What to do if you get in over your head – Border Militia and Neighbourhood Watch edition

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What do you do if you get in over your head? There are 2 choices. And both of them involve NOT playing their game.

Self-selected protectors range from the guy who’s just looking after his family, to a group of guys watching over all their families in a neighbourhood watch or a border-patrol militia. All of them have 2 common goals – Keep the family safe. Get home alive and unhurt today.


There have been 2 incidents recently where CCW type guys got in over their heads. There was a crowd and it turned against them. We need to learn from this so we can increase our chances of getting home alive and unharmed.


Anaheim off-duty cop nearly shoots teenager:


Stockholm security guards get stomped by a group of migrants:


Why do you care?

Because you live in a world of teenage punks (and 40 year old punks) who rove around in unofficial gangs of friends. And any one of them can start shit with us if our paths cross.

A group of 17 year olds at the mall. One of them shoulder-bumps you.

Some gang members on a street corner. They start making comments about your girlfriend’s arse.

A newly-migrantified section of the city that you have to travel through for work. And one day they come up to insult you instead of shouting from across the street like always.


Any number of places can end with you being confronted by a group. (Please note how I subtly make the point of only dealing with a group if they confront you. Here I assume we’re not stupid enough to pick a fight where we know we’d be badly outnumbered. Or stupid enough to convince ourselves that their friends won’t get involved.)


Anaheim and Stockholm – a group-confrontation model

Here’s a generic play-by-play to what happened in both these cases, a model we can use to figure out how to act in such situations (group gives you shit/criminal interview/brewing group monkey dance):

  • In both cases a CCW type guy wanted to extract a single person from a group of friends. In Anaheim it was an off-duty cop who got emotionally involved and was pissed off with the kid over previous history between them. In Stockholm it was 2 security guards who were told to investigate an incident (I assume).
  • Mistake #1 for both of them – they didn’t realise they would be taking on a group, not just the “person of interest”.
  • Mistake #2- In both cases they went into the situation without knowing what a “win” looked like for them. They went in without a definitive/defined goal in mind.

What did the Anaheim guy expect? He probably doesn’t even know. He was monkey dancing, so he probably just wanted the kid to stop messing around on his lawn (or whatever) and went in subconsciously expecting to intimidate the kid into obeying. Did he have a goal in mind? Probably not or he wouldn’t have stood around not doing much for so long.

What did the Stockholm security guards have as a goal? Depends on what they were told to do over the radio. “Bring THAT individual in” is perfectly fine. “Investigate that individual” is another thing entirely. Define “investigate” for me please. Give me bullet point steps to follow (or else don’t string me up for the vultures if shit goes wrong because YOU didn’t give me suitable guidance – sure Wilbur).

  • In both cases a friend of the migrant/teenager gets himself involved. He “… just wants to know what my friend did?” or “What’s going on?”.
  • He asks a perfectly reasonable question that allows him to stand close. A question that will let him get involved no matter what (Rory Miller would call these “hooks”. Your answer doesn’t matter, the friend can now keep standing close to you and argue with your answer.)


  • The next step is 3-fold.

1 – You try to move the “person of interest” away from his friends (because you sub-consciously realise they’re a threat).

2 – The original guy starts passively resisting and

3 – his friend physically intervenes.

In over head pre shit.png

It starts mildly, the POI (person of interest) plants his feet and won’t walk with you. The friend puts a “calming” hand on your arm that quickly turns into him trying to break your grip.


  • Shit goes downhill from there. Ever-escalating steps as both sides try to end the conflict with the least amount of having to actually commit to a line of action. And that right there is the crux of it.


The problem offers the solution

If you have a goal to accomplish, trying to reach that goal by taking the smallest step you possibly can might not be the best way to do so. What both Anaheim and Stockholm showed was people trying to win the conflict, but without having to take any uncomfortable actions. The small increases in escalation were comfort-seeking behaviour. They all tried to end the situation without doing anything “drastic”.


The first problem is lacking a goal. Knowing what a “win” looks like for you. The second problem is this “resolve the situation without having to do anything that feels drastic” mindset that not only worsens the problem for you, but also offers the solution.


Decision point

When what you’re doing is not getting you closer to your goals – that’s called a decision point. That might be when the migrant doesn’t come with you as you ordered (leaving politics out of this discussion for the time being) or when the friend puts his hand on your arm.

You were walking down the street in the industrial area and some kid yelled an insult? And you fell for it and stopped walking? Well his friends are now fanning out to surround you. “Talking” with the insult-shouter isn’t going to get you home unharmed is it? That’s a decision point.

Einstein’s definition of insanity – Doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result.


What do you do when your current tactics aren’t working

When your current tactics aren’t working (getting you closer to your goal of going home alive and unhurt tonight) then you need to recognise that and make a decision.


Your options at this point

Now you have 2 options. De-escalate or escalate (we already know “keep doing what you’re doing” isn’t working).


Walk away or shock-and-awe. That’s it. Those are the 2 options when you find yourself stalled and stuck in a situation.


The little-by-little escalation doesn’t work and you get stuck in that mode because both sides don’t want to do anything drastic, anything that feels uncomfortable. So the way out is to create discomfort. Potentially lots of it.


