Undercover cop (courtesy reuters.com)

According to reuters.com, you’re looking at “an undercover police officer, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators” who “aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner in Oakland, California December 10, 2014.” That’s the caption to the photo and that’s all the information they provide on this incident. Which is ironic. Because this post is about guns, undercover cops and limited information . . .

To quote the unrelentingly pithy William S. Gilbert, “Things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream.” Translated by the immortal Jeff Cooper, that means know your target. No really. Know your target or DON’T SHOOT.

Imagine if you came upon this scene near a park and the two men were tackling a woman and the woman was shouting RAPE! You’d be forgiven for assuming that she was being raped, drawing your firearm and engaging the “bad guys” in an armed confrontation. Forgiven by many, but probably not the prosecutor. If you shoot and kill one or both of the undercover cops who were trying to arrest a perp shouting rape? Oy.

Undercover cop aims gun at photographer (courtesy photorgaphyisnotacrime.com)

According to police protocol, undercover or plainclothes cops should reveal their badges when the s hits the f. Who has time? Who can see it? Undercover or plainclothes cops should yell POLICE during an incident. Who can hear them? Even “trained” police officers shoot undercover cops from time to time. In this case . . .

Chief Browne claimed the still unnamed officer pulled out a badge and identified himself as law enforcement per department policy, though several members of the media and marchers reported that they did not see a badge.

That intel comes from photographyisnotacrime.com, who object to the fact that the officer in question aimed his gun at a camera. Regardless of whether or not you bring a camera to a gunfight (not a bad idea), not to coin a phrase, this could be you! Then what? I don’t know about you, but I reckon I’d go into full combat mode if someone aims a gun at me.

The general point: there are plainclothes cops out there, somewhere. You don’t want to shoot them. Unfortunately, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. The whole point of undercover police work: you don’t have a scorecard.

The safest strategy for an armed American? Do NOT to intervene in a situation where innocent life APPEARS threatened. Only intervene in a situation where you are SURE of who’s attacking whom, and who’s who. And maybe not even then (you are not obligated to protect innocent life and nothing attracts a bad guy’s attention faster than a gun).

The best way to ensure you don’t shoot the wrong person or persons: to watch the entire event unfold, from the beginning. For example, you see a woman walking by a park. Two men approach her. They do NOT identify themselves as police. They immediately and violently assault her and drag her off into the bushes. It’s a pretty sure bet that what you’ve seen justifies armed intervention.

By the same token, if you see a bad guy enter a Stop ‘N Rob and hold up the cashier, it’s chocks away. Yes but – make no mistake, making a mistake is a lot easier than you’d imagine. A robber could switch places with the cashier while you’re looking for cover or concealment or a quick exit, stage left. You might not remember who’s who. Even with the best of intentions, one small trigger press could ruin many, many lives.

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73 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Be Sure of Your Target

  1. Use of deadly force requires the same standard regardless of how the apparent bad guy is dressed or what job he holds. It is good to advocate not rushing to pulling your gun when you walk up on a scene like this, but in the end the rules are the same.

    • De iure you are correct, but not de facto.

      The letter of the law would allow me to shoot a guy whether he was undercover cop making a bust or an actual aggressor trying to rape a victim, under similar circumstances. What matters is what was reasonably believed.

      But a prosecutor who may not think twice about writing off even a mistaken shooting of a normal joe, under circumstances where one reasonably, but wrongly believed he was the threat, would definitely be pressured, if not inclinned to prosecute you if it were a cop.

      Jury sympathies change, etc.

      • While not the same situation, there are a couple cases of cops in uniform getting killed serving no-knock warrants. Defending your home against unidentified intruders has a pretty low bar for use of deadly force as intent is obvious. What I am saying is that before you whip out your hog leg and start blasting you better have met the criteria for deadly force with such certainty that it doesn’t matter if your target is an undercover cop and no prosecutor could fault you and no jury could convict you.

