Staying “Left of Bang”: What To See And Do To Prevent Deadly Attacks

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“It’s better to detect sinister intentions early than respond to violent actions late.”

That blunt truth of survival, stated by Gavin de Becker, author of the bestseller The Gift of Fear, is the propelling theme of a new book that in 200 crisp pages captures the “blood and fire lessons” of a Marine Corps training program on “combat hunting” that carries life-saving messages for law enforcement.

The book’s title, Left of Bang, captures its essence. “Bang” is when shots are fired, a bomb goes off, damage is done. On a timeline, “right of bang”” is after that happens where, in the worst-case scenario, you’re a casualty. “Left of bang” is where you need to be–“alert, ready, prepared and able to respond before the bad stuff happens.”

That’s possible, the authors maintain, by recognizing certain revealing characteristics to detect potential attackers in time to abort their violent intent.

The Marines’ Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA, developed the Combat Hunter training program during the Iraq campaign, when threats against American troops were often “hiding in plain sight” and difficult to single out pre-attack. The purpose was to “instill a hunter-like mindset” by teaching soldiers to increase their situational awareness, proactively seek and identify imminent threats, and “have a bias for action.”

Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley, co-authors of Left of Bang, are former active-duty Marine officers and instructors who helped enhance and evolve the program and currently train its principles through private enterprises. Their specialty, and the focus of the book, is “how to read the human terrain through an increased understanding of human behavior” across all cultural lines and thereby stop threats before they erupt.

Staying left of bang, write Van Horne and Riley (the son of a police officer), starts with enhancing your observational skills.

Drawing on scientific research findings, they describe in detail how to detect and analyze suspicious human behavior in six “domains” that “communicate current emotions and possibly future intentions” to determine a potential threat. The domains, or cue sources, are:

  • Kinesics, people’s conscious and subconscious body language
  • Biometrics, human beings’ “uncontrollable and automatic biological responses to stress”
  • Proxemics, the way subjects use the space around them and interact with surrounding people
  • Geographics, reading familiar and unfamiliar patterns of behavior within a given environment
  • Iconography, the expression of beliefs and affiliations through symbols, and
  • Atmospherics, “the collective attitudes, moods, and behaviors present in a given situation or place.”

In searching for “clusters” of cues from these domains, you learn to enhance the intuitive capabilities you already possess but may not currently be aware of.

Realistically, you may be forced to make decisions “with little time and information,” the authors point out. “Many situations are so complex, it is impossible to examine every piece of information or so dangerous that looking for more than a few pieces of critical information risks lives,” they write.

Thus they emphasize the ability to “thin-slice,” to pick up on telltale patterns and assess a suspect’s intentions “with just a thin slice of information,” sometimes no more than one important cue snagged “with just seconds of observation.”

Perfect decisions are not always possible, they concede, but “more than 100 scientific studies have demonstrated that people can make incredibly accurate intuitive judgments with just a little” input.

The final 50 pages of the book are devoted to how you “put it all together” to make decisions most likely to be valid and take action so that “bang” never occurs.

Left of Bang has drawn strong support from prominent law enforcement trainers, including Jeff Chudwin, president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Assn. which featured Van Horne as a speaker at its annual conference this fall.

“This book should be issued to every police officer and every recruit from Day One,” Chudwin says. “During a recent daylong use-of-force class, I showed videos of officer attacks and shootings and had the class look for and identify the left-of-bang moments and warnings that the victim officers evidently missed. This work is certain to be a foundation training source going forward.”

Left of Bang is published by Black Irish Books (www.blackirish.com) and can be purchased individually or, at a discount, in bulk. It is also available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. To contact the authors, email Van Horne at: Patrick@cp-journal.com and Riley at: jasonanthonyriley@gmail.com

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