Rethinking Standoffs

images-4Where is the national dialogue on the use of force by police going on?

Don’t you think it’s about time it did?

Too often, police are having to use deadly force when trying to disarm a person with knife or club in hand and who will not comply with police orders to disarm.

In a society such as ours, we say we believe in the dignity and worth of all persons and in the sanctity of human life. It would seem that if we value human life we will have this discussion. I look to police to lead it. That’s what professionals do!

There are too few “less-than-lethal” weapons in the police toolkit — instruments police can use when it is necessary to disarm or incapacitate AND preserve a life.

Instead, police are generally limited to bare-hand takedowns, baton, pressure techniques or the TASER.

I think more options can be developed. As a police officer, trainer, and leader for over three decades, I know we can be more creative in developing alternatives to the use of deadly force.

I recently found an article in the New York Times dated back to the 1970s wherein Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy said that the NYPD was developing a less-than-deadly force system of nets and poles to capture persons with knives and refused to surrender to arrest. A further search, however, revealed no reports of its use. At least Murphy was thinking of an alternative to using deadly force.

I have written about this problem before [“Dreaming in Blue,” “Is It Too Much to Expect?,” and “Showdown in Albuquerque.”]

But for today’s purpose, I am going to be so bold (and go out on a limb) and suggest a method to consider when having to disarm a person with an edged or blunt weapon without using a firearm.

It will not be easy to incorporate my suggestion and make this transition, but I think a professional police will embrace the need to be creative and test new methods.

Whether police adapt a method like this or not, I only hope it will spur some creative thought and suggestions from police practitioners and trainers.

Let me first say that the method I am proposing involves a significant amount of training to develop competency, the use of a new technology, and expertise of mental health professionals. The end result is the saving of lives.

  • The first method is for the coimages-1ntinued development of “sticky foam” technology so that it can be tactically, effectively, and easily applied by police in field situations. (See explanation HERE.)
  • The second is the use of a 6-7-foot staff (called a bo staff) by two officers working as a team. (Police officers properly trained in the basic techniques of the bo staff can easily defeat a person with edged or blunt weapons. To view a basic bo technique CLICK HERE.)
  • The two techniques (sticky foam and bo staff) in combination would be most preferable – two officers with staffs and one with a portable aerosol dispenser of “sticky foam.” (However, the bo staff method can be used without the foam).


It is interesting that “sticky foam”, sound waves, anti-traction spray, and other non-lethal methods have most recently been experimented with and considered by our nation’s military, not police.

A team of officers should be trained in using these methods coupled with a mobile mental health crisis intervention team of two trained police officers and a mental health practitioner to respond to these critical incidents which always would start with negotiation, calming the crisis, and then, if unsuccessful, approach and apprehend the individual without the use of firearms.

  • What do you think?
  • What creative and practical ideas can you suggest?