        1. Ability
        2. Opportunity
        3. Intent

        • Ability, opportunity and intent aren’t those for the criminal? Otherwise I would follow the law of what state I reside in when it comes to justifiable deadly force. In my state If an innocent person’s life is in grave danger or if they are about to be caused imminent physical harm then I would use the three things you mentioned.
          Ability-I have a gun and know how to shoot it well plus I’m not that skiddish in bad situations
          Opportunity-Is a brief intense window where in a matter of seconds an individual has to identify the target and its backdrop while simultaneously getting the gun into the primary firing position.
          Intent-To stop the threat is what is told to the police, and Shakespeare captured the true intent of any gunfight in this quote,”Cry Havoc, and Let loose the dogs of war.”
          Pull a gun on me or threaten harm to any innocent person around me consider yourself playing a stupid game with a deliberate prize.

  2. Immediate entry attacks, regardless of them identifying themselves as cops, work the same way.

    Criminals have been known to lie about who they are. So the only option is to shoot first and ask questions later. It is a sad state of affairs that the liberal politicians put our police into.

    I am screwed either way. I foresee many dieing, for no other reason.

    BTW I heard police vests only work against handguns, not high power rifles at a close range, Is that true?

    • Yes. Any body armor worn by law enforcement will be class 1 or 2; that’s the “discrete” body armor. And while they work great for stopping relatively low powered handgun rounds, even the smallest rifle rounds will tear right through. The only kind of body armor that will stop a rifle round is the kind that soldiers sometimes wear, the large, bulky rigs with 12 pound ceramic plate inserts.

      • Not ‘any’ armor. I’m fairly certain SWAT teams use full strength plate body armor. But any plainclothes undercover cop is probably sporting pistol armor.

        To any cops not in uniform, shouting police ain’t gonna cut it. Plenty of criminals try whatever tactic they can to delay their capture. I think the advice of not barging into a situation unless you saw it unfold start to present is probably the best course of action. If the two guys tackling a third whip out handcuffs, its probably police. If they drag the guy into an alley to beat/kill him or start running away, probably not so innocent.

    • Yes, long guns can defeat standard body armor. But that may not be the case for long: work is being done on using graphene (or its hemp-based equivalent) in body armor, and it would be proof against long guns as well — of course the caveat there is that you’re going to get the kinetic energy imparted to you just the same, so bullet-proof still isn’t going to mean no bruises or broken bones or even death from the force of the blow.

      I even saw an article talking about putting layers of hemp-based near-graphene in ordinary clothing, which claimed it would also make you knife-proof, as it couldn’t be cut!

      • Reminds me of a book where spacesuits are simply pliable force fields over your clothes with an air suply. One character was attacked ba a large predator, the predator couldn’t get through the “suit” so it left disappointed and the victim was left as a pulped mess perfectly contained in his field.

    • The liberal politicians in the Reagan administration that architected the drug war and the Rhenquist court that rubber stamped it?

  3. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re unsure what’s going on, it’s OK to try stop any further violence/de-escalate the situation WITHOUT any weapon at first. When that person then reveals a threat, or the real threat becomes known, THEN it’s time to take out your weapon. But just because you are unsure of what’s really going on because you didn’t see everything or how a situation started, doesn’t mean you need to sit back without intervening and simply watch until someone gets beaten to death, raped, etc.

  4. Context is everything:

    “Suddenly, behind me, someone started to yell. A protester had discovered the undercover cops and shouted an alarm. Others began to join in, calling them pigs and telling them to go home. The two men passed me in silence, at a hurried pace. Suddenly, a scuffle erupted as one protester attempted to pull off one of the officer’s hoods. The officer tackled someone involved, and was quickly surrounded by a small crowd and kicked from several directions while on the ground. (That officer, who was African American, is who you see in the ground in the photo above.) The other officer stepped in front of his partner and brandished a baton. When the crowd did not back up he drew his gun, pointing at protesters and photographers. Moments later, police flooded the area, scattering marchers and blocking others, as the undercover officers arrested the man who had been tackled in the skirmish.”

    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/12/undercover-officer-gun-berkeley-oakland-protest

        • Pulling the hood off of someone is an assault. Pulling the hood off of someone you think is a police officer is also an assault except now it’ll probably be an Assault on a Police Officer charge. Both are stupid moves.

        • Hmm. I pulled the hood off my kid the other day. I guess that was assault also.

          What else is an assault? Shoulder squeezing? Pat on the back? Double handed handshake? What about a nudge. What if someone bumped into him accidentally. Is that assault? Who determines what is assault and what isn’t? Is it the whim of the officer being accidentally bumped/assaulted?