Walking away is uncomfortable for you (and them, one of the reasons they cat-call and shout insults when you walk away, part of their brains feels the need to keep it going). Shock and awe creates discomfort, not by any specific actions, but rather by skipping steps in the escalation process. Whether you played the escalation game and waited till after he’d pushed you twice before you hit him, the “physical” violence was going to happen anyway, it just took a longer time to manifest. Shock and awe is just the violence that was going to happen anyway, but getting there before the other guy has time to escalate and prepare himself for that point as well.

How that looks for you will depend on you, your situation, and how worked-up you let everyone get before committing yourself to a decision.


Walking away

If this feels like I’m saying “give up”, then you’re emotionally invested in your current goal. This means what you’re doing right now is unlikely to be helping you get home safely tonight.

And yes, if this is the case I am saying give up. Give up your goal of “winning” (“making him see” etc.) and get your mind back to the goal of “get home alive and unhurt”. That which does not threaten your family’s safety is not your fucking concern. Trampled grass won’t kill your family. A vendetta with the wrong Chicago street kid might.

If you find yourself surrounded by angry teenagers (from Chicago no less), with one of them on your flank and groping behind his back for something (check the Anaheim video), then perhaps it’s time to walk away. Or run away as your case may be.


At any point they wanted, both the Anaheim guy and the Stockholm guards could’ve chosen to end things (to their benefit) by dropping the issue and walking away. If the problem follows you, then your justification in using violence to end the situation just went up. A lot. (Not being the Anaheim dude who got all pissy over his lawn (or whatever it was) in the first place is kinda important here too).


How to de-escalate by escalating

Shock and awe is not “go 1 step beyond what the other guy is currently willing to do”. It’s not “he pushed me, so the next step is I punch him” or “he tried to pull my arm off his friend, so I push him away”. That’s normal 1-step escalation. That’s what got you into his mess in the first place.


You are in Monkey Dance territory. An insult leads to a threat leads to a chest bump to a push to an overhand right.

I think the Anaheim guy should’ve got his head straight and dropped everything  and walked away (and ignored the insults about his mother and the sheep that followed him), so for this I’ll use the Stockholm Security guys for the example.


Shock and awe is skipping steps in the escalation process (and only works – i.e. you stay out of prison – when you tried and could not avoid the shit that came your way).

(Let’s ignore the Nuremburg principle and go with the guards “were just doing their jobs” and assume they were in the moral right to confront the dude and take him to the office for cops to arrive and question him.)


So what should the Stockholm guards have done? How should they have gone about their job of bringing in the migrant?


In a word? Overwhelm.


The goal in their heads was very possibly “go talk to him.” Whatever that means. A better goal would have been to ask the camera people “what’s the situation?” and made your goal a “snatch operation”. Go in hard and fast and get him restrained and moving before he can cotton on to what’s happening to him. That didn’t happen.


What about when the friend comes up and asks a “reasonable question”? First off, please note that doing this is a criminal Interview technique as well as being the first “hook” to get & keep himself involved. That friend makes it a multiple person situation. And that makes it waaay more dangerous for you. He either keeps his distance or you jump steps on him. “Back up!” doesn’t work? Pepper-spray him or immediately put him on the floor and cable tie his hands (zip ties).

The friend puts his hand on your arm. He isn’t trying to calm you or the situation down (he’s not your friend, why’s he think he can touch you and calm you down). He’s getting you used to him going hands on with you, small step at a time. He’s grooming you for more physical contact/intervention later. Pepper spray him or put him on the floor in cable ties. Maybe both.


The person you’re justified in taking to the cops is pulling back against you?  (Note that I’m assuming you can articulate this justification to a potentially pissed off magistrate.) Don’t pull harder. Make it so that he physically cannot resist or there’s just going to be more incremental escalation.  Cuff him or drop a come-along hold on him and GET OUT QUICK. Time on scene is your enemy when it comes to dealing with groups.


As an example, these guys did it much better (watch the first part of the video).



What happens when the friends all surround you and start with the aggressive posturing (i.e. working themselves up to get violent with you, bit at a time)? Same 2 choices – walk away or shock and awe. Immediate action in both. Let him go and walk away, or cuff the POI (person of interest) and pepper spray the group. Potentially pick the most aggressive of them and put him down using the baton. Thighs, arms. Maybe shins and stomach. If shit is getting bad enough then knees and elbows. Something overwhelming enough to give everyone else in the crowd pause for concern. And if that doesn’t work, then it’s very possibly time the 2 under-trained, overweight, outnumbered security guards made a  John Poole / Marc MacYoung style withdrawal (the only smart way to make a withdrawal under fire).


The “moral” case for shock and awe

The key to winning is to escalate it beyond what they were prepared for in that moment. You have to make everyone else pause (shock them with violence of action, not necessarily violence). That’s the essence of “overwhelming” – the other side pauses/freezes/resets their OODA loop.

You can skip steps and overwhelm people fairly easily early on. If the 2 security guards had rolled up on the migrant fast and hard, immediately slapped restraints on him and hauled him off (think of a military snatch job) then they possibly could’ve gotten out of there quickly and uninjured.

If the situation continues and you don’t over-escalate early on (by skipping several steps in the little-by-little “comfortable” escalation game), then you will get to a point where the violence you could’ve used to end the situation early on, is now just the next small step in the process. And that now much more damaging violence is needed to end the situation.


If you wait until you and the friend are playing tug-of-war with the POI and he’s punched you twice and you’ve tried to kick him once and NOW you try put him down? Well, that’s just the next “logical” small step.

If, when the migrant’s friend puts his hand on you the first time, you put him down fast and hard – that’s violence of action and skipping steps.

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