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Wars are won in the will,
perhaps you have been
fighting in the wrong field.
                 13th Warrior

Secondary Victories
and why you can't let inmates have them

On this page:
Secondary Victory In Action | Preventing Secondary Victories

Carl von Clauswitz brought up a seldom discussed concept in his treatise "On War." That is the idea of 'secondary victory.' This is a concept that every LEO and corrections officer needs, not only to know, but understand.

Clauswitz wrote: The duration is to be regarded, to a certain extent, as a second subordinate success. For the conqueror the combat can never be finished too quickly, for the vanquished it can never last too long. A speedy victory indicates a higher power of victory, a tardy decision is, on the side of the defeated, some compensation for the loss.(1)

Putting that into plain English: A secondary form of victory can be gained even though you lose. Namely that victory is based in how hard he made you work.

Secondary Victories in Action
Unless you have experience with criminals and violent people, this kind of thinking will not make sense. (That is unless you are the fan of a sport team that is so bad you don't just console yourself by saying, "They didn't lose that bad this time," but consider anything that isn't a rout a kind of victory.) Though not commonly understood, this kind of victory is very real. Once you deal with the passive/aggressive and sullen rebellion of the incarcerated, a secondary victory will be easily recognized.
A significant part of this kind of secondary victory is making you suffer. It is obvious to an inmate that he is going to lose against a CERT rush. But the victory is that it took five officers to control him ... and that he wasn't severely hurt (because they have restrictions). But he made you work! That's power to the powerless

Sure he is going to be punished, but the display he put on for other inmates, the fact he made the officers work and possibly hurt them, all constitute minor ego building successes! These are successes he can construe as a form of "victory." It is a statement of his power, his prowess and his standing among other inmates that it took five officers to subdue him after one hell of a struggle.

In a similar vein, knowing that an officer can't drag him off into a back alley and beat him within an inch of his life, a perp can go out of his way to be obnoxious. In fact, if he can get an emotional reaction from the officer that's another form of secondary victory.

And he also knows that if the officer loses control that officer is still answerable to the rules. Whereas the perp doesn't have nearly as many restrictions. If he can get you to lose self-control, he wins. Often a perp knows he's going to go to jail for what he has done before you arrived. But even if he is going to go to jail, he can console himself with the smug self-satisfaction that 'he gotcha!'

In subduing a resisting perp, seldom are the use of force standards easily applied. With current training levels and departmentally approved tactics, you end up with a Goldilocks-and-three bears situation. This amount of force is too little, this is too much. Finding the "just right" level is difficult. Unfortunately, the perp knows this. The harder he fights, not only the more pain and damage he can inflict on officers, but he also knows he can successfully sue the department if they do what is necessary to stop him. Add to this, all the glory he will get from his peers after telling them in lockup about making the officers work so hard to subdue him. This further encourages a lack of respect and an attitude of defiance.

All of these are forms of secondary victories.

Preventing Secondary Victories
Obviously the first way to prevent secondary victories is not to allow yourself to be emotionally upset by the criminal. And this includes allowing yourself to react in fear to him. And, not to burst anyone's bubble, but becoming verbally aggressive instead of calmly assertive doesn't show you're in command, it shows you are afraid. This is where many officers blow it when it comes to command presence. Your best line of defense against a criminal counting coup  on you or gaining an emotional secondary victory over you is to stay calm. And a good way to do this is to understand how to
Shadow Dance.

When it comes to physically preventing secondary victories, there are two primary ways. The first is both the most common and about as far as people think about the subject.

That is to continue beating on the person as punishment. After overwhelming the individual, you continue to inflict pain. The pain, discomfort and potential long-term injury of the punishment outweigh the perceived victory.

The fact this idea is perceived as the most effective and expedient is why it is the most commonly used -- and not just by LEOs. It is especially popular among people who don't have that many resources for resolving problems. Anywhere you look, you can see countless examples, everything from beating a child (not just one strike but many) for unacceptable behavior to a group stomping. The idea is that pain will get the message across about unacceptable behavior.

While physical punishment -- when correctly applied -- can be effective, overall this approach is problematic and unreliable.

Problematic because
    1) it is against departmental policy;
    2) if captured on tape you're in deep trouble;
    3) the general public does not understand who -- and what -- you are
      dealing with;
    4) the public especially doesn't understand the need to establish
       immediate control over the situation or the danger you face if you
      don't; and
    5) if you aren't careful, you can easily slip into this being your primary tool.

Points 1, 2 and 5 coming together is a career ender when you apply it to someone when it isn't justified.

It's unreliable because this isn't the average bear you are dealing with.

The theory that inflict pain and the person will submit to your control works on normal people ... but then again how often are you called to put a stop to the behavior of normal people?

Someone who is in an enraged state, having a temper tantrum, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mentally unstable or who has been incarcerated with nothing else to do but obsess is not going to react like a "normal person." We cover the problems of using pain as a motivation more in-depth elsewhere. Suffice to say here, the way it's use is currently taught is more likely to create a willingness to fight than to submit.

And that's going to have a lot to do with the perp's secondary victory. Now he isn't just fighting you to get coup points, he's fighting you to get back at you for hurting him. Any pain he can inflict on you is a secondary victory.

Hopefully by now you realize that the 'first way' isn't as reliable as you might think it is.

The second way of preventing secondary victories is found in Clausewitz's: A speedy victory indicates a higher power of victory.

Let's add another observation from ol' Carl Von: Here the whole success often lies in the mere duration. This is why we have included it amongst the strategic elements.

This is a simple, but profound, concept. A long scuffle with a perp trying to hand cuff him is NOT an effective fight. The faster and easier your victory, the higher power it is. The more quickly, effectively and overwhelmingly you put someone down -- and in a way that he cannot resist -- the more you rob him of secondary victory. Instead of fighting him, you remove his ability to resist. If you do not do this, then he will continue to ascribe your having to fight as a secondary victory, and you will continue to have trouble with him. But what is most amazing is, for once, the goals of the institution and the goals of the individual are one and the same! 

Unfortunately modern defensive tactics and command presence do not help you address this problem. Their use usually means a protracted struggle with the perp. In order to achieve this "higher power of victory," the officer must have defensive tactics that work in live-fire situations and keep the duration of physical conflict to an absolute minimum. This is why we came up with control presence and the associated control tactics.

Return to top

1)Carl von Clauswitz: On War. Book Four, The Combat, Chapter VI, duration of the combat, 2nd paragraph Return to Text

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