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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The “21-Foot Principle” Clarified

I encourage all police use-of-force instructors to view the new video from the Utah Attorney General’s Office on the “21-Foot Principle.” The video is hosted by Ken Wallentine, chief of the West Jordan Utah Police Department and former chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He discusses the distance and time needed for an officer to overcome the “reactionary gap.” For many of us the principle has been incorrectly taught as the “21-Foot Rule.”

Wallentine provides some background on reaction time and explains the unintended consequences of inattentional blindness and tunnel vision. He also covers the “OODA Loop” —the concept of “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act” that officers go through when they detect a threat. The information and data on officers’ movements and subjects’ movements is insightful. This includes a demonstration of an officer’s ability to move backward, or make that, limited ability to move backward, in an attempt to put distance between themselves and the subject.

21 feet and the “reactionary gap.” The
"21-Foot Principle" is intended to be considered
with the totality of circumstances facing an officer.
Wallentine interviews retired Salt Lake City Lt. and Firearms Instructor Dennis Tueller, who provides the history of the 21-Foot Principle and how it was formulated in response to an officer’s question while they were at the shooting range. Tueller stresses this was never intended to be a rigid rule but rather a consideration to be factored into the totality of the circumstances facing the officer. Part of his message is for officers to apply this concept preventatively to increase safety. 

Toward the end of the 17-minute video they continue that theme as they talk about being prepared, moving off line, creating distance when possible and identifying what could serve as cover if the officer needs it. I was not familiar with the phrase “Where’s my tree?” but I like it. It is a phrase they use in training to teach officers to look for cover well before
they need it.

If it sounds like there is a lot of material here, there is. I have watched the video numerous times, and I am still processing all the material they covered.

Watch on YouTube: 21 foot Principle Clarified by Dennis Tueller and Ken Wallentine


Up Next: Some interesting LMCIT statistics.

Stay safe,

Rob



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