THE PRISONER

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While wait­ing to see the oph­thal­mol­o­gist re­cently, I ob­served an ag­ing sher­iff’s deputy es­cort a prisoner through the front door and into the wait­ing room. I didn’t think much of it at first. Hey, even a prisoner needs eye care, I sup­pose. But what hap­pened next sur­prised me a bit.

The deputy walked the prisoner over to stand next to a wall. Then, he went into the re­stroom, leav­ing the prisoner stand­ing there ... unat­tended. Now, I didn’t know if that was com­mon prac­tice, but it made me do a dou­ble-take.

WHAT IS YOUR ALERT­NESS

LEVEL?

The prisoner’s feet were shack­led loosely, and his hands were chained some­what close to his belt. At first glance, he didn’t ap­pear to be too much of a threat with the way he was bound, but a set of mean eyes, shaggy hair and scores of pri­son tat­toos lit­ter­ing his ex­posed skin told me that this guy wasn’t an am­a­teur.

OUT TO LUNCH?

What sur­prised me most of all was the re­sponse—or the lack thereof—this sit­u­a­tion elicited from ev­ery­one else in the wait­ing room. There were 18 peo­ple wait­ing, in­clud­ing my­self, and 11 of them did not lift their eyes from their cell phones the en­tire time I was there. Four­teen of the 18 peo­ple looked to be 65-plus years

old—all of them women, most of whom were very small and some­what frail look­ing. There was one other male in the crowd who looked to be in his early 50s.

One group sat in a cor­ner, talk­ing with­out pause, and three-quar­ters of the folks in the wait­ing room had their backs to the prisoner while they watched the TV, played with their phones or sim­ply sat, qui­etly hunched for­ward, obliv­i­ous to what was around them.

From what I could tell, only two other peo­ple in­di­cated any aware­ness of the prisoner, and one of them quickly went back to her mag­a­zine and didn’t look up again.

Although the prisoner’s hands were some­what re­strained, he still had enough free­dom of move­ment to grab hold of one of the el­derly pa­tients who were seated near him. Yet, only one other per­son seemed to pay any at­ten­tion.

To me, this unat­tended prisoner posed a po­ten­tial threat; and, ac­cord­ing to the late Colonel Cooper’s color code sys­tem—at least in my in­ter­pre­ta­tion—we were in “Con­di­tion Or­ange.”

The deputy was in the re­stroom for a good five to seven min­utes. For the en­tire du­ra­tion, I kept my hand near the grip of the pis­tol I had hol­stered in my pocket. Some might think that was an over­re­ac­tion, but I’d rather err on the side of cau­tion.

COLONEL COOPER’S SYS­TEM

While some read­ers might be long-time read­ers of Gun World, new and younger read­ers come aboard ev­ery month. As a re­sult, it doesn’t hurt to dis­cuss sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and, in this cir­cum­stance, Colonel Cooper’s color-coded threat con­di­tion scale.

Known as one of the “com­bat mas­ters” from the 1950s and the early ’60s in South­west gun com­pe­ti­tions, Colonel Jeff Cooper pro­posed a sim­ple, color-based scale based on his ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing his time in the U.S. Marines. These col­ors were meant to rep­re­sent ba­sic alert lev­els of in­di­vid­u­als at given times. They are para­phrased as fol­lows:

WHITE: The low­est state of aware­ness and pre­pared­ness. For the well-dis­ci­plined, this should only oc­cur dur­ing sleep.

YEL­LOW: This is a re­laxed state, but the in­di­vid­ual is alert, pre­pared and mind­ful of their sur­round­ings. This should be Now, this scale isn’t meant for peo­ple to walk around wear­ing dif­fer­ently col­ored badges all the time. It’s just a sim­ple, vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of each per­son’s ba­sic mind­set when it comes to their level of alert­ness. Some peo­ple live in Con­di­tion White all the time. How­ever, that’s not a level I’d rec­om­mend; nor do I rec­om­mend ex­treme para­noia at ev­ery cor­ner. There’s a happy medium in there some­where.

Be­ing in Con­di­tion Yel­low dur­ing wak­ing hours isn’t a gru­el­ing ex­er­cise. It’s sim­ply go­ing about your life with your head up and pay­ing at­ten­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing around you. This is par­tic­u­larly vi­tal when mov­ing among strangers or in an area with which you are un­fa­mil­iar or when con­di­tions ex­ist that could com­pro­mise your se­cu­rity.

Even at home, there is an ar­gu­ment to be made for be­ing in Con­di­tion Yel­low, be­cause threats to our safety are not lim­ited to at­tacks on the street. Be­ing aware of whether or not the win­dows and doors are se­cured, where your fam­ily is and pay­ing at­ten­tion to your in­stincts are es­sen­tial for sur­vival.

A VI­TAL LES­SON

Two dif­fer­ent lieu­tenants at the de­ten­tion cen­ter called me back when I left a mes­sage about what I had ob­served and whether what the deputy did was proper pro­to­col.

Wouldn’t you know it? I got two dif­fer­ent an­swers.

One lieu­tenant said that should ab­so­lutely not hap­pen and that they would look into the sit­u­a­tion. The other lieu­tenant said it’s not the best-case sce­nario; but when of­fi­cers are alone and na­ture calls, they re­ally don’t have a choice.

So, if these two of­fi­cers couldn’t agree on whether that should have hap­pened or not, what are we left to think?

How­ever, the true question to be put to the reader at this time is not whether the deputy fol­lowed pro­to­col, but what con­di­tion would your level of alert­ness would have been at the time? Would you have been watch­ing and an­a­lyz­ing, or would you not have con­sid­ered it at all?

Think about how you move about in daily life. Eval­u­ate your own level of aware­ness and whether it’s good enough to see you safely through. If not, ad­just ac­cord­ingly. You should take this les­son to heart for your­self and also share it with fam­ily and friends. Teach your kids.

This les­son—well learned—could make all the dif­fer­ence for you or some­one you love one mo­ment in the fu­ture. It’s a les­son best learned sooner than later. GW

When in con­di­tions that heighten risk, it is vi­tal to pay at­ten­tion to your sur­round­ings and have a plan if posed with a threat.

Colonel Jeff Cooper’s color-coded scale is a vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the dif­fer­ent lev­els of alert­ness peo­ple go through at dif­fer­ent times.

Known as one of the “com­bat mas­ters” dur­ing the 1950s and ’60s, Colonel Jeff Cooper (right) ded­i­cated his life to ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about firearms, self-de­fense and un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of con­stant vig­i­lance. (Photo: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

I Look­ing up to see this guy in your doc­tor’s of­fice should be enough to get— and keep—your at­ten­tion.

To­day’s tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing tablets, wire­less phones and other per­sonal elec­tron­ics, have per­me­ated our so­ci­ety to the ex­tent that many peo­ple are con­stantly dis­tracted and un­aware of what’s hap­pen­ing around them.

In to­day’s age of ter­ror, pay­ing at­ten­tion to even the small­est de­tails in pub­lic spa­ces is a re­spon­si­bil­ity all of us must share to mit­i­gate threats to our safety. Here, a bag has been left unat­tended in a crowded pub­lic space. It could be an ab­sent-minded act, or it could be a strate­gi­cally placed bomb.

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