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A dozen suggestions for a correctional officer to prevail against multiple attackers

Preparing for an all-options response to a multiple-person attack requires a commitment to training beyond the sporadic defensive tactics sessions

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Photo/Lt. Dan Marcou

How can a single corrections officer overcome multiple attackers?

Below are 12 recommendations, not gleaned from theoretical contemplations, but imprinted on my mind after personally applying these principles successfully on the street in the face of multiple attackers.

1. If you anticipate the possibility of facing multiple attackers, adopt the Boy Scouts’ motto: “Be prepared!”

Preparing for an all-options response to a multiple-person attack requires a commitment to training beyond the sporadic defensive tactics sessions typically offered by most departments.

Martial arts provide a platform to hone advanced empty-hand skills, offering numerous non-lethal options for countering sudden attacks. You can sharpen your ability to escape holds, thwart sudden assaults and develop the power of your body weapons.

2. Avoid tragedy by calling for backup.

By having enough backup for every call, you may be able to avoid such situations. However, you may find as I did, this is not always possible.

When faced with inmates who are not merely approaching but also encroaching upon your space, ensure that you are proficient in using your radio’s feature to instantly call for emergency backup, and do so when necessary.

With backup on the way, if an attack starts, your goal may not be to “defeat” all the attackers outright, but rather to maintain your ground until help arrives.

3. Remember your tools.

Remember, in situations like this, you may have various tools at your disposal to handle multiple attackers. Simply verbalizing commands and displaying a TASER or pepper spray can act as a deterrent to potential attackers. Practice drawing these tools under simulated stress conditions to prepare for such encounters efficiently.

Keep in mind, when deploying pepper spray, to use short, focused bursts aimed at the eyes, nose, and mouth of each assailant as they present themselves as the most immediate threat. Resist the urge to indiscriminately spray at a group.

Additionally, a well-trained corrections officer who presents their baton can have a psychological impact on attackers, potentially averting the need for physical confrontation. I referred to my baton as “my friend-maker,” because upon its introduction to hostile individuals, it frequently resulted in everyone present suddenly wanting to be my friend.

When it becomes necessary to use a baton for self-defense, ensure that your strikes are aimed at vulnerable areas and delivered with full power through the target, rather than merely to the target, for maximum effectiveness.

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A professional presentation of the baton can often discourage multiple attackers.

Photo/Lt. Dan Marcou

4. Deadly force considerations.

An attack by multiple attackers may be a matter of life and death, so in your circumstance, you may consider resorting to deadly force in such a situation. Questions to consider are:

  • How dire is my situation and circumstance?
  • Am I exhausted, or injured?
  • Am I virtually alone?
  • Is this assault imminently deadly, or greatly injurious?
  • Is deadly force in this situation my last resort, precluding all other options?

Take the time now to reflect on situations where deadly force would be your last resort. Do this ahead of time because, when an attack occurs, you will have little opportunity to ponder!
5. Recognize there may be tactical advantages to being the target of a Multiple Attacker Assault.

When you find yourself the target of such an attack, be aware of some common mistakes made by multiple attackers that you might be able to take advantage of:

  • They may be over confidant and disorganized on the attack.
  • They may be wild and unfocused.
  • They may attack with their guards down.
  • They may be shocked by your intense counter-impacts.
  • Their viciousness and numbers will make whatever you do in self-defense, defensible.

6. Refocus on the attackers.

If you are attacked by others while dealing with a disruptive inmate, dealing with the attack on yourself becomes your immediate priority. It may be wise to disengage from the first problem and focus on addressing the attack.

7. Get to, and/ or, stay on your feet.

It is not advisable to engage in “grappling” with more than one person at a time. In your defense against multiple attackers, maintain an upright position in the fight.

8. Address one threat at a time.

As each moment unfolds, identify the most imminent threat and address that threat in that moment. Then proceed to the next threat, and then the next. Decentralizations (take-downs) may not completely remove someone from a fight, but they can be utilized to disrupt an assault by one individual and hinder the approach of others.