        • Assault: (verb) 1) make a physical attack on.
          2) attack or bombard (someone or the senses) with something undesirable or unpleasant
          3) carry out a military attack or raid on (an enemy position).

          Hood pulling – the new “assault.”

        • So let me get this straight, if i’m just moseying around and a guy pulls my hood off, that’s assault, and I can reciprocate in kind?

        • Wow, anonymous. Way to destroy any credibility you may have had in just a few short comments.

          Are you pulling on my hood? Don’t touch my hood. That’s assault.

        • I guess rather than escape the protesters, they need to arrest someone, so they got that guy that pulled back his hood. Hardened criminal right there. They were there to capture vandals in the act, instead – they got a hood puller. Congratulations.

    • Context is everything. I have no idea if this is true, but I have read that the police had their face coverings pulled off by the protesters because they had been banging on windows and trying to incite the crowd. No idea if true, but I would love to know if they were plants.

  5. Sometime in the 1920s Major George S. Patton was returning from a night out when he saw two men forcing a woman into the rear of truck. Major Patton stopped his car and drew his weapon and ordered them to cease and desist. It turned out is was the woman’s husband and a companion helping her in. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the incident.

    There is a reason that police are more likely to shoot the wrong the guy because they usually arrive on the scene when events are in process and very confused.

  6. BTW. WTF are those to people in the picture doing pointing at him?!

    When you see someone pointing a gun, it’s not a smart idea to point things at them threateningly – fking idiots.

    • BTW. WTF are those to people in the picture doing pointing at him?!

      When you see someone pointing a gun, it’s not a smart idea to point things at them threateningly – fking idiots.

      A finger is not threatening. Or were you talking about the cop? He looks like he is threatening people.

      • I wouldn’t want to risk a cop making a mistake and misinterpreting my raised arm and pointing finger as a possible gun. Plenty of guns can be near fully enveloped by the shooter’s hand and, in the dark, in a fast moving, chaotic assault environment, appear as just someone pointing. That’s a split second life or death decision you’re forcing the cop to make, when you don’t really have to.

      • “I wouldn’t want to risk a cop making a mistake and misinterpreting my raised arm and pointing finger as a possible gun.” – Jonathan – Houston

        Exactly.

        It might not be a gun, but I’m not going to be stupid about it by playing “Let’s See What I Can Do to Tempt the Man with the Gun!

      • It’s easy to detect that finger in the light of the photographer’s flash, but note this was in the dark, and at least one pointing finger I see would be backlit from a distant streetlight, I think I would have engaged it. Stupid to even be there, IMHO.

        • I think I would have engaged it.

          If you were cop right? Because if you weren’t, you’d be facing life imprisonment or death penalty.

        • Stupid kid tried it with a banana a short time ago…. do you really want to see how lucky you are? Yeah, go ahead and ask that kid how it worked out for him….

  7. If uniformed officers mistakenly shoots an undercover officer, wouldn’t (probably not), shouldn’t they be treated as a non-officer shooting an undercover officer under the same circumstances, or vice-versa?

  8. I’m torn on this one. On one hand he’s got the gangsta aiming system and on the other hand he does have good trigger discipline.

  9. I notice hes rockin the sideways titled pistol “gangsta style”, maybe its to make him seem more authentic as a “protestor”. Either way, I imagine they may slightly rethink their strategy incorporating plain clothes in a mob after this little snafu.

    That homeboy sights tinyurl link above is EPIC, “will withstand being tossed more than 30 feet”.

  10. What kind of police officer uses the “crack dealer” grip on his handgun? You respond the way you train. Are we supposed to believe that this man is a PO who is trying to convince the looters that he’s one of them by adopting their style? In an emergency???

    The other photo that was published shows his massive winter gloved hand. A glove that would not conveniently fit into the trigger guard of his handgun.

    I smell a rat.

    • Those are armored tactical gloves. Unless they were using radios I bet that’s how they were picked out of the crowd too, they both have shooter’s gloves on.

      • You blame the gloves for the blown cover, I bet they took a few of the conversations amongst the protesters a little too personally. That and the body armor under the bulky clothes….. Do police have to say ‘yes’ if asked if they’re a cop? Undercover too?

      • I bet it was their recent haircuts and proper English.
        Look at the bystanders in the background: bicycles, shaggy hair, and a manpurse. A FREAKING MANPURSE.

