Sentinel Handbook

Tips for security, safety, and crime prevention volunteers

Patrol Tips: Patrol Mindset Color Code

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I’ve purposely taken the, “Combat Mindset: Cooper Color Code”, and have changed it for the purposes of the “Patrol Mindset”. The Combat Mindset is just that, a system created for combat and situations in which deadly force may be used. It has been developed for those who use firearms and others forms of deadly force. The Patrol Mindset has been developed for those who “patrol” and are not expected to engage in physical confrontations unless in emergency situations. Police officers have a “Duty to Act” and thus must have a combat mindset. Civilians [in most States] have a “Duty to Retreat” and thus are not expected to engage in combat, but to stay out of it whenever possible.

Because most civilians are not familiar with the Cooper Color Code, I have simplified the Patrol Color Code to a system readily familiar with most people already.. the colors of common traffic lights; green, yellow, and red. White has been added as a baseline. Each color represents a level of awareness, and preparedness, of an individual during various times while on patrol. Each color and level of alert is listed below.

  • White: Unaware/Unconcerned – This is the baseline normal state that most all of us live in while tucked away safely in our familiar environments. Inside your home, watching television, you’re not likely expecting to be attacked by ninjas or have an angry girl scout throw a rock through your window for not buying cookies that year. A person in condition White is pretty much on auto-pilot and not really concerned with their safety or paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Green: Aware – When we leave the house to drive to work, go to the store, or jog through the neighborhood, we tend to be a little more alert. We know that we must watch for traffic, a neighborhood dog might not be on a leash, or you may need to walk around sprinklers along the sidewalk. You’re not expecting any trouble, but are maintaining an awareness of your surroundings. This is the level of preparedness a person should be in while on a patrol.
  • Yellow: Alert/Prepared – Something has given you reason to be cautious. You spot a group of youth rough housing down the block, someone is stopping along the street and looking into car windows, or you hear shouts in the distance. Condition Yellow is when you are alert for signs of trouble or danger and may need to act to defend yourself, or someone else, if things go sideways, but right now there is no immediate danger.
  • Red: Fight or Flight – Condition Red means there is the very real possibility of danger present. You may be called upon to defend yourself, or retreat to a safer location. A group of strangers approaching you may have bumped you into Yellow, but when they start to surround you.. you jump to Red.

These condition colors are simply a way of being able to think about your personal awareness and to communicate clearly with anyone else who might be on a patrol with you. They give you a vocabulary to be able to articulate yourself to team mates quickly without having to go into long explanation. i.e. “Yellow alert, Bob. That guy over there looks like he’s jimmying the lock on that Ford Escort.” This alerts Bob to; A) Get ready to call 911, B) Also get ready to dive for cover or run for it in case the suspect spots him and draws a weapon.

The color code helps to formally label a situation for others involved whereas an informal code could cause confusion or be misunderstood. For example; Yo dawg, things are chill (Things are all quiet, or relax, nobody needs to get hurt here?).. I have a bad feeling about this (how bad? enough to run like hell, or just be very careful?).. or “It’s a trap!” (What kind of trap? The woman you were just ogling is actually a guy with long hair, or holy crap, that guy has a machete?)

Related Links:

Cooper’s Colors, A simple System For Situational Awareness –

States of Awareness, the Cooper Color Code –

Jeff Cooper on Wikipedia –


Written by Silver Sentinel

April 15, 2013 at 3:53 am

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