Op/Ed: That Straight Finger


That Straight Finger. The following article has been written by Dr. Robert R. Rail.  It includes editorial content which is the opinion and story of the writer.

It is up to you what finger you choose to give me after reading my remarks in this article but which ever index finger it is I just wish all my brothers and sisters in uniform to be the safest they can be.

After having finally retired from law enforcement after far too many years and gained pounds, I hastily availed myself due to an acute boredom attack to serve in Bosnia, then Kosovo, and then Iraq. The years of service overseas passed by quickly but not my never ending respect and sincere thanks to so many  incredible and outstanding officers I shared the best of moments with, and the tragic brutal obscenity of the worse our world has to offer. I will always remember and reflect upon, that the veneer of humanity and civilization is so very thin in all of us, and the phrase that I have heard so many times since I have come back home “I could never do such things”, will always go unreciprocated by me because I learned too very well the pointlessness of explaining the unexplainable to someone who was not LE and never there to see, hear and smell that which we routinely experience. Consequently, I sought my own catharsis by writing the book “Surviving the International War Zone”.

I will “always” feel the shadow of guilt for coming home physically unscathed while so many I served aside, that I see in my quiet thoughts, were not so fortunate.

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And now may I say how I am taken back by the widespread and unchallenged misguided tactical weakness and hesitantly of the “straight finger” placement of the index finger aside drawn or carried weapons. The tactical weakness comes from a seriously compromised grip of the weapon and the resulting retention problem of trying to hold on to a weapon during an unforeseen potential struggle with only two fingers. With the little finger being almost useless and the index finger being already compromised by being placed uselessly along the side of the weapon, constituting a critical and dangerous dilemma looking for a place and circumstance to occur and enabling an all too occurring situation to transpire.

And let us not forget the time factor needed for the fumbling or missed relocation of the index finger into the “on trigger” fire position. This represents a compounding dilemma when considering the factors of muscle memory, stress, hesitancy and adding just one more unnecessary problematic step in a critical law enforcement action. We must seek to instill a trained judgment response with efficient skill and weapon reaction time, and not a quick fix with a life threatening policy adapted in a political atmosphere of litigious considerations of liability and the ever constant threats to the removal of our qualified immunity.

What is it that contributed to the overwhelming acceptance of this “policy”? We have always had the classic “bonehead” discharge moment, dropping while running, de-hooking a seatbelt, fumbling equipment in the bathroom, failing to holster while handcuffing, or during the close quarter controlling of a suspect. But these commonly experienced foul-ups are never the reason to take a foolish step backward and just make things worse!

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

But if regular cyclic training, instilled common sense carry, knowing when and where to draw, and double action trigger pull of 12 to 15 pounds is an insufficient safeguard to an unfortunate incident occurring, we need to look and research in other directions.

Perhaps we should be looking in other directions instead of enforcing a policy so very wrought with tactical and functional shortcomings.

We can address the bonehead factor if we focus on B/S and B/T… Okay, don’t get ahead of me on this; we will get back to this very soon! The cure for this is simple but the bean counting masters of budget and ammo costs have placed our brothers and sisters in uniform at a tactical disadvantage for simply the sake of “cost of defense”. A policy is as cheap and useless as the paper it is written on and easier to implement than a time honored tradition of training that has long gone by the wayside. We must dispense with the straight finger and go back to B/S, better selection in recruitment and B/T, better training in deadly force weapons. With both of these perspective subjected to a constant overview of the great and indispensible time spent with a highly experienced “senior officer”. The result of this will be a higher competency level of all officers and a higher level of proficiency with that now extensively trained officer. If we do not object to this policy shadow keeping our “best of the best” training in the dark alone or not at all, what will the next policy be that will burden our brothers and sisters in uniform? No ammo in the pipe? Greater restrictive holsters for weapons? Magazines carried disengaged from weapons?

I Was in a Gunfight Last Night

Chain of command consent to draw weapon or load? I am not saying we should emulate the war zone training and conditions that so many outstanding Americans have served in, but I am saying that we should learn from their experiences, and be well cognizant that these war zone conditions are now in our country with more enforcement peril confronting them every day in our nation. We must never stop training and looking for a better and safer way to enforce in our ever changing world. When you hear the phrase “this is how we have always done it” carefully think about it as you read your next article on LET

Be safe out there… I wish I could still be at your side…
Dr. Robert Rail, [email protected]
Expert Witness and Author of “Surviving the International War Zone”.

Dr. Robert R. Rail, a retired American Police Officer, and University Instructor, is recognized internationally as one of the foremost experts on terrorism recognition. As a war zone trainer to the International Police Task Force IPTF in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the DOJ in Iraq, Dr. Rail was responsible for designing curriculum and instructing elite police officers from 63 nations who have been deployed to various war zones of the world. He was also named as a physical confrontation advisor and resource training provider to select personnel of NATO and OSCE. Dr. Rail was a resident instructor at the Specialized Advanced Training Unit of the High Institute of the Baghdad Police College in Iraq.

Op/Ed: That Straight Finger

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