What do you think about the following statement?
Today's officer is isolated within a patrol car, emboldened with body armor, quick to draw a Taser or firearm, and slow to engage people skills to resolve everyday issues.
This comment written in an email really ticked me off. It was penned by a college professor who facilitates law enforcement classes for several universities in response to an interview I had done with police journalist Chuck Remsberg and his subsequent column. She claimed that law enforcement trainers like me focused entirely too much emphasis on the tactical or use of force aspects of the J-O-B and not enough on critical thinking and communications training. She said, "Neanderthal man became extinct on the tactic of brute force alone..."
Although my critic, or rather this critic, claimed no law enforcement experience I was to find out later that she is a retired police commander with 35 years in LE. To say I was disappointed by a retired member of my profession making such damning statements about active duty police officers today is an understatement.
She goes on:
Fewer can adequately write, spell, read, or effectively construct a decent police report, let alone resolve a crisis without using violence.
Now let me pick my hairy knuckles up off the floor and see if I can think of a response and effectively communicate that to you.
This pretty much sums up my feelings on her comments. My response was and is that I find her comments about my Brothers and Sisters in Blue condescending as well as insulting. From an over-educated academic with little exposure to the real world you might, just might, understand the comments but from someone with time on the job?
I'll tell you what I essentially told her: "I am insulted by the comments as would street police officers be. There are enough non-LE people who attack law enforcement officers as unthinking thugs and brutes as well as Monday morning quarterbacking them from the safety of an office."
Further I explained, "I will assume that your passion lies with mine in saving officer lives on the street through proper training. I'll never make an apology in my passion for that mission or for sticking up for the troops who, now more than ever, are forced to do more with less under more scrutiny and second guessing."
Funny, I thought the patrol car and computer aided dispatch meant that a smaller patrol force could cover more territory? Try a park and walk nowadays and you better be prepared to run back to your car when the next priority call goes out. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't agencies laying off? If they aren't they certainly aren't hiring to replace officers that have retired. What's the result? A patrol force that is doing more with less people...
Call me crazy but hasn't the advent of concealable body armor saved lives? Emboldened with body armor? Emboldened? Are you kidding me? Regardless of wearing a Level IIA vest or IIIA vest while on SWAT I'm not and neither is any other officer I know looking to get shot or actively sticking our derriere out there to get shot. And haven't Tasers reduced officer and suspect injuries? Yes, there has developed the tendency of Taser "over dependence or over reliance" which even Taser International has described and warned against. That said, there are plenty of agencies throughout this country because of the fear of litigation who tell their officers not to go hands on, just taze 'em. As far as not talking to suspects or citizens, I completely disagree. If you have any kind of street experience you know the dangers of engaging in a physical confrontation with a suspect. Most veteran street warriors I know consider an arrest without a confrontation to be a win and will attempt to verbally diffuse or dissuade a suspect rather than look for a physical confrontation.
Elizabeth Croft published a study a number of years ago (1987) that simply stated, "Cops don't use too much force; they don't use enough force soon enough." Numerous studies have found that police use force in less than 2% of all contacts and describe police use of force as infrequent. An I.A.C.P. study published in 2000 states that, police force was used 3.5 times per every 10,000 calls for service. Funny, our professor/former commander would have us believe that officers can't resolve a crisis without violence.
I think therefore I am a cop...
A thinker yes; I want a thinker but one who can hit like a ton of bricks and shoot like Annie Oakley. Our esteemed Officer.com editor Frank Borelli stated it well with the priorities of law enforcement:
We are warriors FIRST, diplomats SECOND and servants a distant THIRD.
A thinker without a good right-cross is worthless on the street. The term Warrior-Scholar is exactly what I mean. You simply cannot talk yourself out of every need for the application of force. Further, you should not be talking, i.e. two way conversation, when a suspect is actively resisting or presents a threat. You should be ordering or giving commands to the suspect to surrender or giving verbal direction as to what you want the suspect to do. It is not, Sir, I've developed enough probable cause to arrest you so, what do you think, can you lie down on the ground for me please? It's simply, Get on the ground! We continue to verbalize because it gives the suspect a direction he can follow to avoid further force. It also helps us write our report so all those witnesses can later state, The officer told him to 'Stop Resisting and get on the ground!'
But we're not talking about some hairy knuckled Neanderthal brute who would rather smack you upside the head than talk to you. This animal simply doesn't exist. In this day of dashboard and cell phone cameras, civilian review boards and unrestrained civil litigation you can't operate like that or if you do you're quickly identified and fired (or indicted). As I write this I am working on three cases as an expert witness. Two, though the officers did nothing wrong, they find themselves charged with crimes and a third case where officers are sued because a minimal use of force resulted in injury. Never before has such scrutiny existed.
Cops have got to think at all times. The implication that an aggressive officer doesn't think is insulting. We think about the potential and developing threats, we communicate to ascertain the circumstances and nature of the call, we think about the reasonable suspicion and probable cause as it develops and we think through options of controlling a resisting suspect, on and on. If we ever stop thinking we're through.
That Supervision and Academia Disconnect
A short memory for the street or no street experience whatsoever (academia) leads to some stupid statements, decisions or policy passed down the chain of command or pronouncements from on-high (when dealing with academia). Further too many supervisors and academics enter into their roles with preformed opinions, i.e. Neanderthal brutes or idiot patrolman... and proceed forward ignorant of the facts. There is often this disconnect between what it's really like on the street or what our officers really do and their image as perceived or portrayed by higher-ups or criminal justice professors.
And finally I'll say that academia and certain segments of the police culture can paint all the pretty pictures they want about community policing, crisis intervention and verbalization skills but at the core, at the center of law enforcement is the enforcement part - the hands-on, you're under arrest, application of force part, sometimes including gunfire. When it comes to that there are no do-overs. Your skills had better be there, sharp and ready to go. Lack of competence leads to lack of confidence which frequently results in an injured officer based on too little use of force or excessive use of force. Either way, focusing on tactics and use of force training improves officer safety and reduces violence.
No, Professor, the best and brightest - my Brothers and Sisters in Blue - are out there doing this often thankless job. They need your support rather than your condemnation. You've apparently forgotten the amazing job that they do and the quality individuals they are. I have not.