Police are taught that there are three categories of people: “Yes people,” “No people,” and “Maybe people.” These distinctions suggest the obvious ― that officers cannot talk everyone into handcuffs.
“Yes people” are compliant to a uniformed police presence. “No people” are fighters, runners or both. “Maybe people” can go either way. It is the last category where there are the most variables effecting the direction of a police contact.
Certainly the conduct and abilities of the officer are among the many variables. Each officer has a different background, intelligence, communication skills, command presence, temperament, education and limitations; they all perform differently. Yes, they all go through the same standardized basic training, but competence and character differ from officer to officer.
Some have athletic prowess and played contact sports growing up. Some come to the ranks with a frame of reference for physical confrontation limited to wedgies suffered during childhood. All, however, take the same oath. They must respond to 911 calls with different tools in the toolbox − outcomes will vary. A fit, 6’3”, 220 pound officer might use a control hold to subdue a “no person” instantly. Given the same circumstance a 5’3”, 135 pound, soft officer might necessarily use a Taser or deadly force.
In light of the controversy in Ferguson, Missouri surrounding the August 9, 2014 shooting death of an eighteen year old, unarmed black male, Michael Brown, by white police officer, Darren Wilson, there are three facts to consider: First, every fight an officer is in involves at least one gun; the one he/she is wearing and must defend. Second, most eighteen-year-old males can out last and ultimately overpower the average thirty-year-old man; this is in part why eighteen-year-old males are subject to the draft. Lastly, the premise launched by the media of an open season on young, black males by white police officers is outrageous. This myth is dispelled by DOJ reports on law enforcement officers killed and attacked (LEOKA studies), combined with year-to-year violent offender demographic information.
Public trust is a fragile treasure. Officers know that any use of force places their safety, career, and agency’s reputation in jeopardy. Still, unnecessary escalation by police does happen. With that said, it is the least frequent of the variables in play leading to use of force.
Police walk a tightrope of laws, policies and moreover public opinion.Despite earnest recruiting efforts to increase diversity in the ranks over the last four decades, 86% of America’s peace officers are white; most are male. Conversely, despite racial preferences and generational economic and educational assistance from taxpayers in the trillions of dollars earmarked for non-Asian minorities ― the fact remains: the overwhelming amount of violent crime in America year after year is committed by (young) black and Hispanic males (Sources: DOJ uniform crime reporting and The Color of Crime; Race, Crime and Justice in America: Second, Expanded Edition, New Century Foundation 2005).
The reality of who makes up the majority of police and who makes up the majority of violent offenders is used by the incredulous media to construct a false conclusion that modern law enforcement is nothing more than the Klan in blue. Notwithstanding the small number of bad apple exceptions in the ranks, this is irresponsible. It is an insult to a noble profession. In 2014 the issue is not white vs. black, but police vs. criminal.
Certainly, there are cases of police brutality on minorities ― just as there are on whites. In the interest of public trust, all of these incidents should come to light. Excessive use of force under the color of authority (perceived or real) always gets traction in the media when the victim is non-white; not so when the roles are reversed: On August 11, 2014 (just two days after the death of Michael Brown) a black Salt Lake City police officer shot and killed an unarmed twenty-year old, white man, Dillon Taylor. There was no media blitz and to-date the DOJ has not descended on Salt Lake.
The Obama administration works with the agenda-driven media and race hustlers the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson to promote selective outrage, dividing the population along racial lines and convicting police in the court of public opinion ― before the facts are in. Sharpton has visited the White House over 80 times; he has Obama’s ear. Thomas Sowell recently opined on why we spend so much money on a criminal justice system if we are holding court in the media with the mob as jury
When black people are killed or harmed at the hands of whites the media feed us 24/7 spin the likes of which we saw in the Trayvon Martin case and the police shooting death of Michael Brown. There is no objectivity. When Eric Holder came to St. Louis in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, he said, “I am the Attorney General of the United States. But I am also a black man.” Like President Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin and the Cambridge, Massachusetts (Brandeis University) case before, the knee-jerk, racially biased assumptions by this duo echoed from their pulpits of stature is divisive. Their positions afford them credibility by the ignorant ― dividing the country racially without regard for the truth. Obama and Holder are washed in racial bias and social justice ideology. Their irresponsible commentary injected into local issues usurps the Rule of Law and Due Process they took an oath to defend.
