Monday, September 04, 2006

Half-Second Freeze

Veteran fighter, both skillful and experienced. Also a pretty nice guy, good awareness, good verbal skills. He is an officer with good rapport with both inmates and other officers and he was just doing his job.

An inmate took his words, his expression, something as an insult. This was an inmate who had honed the blitz attack to a fine art. The officer was hit three times before he was aware an assault was underway. Then his first instinct was to grab the threat to try to slow down the situation and buy time to think.

It all ended well. There was a fair amount of blood, mostly from the threat. The officers injuries were cosmetic. The other 56 or 57 inmates watching chose not to get involved. The other officer did. Minor injuries all around.

But the officer is and will be mentally torturing himself for a long time. Because he froze. It wasn't much of a freeze- three hits for an average blitz attack is about half a second. He'll be turning it over in his mind, wondering how he let his guard down and how the threat had opportunity and why he didn't see or feel it happening in time to react.

This is the thing, the difference between a fight and an assault. The officer was behind the curve, trying to play catch up, trying to figure out what the situation was and how to respond when the threat already was well into the steps of his plan. This is where you start in an assault: fifteen points behind halfway into the fourth quarter and you don't know if you're playing basketball or footbal and you aren't dressed for either game.

Because he's done this for decades, he thinks he should have done "better". He's alive and mostly uninjured. The threat was dragged away in cuffs. It honestly doesn't end much better than that. But that freeze, that half-second, won't let him rest for a long time.

If you play with snakes long enough, you get bit. It's natural. But the human animal has to think 'why me, why that time, why why why'. A skilled officer will prevent 99% of what could happen, but when that 1% breaks through, he can feel like a rookie all over again.

The officer did good. What happened was normal and natural, and bad guys rely on it (honestly, they expect it to last for the entire assault). Anyone who thinks they can't be surprised or won't freeze for an instant when they are is.. wrong. I wish I could tell him in a way that will make him feel better.


Kai Jones said...

Freezing is just normal. Moving on, as he did, is the most important thing in the world. He didn't let the freeze defeat him.

Anonymous said...

The real freeze comes, if you-or others-let it, after the incident is over - the turning inward and turning over the incident, over and over, like poking at a newly chipped tooth. Scientologists call it an 'engram' - an imprinting that is a roadblock to going on. Kind of like a fight - you can go around an incoming attack for your counter, taking time and inviting another attack, or you can blast through it. This sometimes takes someone else to point this out, if we'll let them. This is one of the three most important sergeant's functions, one I know a certain person is expert.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Sometimes instincts can be your worst enemy.