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by Scott Savage
Third Degree Communications

Why apply science to law enforcement critical incident response?

It seems law enforcement activities are under more scrutiny than ever before. During incident reviews and court trials, incident commanders are often forced to explain why they made certain decisions. Note that any law enforcement officer, even first arriving junior officers, may be the de facto "incident commander" until relived by a supervisor.

Other public safety professionals who make tough decisions, such as paramedics and hazardous materials technicians, rely heavily on the science of anatomy and chemistry (respectively) to guide their decision making. What science do we as law enforcement officers rely on? If you were being questioned by a grand jury about your decisions at a critical police incident, what science can you cite as the foundational rationale for why you did what you did?

According to Sid Heal, author of such renowned texts as "Field Command" and "Sound Doctrine: A Tactical Primer", tactical science is "the systematized body of knowledge covering the principles and doctrines associated with tactical operations or emergency responses and reconciling scientific knowledge with practical ends." [1]

Whether we give it a formal name like tactical science or not, the study and application of principles such as "defining the commander's intent" and "out maneuvering a suspect" are keys to success. Tactical science is not lofty academic theory, but rather well-established and sound principles to help guide our decision making.

Consider an incident commander leading an operation to apprehend a dangerous suspect who has fled into the neighborhoods. His decision making may have a range of consequences such as: allowing the suspect to escape and therefore endangering the public, inconveniencing citizens by closing down streets, and even costing his agency lots of overtime expenditures as he brings in additional resources. How does he decide what to do and can he later justify his decisions? Fortunately, the incident commander is well versed in tactical science and makes decisions based on sound principles. He knows statistically how fast a suspect will run and how to employ an envelopment tactic to catch him. He knows how to most efficiently employ his personnel so his impact to the public and overtime cost is only what is necessary. He clearly defines his "commander's intent" to his personnel who quickly implement his plan and apprehend the suspect. If asked to explain his decisions he can point back to current tactical science books and training courses as the basis for those decisions.

Understanding tactical science or becoming a tactician isn't just for those assigned to SWAT teams. Anyone who may find themselves being an incident commander, even for a short time, can benefit from a basic understanding. That understanding doesn't automatically come with being promoted or having time on the job. Instead it comes with years of experience, attending trainings and studying the relevant literature from the experts.

Scott Savage instructs the Third Degree Communications course entitled "Response Tactics for Critical Incidents and In-Progress Crimes".


[1] Charles "Sid" Heal, Field Command, (New York: Lantern Books, 2012), 11.

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.



This recall involves the EFLC1105 E-flite Ultra Micro-4, 4x9W, AC/DC Battery Charger from E-flite. The charger has four independently functioning charge circuits with a LED status display. Each port can charge one 30–150mAh, 1S UM cell, a 1S MCPX cell, or one 120–300mAh 2S pack equipped with a JST-PH, 3-wire connector. The charger measures 5 inches tall by 7 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep.  The charger is blue with a gray, black and blue faceplate with white and black type. “Eflite Celectra UMX-$ Battery Charger” is printed across the center of the charger.


See the full details at CPSC

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.


SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 and Scripps News investigation found arson fires are not investigated properly in many American cities -- including San Diego -- due to a chaotic patchwork of reporting systems and standards.

Many deliberately set building fires are not reported to the federal government.

Nationally, just 5 percent of all residential building fires are intentionally set, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.  Data collected by Scripps News suggests the national arson rate to be significantly higher.



This recall involves Nestlé three and five gallon cold and hot water dispensers. The units are white and silver in color and measure about 38 inches tall by 13 inches wide. Water is dispensed from the large plastic water bottle on the top of the unit through the machine by pushing on the paddles below that are marked with blue for cold water and red for hot water. The Nestlé Waters North America logo is on the front of the units. Only the following model and serial numbers are included in this recall. The model and serial numbers are printed on a white sticker on the back of the units.

Details can be seen at CPSC.


Model Numbers
Serial Numbers


















The California Conference of Arson Investigators has patterned its CFI certification program after the State of California’s certification program with two major differences: 1) The CCAI – CFI program requires the applicant must stand for a written exam and 2) the CCAI-CFI certification requires participation in continued professional training.  To keep the certificate valid, a CCAI Certified Fire Investigator must attend 30 hours of approved tested training, or 40 hours of CCAI approved non-tested training or a combination of 40 hours tested and non-tested training every three years, from the date his or her certificate was issued.  The hourly training requirement can easily be met by attending two 20-hour CCAI training seminar’s within the three-year period.

To apply, a person does not have to be a member of CCAI; however it is strongly encouraged that everyone in the field of fire investigation belongs to the California Conference of Arson Investigators, the leading organization for training in fire and arson investigations in California.

To qualify, applicants must submit certificates of training showing that they have completed Fire Investigation 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and PC 832 or its equivalent.  If you already possess a Level II Fire Investigation Certification from the State of California, a copy of your certification certificate showing Level II will suffice to validate that you have met the training requirements mentioned above.

Applicants must also validate that they have had the overall responsibility of, and have investigated, 150 fires to determine fire origin and separately to determine fire cause.  They must also substantiate that they have testified twice, in court or in deposition (not in the same case), under oath, pertaining to the origin and cause of fires or in the field of explosions.  The testimony can be criminal, civil or from deposition but must be directly related to fire origin and fire cause or origin and cause in an explosion incident.  In lieu of actual court related testimony, the applicant may complete any one of the below listed courses.

The following courses/classes will meet or substitute for the criteria of the court room requirements:

  1. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF & E)  course on "Advanced Origin And Cause, Courtroom Techniques"
  2. The National Fire Academy (NFA) " course on Interview/Interrogation & Courtroom Techniques"
  3. The International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) " Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony  (Expert Witness Testimony Class offered by CCAI)


The question has risen, “If an investigator possesses a California State Fire Investigator II Certification, why would he/she have to verify again that he/she has investigated 150 fires and testified twice in court?”  It is the CCAI Board of Directors’ position that, if CCAI is going to certify an investigator, the person’s qualifications must be independently validated by CCAI using documents and under oath statements.

The initial application fee, if you are a CCAI member, is $150.00 and the certification is validated for three years.  Renewal of the CCAI-CFI certification, if you are a CCAI member, is $75.00 every three years.  If you are not a member of CCAI, the initial application fee is $300.00 and renewal is $150.00 every three years.



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