The Blue Brief: An Introduction

Today Pew Pew Tactical launches a new column prepared bi-weekly by yours truly!

I’m honored to have this opportunity, particularly because it will focus on a topic that is near and dear to me—law enforcement

That’s me, Sean.

You may wonder about the choice to veer into this subject given the negative sentiments it represents for some of the population. I’m asking you to extend some trust, mayhap even some patience. 

Aspiring young writers often hear “write what you know.” And I am intimately familiar with law enforcement, looking back on 22 years in this career field — one I’m still working today.

Donut
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like donuts.

Table of Contents

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Unlikely Career

How I began this journey is a tale worth mentioning. It sets the stage for nearly everything that followed. 

I can assure you; there was a time in my life when no one in this world would have imagined me being a cop!

I started out as a relatively young savage in high school — long hair, sang in a metal band, and did not like the police very much because of *ahem* various interactions. I saw some of my friends run afoul of the law, and I, naturally, held up their end, being a loyal hoodlum. 

Metal band
Nice hair flip

But little did I know, situations that occurred when I was even younger, formative events, would play a huge role in how things developed for me.

I witnessed domestic violence as a child, ‘nuff said. In grade school, I was picked on because I was the tallest in my class. 

I’d always been told not to fight at school, so you can imagine my surprise when my parents told me to defend myself. Playground scraps were pretty common in my day but how everything unfolded was comical. 

Playground Fights

One day when playing soccer, my bully came up and hit me hard from behind. I felt a righteous rage inside that was the result of several events of bullying.

I chased the kid, knocked him down, and cut loose on him.  We both walked to the principal’s office, crying all the way.

But something changed within me.

Bullies Facebook

Not too long after, at a Boy Scout’s meeting, this same boy called a friend of mine a homosexual slur. I was too young to even understand the meaning, but it made my friend upset, and he began to cry. 

I felt something akin to that former indignation, and I told my former bully to stop. He didn’t like that, and we fell to blows again. 

Once more, banished from the field of play, we were sent crying to our respective parents to face the music. 

My parents were very grave during the debriefing. I knew I was in trouble for fighting. 

But man, was I in for a surprise! They didn’t even wait to get home.

I explained what happened in the car and they told me they felt proud of me! 

All my dreaded expectations washed away, replaced with a profound feeling of adoration. It stuck.

If there is a particular moment I can point back to that led me down the path of law, order, and justice, it was this.

Them Thar Mountains

I moved to Colorado at 14 years old, played football for a couple of years, and got to be a pretty big kid. 

Those feelings I developed as a child lay dormant while other urges began to develop. But eventually, I joined search and rescue as a teenaged volunteer. 

The old desire to help people was still there and rose to the surface once again. 

I quickly became addicted. Every time I helped someone, I felt that afterglow imparted by my parents at such a young age. 

I even went to night classes and became an EMT Basic, serving on the local ambulance service.

EMTs

After a couple of years, I cut my hair and started to get serious when the local sheriff’s office asked me if I wanted to be a reserve deputy. 

I did a couple of ride-a-longs and was hooked. 

I cut my hair, cleaned up my act, donned a uniform, and started riding around in patrol cars with deputies, responding to calls.

Where It Gets Complicated

Search and rescue and EMS are straightforward. People are always happy to see you when they just broke their leg on a mountainous trail, and they really need some help! 

The drunken mother who crashes her car full of kids needs help too, but often against her will. 

That was a tough lesson for me, having to be hard and enforce those laws to help people when they couldn’t see they needed the help. 

Often, they resent your involvement. Sometimes they even resist your involvement. 

Learning that domestic violence victims will sometimes attack officers who arrest their beaters was another tough lesson from the same book. 

Over the following 22 years, I learned many more, and I’m still learning today.

My Promise to You

There are so many complexities to law enforcement. It is a huge topic

Sadly, many of the people who have been so vociferous on the subject of late know the least about it —or at least, they have a limited perspective on the matter. 

I can assure you I am unabashedly pro-law enforcement. But that does not mean I think the practice is perfect. 

