CPR saves lives but so does CPR. Let me back up a bit. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is what we use when someone’s heart stops, but I want to let you know how Contain-Point-React can be a foolproof way to respond to barricaded and otherwise isolated suspects. Having a solid Standard Operating Procedure like this can also save lives because it can prevent individual officers from becoming confused and overwhelmed. The CPR concept gives responding officers clear direction. It allows officers to concentrate on one task as opposed to having their attention diverted trying to handle several at once. CPR is easy to remember and works in a vast number of circumstances, especially the tense, uncertain and rapidly unfolding circumstances law enforcement officers must operate in.
Barricaded and Isolated Suspects
When responding to a criminal suspect or suicidal subject, the first piece of intelligence to consider is that person’s location. If they are located inside a place like a house and haven’t fled yet, we refer to that as an isolated suspect or subject. If we make contact and the suspect/subject refuses to exit or ignores us all together, we then call them “barricaded.” So long as the suspects aren’t presently fleeing, responding officers can rapidly put all the right tactical pieces in place to both stabilize and prepare for any contingency by implementing the CPR concept. It goes something like this…
Contain- Point – React
A man calls 911 to report he is alone in his home and wants to commit suicide by stabbing himself. Patrol officers are dispatched, and the Officer in Charge recognizes the incident as an isolated subject. He or she forecasts the subject’s next likely actions which are either to barricade themselves, try to flee, or comply with officers once they arrive.
No matter which action the suspect chooses, the Officer in Charge decides the priority is to stabilize the incident and keep it from getting any bigger. The officer in charge implements the “C” portion of CPR first and sets up “Containment” around the house to prevent the suspect’s escape. Why is containment so important? Although dealing with an armed and suicidal person alone in their home is bad, it would be much worse if he were allowed to escape and run through the neighborhood. If he is intent on harming someone, it’s better if the only potential victim he can access is himself.
After containing the home, the Officer in Charge implements the “P” portion and assigns an officer to assume a “Point” position. The Point officer takes a concealed position where the officer can observe the house and report their findings over the radio such as “The subject is coming out” or “No movement seen.” Notice that so far, no officer has made immediate contact with the subject, and they have used time and distance to their advantage. (Consider how many police shootings of mentally ill subjects have been precipitated by officers making immediate contact or placing themselves too close to the subject.)
Lastly, the Officer in Charge calls for the formation of the “R” portion of CPR by assembling a React Team ready to do just that: “React.” They will react to whatever the subject does. If he chooses to surrender, they can detain him and get him some help, and if he chooses to attack an innocent party or an officer, they can neutralize the threat.
Consider a different scenario where patrol units are dispatched to a report of a man with a knife threatening his family members inside their home. The Officer in Charge recognizes the incident as an isolated suspect but notes the suspect is an active threat to an innocent party. The Officer in Charge forecasts the suspect’s next likely actions which are either to barricade themselves, take a hostage, try to flee, attack a family member or comply with officers once they arrive. No matter which action the suspect chooses, the Officer in Charge decides the priority is to assemble the ability to interrupt the suspect’s intentions, should he try to harm his family members. The officer in charge implements the “R” portion of CPR first and sets up a React Team first, before calling for the establishment of Containment and Point. But, instead of just hoping a group of officers will someone coordinate their roles (lethal, less, lethal, hands/command, radio, etc.), the Officer in Charge designates a React Team Leader, someone with the right training and experience to assemble the team and designate the proper roles.
Very quickly, the Officer in Charge can stabilize the incident as he or she sets up a command post, calls in a negotiator, evacuates innocent persons, etc. As opposed to an unmethodical approach without any direction, you can see how using the CPR concept gives clear direction and delegates responsibilities. This often leads to better decision making and less confusion, two critical components of a safe and professional response. The next time you are responding to a contained or barricaded suspect, consider if starting CPR (Contain-Point-React) would work for you.
How to Use CPR
For more information about best practices for responding to barricaded and contained suspect, please attend our Response Tactics for Critical Incidents and In-Progress Crimes® course.