Cameras are wielded like swords pushing police administrators back on their heels. An intimidated police administration creates timid cops. Timid cops make minority communities less safe. Police learn that being reactive pays the same with half the risk to limb and livelihood. Rather than be proactive and work to prevent violent crime in these neighborhoods, some demoralized officers elect to drive in circles with blinders on. They show up after the fact to draw a chalk line around another tragic victim of black-on-black crime.
Today police are under a microscope like no other time in American history. This is not altogether undeserved or an entirely bad thing. Surely, police misconduct does happen. Someone needs to police the police. A responsible media could help, but they − like the DOJ − have lost all objectivity.
In this climate an officer’s mind is distracted by worry of job loss and civil or criminal federal charges, retarding reaction time. While the suspect is deciding between fight-or-flight, the officer may be under-reacting due to analysis-paralysis.
When it comes to making an arrest or a detention the bottom line is this: the suspect has an obligation to submit, and the officer has a duty to apprehend.
There is no nice way to take a “no person” into custody. Even a peaceful protester using only passive resistance in the form of deadweight requires some level of force to arrest. It can look bad to a passerby particularly when the suspect is animated. The next level of resistance is a term coined, “egressive resistance” where a suspect is not trying to overpower an officer, but is trying to break free and escape. On the opposite end of the resistance spectrum is the “active aggressor” who attacks the officer to overpower and harm him.
Tragically, officers are murdered with their own guns when active aggressors overpower and disarm them. How many police murdered by minorities are in some part the result of a paralyzing amount of worry implanted into the officer’s psyche by their administration, giving the advantage to the attacker during a life and death struggle?
All of this begs the question: What kind of police culture do you want? Do you want a double-minded police administration that reins in the real cops preferring armed report takers who never get a complaint, look the part, but can’t deliver? Do you want Sheriffs and Chiefs to genuflect to external forces like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Al Sharpton, media spin and self-serving special interest groups?
I imagine that you want a culture of professional, competent, courageous and constitutional-minded officers.
I imagine that you want officers whose actions are motivated by a sense of duty balanced by the golden rule.
I imagine that you want officers armed with discretion, grace and mercy selected on meaningful criteria that hold the line on our quality of life.
I imagine that you want officers who seek out real criminals as opposed to criminalizing harmless behavior by being overzealous with no thought given to the spirit of the law, only the letter.
I imagine that you want officers whose performance is not graded by the number of tickets they write.
I imagine that you want officers with a sense of duty so strong that their oath trumps their prejudices.
I imagine that you want officers who although they know not all people contribute the same value to society, treat every human being as an equally precious life.
How is that kind of culture made? Not by Sheriffs, and Chiefs genuflecting to external forces and allowing their oath to be reshaped by the hammer of political correctness over the anvil of ignorance.
It comes from bold leadership rooted in truth. It comes from coaching a culture. It comes from hiring officers with a servant’s heart. It comes from holding cops and criminals accountable without regard to political forces undermining truth and the Rule of Law. And, it comes from holding on jealously to local control. Consider the conduct of BLM agents in Clark County, Nevada in 2014.
Forget whether or not the Bundys’ argument was right or wrong. The use of force by armed federal bureaucrats playing cop was excessive. The late entry of the Sheriff on-scene prolonged the abuse. Where is the accountability? For the Sheriff it is in the hands of the voters. For the feds it sits in the in-box of a senior bureaucrat across the country in D.C.
I have many concerns about the changing police culture in America; including the line between local and federal being blurred.
Irrespective of my concerns, local police ― in their traditional role ― deserve the benefit of doubt when they meet physical resistance doing a job most citizens would not entertain the thought of doing. The public should beware of media spin, hasty conclusions and false witnesses. They should suspend judgment until all of the facts are in. These brave men and women deserve that much consideration.