Tactical Refresher: The “Contact/Cover Street Interview”

By Calibre Press  |   Jan 25, 2021

In Calibre Press’s Street Survival II: Tactics for Armed Encounters—the enhanced and expanded follow-up to the original Street Survival book—authors Charles Remsberg, Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) and Lt. Dan Marcou (ret.) cover an extraordinary universe of topics; from officer safety & survival concepts to cuffing techniques to building entry to firearms to resiliency and mental preparation. You name it, it’s in there!

In addition to sharing updated tactics and techniques, the iconic authors stay impressively dedicated to revisiting the foundational principles that serve as the basis for safe and effective police work. New for some and a refresher for others, this information must be consistently revisited in order to maintain your tactical edge and combat complacency.

One of those concepts is the Contact/Cover Street Interview Tactic. The concept of contact and cover officers was first introduced in a book published in 1992 by then police officers Steven Albrecht and John Morrison from San Diego. The murder of two officers by one armed assailant during a street interview is believed to be the catalyst for the development of the strategy.

The deadly shootings occurred after two officers engaged—separately–two men who had provided alcohol to underage girls. While one of the officers was focused on issuing a citation to one of the men, the other officer began patting down the second subject who suddenly produced a handgun, shot her in the chest, then turned his attention to the second officer and shot him in the leg. While he lay helpless, the gunman shot him again…this time in the head.

“In the aftermath of this deadly attack,” say the authors, “many agencies and trainers began to readjust their tactics for street interviews. By the early 1990s, while contact/cover was a commonly known tactic, it was often ignored in practice on the street.”

The Contact/Cover Street Interview is relatively simple and certainly effective. The contact officer handles all activity with the suspect while the cover officer protects the contact officer from a safe distance.

The contact officer is responsible for investigative interactions and enforcement activities from start to finish. He/she stays focused on the person with whom they are in contact. The contact officer:

1. Interviews the subject.

2. Ascertains who they are and why they are there.

3. Records suspect and incident information.

4. Handles routine radio traffic.

5. Handles pat-downs (both suspects and vehicles).

6. Handcuffs arrestees.

7. Issues citations.

8. Recovers evidence and contraband.

The cover officer has the primary responsibility of protecting the contact officer. He/she must watch the suspect(s), recognizes indicators of attack, thwart any such attacks and prevent flight.

The cover officer should:

1. Establish personal cover, if available.

2. Maintain an unobstructed view of the contact officer and the suspect(s).

3. Maintain safe backgrounds in the event of a shooting scenario.

4. Keep peripheral view of the surrounding area.

5. Secure control of the likeliest escape route.

The cover officer needs to remain alert for approaching subjects and threats. He/she needs to maintain a distance and possess a command presence and a look of focus and determination. The cover officer should not become involved in the subject interaction unless directly assisting in the physical control of the suspect.

As a cover officer you must not allow yourself to be drawn in by taunts from a suspect who challenges you in an attempt to distract you and pull you away from your oversight responsibilities.

“Almost no one disagrees with the Contact/Cover premise,” say the authors. “However, if it is not part of a regular department training, if it isn’t discussed at briefings and endorsed and enforced by bosses, it won’t be practiced in the field. Establish who has which role and utilize it to the fullest capacity and advantages.”

Thoughts to add? E-mail the Calibre team at [email protected]

Be sure to grab a copy of Street Survival II: Tactics for Armed Encounters if you don’t have one already! It may literally save your life or the life of a fellow officer.

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Calibre Press has 37 years in the business of keeping officers safer, smarter and more successful, from rookie to retirement.