It seems like the only people confused by the law enforcement role in today’s society are those with agendas. We hear from PERF – Police Executive Research Forum, law professor Seth Stoughton and former police chief Mel Tucker, that police work is not really that dangerous. Unfortunately their facts are misrepresented comparing vocational accidents with intentional assaults and murders. We hear that edged weapons are really not that dangerous, that trainers have created an unreasonable fear of edged weapons in law enforcement officers. Or that modern street survival or officer survival training has created fear in our officers which has directly led to police shootings…
Nonsense. Demonstrably, provable poppycock.
Truth is that with the advent of three things: officer survival training, concealable body armor, and advancements in trauma care, we have reduced the numbers of officer deaths in this country since the 1970’s. Those are facts. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has no desire at looking beyond the surface of these erroneous statements because they conflict with their preformed opinions of law enforcement and police use of force. I guess going beyond erroneous statements and opinions spouted by folks and groups with agendas is too much to ask. I suppose doing an internet search on Justice Department statistics on crime victimization and the FBI’s LEOKA – Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted stats is too complicated…
The Latest Assault
The latest attack has to do with law enforcement officers thinking of themselves as warriors instead of guardians. As if we permeated our newly hired officers with notions of being warriors in basic and in-service training. Let us make no mistake about these notions – they are simply baseless. There is no professional, hard-charging cop that I work with who thinks of himself as some soldier on a battlefield. They harbor no us versus them vision of the general population. They like nothing more than to guard and protect the innocent and law abiding from the criminal population which targets, preys, assaults, rapes, burglarizes, and otherwise victimizes them. No working street cop who has ever responded to a residential burglary of a citizen’s home, who has seen hardworking folks lose prized heirlooms and possessions and face the unease of knowing that a criminal has kicked their way into the sanctity of their home, leaving the victims feeling vulnerable and violated, would like nothing more than protecting their citizens and capturing the perpetrators.
Sadly in many jurisdictions the ranks of street officers have been reduced and the ability to guard or prevent crime reduced as well. In many jurisdictions, officers are barely able to handle the dispatched calls let alone engage in proactive policing. Officers are forced to attend training programs which have no demonstrable connection with reducing complaints or use of force incidents such as – implicit bias, cultural diversity, and cultural sensitivity. *Dr. Richard Johnson, PhD has researched police use of deadly force and has found that examining the 1,491 suspects killed by police from 2009 to 2012, the majority (61.4%) were white. Further, Dr. Johnson states (Power Point; Examining the Prevalence of Deaths from Police Use of Force; The University of Toledo; 2014): Approximately 120 black males are killed each year by police or “Approximately equal to only a third of Americans struck by lightning each year, which is 373.”
Instead of worthwhile programs such as communication training, confrontation simulation, and yes, officer safety and survival programs which have a proven track record of reducing officer injuries and deaths as well as reducing use of force incidents and complaints.
Imagine we were dealing with firefighters and their training instead of cops. The analogy would be reducing the technical and tactical training of how to fight a fire safely, and instead focus on customer service. Be nice, but don’t extinguish the flames, or worry about customer service versus protect yourself from hazardous materials. Firemen, “don’t wear that turn-out gear and SCBA’s, it looks too aggressive or militaristic.” After all, how many firemen die from inhaling hazardous chemicals? *By the way, our firefighter Brothers & Sisters are feeling the heat as well, with reductions in staff and training which in many cases exposes them to greater risks.
Couple this non-existent, made up warrior versus guardian issue with reduced staffing, administrators actively engaging in massive Monday morning quarterbacking of active officer’s actions, and you have a recipe for many officers de-policing their patrol areas. The result? An increase in crime as is currently being experienced in Baltimore, New York City and other major cities throughout the United States.
The Flaw in the PC Mindset
Yes, the whole guardian mindset is deeply flawed. As it readily exposes officers to greater risks.
As an example, recently officers were confronted with an armed man threatening suicide. The officers reholstered and approach the subject grabbing the subject’s hand holding the pistol. Now, I was not there and won’t say that they should have shot the 78 year old subject. But certainly closing the distance and getting within arm’s reach is a flawed plan as well. Armed subjects threatening suicide as well as suspect’s who barricade and fire at police are successfully negotiated to disarm and surrender, all the time in this country. Once again, it is nothing new and American police have been using: time, talk and tear gas for years and years versus forcing a confrontation and shooting the subject.
I was taught years ago, yes in officer survival training, that the only difference between homicide and suicide is target. Further, it is unknown how many subjects commit suicide by cop or police assisted suicide in the U.S. each year. As much as we may not want to shoot a disturbed and armed man or woman who is threatening themselves with harm, it is unacceptable to recklessly place ourselves at risk. By closing the distance, disarming, leaving cover, and other reckless acts we expose ourselves and other police to death or serious bodily harm.
Item: A female police officer in a large urban agency voluntarily reholstered her handgun when confronted with an armed man in a domestic violence call. She knelt down in front of the suspect after he refused to drop his M1 carbine. He shot her in the neck severing her spine before he was shot by the officer’s partner. At sentencing the officer made a victim impact statement asking the suspect, “I tried to help you, did you know that?”
Further, we have tragic incidents such as the shooting of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller, Trooper Neal Vetter and many other incidents in which police officers held their fire of armed men and women with tragic outcomes. Indeed, when you examine the FBI / LEOKA numbers on officers killed from 2003 to 2012, 60% of the 420 officers killed (non-ambush related deaths) did not use or attempt to use their firearm. Far from being the warrior – “kill em all” cops as some would portray, officers hold their fire even when they should shoot, costing their very lives in many cases. Research conducted by Pinizzotto, Davis, Bohrer and Infanti shows that of officers surveyed, “70 percent responded that they had been involved in at least one situation where they could have discharged their firearm in the performance of their duties but chose not to fire.”
Funny, PERF, Professor Stoughton and others are quick to condemn the tactics of officers in encounters which lead to shootings but are amazingly silent when it comes to the poor tactics of officers who are shot and killed or wounded…
Yet the red herring of a flawed warrior mindset continues. Facts are that a proper tactical mindset and training of street police leads to less use of force, less shootings and less complaints.
We bury too many police officers each year who have forgotten their role as law enforcers, who have ratcheted down their mindset and preparations because of the illusion of reduced risk. We give too many medals of valor to cops who recklessly risk their lives and the lives of other law enforcers. Capitulating your safety and the safety of other LE personnel based on semantics is just plain stupid.