Goofy Loops

The first time I recall being introduced to the term “Goofy Loop,” was likely as a young Field Training Sergeant. While seeking knowledge on my own to properly prepare my people, I purchased a book called Training at the Speed of Life, Vol. 1 by Kenneth R. Murray. Here is an excerpt from that book:

“It has been said that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So it goes with the second intervention point, called the Goofy Loop:

Drop the gun, put it down, drop the weapon, I’m not telling you again, drop it, drop it now, sir … drop … the … gun, DROP THE GUN …

If you hear your student constantly repeat the same thing or versions of the same thing, or you observe him unsuccessfully attempt the same action three or more times, you are witnessing a Goofy Loop. He is stuck and needs to be dislodged. Either have a branch in the scenario for such an occurrence, or utilize a Socratic Questioning to dislodge him from his “stuck” place. Think of a Goofy Loop as a stuck record. Sometimes you have to nudge the record player a bit to get the record back on track.”1

There is no shortage of police videos where officers tell an unjust aggressor to drop the gun over, and over, and over again. The record I’ve seen is around fifty warnings. That’s about forty nine too many. That is absurd beyond the pale.

To understand goofy loops we have to begin with an OODA loop. One craftsman among several down through the corridors of time was Colonel John Boyd, USAF. Boyd, a military strategist and fighter pilot, gave the world the OODA loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The gist of the OODA loop, is a person has to first see or observe something, orient to or understand what it is he’s seeing, make a decision, then act on that decision. A man with great reflexes, professional training, who observes things developing may go through the OODA loop process in about three quarters of a second. There are some really fast sub one second draws on YouTube. I’ve seen other professional trainers (Thinking of the John Lovell Ret Army Ranger video) utilize a shot timer, hear the beep, draw, and get that first shot off in just under three quarters (.75) of a second. That’s fast. However, action beats reaction. That’s a principle. So for the man who operates outside of the law, he can raise a firearm inside of 3 yards, pointing it, and get that first shot off in around a quarter of a second (.25). All the unjust aggressor has to contend with, is the act stage of OODA. His observance, orientation, and decision making stages are often unknown to you. Yes, there are pre-attack indicators but that’s either learned through growing up, or working, in high threat environments (dangerous areas, as a target, not a tourist) for many years, or through professional training. Actions occurring in about a quarter of a second creates a problem for the innocent defender. Innocent defenders must learn the ways of denying unjust aggressors the opportunity to gain tactical advantages.

If you or I are the target of an ambush predator we want to observe them maneuvering on us as early as is humanly possible. Seeing early buys you time to maneuver away in avoidance or escape, or for tactical staging to properly defend ourselves.

Depending upon the circumstances a loud rebuke may serve as an ambiguity or a jeopardy test. Police officers rarely have a problem in the observing or orienting stages of OODA. Why? Training and experience. For a police officer the sticking point will most often occur in the decision making stage. It comes down to the “will.” Carl Von Clausewitz in his treaty On War defined war, in part, as coming down to the will of men. The “will,” is the decision making faculty of the soul. Often times we see emotions (passions) especially fear and anger dominate the “will.” We see a sort of battle taking place between the intellect and the emotions. Our intellects (knowledge) and emotions often battle over domination of our “will.” This battle plays out throughout our lives many times daily. The battle between sin or virtue, happens repeatedly throughout our day. The intellect is the highest faculty of the soul. The emotions are the lower faculties of the soul. Again, due to police training many if not most officers are quick to get their firearms out and up, in line with morality and the law. This is when for some, fear begins asserting itself into their decision making process. This isn’t true for all officers. There are plenty of video examples of officers who decisively win the physical battles they face. In all probability, the numbers probably look a lot like a bell curve.

