Sunday, 4 September 2016

Review: Leonard Grant-Taylor, The Palestine Police Force: Close Quarter Battle (Paladin Press: Boulder, 2008)

This book is a collection of training notes which were originally published in 1943 for the police force of Mandatory Palestine (a British-controlled territory).  My interest lay in what I could learn from them that would translate to what I do with the State Emergency Service (SES).  The SES, of course, has no direct role in detecting or preventing crime (save for providing assistance to police in certain circumstances - for example, land searches).  However, I thought there may be something in this book which could help with training or leading people in intense situations.

The first thing that I noted was an observation about how people behave when endangered.  Grant-Taylor noted that "when a man is being shot at he ... will instinctivey make himself into as small a target as possible. ... [He] will crouch, bend and 'creep within himself'" (p.33).  A natural response to being shot at, no doubt, but probably also likely when a person is aware of being exposed to any physical threat, like fire or a severe storm.  A person leading an SES crew, then, should be aware that this may affect what sorts of loads people can be expected to carry (like sandbags).  It may also affect how they handle tools (particularly relevant in road rescue situations.  They may need to be reminded to adopt physically safe and effective postures.

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The second useful point trelated to training crew members:
On no acount should a pupil be allowed to go away feeling dissatisfied or that he has made a fool of himself.  A man who is trying hard must never be discouraged, no matter what errors he may make.  On no account must an instructor ever endeavour to make a man look foolish (p.38).
This applies even more strongly in leading volunteers. 

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The third item relates to situational awareness.  Grant-Taylor says of police storming a room thought to contain armed offenders:
You are going to see that room and in a fraction of a second the whole picture is to be photographed on your mind; and [sic] indelible picture drawn on your two eyes.  We call this 'appreciation'.  Appreciate the situation so that if someone suddenly put out the lights the moment after you had entered you would know the contents of that room - exactly where each man stood and what stood between you and him (p.57).
This skill would be incredibly valuable for a crew leader at a road crash rescue, who must know where every vehicle and casualty is, what hazards are present, what may prevent effective extrication, and be able to both direct their crew in response and report these details back to dispatch.  Guidance is given in developing this skill.  Again, it focusses on armed police work but the lesson is obviously transferrable:
When you go away from this lecture I want you to study every door or room that you may enter, whether it be in your own billet or otherwise. ... When you enter the room try and 'appreciate' the situation at once.  Note where everyone is standing; what furniture is in the room and where it is placed (p.63).
Developing this skill can only make an emergency responder both a better operator and a better crew leader.

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Concerning the book generally: the style is fairly simple and direct, and a reader can imagine the tone of the lectures from which it was drawn.  The process of editing and reissuing it has introduced a few typoes and errors which are a little annoying.  However, these are fairly minor problems and don't detract from what's otherwise an interesting page from the law-enforcement past.

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