I am of a mind there is always room for improvement.  

Improvement

Mutual understanding cannot happen without connection, conversation, and in Pew Pew Tactical’s dedication to informing the reader, I am happy to be part of that dialogue. 

I’ll discuss topics I think are important in an effort to be understood. But I would love for the readers to contribute to the discussion. 

If you have questions, comments, or situations you do not understand, I will endeavor to offer perspective.  I will address even difficult issues if respectfully tendered. 

I plan to write about topics that will help you interact with the police if it becomes necessary. And I will likely cover some gear and tactics that come from the field. 

Me! (Sean) training at Combat Force Academy
Me training at Combat Force Academy

I am going to warn you, within the limitations of the law, liability, and good taste, I’m also going to share some hard realities with you. 

I have spent over two decades serving witness to the evil that men do. 

In my career, I have felt incredible anger, anguish, despair, and elation. I have jumped for joy and wept like a baby; I want you to understand why. 

Hop in the car. This will be a ride you won’t forget.

Joker Police Car

Okay PPT readers, now’s your time to shine. Hit us with your law enforcement related questions in the comments section. Who knows, maybe you’ll see them answered in the next edition of The Blue Brief.

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39 Leave a Reply

  • Alex

    What a great idea and I welcome this column -- will be following with much interest. I'm a legislative analyst for a state legislature in the south and always looking to learn more. Although I'm not a current or former LEO (former army though), one of my policy areas of research is Public Safety, so if you ever need some insight from a policy/legislative POV, feel free to email me (if you can see it behind the scenes).

    22 hours ago
  • Mike A

    I think Use of Force Continuum would be a good topic to write about. As well as Campaign Zero police reforms.

    A former Navy cop buddy of mine brings this up when it comes to the epidemic of officer-involved shootings.

    1 week ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Mike,

      Thanks for your contributions!

      Yes, the continuum is a good thing for citizens to understand, and explains the mentality behind how we respond and what we respond with.

      Campaign Zero certainly offers some topic for discussion.

      Here's quick observation on your last comment--does the word epidemic really fit? I'll look at some stats but I suspect we're probably close to average. That and the general idea of media coverage and portrayal are all good topics though.

      Thanks again!

      1 week ago
  • John Helgestad

    Thanks for your service Sean.

    I think an interesting topic would be to delve into the details of the various trainings you've received in Law Enforcement. Particularly actions involved in threatening situations.

    I look forward to your articles.

    1 week ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Thanks John!

      Training is a topic that is near and dear to me, I'm happy to tackle this one at some point. I appreciate the suggestion!

      1 week ago
  • Desi Santanna

    IF you are threatened by several people or in a riot situation where you believe a family member or your life is threatened can you use lethal force to stop the threat?

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Desi,

      If we're talking about generic, hypothetical situations, yes. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense so I encourage you to become very familiar with the laws in your area. Any good concealed carry class will discuss the laws concerning self-defense with a firearm.

      One thing I cannot do in this column is provide legal advice! Most of the topics I approach will be my perspective, based on my experience. If you don't have a concealed carry class handy, speak with a defense attorney. Keep in mind this warning: the people who later evaluate your use of force will have much cooler heads than you in that situation.

      1 week ago
  • Sean

    Thank you for this article.
    I have been in the Portland Oregon area until recently and have watched the antifa not-peaceful protest situation develop over several years; riots. There was some video yesterday that involved antifa attacking some vehicles at the Oregon state capital and one person is on video getting out of his truck to inspect the damage and when he is encircled he pulls a gun and tells them to stay away. There are certainly some things he could have done better, one is to have realized they are more like predators than simple vandals that will flee when confronted.
    However, the police immediately intervened to disarm the license holder; so they were present while many crimes were in progress and did nothing to stop them. Subsequently it seems the police rounded / kettled a bunch of them. There is the clear appearance of the police enabling the crimes and protecting the criminals from consequences the citizens might offer in return for being surrounded and outnumbered by a demonstrably violent and armed mob. The image is that self-defense is not allowed against these people who appear to be terrorists.
    How does policing recover its dignity and respect when it knowingly allows the citizens to face the criminals while holding back watching it play out? How does this not enable groups like antifa to push the envelope and create the most victims, while simultaneously abusing the police, while also getting rescued by the police when they claim they are suddenly and innocently the victims of someone willing and able to protect themselves. It seems like the people who should by priority be rescued by the police are the ones who aren't being violent and provoking others with threats and real harms.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Sean,

      Congrats on a great name, and thank you for your questions!