An old friend and former training instructor at my old police academy used to add a silent “a” to the OODA-a loop which he said stood for acceptance. Can we accept what we’re seeing? Can we accept the context of what we’re seeing develop? Can we accept that next right thing we need to do – and then do it? When you see a goofy loop it’s often the result of an untrained response, lack of knowledge, or some fear holding sway. For officers it’s more often the latter – a fear. For a civilian it more often begins with the former – lack of a trained response and/or knowledge base. That doesn’t mean civilians won’t also suffer in the decision making stage of an OODA. Has that citizen been convinced they’re acting in accordance with morality? Has that citizen been convinced that legally they’re doing the right thing? Then there’s the reality on the ground where some district attorney’s suffer a false compassion for the unjust aggressors. A false pity for the robbers, rapists, and murderers. Here we find a fear of an unjust prosecution and incarceration. We are all living through the same strange time in history. For those who cannot accept the reality holding sway we see this:

“Drop the gun, put it down, drop the weapon, I’m not telling you again, drop it, drop it now, sir … drop … the … gun, DROP THE GUN …”2

Professional training ought to eliminate those hesitations based upon fears. We have to grow in discipline as it pertains to controlling our emotions especially fear and anger. Striving to remain calm and detached until such time as we need to act with surprise, speed, and violence of action. When an unjust aggressor is willing to insist upon his own way to the point of unjust threats of violence that is the time for decisiveness. That is the time to achieve and maintain a relative superiority until that unjust aggressors will changes or his will no longer matters. He still has a responsibility to stop doing his evil deeds. If he stops. We stop. This ain’t about competition. That’s for a ring with judges and a referee. As innocent people of good will – we’re not looking for fights and we’re not looking for revenge. Both of those are loser strategies on the legal, civil, and social battlefields. Time in any kind of violent confrontation is a precious commodity. I could repeat this a thousand times and it would not be enough. Time is a precious commodity in any kind of violent confrontation. All other things being equal – surprise, speed, SPEED – and violence of action win fights. Imbalances in subject factors or proportionality can mess this one up real quick. Surprise, speed, and violence of action attack a mans will by attacking his hope. When vigorously defending oneself the unjust aggressor has to deal with a rapid discouragement, despondency, and ultimately a kind of despair in being able to assert his unjust will. If done properly he enters into a kind of selfish, self serving, and preserving mindset of surrender. If we looked at it through the lens of the grieving process he’d be driven down into a depression (too little hope), where he suffers a psychological stoppage. His will to continue to fight goes away. Lawful force, brings him rapidly to depression and then enough acceptance to get him into custody. Unjust aggressors ego’s tend to be very resilient. So unjust men often ignore the loss on the physical battlefield and transition immediately to smack talking about the other battlefields as they’re being handcuffed: I’m going to have your job! I know powerful influences and politicians! The social battlefield! I’m going to sue you! I’m gonna get paid! The civil battlefield. You’re going to go to jail for using force against ME! The legal battlefield. I witnessed this play out over, and over, and over again. This is coming from experience not something I read in a book. These are face saving measures for a man who’s ego won’t accept he lost on the physical battlefield. Time is a precious commodity. Time ought not be wasted. Knowing where the lines are morally, physically, legally, civilly, and socially – are a matter of life or death, freedom or incarceration, financial stability or bankruptcy. The death, could be the death of someone you love and are gravely responsible to defend and protect. As the world enters more deeply into madness, those who would protect innocents will have to make exchanges in assumed risks. One might have to accept higher risks on the socially constructed battlefields of the legal, civil, and social, in order to accept the fundamental true principles on the moral and physical battlefields. Pretending that principles like: Action beats reaction are not true won’t help you win the fight. We must acknowledge reality even if this, that, or the other states attorney choose to run off to fantasy and myths.

Fear underlies many if not most of our problems. Fear underlies many if not most of our arguments. The next time you get into an argument ask yourself the question – What is the underlying fear of this argument? What do I fear I might lose here? Is this a threat to some perceived power or authority that I feel that I’m due? Is the perceived threat financial in it’s nature? Do I fear a perceived threat to some pleasure I believe that I’m due? Is this a perceived threat against some honor or respect I feel that I’m due? What is it I yet fear? It is a fear of losing something. That loss might be real or it might be imagined. St. Thomas Aquinas gave us four things we’re often tempted to, and do place above God: Wealth, power, pleasures, & honors. We all need some wealth to provide for ourselves and our families. These four things are not evil in and of themselves. They are good if used properly. Gasoline is good for combustible engines. Don’t you go drink a pint of it. That would kill you. These four things only become a moral problem if and when we get unbalanced to the point of attachment. Sadly we sometimes make one or more of these four things into little gods, or false idols, by spending all of our time thinking about, and striving, to accumulate more and more of them. When that happens the fear of losing one of these things will have a say in what we do next. Detachment is a winning mindset both in spiritual battles and in physical battles. Fear underlies pride. Fear underlies anger. Fear underlies the really worst parts of a mans ego. Fear – dominates. Show me the man who can dominate his own fears and I’ll show you a fiercely competent warrior. Goofy loops in Law Enforcement often stem from a fear of a loss of employment. There is a crisis of leadership today everywhere I look, and the troops know it. The troops have found out what and who their so called leaders are all about. Too many specious leaders are simply looking out for #1. Goofy loops may stem from a fear of the states attorney. Too many states attorney’s suffer terrible cases of false compassion for unjust aggressors. They suffer a false pity for the robbers, rapists, and murderers in their communities. That fear of the district attorney who holds prosecutor discretion or power, at it’s root is a fear of a loss of freedom. It is a fear of an unjust incarceration. We’re seeing these things increasingly hold sway. It doesn’t do anyone any good to deny the realities on the ground. Madness seems to have gained a foothold in the greatest nation on the face of the earth in far too many places. In some cases the goofy loop stems from a fear of political correctness. Political correctness is a curse and pox upon our land – and it’s getting worse!

Drop the gun, put it down, drop the weapon, I’m not telling you again, drop it, drop it now, sir … drop … the … gun, DROP THE GUN …” 2

A goofy loop at it’s root is; an abdication of a responsibility by an officer, or by a citizen. Abdicating the decision of who lives and who potentially dies over to the unjust aggressor. Permitting the unjust aggressor to decide. Does that sound like a good idea to anyone? Sometimes as I alluded before, you don’t have an opportunity to stop the threat and you have to wait for that window of opportunity to open up. If you failed to pay attention or if the unjust aggressor really is that good at gaining a deep flank or an ambush position, sometimes you have to wait for him to turn away. Sometimes you have to wait to be in a better position like in his blind spot. It’s always best to exercise situational awareness doing our best to avoid these things early on.

It’s said that denial is the first stage in the grieving process. That five step process of 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance doesn’t merely apply to grief. It applies to any, and all, bad news. It applies to a crisis. It applies to violent confrontations. How quickly can a man arrive at acceptance? Perhaps I’ll do a follow up post on the five step bad news process. Suffice to say denial is the stage where we encounter too much hope. An excess in hope. ‘Perhaps if I warn this guy 37 more times I won’t have to do my grave duty. I won’t have to incur any risks on the legal, civil, and social battlefields. This is all about me right? Maybe this unjust aggressive man will have a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of his “will.” Maybe he’ll show me mercy and compassion. Perhaps this will all just work out.

So where’s the harm? If I gamble my life or the lives of those I have a grave duty to protect by engaging in a goofy loop of 3, 17, or 37 warnings and I lose that gamble where’s the harm? Well, my friends, the harm is you and or your people suffer grave bodily harm or death. That’s the harm. That’s the context. So what is an acceptable percentage you’re willing to gamble? The correct answer of course is zero percent. We ought not gamble even one tenth of a percent, when dealing with an unjust aggressor looking to rob, rape, cause grave bodily harm, or death. He’s not entitled to even one tenth of one percent. Now he may have come to expect 27 warnings and there are plenty of progressive media folk and politicians that may disagree but if we’re talking legitimate moral and legal rights coming from God, and here in the United States the Declaration of Independence unjust aggressors don’t have any legitimate rights to threaten grave bodily harm nor death to innocents.

If you’re a police officer you’re responsible for every innocent citizen. Innocent being the qualifying term. If you’re a police officer you’re responsible for every brother or sister in arms. As a Catholic I can tell you with certainty that as a husband and father morally I have a grave duty to protect and defend my wife and children.

What is the only objectively reasonable response for an armed unjust aggressor when confronted by legitimate authority? The legitimate authority might be a police officer or an innocent citizen at home, in a vehicle, or on foot. When a police officer or other innocent citizen is placed in a reasonable apprehension of grave bodily injury or death confronts an unjust aggressor the only thing for the unjust man to do is to drop his gun and cease representing a deadly force threat. If he was armed with a blunt or edged weapon in close proximity the only thing to do is to drop that blunt or edged weapon. If he was advancing it’s to stop advancing. If he was unarmed advancing on a drawn gun then stop advancing. This is not rocket science. Whatever the unjust aggressor is doing to have achieved and maintain a threat of great bodily harm or death he ought STOP DOING THAT!

If the unjust man is reaching for a concealed area (waistline), and an innocent person who is experiencing a reasonable apprehension this guy going for a weapon, then when the citizen points a firearm at him the unjust man ought to stop reaching for that waistline. Show both hands, and comply or leave. Keep it simple.

Would you feel better if the unjust aggressor shouted at the top of his lungs “NO!” Would you feel better if he verbally pronounced his intention to murder you and yours? It’s not about how you feel. It’s not even about you. It’s for your people. If I ever write a book on authentic leadership I plan on titling it: For Your People. The unjust aggressor’s action – is – his decision. Accept it. Can you accept it? The sooner we can skip the other four stages of bad news (grief) and advance to acceptance – the better. I better write that again as maybe you’ve never heard this before. Actions – are – decisions. Unjust aggressors decide and reveal their decisions via their actions. What he does or fails to do, right? Right. And then the consequences play out. To think that an innocent is somehow required to gamble with their lives, the lives of their brothers in arms, or those for whom they’re responsible to protect is absurd beyond the pale. No innocent person should ever have to gamble any percentage of their life to an unjust aggressor threatening grave bodily harm or death.

As a society we ought to take a step back, look at these things honestly, and stop with false compassion for the unjust aggressors.

Verbal warnings many times are not feasible. Television would have you believe that police are required to shout out “Police, drop the gun!” That is not required in many places, nor under many circumstances. Seek out professional training to begin learning what is and what is not objectively reasonable. In my old police house it was a question of feasibility. If feasible we gave verbal warnings. In some cases to give a warning would be akin to shouting: “Police, right here! Shoot me first! Shoot me now! What are you waiting for?” Just about every time we gave verbal warnings the unjust citizen then wanted to make a complaint against officers for threatening them.

As I wrote before, when an unjust man finds himself in deadly force confrontation with legitimate authority (lawman or citizen), there is only one right thing for the unjust man to do. Immediately – and I mean IMMEDIATELY drop his gun, show his palms, step back away from that firearm, and obey every single command perfectly. That’s it. Any man who fails to separate himself from his firearm has already made that next critical decision. That decision is the action of continuing to hold onto his gun. Perhaps his decision is the action of continuing to hold on to (retention of / alignment with) a blunt or edged weapon in close proximity to an innocent. Perhaps his decision is the action of continuing to advance and compress time and distance with an innocent while armed or even advancing while unarmed on a drawn gun held by an innocent (that would be one gun in the fight). In it’s essence it is having achieved and maintained the ongoing unjust threat. The unjust chooses retention of and alignment with his weapon of choice for the next decision. Is he going to choose to stop, turn back, and leave? Or is he going to raise it and use it against you and yours? Decisions, decisions. The threat remains as the seconds continue clicking by and the circumstances remain “tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving,” the language of Graham vs Connor.

“The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”3

You either arrive at acceptance, and do what needs to be done, or you gamble and abdicate your grave duty of those you’re responsible to protect over to an unjust aggressor. You have to decide. Permitting an unjust aggressor to decide is betting against yourself and those you purport to love. It is betting on the mercy of a man demonstrating gravely evil unjust actions. It is grossly imprudent in my estimation. Not deciding – is – a – decision. The action of legitimate defense of self or others is different in substance from the unjust robbing, raping, kidnapping, murdering, and setting fire to an innocent.

Do not abdicate the decision over who lives and who dies to an unjust aggressor. If you gamble on an unjust aggressor showing you and yours mercy, you error, you error. Take seriously your grave duty to protect those for whom you’re responsible for.

Every single tactical question in the world can be answered with just two words. It depends. Little by little we come to learn what it depends upon. Begin today. The longest journey still requires that the first steps be taken, and God willing, we may have miles yet to walk. May God give us the grace to choose the right road.

1Training at the Speed of Life, Vol. 1 by Kenneth R. Murray

2Training at the Speed of Life, Vol. 1 by Kenneth R. Murray

3United States Supreme Court GRAHAM v. CONNOR(1989)