Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Color Code of Mental Awareness

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The following information was distributed by Deputy Jeffery Reed, Firearms Instructor, ACSO.  Although the content is intended for active and/or retired officers.  It is my belief people from all walks of life can benefit greatly when they read this article and start to incorporate these values into their daily lives.

*With the exception of the opening and closing of this article, the following is copied verbatim from the Sheriff’s handout.

The Color Code

How aware are you of your surroundings and what is taking place around you as you pass through life?  Having a weapon, lethal or non-lethal and knowing how to use it effectively is important.  Although, not as important as the ability to see a fight coming and being mentally prepared to defend yourself or your love ones.  You may be the fastest and most accurate shooter in the group, but if you are not aware of what is going on around you may become a victim.  In the real world a typical street thug may have your gun, your wallet, and possibibly you life before you recognize the threat.

One you are involved in a fight, you must control your mind.  You must have a mindset that pushes out all extraneous thought from your head, thus allowing you to focus on the two most important principles, front sights on target and trigger control.

The question is, how do you acquire the mental awareness an the mind set to survive a violent confrontation?  It all starts with the adoption of the following Color Codes as your very own and most importantly, using them in your everyday life.

Code White

In a perfect world, this is the Code we would all enjoy living in.  While in Code While you are unaware and unprepared for any type of threat.  The majority of people live their lives daily in this condition.  Examples of Code White may be:

  • You are unaware of your immediate surroundings and/or threats in the area
  • You are focused on other pursuits or planning your day as you walk or drive to work
  • You are sitting in a park daydreaming, engrossed in a book or glancing through a newspaper
  • You are walking along a sidewalk, not a care in the world, looking down, hands in you pockets, humming a song stuck in you mind

Code Yellow

This Code is most often described as a relaxed alertness.  In reality, this is the condition we should be whenever we are awake, even when we are in the so-called safety of our own homes.  Definitely, one should be at this level of awareness when away from our homes.  At this level, you are aware of your surroundings and the activities that are taking place.  Examples of Code Yellow may be:

  • You know a man is walking behind you on the sidewalk
  • A blue Dodge truck with two white males is in the lane to your right and an older beat-up sedan with several young children is in the lane to your left
  • A couple holding hands is walking in your direction across the street
  • An empty delivery van is parked near your house
  • A black male adult is sitting in the car that is parked next to yours in the parking garage
  • You are walking along the sidewalk with your head up, glancing side to side observing your surroundings, hand unencumbered and at your sides

Note: In Code Yellow you are relaxed, aware, and alert.  This state is not mentally taxing and it is possible to stay in this state of mind indefinitely.  This is not a state of paranoia, you are simply being aware of everything that is happening around you.  You are not prepared for any specific threat, nor are you keying on any potential problem(s).  If a threat presents itself, you are ready to move to a higher level to defend yourself.  You are less likely to be attacked when in Code Yellow because predators look for easy prey.  You are difficult to attack because you can see the attack coming and can defend yourself within seconds.

Code Orange

In this Code you have identified a specific and potential threat and are fully aware, mentally alerted to it’s existence.  You continue to observe and evaluate the activity to determine if the threat is real or not.  Examples of Code Orange may be:

  • The couple you observed holding hands suddenly breaks contact with each other and approaches you from opposite directions
  • The black male sitting in the car parked next to yours gets out as you approach your car
  • The blue Dodge pickup truck, with the two white males, pulls behind you and has been following you through three consecutive right hand turns
  • The empty delivery van, parked near your home, suddenly has a driver who is watching you
  • You are walking along the sidewalk, but change direction to avoid a perceived threat you have identified.  Even with the change of directions, you continue to keep the potential threat in your vision

Note: During Code Orange you have identified a specific, perhaps a potential threat.  You have made an evasive maneuver to minimize your exposure to the threat and/or to gain a tactical advantage.  You start to formulate a plan to deal with or avoid the threat should it fully develops.  You have not drawn your weapon at this point because the specific threat you perceived just might be a harmless set of coincidences, or the predator may realize you are not harmless prey to be eaten.  Awareness of this Code must mean you are prepared to defend yourself the instant the threat escalates.

