“Failure to apply the 55 Rule”

We often make decisions in a split-second – or we like to believe we do.  Our decision making process is ever evolving and proper mental and physical training to prepare for a particular moment or circumstance is critical to assist our decision making.  We should always be mentally accessing our options as we approach a situation – like a potential K9 deployment – so we can make the right decision at the right time under the right circumstances.

“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” ~Malcolm Gladwell

A few years ago, I was assigned the task of assembling a glossary of tactical terms for the California Association of Tactical Officers (CATO).  A few years prior to this assignment, I attended a class where I first heard the term “The 55 Rule” so I placed it within the glossary and it’s defined as such;

The 55 Rule:  A set of two coinciding questions self-imposed by a tactical commander related to critical decision making prior to initiating a tactical action;  “Is this decision the right one within the next 5 seconds?” and “Will this decision be the right one 5 years from now in civil court?”

Do you apply the 55 Rule as a K9 handler or supervisor?  If not, a failure to do so could be a reason you might get in trouble.  You don’t have to be a tactical commander to apply the rule.

As you might know, some of these civil cases can occur five years after an incident and I actually testified once as an expert witness on a K9 incident that did occur five years earlier.  “Justice” doesn’t move fast – but some of the incidents you may encounter are quick and usually rapidly-evolving.

Many of the decisions that are made by handlers related to police dog deployments are made in the heat of the moment without consideration of the end results.  A handler will often say, “It seemed like the right decision at the time.”  Afterward, during a debrief or deposition, a handler may admit this deficiency in decision making and that usually spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

For the purposes of K9 deployments and practical applications, you can easily change the wording within this “55 Rule” definition and replace “tactical commander” with “K9 handler” and change “tactical action” to “police dog deployment.”

 The better your skills and critical thinking are, coupled with training and quickness, the more prepared you will be to make sound decisions in the “blink of an eye!”

If you are confident in your abilities (and your dog’s) and properly prepared, you will be ready to make the right decision when the time comes – and if you are able to consider the 55 Rule before making that final decision and initiating action – or not – it may keep you out of trouble.

Take care, be safe and practice making decisions within a short time span with the long term in mind…

Bill Lewis II 

This “Reason” was originally shared on December 23, 2013.

“Trouble” isn’t always related to incidents or predicaments that directly result in lawsuits, claims or discipline. Often times, our actions or inactions that are missed, deliberately overlooked or downplayed may lead to nothing or can later lead to mistakes or bad incidents with minimal to serious repercussions.  A reason we get in trouble can be minor or simple at first glance – or even serious – but a combination of these factors can often have disastrous consequences.   

These “reasons” are provided periodically as a collection in-progress based on actual incidents and real attitudes as well as feedback received at HITS, the CNCA Training Institute, and the “Canine Liability 360” classes.  As Gordon Graham says, “We haven’t found new ways to get in trouble.” So, as the list progresses, you may or may not read something familiar to you that you have personally experienced or seen others encounter. If you encountered or heard about it, did you learn from it?