9. Impact with perfect focus and explosive power!

As a corrections officer, your training has provided you with preferred targets that are effective yet are selected to inflict the least amount of harm to an inmate. However, in the case of an assault by multiple attackers, all vulnerable targets become subject to impact for the preservation of your health and life. As previously mentioned, multiple attackers may lower their defenses during the attack, opening themselves up to counter-impacts to the:

  • Solar plexus: Impacting hard halfway between the belly button and the xyphoid process can force an attacker to pause and catch their breath.
  • Brachial plexus: A strike to the side of the neck can have stunning effects, momentarily incapacitating the attacker.
  • Trachea: A hard strike through this target is highly effective but will be considered the use of deadly force due to its potential to cause serious injury.
  • Chin: A strike through the “Button,” known in boxing as the proverbial “knock-out punch,” can instantly incapacitate an attacker.
  • Nose and mustache area: A palm heel or punch here can cause an attacker’s eyes to water, impairing their vision.
  • Groin: An instep kick to the groin can yield effective results by causing significant pain and incapacitation.
  • Lower abdomen or floating ribs: These areas are particularly vulnerable to a front thrust kick.
  • Knees: Kicking the knee from the side or front can disable an attacker by damaging the joint.
  • Temples: Striking with the knuckle of an inverted knife hand to the temple can create a disorienting effect, similar to a “standing eight count” in boxing.
  • Shin and foot: Raking a shin and stomping on a foot in one fluid movement can break an attacker’s grip on you.

These tactics are designed for situations where a corrections officer’s health and life are at immediate risk, requiring decisive action to neutralize threats.
You should consider all effective, pre-trained impacts such as:

  • All manner of punches.
  • A back fist delivered to flank attackers.
  • Palm heel strikes.
  • Edge-of-hand impacts.
  • Elbows are devastating. (I have found them to be especially effective when directed through the chin, or nose, to retain my weapon or diffuse an attack on my person from rear.)
  • Knees.
  • All manner of kicks. (I have found the most universally adaptable and effective kick on the street, for me was the front thrust kick.)
  • Pre-trained, focused baton strikes. (All baton strikes to the head will be considered deadly force.)

To describe the level of intensity called for in this situation, Sun Tzu would say, ”Strike like thunderbolts from the nine-layered heavens!”

10. Retreat, regroup and return

There’s an additional strategy worth considering when faced with multiple attackers and your life is the only one immediately at risk. If the opportunity arises, it’s a prudent tactic to retreat and call for backup when the odds are significantly against you, as they often are. When possible get out of the block, lock it down! By trying to be heroic, you may discover yourself becoming the other “H” word, hostage.

When reinforcements arrive, take the time to regroup and formulate a plan. Only then should you return to address the situation. This approach prioritizes safety and emphasizes the importance of tactical withdrawal and regrouping when faced with overwhelming odds.

11. Follow-through

After you’ve successfully managed the situation and backup has arrived, it’s crucial to maintain professionalism in your follow-through. Continue defending your actions by meticulously documenting the incident in a report. Describe the danger you were in, the fear you experienced, the criminal actions of your attackers, and detail how you managed to navigate out of the dangerous situation in a manner that can be defended. Omitting no details ensures that the narrative is clear, comprehensive and justifiable.

Note: Don’t ruin your victory by punishing your attackers, or doing anything that can be deemed excessive, or unnecessary. If you do so, in the long run, they will win.

12. The last word.

When I was a young officer, I had a premonition that I would one day confront a group of violent attackers. Motivated by this foresight, I dedicated myself to extensive training, aiming to ensure I could emerge victorious from such a potentially fatal encounter. When that attack eventually occurred, my preparation paid off. I was ready.

For those of you, who believe you may be fated to face the same challenge I have one last word to say again: Prepare!

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.