As I said at the beginning of this article, these are guidelines/suggestions for police officers to follow.  The weapon mentioned in the preceding paragraph is a handgun.  Civilians armed with non-lethal weapons, such as chemical sprays or tasers, it would be my suggestion to have these weapons at the ready, in your strong hand, if possible.  

Code Red

This Code reflects a specific, a real threat.  There is no doubt in your mind, or in anyone else’s mind, the threat is real, attack is imminent or is already underway.  Examples of Code Red may be:

  • The couple approaching you from opposite directions shift their directions again and follow you as you run cross the street to avoid them.  The female places her hand in her purse and keeps it there as they attempt to flank you.  You plan to run to a brick building, drawing your weapon to the ready as you move.  You shout out the command “STOP.”  If the couple does not stop or the woman produces a weapon (Handgun), you will shoot her first
  • You change direction to avoid the black male exiting the vehicle parked next to yours.  He motions to another vehicle parked a few cars away.  Two more males exit that vehicle and attempt to block your exit.  As you turn and head back to the shopping center, all three males pursue you, but quickly retreat as other shoppers enter the parking lot
  • The blue Dodge truck, with the two white males, that has been following you rear-ends you at a traffic light.  The driver and passenger quickly exit the truck and the passenger has a gun.  You have anticipated this problem and have a plan to counter it.  You have left plenty of distance between your vehicle and the one in front of your car.  A sharp turn of the wheel and you drive around the vehicle in front of you and quickly accelerate out of the area
  • The delivery van driver pulls up next to you asks for directions.  From a safe distance away from the van, you give the driver directions.  While you are speaking with the driver, you hear the rear doors of the van opening.  Quickly gaining distance from the van you see two males running towards you, both carrying knives.  You draw your weapon and shoot the closest threat.  The van races away and the second suspect runs off.

Note: In Code Red your observations and evaluations of actions regarding specific potential threats leave no doubt in your mind the threat is real and dangerous.  You have already attempted to avoid the threat when it first appeared.  You have formulated a defense plan and are carrying it out. You have drawn your “Line in the sand” and you are mentally and physically ready to respond if the threat crosses that “Line.”  Your response is already determined, you will not hesitate because your response will be instantaneous.  You will respond in the manner you have been trained.  You will not rise to the situation, but will default to the level of your training.

Code Black

You have become excited, confused, and are in a totally overwhelming state of panic.  You simply cannot believe this is happening to you.  You are unable to formulate a plan or see it through to fruition because of the panic.  If you are unable to control your mind and effect a tactically sound response, you will be eaten by your predator.  This is where your mindset comes into play.

The “Combat Mindset” is a state of mind that replaces your astonishment or fear of lethal situation.  You have the knowledge and confidence that you have trained for this, you expected this to happen at some time, and you are ready, willing, and able to protect yourself and others.  In lethal confrontations, that you that you recognized early in Code Yellow, you will most likely not experience astonishment or fear.

This is due to your awareness, anticipation, concentration, controlled decision making, and actions not leaving room for fear to enter into the equation.  Your mind cannot think about or fear the possibility of being killed if you are concentrating on your front sights while you smoothly press the trigger.

Should you allow fear to enter your mind, the results can be debilitating because you will not be focusing on the task before you.  The answer is to turn the fear off by focusing and concentrating on what you know will get you through the encounter.

Along with adopting the “Color Code of Mental Awareness” as your own and using it every day, you will further develop the “Combat Mindset” by advance mental rehearsal of lethal force situations.  The more scenarios, the better you will perform in similar real life encounters.

Note: Emotions, such as fear, denial, confusion, anger, rage to name a few, must be controlled in order for all of us to function in real life.  Acknowledging that we are all vulnerable, should be enough incentive to plan escape routes, have pertinent information stored safely and securely on, and most importantly focus on a plan and live the plan in your mind.

All of us need to make Mental Awareness part of our daily plan.  The Combat Mindset is not just for cops, security, or the military, it is there for all of us to use.  The life you save maybe you own.  Remember, Bad Guys hide in plain sight!

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