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Stephen Mader vs The Tactics gods

I love policing because of its dynamic complexity. At any radobo call you must please three masters, at the same time! Its hard, but almost ART when done right. Obviously, Stephen Mader did not please the three masters of Law, Politics, and Tactics. The Tactics gods are angry.

Stephen Mader’s Origin Story


Who has angered the Tactics Gods? A fellow Marine / Cop “Stephen Mader.” Here’s his story in brief: On probation, Mader arrives on scene and observes a man with a gun. Mader determines the man isn’t a threat. Despite the suspect waving a gun around, no shots are fired.

But Mader is not alone. When backup arrives they see the suspect pointing a gun at Mader and terminally end the threat, granting the suspect his release. When Stephen Mader returns from leave, he is fired.

America is in shock! Most cops are unsurprised.

Here’s why:

Cops serve the aforementioned triumvirate of gods. Any one of these three will strike you with heavenly lightning if they become angry. Allow me to introduce you to the Three: The Law, The Politics, and The Tactics. Each of the three main gods come with a host of demi gods, but more on that amusing aside later.

Suffice to say Mader only satisfied 2/3 with his performance on the call.

The gods are angry


…and their vengeful wrath was mighty!

Cop tactics on suspects with guns are very clear. IF the suspect is armed with a gun AND you have the reasonable belief the suspect is about to kill YOU or OTHERS, the gods demand the threat be immediately stopped, so others may live.

Mader decided the suspect was only a suicidal danger to himself, despite a gun being pointed at his chest. Ballsy call, bro. Mader’s partner’s spelt their disagreement in blood.

Yes, the gun was unloaded, but in the cop world, this intriguing fact DOESN’T matter. The gun was present and in play, its actual state is meaningless unless Mader had watched the suspect unload it. It’s simply unreasonable to attempt to determine if a gun is loaded or not during a heated contact.

Politically not shooting the man with a gun is great. Legally either action is acceptable. However, if a gun is pointed at an officer and there is no immidiate action taken to counter this, the Tactics gods will be angered.

Their anger mostly stems from two issues, precedent and safety.

1. Precedent: having the population of America become conditioned to the thought that you can point a gun at an officer and not face lethal consequences is dangerous to all involved. America is so thoroughly protected the concept of “lethal consequences” is anathema to our thinking. There was a lethal consequence for Harambe the Gorilla when the little boy broke into his pen. It sucks, but we value human life above animal life.

2. Safety: Concerning yourself with “but is it loaded/functional” gives the shooter even more of an edge. For similar horror stories hit up OIF/OEF veterans who served later in the conflict than I did. In some cases they had to wait until directly fired upon by men with weapons to return fire. Madness.



Crucially, Mader was also on probation. Every cop has a year long period of probation under which they are an at will employee and not protected (as much) from the wrath of the gods. During probation you must not invent tactics. Its a time of testing. If you can’t match the platonic ideal of “police officer” you will not make it. As stated earlier, this basic response to a lethal threat is a “must have” to survive probation.

The Military Theory

Having served myself in the great Sandbox of Tears, I can theorize how this travesty was birthed. Marines perceive themselves as expendable, Cops do not.

Eventually, being expendable gets old.

Living the life of a pawn, you understand the concept of sacrifice. Mader may have reverted to prior training and accepted his fate of possibly being shot by the suspect if he was wrong. A Marine dying in a mission can easily be determined an “acceptable loss.”

Cops are trained to be smart, be cautious, and survive. A dead officer (outside of an active shooter scenario) is unacceptable tactics.

My theory is Stephen Mader was unable to make the leap and now the tactics gods demand payment in “career.”

The Lawsuit


You all knew it was coming and here it is! Stephen Mader has filed a lawsuit against his department for firing him. I am no lawyer and have no idea how it will play out (I could ask The Vigilante or Financial Panther for a guest post) but I will say it is political GENIUS to file a lawsuit in today’s climate. Right or wrong the department looks bad and in the end money will exchange hands.

Related articles:
2 Basic Rules to Surviving Probation!

When Marines become Cops: 5 Issues for the Military Mind to Overcome

Readers: What is your take on the incident? Is Mader a tactician before his time or a failure to adapt? Should I be thinking “But is it loaded?” before reacting? How will the suit play out? Let me know below!


  1. Cash Flow Celt

    Graham v. Connor, an officer need not be correct — only justified in shooting under objective reasonableness. I agree with his firing too. It seems harsh in this scenario, but what happens when an individual has a psychotic breakdown and becomes wildly violent? Would he falter in his decision making again? What if it cost him the life of his zone partner? Cops, and their zone partners, are like a phalanx. They need to be able to rely on their partners to be able to stand tall and employ the same tactics they would as well. A chink or break in the phalanx causes everyone to be at risk.

    We aren’t talking about a grizzled vet who made the distinction after 20 years on the force that the individual was harmless. We’re talking about a rookie who was unable to employ the tactics so fresh in his mind. He was unable to act.

    Also, maybe it’s just me, but I found this article very difficult to read. It looks like you have a light gray, with small font on a white background. I haven’t had issues with other articles, so I don’t know what the issue was this time.

    1. Jack (Post author)

      Great insight, Celt. I concur. At its best, he made a horrible tactical choice. At its worst, he couldn’t act and this was the defense he hoped would play best.

      It plays very well to the media, but not so well to fellow cops.

    2. Jack (Post author)

      And thanks for the heads up on the font color, I’ll check it out!

  2. Yetisaurus

    Wow. Interesting insight from an officer’s perspective, and especially at the difference between USMC and police training. I wouldn’t have thought that would make such a difference, but it makes sense.

    1. Jack (Post author)

      Thanks, all tactics make sense in their own world, but it’s easy to forget.

      In Afghanistan the majority of my foot patrols were conducted with small teams that walked close to single file. That was a horrible tactic in any other war zone but was perfect for a low kinetic (not a lot of shooting), high IED (boobytrap) environment.

      1. Jack

        Thought: Having the population of America’s police forces become conditioned to the thought that you can point a gun at a citizen and not face lethal consequences is dangerous to all involved. American cops are so thoroughly protected the concept of “lethal consequences” is anathema to our thinking.

  3. Jack (Post author)

    Interesting turn of phrase, Jack. Love the verbiage, it feels inspired!

    I argue that cops pointing guns at citizens are aware of the extreme legal and physical repercussions of the act. It is deployed only under the reasonable belief the situation they are involved in will escalate to that level.

    Especially since 2016 the lethal consequences of policing has been demonstrated on a more than weekly basis throughout America as assaults on officers soar independently of other crime rates.

    It’s a fun spin, but politically, morally, and tactically I can’t get on that ride, Jack. Thank you for the deep thoughts a-la “Sphinx” from the Movie “Mystery Men.”

    If you have more on the theme and want to guest post it, let me know!

  4. Johanna Park

    This all makes perfect sense until you recognize that American police kill far far more armed and unarmed citizens than any other country. Our officers also have far less training than many other countries. We can do better.

  5. Jack (Post author)

    Granted we always CAN do better and other countries do invest more in training. I am always curious as to WHEN is enough training enough. California cops will do six months of training and a year of “on the job training.” Norwegian cops are trained for THREE YEARS. I am always interested in feedback: what do you think the best amount of training is?
    Jack recently posted…Why You Should Start a Cop BlogMy Profile

  6. Jim

    Where are you getting the report that the gun was aimed at him? From what I’ve read, according to the officer’s report, Williams twitched his hand, but never actually raised the firearm.


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