      There is a lot to unpack here. I saw the video you are speaking of. Is it fair to assume the police did not have the benefit of this video when they made that contact? I think so. In every situation, the police have been trained to contain, control, and resolve. They control the guns present at the scene then work on the investigation (resolution) once it's relatively safe.

      You have to keep in mind the initial contact is only part of the story. Was the pickup driver charged? Were the provocateurs charged? I'm not sure about these things just yet.

      There is also a protest culture in Portland that has been around for decades. This is challenging for the police to work with. You have to strive to support the people's right to protest without tacitly accepting abject criminality. That appearance of enabling might be the police effort to not impede the First Amendment. Is there some lag in between the moment where one person's rights are trampled by the others and the police intercede? Yes. Almost always.

      Even if the pickup driver was charged, a minimal standard called probably cause is used. This mean a reasonable likelihood the person committed the crime. It is a low bar, but enough to arrest. Sometimes officers will arrest on this standard, but prosecutors find the case does not reach their standard, beyond a reasonable doubt. Let's see what happens here.

      Another HUGE point I'll make about most situations involving police is things we see, whether on social media, the news, body cameras, or security footage are often evocative. They can color us one way or the other immediately, make us think "that looks wrong" or "yes, I would have done the same!" but that is only one piece of evidence. Sometimes that initial reaction proves true, but many times it does not when more facts are revealed. I caution folks to withhold judgement and wait until they have more information.

      I've worked at a prosecutor's office for seven years now. One thing I have learned working with defense attorneys is there is almost always mitigation, or information that tempers or lessens the impact of that initial assumption.

      Believe me, Portland PD is wise to Antifa's ways. I attended a training recently taught by PPD command staff. The revelations demonstrated Antifa's absolute ability to manipulate appearances and subvert efforts for cooler heads.

      Let's study this one for a bit and see what develops. You've definitely given me material to work with, thank you.

      2 weeks ago
      • Fitz

        Thank you both Seans. That video really bothered me and I need assurance our American dream and rights are not destined to crumble. That's a tall order but a learned analysis from someone both good with language and in the business will really help

        1 week ago
  • MR King

    Thank you for your service, Sean. I look forward to learning from your experiences!

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Thank you so much MR King, I hope I can provide you value.

      2 weeks ago
  • Michael

    I would like to hear your perspective on training or the lack of training that law enforcement receives. How well prepared are officers and how well could they be prepared if funds for training were made available. The pros and cons of warrior training. Could situations that go negative possibly have been avoided with better training. A general discussion of how law enforcement could attract better candidates in a very competitive labor environment.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Michael,

      You are a virtual wellspring of ideas!

      Training is a great topic, thank you! It's a great topic because it needs to be so much better. I have a number of examples I can delve into.

      Warrior training, I think, has become an idea covered by Vice and other mediums that portray it as risky to society. Please keep in mind this is a field of work where it is not uncommon to be engaged in mortal conflict, or nearly mortal conflict. Mindset is so huge in surviving these encounters. I suspect if someone did a TV episode portraying the occasional lethal encounters police have, warrior training may not seem so dangerous to society. Another reality is, it's difficult for police to know you are a great person on a traffic stop, but the next guy is a felon who will stop at nothing to avoid going back to prison.

      As far as attracting better candidates and competitive labor--you may not like this one. There is a bleak picture forming out there right now. People are leaving law enforcement in record numbers and recruitment is down. Items like defunding the police, loss of qualified immunity, and other factors are making the job less and less appealing to applicants who can find better paying jobs with far less stress. But you've issued a challenge here, I will do my level best to answer.