        I’m not suspicious of his grip. I bet that he wasn’t in a shooting mindset, but just was barking out commands and pointing. It’s a much more natural orientation for hand-eye coordination. Go try it out next time your at the range….or standing in front of a mirror and playing DeNiro!

    • Canting the weapon is not a “crack dealer” grip. It’s a common enough one-handed grip tactic that factors in the natural bone structure of the human arm, wrist and hand when extended. I am curious what one-handed grip you would in such a situation? The 1950’s FBI one-handed range grip? Anyone could find themselves with a one-handed grip very easily – using a cell phone to call 911, rendering aid to a victim, etc while covering a target/suspect. It might not be a bad thing to practice now and then.

      Granted in that second photo he’s canted more than normal but let’s factor in the obvious stress that he’s under. His trigger discipline is what matters here.

      Unfortunately, his Fu Man Chu/Goatee moustache, tactial gloves and short haircut did not do much for him in the way of an undercover look, but that’s not another issue.

  11. This is why it’s a bad idea to have plainclothes officers acting without uniforms right there… but sometimes it is unavoidable I guess.

    Making sure you don’t shoot unless you’re sure what’s happening is good advice in general.

  12. So… cops shoot a kid (who looks like a gangster) pulling something that looks like a gun that turns out to be a toy – acceptable.

    Ordinary citizen shoots a cop (who looks like a gangster) pulling something that looks like a gun and turns out to be a cop – not acceptable.

    Got it.

  13. To the people complaining about the grip. A lot of people are being taught to hold the weapon at a angle when using one hand when wearing armor. It is a better alignment of the shooting muscles. While he has it at more of a angle than I would suggest it still works for combat shooting with armor. You present your chest, the area that is going to be the best armored, so you can’t blade your body which would allow a more traditional angle. Think of it as throwing a punch.

    • You never want to punch someone in the jaw with your fist canted or horizontal. Look at older boxing pictures and film. Before the advent of modern gloves the fist was always vertical to avoid breaking the fingers on the strong lower mandible bone that the teeth are set in. A canted fist may feel natural but it is bad form.

  14. This guy’s entire look, even before the drawn sidearm, just screams undercover cop. I bet they spotted him a mile away. He’s lucky he didn’t get hurt seriously himself, putting himself in a volatile powder keg situation and serving as a human fuse.

    • I saw some sites pontificating that this may be the cops trying to incite the crowds to riots for some sort of false flag stuff. I thought that was hilarious. Like any black crowd is going to listen to this guy?

  15. Here’s a thought – you want the legal protections that being a cop brings, dress like one.

    Dress like a dirtbag & yell “cop”.. umm. no. break into a house dressed like a home-invader.. umm. no.

    We do have to draw a line somewhere, and since any dirtbag can yell “cop” – and many do.. for the protection and safety of the public at large, we can’t reasonably be expected to believe you.

    Shave, wear a uniform & comport yourself like the overpaid *servants* that you are.

  16. End the practice of armed government employees being in plain clothes or undercover and this ceases to be an issue. Government employees, especially cops, should never be allowed to lie to citizens, this means no plain clothes or undercover operations.

    • Are you stupid?

      “Hey man, I’m glad you answered my post for a hitman. Hey, why are you wearing a cop uniform… are you a cop?”

      “Uh… yeah….”

      BLAM!

      • It’s pretty well established that all the “hit men” and “12 year old girls” on the internet are cops already. It’s much safer for them to hide behind keyboards & create crimes than it is to, you know, go look for burglars & drug dealers.

      • Right, because two officers in uniform can’t go talk to the guy.
        Are you a statist? Yes, yes you are.

        Government employees should not be allowed to lie to citizens for any reason. No undercover at all.

        • I don’t know about “no undercover at all”, I mean undercover operations are essential for targeting larger crime organizations (Mafia, Drug cartels, sex trafficking, etc). Now going undercover just to bust a couple junkies or otherwise spy on the public, hell no.

    • Surrounded by a group of “protesters” already having shown violent tendencies is not criminal threatening and you’d be within your rights to do the same.

      Why do people get the impression that just because people are unarmed that they are inherently not dangerous? One of the conditions of authorizing lethal force is the immediate threat of grievous bodily harm and/or death….now where does it say the other person has to be armed with a weapon of equal capability?

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