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
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.