      I doubt many of these items surprise you though, I suspect I'm preaching to the choir.

      Stay safe!

      2 weeks ago
      • Andre Francis

        Interestingly enough I feel like a lot of those issues could have entire semesters of info taught about them.
        Specifically, however I'd be curious how you feel about qualified immunity and if you think the risk/reward ratio is worth for those officers who hide behind it to continue their abuse of power!

        1 week ago
  • dp

    ugh. come on guys. don't do this.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      It's done DP. Stick around, I'll endeavor to win you over.

      2 weeks ago
    • Chris

      Why don't you want to hear from a LEO's perspective? Wouldn't it be great to hear multiple sides? There's always multiple sides to any event. We get the media's side, we get bystanders' sides, we get all these different sides of the story except the officer's. It'll be interesting to see what he has to say on different issues.

      1 week ago
  • Dean

    I would love to hear your thoughts on how those of us who respect law enforcement, yet feel that some laws they are being asked to enforce are constitutionally illegal(mostly 2a stuff), can interact in a mutually respectful way that helps both parties reach a happy conclusion.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Dean, thanks for stopping by. This topic is huge right now and I thank you for bringing it up. I will do my level best to address this and appreciate your decorum.

      2 weeks ago
  • Phil RN

    Welcome to Pew Pew Tactical Sir!

    I look forward to your perspective.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Hey Phil, thank you! I've been here for a while but don't get to contribute as much as I'd like. Also, thanks for your service if I'm reading RN correctly.

      Check out some of my other articles on this site at https://www.pewpewtactical.com/author/sean-curtis/

      2 weeks ago
  • Dean

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts on video surveillance of police while on-duty. Things like body cams and/or dash cams.

    I'd also like to hear your opinions on programs and/or initiatives that aim to build trust and respect between officers and the populations they are intended to serve. I find that most people have an 'us vs them' mentality in regards to LEOs even if they haven't had any significant interactions.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Dean, video is huge in policing right now and in many ways helps humanize this job. It demonstrates our highest achievements and our worst failures. I will get into this one at some point because it cuts both ways.

      I'm all for programs that encourage interaction between law enforcement and citizens. In my experience, when you spend a little time listening to why people do the things they do, you have a greater understanding as a whole. You may not always agree, but you get it. I could write a treatise on "us vs them".

      Thanks for the topics!

      2 weeks ago
  • Nightbrains

    Very stoked to see this column birthed, I look forward to reading more from you.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Thank you Nightbrains, I'm optimistic too! If you have any issues you'd like to see addressed, don't hesitate to let us know.

      2 weeks ago
  • Wil

    Sean, thanks for your perspective. I have two questions for you.

    What do you think about the militarizing of police? By this I mean the move since about 1990 (after that shootout at the McDonalds with the perps wearing body armor) so that police increasingly use no knock raids, military equipment/tactics, and just an us vs them attitude as opposed to officer friendly doing community policing with his revolver. Do you think this is an inevitable reaction to gang violence and the war on drugs? In my opinion, we need less militarization and more community watchdogs. What is your take?

    Second, police shootings of unarmed minority males is a hot topic. While I don't believe there is any evidence of widespread racism among the police, I do think our police are quicker to shoot than other police forces say in the UK. This leads to a lot of distrust of the police, especially among vulnerable populations. What is your take on this issue?

    Thanks.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Wil, I have a lot of thoughts about militarization. This topic will fill pages on its own. Although I've been off the street for a while I did serve in SWAT and I've faced some really messed up situations that helped form my opinions (clue).

      Your second submission is a dire topic indeed. There have been some outstanding findings from Force Science Institute that help us understand use of force in general like we never have before. There are also some sociological studies I'll refer to that may help shed some light as well. There are no easy answers here and I will approach this subject thoughtfully, in time.

      2 weeks ago
      • Wil

        Thanks Sean, I am looking forward to your responses.

