Monday, April 07, 2014

If I had a hammer...

Once upon a time, the police had a pretty limited selection of tools available for compliance: They could talk, whomp you with their hands or a hickory stick, or shoot you. Of those, only the first one is reasonably certain to not leave permanent marks.

Nowadays there's a whole spectrum of stuff available, running the gamut from harsh language through tasers and OC and various less-lethal projectiles, and yet despite all that stuff there's a disturbing tendency to get guns out early and point them around at all and sundry while yelling a lot, often before there's any indication that a gun is called for. To wit:
Police arrived on scene to find 11-year-old Omari Grant and his friends playing in a small patch of trees, prompting at least one officer to reportedly draw his firearm and force the boys to the ground.
“I was thinking that I don’t want to be shot today, so I just listened to what they said,” Grant said.
This incident just reminded me of Darryl Bolke's comment:
I can think of three guys at minimum on this forum who have been on a literal crusade to get cops to quite pointing guns at everything. It is a tough road, and sadly it will come down to some righteous lawsuits to change a mindset that should be a training issue. 
Using a gun muzzle as one's go-to compliance tool is courting putting a bullet in someone or something that mightn't oughtta get shot.


MeatAxe said...

If _I_ draw a pistol, the men with badges will want to why I thought lethal force might be justified, ie. who was in immediate danger of death or serious injury? I suppose these officers are judged by a different standard.

MeatAxe said...

That should say "will want to KNOW why I thought lethal force might be justified.

Matt said...

It is called the Albequerque method, seems to be all the rage.

Point guns at random, public doesn't comment. Shoot the odd dog or two, small ripple of complaint from dog lovers. Then start shooting humans, for the fun of it. No response if kept to the low end of the economic ladder, until it is filmed by half the police dpeartment...

Armed Texan said...

This is not a training issue, this is a temperament and judgement issue. The only memo that will fix this problem come on pink paper.

Joel said...

Using a gun muzzle as one's go-to compliance tool is courting putting a bullet in someone or something that mightn't oughtta get shot.

(somebody has to say it)
They're trained professionals, Tam. What could possibly go wrong?

Tam said...

Out of curiosity, did you read the linked thread?

RevolverRob said...

This is why I am a huge proponent of small, tamper-resistant, cameras attached to every swinging Richard wearing a badge when in a uniform, punched on the time clock, and/or driving a squad car. I am then a proponent of external independent audit, of those officers for tactics, policy compliance, and behavior. But man, mention wiring up cops with cameras and they freak out.

Not only would it save on lawsuits, the prevailing wisdom suggests that it might get cops to stop doing really dumb things...Like pointing guns at every single person.

The flipside is the guys wearing badges insist they, "Need" to draw guns first, because every bad guy is out to get them. I recognize there are security issues with being a police officer, but most of them are running on the level of institutional paranoia. I guess I missed the memo were becoming a police officer was deemed a safe profession.

I could go on and on about the proliferation of military style tactics, the so-called "force escalation scale" that is heavily skewed towards violent action, culture of departmental protection and coverups...But we'll save that for another day.


Tam said...


I happen to know quite a few cops and prosecutors who are all in favor of wearable video. And I provided a link to a thread containing several nationally recognized and respected LE trainers who (and I quote) "have been on a literal crusade to get cops to quite pointing guns at everything."

Don't you think we should encourage this behavior?

Jim Dunmyer said...

A few years ago, a cop in Ottawa Hills (suburb of Toledo, OH) shot a motorcyclist in the back because the biker "made a reaching motion, looked like he was going for a weapon", was convicted of felonious assault, and sent to prison. I did a quick search on Bing to get the details before writing this comment and discovered that the cop has won a retrial. Dunno what the status of that is, as the prosecution was going to appeal to the SC of OH.

A key to the trial and conviction was the dashcam video.


Monkeywrangler said...

You know Darryl and Wayne, Tam? I've done a little training with them at HiTS. I am hoping to get in another class this year if the budget permits it.

Robert said...

And in addition to the wearable cameras, a synchronized data record should also track if any of the following items are removed from their holsters:

1: Sidearm.
2: OC Spray.
3: Tazer.

(It might not be readily apparent on video if a firearm, etc. is unholstered but not pointed.)

RevolverRob said...


Yes I do think we should encourage this behavior. I have an immense amount of respect for the folks who you reference in that thread. Many of them I have read or talked with. They have active careers and have excellent insights.

That said, I am pessimistic because for every cop I have found that's willing to wear a camera, I've found five more who go screaming about their so-called "right to privacy while on duty" or "OPSEC". Which almost always leads me down a path of anger, because if you wear a badge, are authorized to take away people's freedom, and take tax-payer dimes as your recompense, then when you're on-duty as a representative of your institution, you have no rights to privacy. I am concerned that police unions will write in clauses allowing footage to be reviewed by non-independent sources during or worse prior to investigations. I honestly don't see police departments taking on the ideal approach of independent reviewers and investigators.


