Don't Be Afraid...
To Pull The Trigger
by Frank Borelli
Police Author
Frank Borelli
I've been a cop in some way, shape or form
(military, civilian, private, etc) since the fall of 1982.
For 24 years I've lived with the reality that I might,
just MIGHT, have to put a human being in my sight
picture and squeeze the trigger. It's a reality I came
to live with a long time ago and it remains with me
today. I decided lo those many years ago that it
was that there are a great many police officers who
simply don't have it in them to pull the trigger when
they should. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speaks about
this in his presentation on the Bulletproof Mind. He
tells the story about a cop who comes and thanks
him for having simply asked, "Can you pull the
trigger when you have to?" It's something that far
too many cops take for granted. Grossman cites
human interpersonal violence as the "universal
phobia" and gives historical information to support
his theories. The fact that some cops today hesitate
to pull the trigger when it's both justified and
necessary to their potential survival may further
support his theory.

I've seen numerous videos from dashboard
video-cameras mounted in police and sheriff's patrol
vehicles around the country. In one, the law
enforcement officer, gun drawn and pointed at an
armed threat, says, "I'll shoot your ass," nine times.
NINE times. Now, admittedly that's not the most
professional thing to say to a subject who needs to
drop his weapon before you are forced to shoot
him. Perhaps, "Don't make me shoot you," would
sound more professional as it's captured on your
dash-cam, but be that as it may, NINE times? Let's
think about everything that is implied in ONE verbal

Situation: Subject is armed and not complying with
your orders. You have drawn your weapon, and are
aiming / pointing it at him. The moment of truth has
arrived. Either he must drop his weapon or you
must pull the trigger on yours - at least twice in
most contemporary training structures and then
evaluate the need for further shots.

Boyd's Decision making model of Observe - Orient -
Decide - Act affects both "players" in this drama
and we law enforcement professionals - or any
other contemporary warrior for that matter - must
understand what our failure to act in a timely
fashion means to the opponent.

Subject's OODA Loop has ended at ACT: He is NOT
complying. He is resistant. He is armed. He presents
a threat. He may not yet have decided to pull the
trigger, but he is refusing to surrender or put down
his weapon. He HAS decided not to be obedient.

Officer's OODA Loop has ended at ACT: Observed a
threat. Oriented sufficiently to recognize that the
threat is to himself or an innocent it is his duty to
protect. Decided that he must present Deadly
Force. The Action is simultaneously to draw his
weapon and to issue a verbal command / warning.

Subject's OODA Loop repeats: I'm not complying.
He warned me, but he hasn't started shooting yet.
My decision and resolve hasn't changed.

Officer's OODA Loop has ended at ACT: He
observes no change in the threat level. The threat
still exists to himself or another. He has decided to
present Deadly Force and did so at the conclusion
of his last OODA Loop. Now he has to choose:

Action 1: pull the trigger.
Action 2: repeat verbal warning.

Okay. Three things have to be said here:
1) Police officers have no legal requirement to
retreat from a physical threat. In fact, it's our sworn
duty to stand in harm's way and defend / protect
those who cannot defend or protect themselves.
We cannot in good conscience shirk that duty.
2) If Deadly Force wasn't justified, we shouldn't be
standing there with the gun in our hand pointed at
a bad guy. If we're confident in our decision to
present Deadly Force, we should be equally
confident in the necessity of pulling the trigger.
3) Action is always faster than REaction. If the bad
guy goes through his next OODA Loop and decides
to start pulling the trigger, the officer or other
victim may be critically injured by gunfire before the
officer can return fire. At that point, the action is
too little too late.

Those three items recognized, let's consider the
implication of a second (or third or fourth or NINTH)
warning. The subject is going through repetitive
OODA Loops just as the officer is. To make those
OODA Loops inefficient, the officer has to press the
subject's time and space. By whatever means
necessary, the officer must reach an appropriate
ACTION first - or risk losing the fight and potentially
his life. If the officer makes the decision to issue a
second warning - which may be appropriate
dependent on circumstances, position of cover,
threat presented, etc.- then the subject takes that
into consideration in his next OODA Loop.

What's the message he's been given? Let's think
about it.

Observe: Nothing physical has changed. I'm here
with a gun in hand. The cop is there with his gun
pointed at me. He looks shaken and unsure, but his
gun has a big hole at the end of it and it's pointed
at me. He just said, "Don't force me to shoot you,"
which means the choice is mine. I can drop the gun
and live, or I can disobey him and he'll shoot me.
But then he said the same thing again.

