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Are you familiar with the MOOS of corrections?

Find out how the ‘9 Principles of War’ can apply to corrections

There is no escaping the fact that the tenets of tactical science owe their origin to military thinkers. The Nine Principles of War is the most obvious of these principles that screams out its military roots. But do not let the title fool you. The 9Ps of War is not something that you are unfamiliar with. These principles are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Like most of tactical science, the principles are there whether we know it or not as is there applicability to law enforcement and corrections.

The discoverer and author of the Nine Principles of War was an innovative and somewhat eccentric English general by the name of J.F.C. Fuller. During World War I, Fuller was second in command of the English tank force. In 1917, Fuller was a colonel and met and befriended a young American officer who was recently assigned to command an element of the American Army’s fledgling tank corp. His name was George Patton. Following WWI, General Fuller began examining the years of slaughter that just concluded in light of his study of past military tactics coupled with the emergence of new technology like mobile infantry and armor. What Fuller discovered and articulated came to be known as the Nine Principles of War.

These principles are: maneuver, objective, offense, simplicity, economy of force, mass, unity of command, security and surprise. You may find these principles written in a different order depending on what source you check, but they all spell out the same acronym: MOOSEMUSS.

The Nine Principles of War became the foundation for the maneuver warfare of the Second World War. Ironically, it was the generals of the German Army who were Fuller’s most attentive students in the 20s and 30s and developed his principles into the blitzkrieg tactics that swept across Europe in the first years of the war. Fortunately, the English, American and Russian generals caught on before it was too late.

This is all very interesting military history, but how does it apply to us? In this article I’m going to begin answering that question by examining the first four of Fuller’s principles: maneuver, objective, offense and simplicity.

Maneuver: In this column on December 29th, 2008, I wrote an article about terrain analysis: another tactical science principle. Maneuver is closely linked to this subject. One must understand the terrain in order to know how to maneuver in it. As I pointed out in 2008, the big advantage that correction personnel have over those working in patrol is that correctional officers are always the home team. There is no excuse for not knowing the smallest detail of your own facility.

Minimum and maximum shooting distances for less lethal weapons can be designated by such things as No Talking signs or the placement of deadlines. Formulas for the introduction of chemical agents should be known by all team leaders. The fastest routes to move personnel should be common knowledge. The best locations to stage, set up command posts, and triage areas and should be predetermined.

There is no excuse for not knowing your own facility other than laziness. The expeditious movement of a well-trained and disciplined team from a staging area to a disturbance is a force multiplier that often gives pause to the disorganized mob that most often forms in a jail/prison disturbance. That is maneuver.

Maneuver, like another corollary tactical science principle initiative, is something that you want to maintain and something that you want to deny your opponent. This is a more difficult thing to achieve for police officers than it is for correctional officers. Cops on the street must set up a containment using whatever resources they can muster. In a jail or prison denying your opponent the ability to maneuver may be achieved by simply locking an area down. Inmates are as aware of the layout of your facility as you are.

In the rare organized disturbance, inmates often attempt to overwhelm choke points to gain as much control of a facility as possible. Correctional personnel fight to keep disturbances contained in as small as space as possible. Some of the largest prison riots in our nation’s history were prolonged when convicts captured large areas before their maneuver could be checked. It is all about trying to win the battle of maneuver.

Objective/Offense: When a disturbance breaks out in your facility, if you already understand how to swiftly outfit and move personnel in order to keep small disturbances from growing into larger ones, then you must understand the next two principles: objective and offense. We have already met objective under another name: end state. What are you trying to accomplish? This must be understood and explained for an operation to be successful.

You will also notice that there is no defense in the Nine Principles of War. War is about attacking and seizing and maintaining the initiative from your opponent. Do not think that the word offense means fighting, however. In any good law enforcement operation one of our underlying objectives is not to fight, but to win. We will fight if we must, but the mere presence of an overwhelming and a well-organized force ready to employ tactics may be enough to cause the surrender of an opponent. To illustrate this point, look at the termination of the vast majority of police pursuits. They almost always result not in a shootout but in surrender as the suspect realizes that he will not get away. This should also be our goal inside custody.

The vast majority of disturbances inside a correctional facility are spontaneous and even those orchestrated by shot callers are most often populated by participants who have very little enthusiasm for taking part in the event. What they are eagerly waiting for is an excuse to quit fighting or pretending to fight. The hasty arrival of a tactical team under strong leadership threatening an offensive response may be enough to end the participation of most of the players. For the others the employment of quick and decisive offensive tactics will often bring the disturbance to a swift end.

Simplicity: This isn’t rocket science. Keep your tactics simple. Unless you are extremely fortunate you do not get to train often enough and your personnel change from one day to the next. There are always going to be certain tactical problems, such as hostage incidents, that require a more sophisticated and nuanced response, but over 99% of the disturbances we encounter are familiar. Examining your terrain and maneuver issues you will probably be employing one of three tactics: hammer and anvil, envelopment or pincer. The first two of these tactics are far more common in corrections.

Virtually every cell extraction is a hammer and anvil. The only way an envelopment could be considered in a cell extraction is if there are two ways into a cell. If you only have one entrance, then the cell walls are your anvil and your extraction team is the hammer.

It is also possible to drive an adversary toward a force waiting for it, in which case the waiting force is the anvil, but this rarely happens in custody. Fixed terrain most often is the anvil and the moving tactical team is the hammer.

An envelopment is a flanking maneuver in which one force holds and/or feints while the principle primary attacking force moves in from another direction. Imagine two components of a tactical team dealing with inmates on a long row. There are entrances to the row on each end. The team at the front end is visible to the inmates. They toss in a noise/flash diversionary device of some kind. Following the explosion the inmates’ attention is drawn toward the front force. Entry is then made from the rear with the other force. That is a simple envelopment.

The pincer involves two moving elements that then move in on their adversary from two different directions simultaneously, in what amounts to a double envelopment. This tactic is more complicated. It requires good communication between the two moving forces and, quite frankly, is rarely employed in a correctional institution. I suppose this might be something that the guys at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana might consider if they are trying to run down escapees on their huge prison grounds, but for most of us the terrain of our facilities precludes the use of this technique.

Are there more maneuver tactics out there we might use? Certainly! But why would we? Remember, the principle here is simplicity. So hammer and anvil and envelopment are probably the only two tactics you will need to teach your response teams. My guess is that most of you do this already, but just don’t call your tactics by these names. There is something to be said for the acronym KISS. So keep it simple and you will probably be pleased with the results as long as they are employed in tandem with the other eight of the Nine Principles of War.

Lieutenant John J. Stanley, M.A., is a twenty-seven year veteran of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He has worked a variety of assignments including, custody, patrol, training and administrative support. He is considered an expert on less lethal weapons and tactics. He provided corrections scenarios for the Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University and contributed to its on-line Less Lethal Weapons class. John spent over a decade at LASD’s Custody Training Unit teaching classes such as Tactical Communications, Jail Intelligence Gathering, Tactical Weapons, Squad Tactics and Cell Extractions. John also was the lead instructor for LASD’s Custody Incident Command School (CICS) a class designed for sergeants and lieutenants and the Executive Incident Command School (EICS) for captains and above. He is a member of the California Tactical Officers Association and has published almost forty articles on law enforcement tactics and legal history.