Marc Pisco said...

"To a man with a match, everything looks like a barn."

Video's a great idea, because when it accidentally gets lost or accidentally turns out not to have been turned on, then you know something's up.

staghounds said...

"This kid has just been taught to fear the police as a first response."

After all, if you follow the four rules, that officer was willing to destroy little Omari. Nice implication.

And he may well be disciplined. An aggravated assault charge would be reasonable, there's no police exception.

I'm one of those missionaries for cameras.

I tell my officers that a day is coming in their police careers when they will be wearing cameras. We ought to embrace it, because it will help us prove that we did right.

And if the gun has to be out, it can be pointed down at the ground.

Firehand said...

As to 'security':
Back when I was still working at a LE agency, there was a raid on a suspect that went wrong, to wit:
This was a bit out in the boonies, and first they went to the wrong house.
By the time they figured out they needed to go to the next house over, they'd made enough noise that the bad guys discovered 'It's the cops!' and were ready for something. So everything went to hell.

The dispatcher for that district suddenly had someone on the radio yelling for an ambulance and he had no idea where they were because due to SECURITY!!, they'd been very careful not to tell unimportant people like those who'd send help if there was a problem that they were THERE, let alone the location they were going to.

Another time it was decided to do a special emphasis on going after stolen cars, which is fine; problem is, on a Friday night, suddenly the dispatcher had normal busy traffic PLUS about ten units dumping a huge amount of traffic on him. Because due to 'We don't want anyone warning somebody that we're doing something!' this had all been kept secret. Screwed hell out of operations for the evening/night; took more than an hour to get someone in to help.
That led to a discussion the next day as to "Why didn't you let us know?"
"Because someone might let word out."
"Do you have suspicions of someone?"
"No, just being careful."

So when someone starts griping about 'security' as a reason not to wear a camera, I'm suspicious to say the least.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Video's a great idea, because when it accidentally gets lost or accidentally turns out not to have been turned on, then you know something's up."

Don't forget the other favorite of "the camera wasn't working that day". I've seen that one more than once when requesting dashcam footage.

staghounds said...

I've seen that excuse from my own camera!

Kristophr said...

Jake: Withholding sovereign immunity from any cop who's camera is not working will see to it that police don't leave the barn with a "non-functional" camera.

mikee said...

More than one camera is required per officer. A lapel camera to capture every word the officer says what he sees, and a gun camera to see where that deadly weapon was pointing during the event.

Otherwise, don't be surprised if the officer's lapel camera repeatedly gets blocked by his epaulets or suspenders or handy towel, and no video/audio results.

Ed said...

A few days ago in Massachusetts, the Boston Police Department responded to a domestic violence call, shot and killed a man. The Boston Globe report:

Here is the statistic to note from the article:

“Since 2008, the total number of people shot by officers and troopers has grown every year, peaking in 2013.
In that time, there were 86 shootings, 67 of them justified, police said.”

So, 19 out of 86 shootings, or 22% of shootings, more than one out of five, were NOT justified. Chilling.

Geodkyt said...

Kristophr has the best suggestion.

If your rules are self-reinforcing, they are less likely to be "worked around".

So, when the officer is trained, "As soon as your BadgeCam breaks, you lose qualified immunity and have to justify your actions under the rules that 'civilians' have to follow! And you can NEVER be certain you aren't being filmed by some witness... here's some footage of Candid Camera, Police Edition, starting with Rodney King. . . " and that rule is publicly enforced when it comes up, the officer will put more effort into ensure that bloody camera works every day before he goes on shift, because defending documentable bad tactical decisions from the shield of qualified immunity is a better bet than defending bad tactical decisions as a mook, in an age where everyone has a cell phone cam and certain neighborhoods have crowds that routinely try to film police misbehavior.

Robert said...

Note this article from LA.

Will said...


as far as I can determine, from videos, first-hand reports, and personal experience, if the officer's gun is unholstered, it is pointed in, not at the ground.

I used to think that the police "circular firing squad" routine was a wild exaggeration. Nope, got to see it up close. Fortunately for all of us, no one fired. It was close, though. Watched the sgt in front of me take up slack, and see his finger exert pressure on his Glock's trigger. That was when I told the boss that if he didn't get on the floor, they were going to shoot him. The sgt was in the doorway to the combination dining/living room. There was about 8 others scattered completely around him, pretty much 360 degrees. This was a bogus "man with a gun" call. Some asshole was trying to have the cops "SWAT" his landlord.

As to how incompetent these guys were? I was standing right behind the sgt, in cuffs, which is why I could see his triggerfinger so clearly.

Lewis said...

Slightly off topic, maybe, but while I was reading the whole PF thread, the memory of this exercise kept running through my head.

Yeah, it's different over there.