Spitting, shoving, grabbing, and even punching officers is becoming commonplace. Armed with the knowledge that the officer is reluctant to physically back up his commands, the criminal element seizes the initiative and strikes first. More often than not, the officer's unwillingness to use the force necessary gives the bad guy the advantage.
This hesitation has spawned this new phenomenon--suspects that are dumbfounded when the officer does use force to defend themselves or control the subject. Arrestees frequently say things like, "They're not allowed to touch me!" or, "I pushed an officer before and nothing happened." The bottom line is that criminals have become complacent enough in their belief to think that the officers will not respond with force. Would these same individuals walk up to an outlaw motorcycle gang member and assault them, thinking that there would be no reprisal?
Suicide by cop, recognized in scientific journals since 1985, explains most irrational acts that result in the death of some despondent and/or criminal types. However, there are a number of cases that do not seem to fit into either the homicide or suicide by cop model. These cases involve individuals who arm themselves with an edged or impact weapon and create a stand-off situation with police. They taunt police with the weapon, sometimes advancing on the officers to the point of having the officers respond with gunfire.
In the resulting investigations, no evidence is found to suggest that the suspect was suicidal, or had expressed a desire to kill a police officer. Instead, the suspect taunts the officers, edging closer and closer until the officers feel their lives are in jeopardy and respond accordingly. Suspects who have survived these situations related that they did not think the officers would shoot, or that they were just trying to scare the officers away.
Ultimately, police must respond appropriately when they feel that their life or the life of another is in danger. Officers cannot try to be psychologists and attempt to determine if the suspects' actions are a display of criminal complacency, suicide by cop, or mental instability, as this can put them and others in harm's way. They need only form the reasonable belief that the threat is real and that force is necessary to stop it.
If you, or any officer that you know of, has witnessed an example(s) of Criminal Complacency, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is the first step in an attempt to quantify data in support of this new phenomenon.