        One more question - shooting dogs. While I realize there are plenty of situations where an officer needs to shoot a dog to protect himself, I've seen some really disturbing videos where an officer is for example searching for a suspect, goes into a third party's yard, and then shoots their lapdog. I have a hard time accepting that an armed, armored, trained adult man with backup needs to shoot in that situation yet it seems to happen in some jurisdictions without consequence. Any thoughts?

        2 weeks ago
        • Sean Curtis

          Wil,

          Another great one! Have you ever been bitten by a dog? It sucks, and is pretty painful. Each situation is very dependent on the individual circumstances. That being said, we need to make every effort to avoid harming dogs. I'm a huge fan of Cesar Millan and understand dogs love having jobs. In fact, a dog is part of my security program at home.

          Thankfully, a lot of training has come out on this in the last few years. I'll try to address this.

          You've unearthed a critical characteristic of law enforcement, it is almost wholly reactive! Our history is often lined with tragedy that guides us.

          Thanks again.

          2 weeks ago
  • John Luke Anaya

    What do you think will realistically happen if the law begins to say that gun owners are breaking the law if they do not turn in their guns? Would law enforcement enforce these laws?

    Also, I have heard many times from those in the gun community that the courts have declared that the police do not have a duty to protect citizens. It is our duty to protect ourselves. An assertion I believe we all agree with. How have you seen the police not having to protect citizens effect police work? Doesn’t necessarily have to be your own.
    Thank you.

    2 weeks ago
    • Peter

      In reality, police have never had the duty to protect individual citizens. The Supreme Court ruled that to be the fact back in the 1981 case Warren v. District of Columbia, and the ruling has been upheld on more than one occasion since then.

      2 weeks ago
      • Sean Curtis

        Dead on Peter, thanks for the backup. I suspect this had much to do with the strict limitation of liability.

        2 weeks ago
        • Peter

          Thanks. I’m currently an active police officer in Maryland.

          2 weeks ago
          • Sean Curtis

            Thanks for you service Peter, stay safe.

            2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      John, thanks for the read and your ideas.

      You came out swinging with the first question, but I don't blame you--this is a website dedicated to firearms information. I will address this but it is difficult to make predictions without generalizing. Keep in mind, law enforcement is just one part of the Criminal Justice System, a system that while imperfect, has many checks and balances.

      Your second idea is surprisingly simple from my perspective. I have never worked from the standpoint that it wasn't my responsibility to protect citizens. I think there is a lot of potential to explore this notion though, the discussion of which will help people have a better understanding of many (generalizing again) an officer's mindset.

      Thank you!

      2 weeks ago
  • Mark Everett

    I am really looking forward to this series and I congratulate the editors of Pew Pew Tactical for offering Sean Curtis a voice.

    As long as you are soliciting questions, I will start with the 'elephant in the room' question, but will try to leave politics and social commentary out of it.

    The question is: Given your experience in the field and observing others, do you think that the application of less-than-lethal techniques (choke holds, Tasers, etc.) is applied fairly. Also, maybe some detail about less-than-lethal techniques and tools.

    Thanks again.

    2 weeks ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Mark, thank you for the well wishes! I am truly humbled to be given the opportunity and I only hope I am equal to the task.

      Force is a tool (often of last resort) utilized in law enforcement, with a goal for using the least amount needed to accomplish the mission. I have studied the application of force for many years and have some well-defined thoughts. Can you explain what you mean by "applied fairly"?

      There is a lot of data out there on modern devices and techniques, but the reality is often shocking. If a 100 pound person is very determined to not do what you tell them to, it can be difficult to force them without some potential for harm to everyone involved.

      Thanks for the subjects!

      2 weeks ago
      • Ronnie

        I had a question re tasers. My understanding was they came into use as a non-lethal method of subduing a subject that did not present a direct life threatening situation, ie unarmed. I’ve seen many instances where a subject is tases but it seems to have little or no effect. I understand that some people are able to absorb more than others, however, it seems much stronger tasers would avoid many bad situations becoming much worse. What are the restrictions on taser power and are they set by local jurisdictions?

        1 minute ago
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