by Katy Kappele
“You’re all gonna get shot, that’s the fun of a place like that,” John Taylor said. The place is Tacoma Tactical, and Taylor is the adviser for Whatcom Community College’s Criminal Justice Leadership Program, and the coordinator of the Criminal Justice Program.
The word of the day is TacTac, short for Tacoma Tactical, an airsoft training facility which the criminal justice club plans to visit during winter quarter. In preparation, the students have begun to train, learning about SWAT tactics and how “bad guys” behave, as well as states of awareness and how their own brains will respond to danger.
Police officers call this kind of training mental conditioning. First, they prepare themselves by learning about states of functionality, Taylor said, flipping up an old-fashioned poster chart he used back in his Department of Justice days. There are five states of awareness, called white, yellow, orange, red, and black.
Most people, he said, live in white. This is a state where there is no perception of danger, and if someone were to jump out from under a desk and strangle someone, there would be pandemonium because no one expected it. Yellow is where there is a perception that danger is possible, and the person living in state yellow has an awareness of what is going on around him. Orange is SWAT level awareness, where there is knowledge of danger, and red is that state of awareness where one is acting.
Police officers, said Taylor, want to live in yellow, where there is no harm inflicted upon the body by hyper-awareness, but neither is one going to be surprised.
“We love yellow,” said Katie Ramsey, Deputy Chief of Administration for the club.
The fifth state is black, where is there is no functioning. A person in black is utterly overwhelmed and cannot help himself. “If I recognize he’s in state black, he’s not doing his job,” said Taylor. “Someone needs to cover it. You fight like you train. You should be able to handle it.”
After flipping through pages at an alarming rate, which Taylor said usually takes two hours, not 45 minutes, it was time to try out some entry techniques, like “cutting the pie,” which allows officers to see into a room before a suspect inside can see them. Doorways, Taylor said, are called the funnel of death.
“People get shot in doorways. All. The. Time,” Taylor said.
So, he shows the aspiring officers of the criminal justice club how to cover all their angles.
“The rule is that there should be no angle of attack that one person is not directly responsible for,” Taylor said. Is there someone at the bottom of the stairs? Is there someone in that tree with a gun?
There is a special danger from attack from above, Taylor said. “Nobody looks up. You don’t expect it. We as human beings don’t have any predators that attack us from above. Cops do look up.”
Out in the hallway, students split up into pairs to practice cutting the pie around corners. “Your eyes and your weapon always point the same way,” Taylor tells them. That way, reaction time is as fast as it can be, and none of the “good guys” get shot. Because even at TacTac, getting shot hurts.
Why are they practicing “cutting the pie,” and heightening their mental states of awareness? “Because that’s what the good guys do,” Taylor said.