Orient: Hmmm... maybe he really doesn't want to
shoot me. Let me think about this a minute...
maybe more options will become apparent before he
actually gets up the courage to shoot me. Let me
look around and see what I can leverage to my
advantage or do to escape.

Decide: I think I'll pull this trigger and shoot him
before he says anything else again.

Act: Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang.

Of course, that's only one possibility. He may decide
to drop the gun and surrender. He may realize that
your position of cover is so good he'd be wasting
bullets trying to shoot you. He may hear sirens and
decide he needs to get away fast and you're in his
way so he opens fire. But let's take a look at the
options and see how the percentages work out for
the good guys: us cops.

He surrenders. GOOD.
He shoots. You don't. He's not shot. You're
injured. BAD.
He shoots. You don't. He's not shot. You're
incapacitated. BAD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's injured. You're not
shot. GOOD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's injured. You're injured.
BAD. He shoots. You shoot.
He's incapacitated. You're not shot. GOOD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's incapacitated. You're
injured. BAD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's incapacitated. You're
incapacitated. BAD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's injured. You're
incapacitated. BAD.
He shoots. You shoot. He's not shot. You're
incapacitated. BAD.

If he surrenders then great. If he decides to pull the
trigger, you're in a RE-active position. Of those
options listed above, seven out of nine where he
shoots work out BAD for you. That's a 78% chance
it will go wrong for you. How can we change that?
Be PRO-active and do what you know is right and
justified. Pull the trigger FIRST. How will that work

You shoot. He doesn't. He's injured. You're not
shot. GOOD.
You shoot. He doesn't. He's incapacitated. You're
not shot. GOOD.
You shoot. He shoots. He's injured. You're not
shot. GOOD.
You shoot. He shoots. He's incapacitated. You're
not shot. GOOD.
You shoot. He shoots. He's injured. You're injured.
You shoot. He shoots. He's incapacitated. You're
injured. BAD.
You shoot. He shoots. He's incapacitated. You're
incapacitated. BAD.
You shoot. He shoots. He's injured. You're
incapacitated. BAD.

Now take a look at that. In the instances where the
good guys shoot and the bad guy doesn't, it works
out 100% in our favor (given that the use of force
is justified). In the remaining six of eight, four of
them work in his favor. It would seem to me -
based simply on math - that making an appropriate
decision and ACTING on it in a timely fashion while
using good tactics (such as being behind cover)
increases our chances of victory at least 30%.

While I fully understand that today's society puts a
lot of pressure on cops to make sure we do the
right thing, some things will never change: I will
always rather be tried by twelve than carried by six.
Understand, you're almost guaranteed to get sued
if you pull that trigger. You will face administrative
and criminal investigations and someone will always
said you could have done something different.
They'll be right. There was always something
different that could have been done. Would that
different thing have ended in your victory in the
conflict? Or would it simply have made it easier for
the bad guy to kill you?

Now let me give you an example of how things can
work the other way:

County police get a call for a man armed with a knife
at a local gas station. They arrive and sure enough,
here's the man wandering around the parking lot
with a butcher knife in his hand, waving it at people
and making verbal threats. The corporal who arrives
on the scene has JUST finished qualifying with his
carbine. He pulls up approximately fifteen yards / 45
feet from the subject, pops his trunk and gets out.
As he goes to his trunk to pull out his 9mm carbine,
the subject begins approaching him waving the
knife. The officer secures his carbine, chambers a
round, checks his shooting backdrop. He moves
around to the other side of his cruiser away from
the subject, takes aim and issues one warning:
"Drop the knife and get down on the ground or I'll
fire." The subject never slows down and has
approached to within the infamous 21-foot
distance. One shot is fired. The subject is
immediately incapacitated. The administrative and
criminal investigations were completed. The
shooting was deemed justified. The witness
statements clearly indicated that the officer wasn't
eager in his actions, but didn't hesitate either - - -
as it should be.

Do what you have to do and don't hesitate. Beat
the bad guys in the OODA Loop races and ACT
appropriately before they can come to a coherent
decision. Don't doubt. Don't second guess. Don't
die or get injured because you're afraid of civil
litigation or administrative headaches. If you were a
uniform and a badge and consider yourself a law
enforcement professional, you're a contemporary
warrior. Warriors go into battle. In battle there are
victors... and those other folks. Don't be one of
those other folks.

Frank Borelli began a writing career in 1999.
With several hundred articles now published
internationally and seven books published with
more on the way.  Frank is the Editor in Chief for
New AmericanTruth.com, the Internet's largest
law enforcement website.  Together with a
partner, Steve Forgues, Frank founded
AboveDirt.com in 2010.
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker