Psychological Versus Physiological Stoppages

During my law enforcement career I received firearms training regarding stopping imminent threats of great bodily harm or death to myself, and others. Is there an efficient way to stop an imminent deadly force threat? Generally speaking, yes. As always, no guarantees. Police officers are essentially trained to go for a physiological stoppage. That is the most efficient way to stop an unjust aggressor presenting a deadly force threat. What’s a physiological stoppage? The short answer is to physiologically remove a subjects “will.” Once unconscious his “will,” no longer matters.

If common sense were common, I would not have to say this. This ain’t legal advice. I’m not an attorney. That don’t matter, as you didn’t come here to hear what an attorney thinks about these things.

Every year in law enforcement instructors reminded us of the Illinois statutory language; “…However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or such other person…” 720 ILCS 5/7-5. Every word of that statute was important. The non-sworn civilian version is 720 ILCS 5/7-1 Use of Force in Defense of Person. The language is nearly identical for this portion of the Illinois statute.

If you have not read the previous blog please read it, as I explore the idea of a good working definition of war. Carl von Clausewitz gives us the definition from his book On War: “War therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.” In other words, war has much to do with the will of men.

The hope, is the unjust aggressor will voluntarily comply and change his own “will” (a psychological stoppage), before we arrive at the physiological stoppage. Hope isn’t a plan. Once the shooting starts, the plan is a physiological stoppage. Time is a precious commodity in any kind of violent confrontation.

To prevent great bodily harm or death to innocents, our target area was center mass of the chest. The heart is located center mass of the chest. Head shots were a part of a physiological stoppage. Those two combat target areas never changed throughout the twenty six years of my police career, with the exception of working a narrower column, of the upper thoracic area from the heart to the brain.

The heart pumps blood and oxygen to the brain. Take out or damage the pump, and blood pressure is going to drop. Sooner rather than later, damage to heart or the brain will result in the unjust aggressor being rendered unconscious, dying, or dead. The brain stem portion of the brain can act like an emergency shut off.

How long are most gunfights? At point blank range, they are 2-3 seconds. Why is being efficient important? Time in any violent confrontation is a precious commodity. How much the more, is time a precious commodity in an imminent great bodily harm or deadly force confrontation? The answer is, all – the – more.

I was rightly taught as a police officer the intention was to “stop,” the threat. What’s the difference between “stop,” and “kill?” Certainly, targeting the heart and brain is likely to cause death. Distinctions have to be made. Stopping him? Yes. A willingness to deal out a lethal blow? Yes. Perhaps many lethal blows? Yes. The focus needs to be on stopping the unjust aggressor from continuing to present a deadly force threat to innocents. Once he stops – we stop.

An unjust aggressor may experience a psychological stoppage at any point prior to unconsciousness. What’s a psychological stoppage? In short, he quits, and we stop. It’s a change in his “will.” A change in his desires or intentions. He chooses to stop posing a deadly force threat as a means to an end (robbery, kidnapping, rape), or as an end in itself (murder of an innocent). A few for instances: He may clearly separate himself from his firearm. He may stop advancing on an innocent while wielding edged or blunt weapons. He may drop his weapon and move back away from it. Unarmed he may stop advancing on an innocent defenders drawn gun, and retreat. If he’s been shot he may make clear; He’s done and would very much like an ambulance – please!

All war – is – in – the – will. If he refuses to relent – then the defender must be willing to continue dealing out lethal blows until such time the unjust aggressor changes his will – or his will is removed, via a physiological stoppage. What’s a physiological stoppage again? His “will,” is removed as he’s been rendered unconsciousness, dying, or dead.

Some men you cannot, and will not reach. Some men will make a decision, and they will burn it in. They will not relent, and you will have to render them unconscious, dying, or dead, to stop them. You don’t have to like that reality, but it doesn’t change it. Many will quit. So we’re watchful for a psychological stoppage.

If a police officers intention was to kill the unjust aggressor rifles would have bayonets attached. Officers would approach the unconscious and finish them off. If the intent was to kill, officers would never render aid and would not request paramedics.

Having a willingness to deal out a lethal blow to an unjust aggressor is not the same thing as an unjust aggressors will to threaten and murder innocents. These two are radically different by their very nature. A willingness to deal out lethal blows is out of love for one’s own life, and a grave duty to protect those for whom one is responsible. It is out of love for other innocents. Juxtapose that with the unjust aggressors lack of charity for anyone, including himself, with his focus on his selfish wicked desires. Radically different things at their roots.

Police officers prepare and plan for the worst, yet remain watchful for an opportunity to stop and do what needs to be done in effort to save even the unjust aggressor. If he stops, police stop. If he goes unconscious, police stop. Pretty simple.

Dealing a lethal blow is not a guarantee of the unjust aggressors death. You aim, though there is no guarantee of accurate hits. A couple of millimeters any direction may be the difference between life and death. The fundamentals of shooting and the shooters skill level get factored in. The high stresses of potentially receiving great bodily harm and death, might mean your shots are a little hasty. The fundamentals of grip, and stance often diminish due to the unique stresses of combat, bearing down on you and yours. If both unjust aggressor and innocent defender are moving, accuracy diminishes yet again. If the innocent defender didn’t see this coming, and finds himself behind in John Boyd’s OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), throw in an adrenal dose of panic. We begin to understand how and why even police officers sometimes have horrible accuracy at 3-5 yards. Yet, police officers annually qualify at ranges out to 15-25 yards. Square range marksmanship, ain’t combat.

In conclusion, psychological stoppages have to do with the unjust aggressors choices. He decides if, and how much force it’s going to take to change his mind. Unjust aggressors vary widely in degree of “will.” If he’s made the decision, accepting even death, then bullet wounds to the torso won’t change his will. We’ll know when we get there. With some men you will have to achieve a physiological stoppage which renders him unconscious, dying, or dead. Once safe to do so, call an ambulance in effort to save to his life.