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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
















President's Message

Eric Emmanuele, President CCAI 2015


The Next Paradigm in
Fire Investigations


In 1992, the fire investigation community was introduced to NFPA 921.  After 23 years of discussion, pros and cons, the result is a field of fire investigators closely following this guide in determining the cause and origin of a fire. The reason, not that all investigators agree with all aspects of NFPA 921, but because the courts, both State and Federal, have and will continue to accept NFPA 921 as the generally accepted standard in the fire investigations community, if not the “Bible of Forensic Arson Science” (Babick v Berghuis 620 F.3d 571, 574–75 [6th Cir. 2010]).

When will be the next paradigm shift in fire investigations? I believe its happening now.  In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences published their report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. This report was over 300 pages and contained an overview of multiple problems relating to forensic sciences and the law in both criminal and civil cases.  Although this report was not specific to forensic fire investigations, it did address it.  This report called for a movement towards mandatory universal accreditation of all public and private organizations providing fire investigative services for “criminal, civil, regulatory, or administrative proceedings.”

The report specifically states, “Laboratory accreditation and individual certification of forensic science practitioners should be mandatory.”  With this report planting the seed, what is the next step?  In 2013, the Federal Government established a “National Commission on Forensic Science as part of a new initiative to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science.”  In November 2014, a Subcommittee prepared and posted, for public comment, a draft recommendation for mandatory universal accreditation of Forensic Science Service Providers.  This recommendation failed to receive the requisite votes, but it is clear that this committee is in favor of individual certification.

Will the Commission consider a fire investigator a “Forensic Science Service Provider?”  They define a Forensic Science Service Provider as a person or entity that (1) applies scientific practices to recognizing, collecting, analyzing or interpreting physical evidence; and (2) issues test results, provides reports, or provides interpretations, conclusions, or opinions through testimony with respect to such evidence.  Based upon their definition, I don’t think any of us will argue that a fire investigator will be included in this initiative.

We can all read the writing on the wall, but what is our next step as fire investigators?  We all know the California Courts, under the Frye standard, don’t require us to be certified to offer an expert opinion as to the origin and cause of a fire, but that could change with one decision of the court.  We are not currently required by the U.S. Department of Justice to be certified to provide fire investigative services for “criminal, civil, regulatory, or administrative proceedings,” but that could change with one recommendation from the National Commission on Forensic Science.

As I see it, we have two options.  We can wait for it to happen, complain when it does, and then play catch up, much as we did as an industry when NFPA 921 was introduced.  OR, we can embrace the change, recognize that the intent is to make us better individually and collectively as an industry, and lead the forensic certification charge.  How do I recommend we accomplish this challenge?  Become a Certified Fire Investigator!

CCAI has one of the most challenging CFI certifications available in the industry and is constantly being reviewed and updated.  Russ Bohse, our CFI Committee Chair and his group have been the busiest group in CCAI this year.  If you have any questions or suggestions for our program, please contact Russ at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .





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