach Tueller as a principle or as a hard rule? I ask because it's pretty surprising to see it written into a department policy. It seems like it was nothing but an opening for this judge to rip against officers.

    -Cory
    It was not taught as a “rule” at the academy I attended, in 1983/1984, but was presented as a lesson, to demonstrate human reaction time, and tactical principles.

    My take: The Tueller Drill is NOT a RULE! It is a lesson, that shows the vulnerability of a defender, to a knife-armed subject. Moreover, at 21 feet, with an athletic opponent, and a 1.5-second draw-and-fire, this drill results in a tie, with two dead/injured participants, therefore the necessity to take action well BEFORE 21 feet, and, if at all practicable, get off the line of attack, and, if possible, use intervening obstacles to complicate the attacker’s actions.

    We must also remember that bullet wounds do not usually cause a rag-doll-effect drop-right-there.

    If caught in a fatal funnel, such as a pedestrian tunnel, with no intervening obstacles, and being charged by an knife-armed attacker, I will endeavor to engage well before 21 feet! I may well engage at the limits of my perceived ability to accurately place vital zone shots, which will vary, somewhat, with the individual weapon, and the lighting conditions.
    Retar’d LE

  9. #9
    Trivial Matter Expert Sidheshooter's Avatar
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    Appellate judge: parking lot; blue gun under the robes; 27 year old deputy who squats 385 for reps; stopwatch. Clear that controversy right up.


    As an aside, when I took LFI way back in ‘95, I was one of the youngest, and therefore, fastest guys in the class. I’d have to go dig up my notes, but I was definitely under 1.5 to contact from standstill.

    And if anyone thinks knives are bad, try a stick/baton that increases reach.
    "The evidence is all around us—the paroxysms of inchoate, infantile rage suffered by those who have turned fallible politicians into saviors and devils, godlike avatars of Good versus Evil."
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  10. #10
    AIWB Cultist Lon's Avatar
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    When I teach UoF and Civil Liability in the academy this inevitably comes up. It leads to a good discussion on why it’s not a rule and the problem with thinking of 21 ft as a bright line that means we can smoke someone with a knife. Gets back to that whole “totality of circumstances” thing.
    Formerly known as xpd54.
    The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of my employer.
    www.gunsnobbery.wordpress.com

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