As the most bizarre Presidential campaign of my relatively long life continues, I find myself longing for the elusive Ideal Candidate.
If you’ve been reading this blog for enough years, you know my ideal candidate is Condi Rice. She was a vastly better Secretary of State than Hillary Clinton. Dr. Rice is a self-made success: brilliant, indomitable in debate, respected throughout the world, embodies gravitas, and not incidentally is a strong supporter of individual Second Amendment rights.
From the beginning of this blog, I’ve made one entry at a time. A confluence of scheduling circumstances in coming days demands that if I’m going to get the whole promised series on the PERF recommendations for new police use of force guidelines presented here in a timely manner, I have to dump them all at once.
You will find them immediately below.
Have at it, folks. Your comments are welcome.
And, please, read the comments from other viewers. In my “day jobs,” I’ve found truth in the old lawyers’ saying that “In the Halls of Justice, most of the justice is in the halls.” I’ve likewise found that in the halls of training, much of the training is in the halls. I’ve been to courses where I learned more from the other students than from the designated instructors.
Similarly, in the “bogs of blogs” some of the best learning and discussion points are found in the reader commentary.
Do not lose sight of the fact that if unrealistic expectations are morphed into police use of force standards, we can expect the same unrealistic demands to be made on armed citizens protecting themselves and their loved ones.
Oh, and did I mention that all opinions I’ve expressed here are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the policies of any organization, agency, or entity I have served with past or present?
When I first saw the Police Executive Research Forum’s “30 Guiding Principles” in their “Use of Force: Taking Policing to a Higher Standard,” I showed it to my significant other. She’s not LE herself, but hangs out with enough law enforcement personnel to have a good idea how things work. After reading it, she shook her head sadly and said, “Who PERF-etrated this?”
The answer, according to PERF itself, is “Approximately 200 police chiefs and other police officials from various ranks, along with federal officials, academics, and mental health experts.” How significant that one category is missing from that mix: police instructors in the law and practice of judicious use of force. IALEFI, the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, would undoubtedly have been happy to help research and explain things, Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that either was contacted.
I thought the single most egregious of their 30 points was Policy 3: “Police use of force must meet the test of proportionality.” (Emphasis PERF’s.) That sounds reasonable enough until you read the fine print: “In assessing whether a response is proportional, officers must ask themselves, ‘How would the general public view the action we took? Would they think it was appropriate to the entire situation and to the severity of the threat posed to me or to the public?’”
What? What? Should life or death decision guidelines be made by people with hashtag agendas who can’t seem to distinguish murder from justifiable homicide? The sort of people who create “hands up, don’t shoot” memes when hands weren’t up and “don’t shoot” wasn’t uttered? People who expect cops to risk fatal stab wounds (to themselves, and to others) because someone who doesn’t understand weapons doesn’t realize that within its range a knife can be as or more deadly than a police duty gun? We don’t let cultists and faith healers determine medical treatment protocols. We shouldn’t let people who replace scientifically-determined reality with fantasized memes be the arbiters of justifiable protective use of force.
IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police, i.e., “management”) and FOP (the Fraternal Order of Police, i.e., “labor”) have taken the unprecedented step of joining together to refute and challenge the PERF guidelines. There is a clue, there.
An organization that calls itself a “research forum” should, one would think, put forth some research. The PERF 30 document under discussion contains exactly one footnote…citing another PERF paper. Instead, the report speaks glowingly of Scottish police training to deal with knife-wielders without deploying firearms, ignoring the facts that (A) the desperate constables have to do it that way because the vast majority are not allowed to carry firearms, and (B) their training explains to them at the outset that they can expect to be slashed or stabbed while trying to subdue blade-wielders without using guns.
Instead of letting the misperceptions of the uninformed (or agenda-motivated) elements of the public become the landmark for guidelines, PERF might have found room for one more recommended policy: Educating that public on the realities of police use of force. Sadly, that much needed element appears to be totally lacking from their recommendations.
As I close, let me state again that all the opinions I have expressed on this topic are my personal opinions, not necessarily those of any agency or organization which I serve.
Some of PERF’s recommended policies are downright dangerous to police, and to the law-abiding citizens they are sworn to protect. Consider Policy 8: “Shooting at vehicles must be strictly prohibited. [PERF’s emphasis.] Agencies should adopt a strict prohibition against shooting at or from a moving vehicle unless someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself.” Did those who wrote that ever see what an automobile does to an unprotected human body? Perhaps instead of visiting the UK, they should have gone to Graz, Austria and talked to the cops who responded there last year to a rundown spree that killed three victims and injured another 34. Or the officers who investigated the narcissistic killing spree of Eliot Rodger in California, who used his automobile as a deadly weapon itself, as well as his guns and contact weapons, and was only stopped when he met with police gunfire and committed suicide.
Or Policy 16: “Use Distance, cover and Time to replace outdated concepts such as the ’21-foot rule’ and ‘drawing a line in the sand.”What? Dennis Tueller’s classic drill from 21 feet simply shows that the average adult male can close that distance from a standing start and inflict a fatal stab wound in 1.5 seconds, one of the most thoroughly verified human dynamics in the field of force science. The policy goes on to recommend “buy(ing) more time.” In real world encounters, more time is rarely available for purchase…
Or Policy 9: “Prohibit use of deadly force against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves.” Sounds logical until you realize that suicide is inner-directed homicide, which means that the suicidal subject is by definition homicidal…and the impulse can easily outer-direct, with little or no warning. We have to apply the logical, time-proven guidelines of the Supreme Court – objective reasonableness and the totality of the circumstances – which PERF tells us elsewhere in their report are insufficient.
The definition of “perfidy” is betrayal. Adoption of policies that make a dangerous job more dangerous and make it more difficult to protect innocent victims from homicidal criminals, I think, fits the definition of that term.
I’m far from the only one who thinks so. For other opinions, check the links below, provided by Dave, one of our regular commenters here:
If we’re going to describe the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the PERF guidelines, since “Ugly” is the most subjective of those terms, it should probably be defined here. For purposes of this discussion, I’m referring to things so shapeless they are unrecognizable.
I’m talking about PERF’s recommended policies numbers 2, 12, 20, 23, 26, and 28. #2: Holding police departments to higher standards than those set by the Supreme Court of the United States? I think that calls for more specifics, don’t you? #15, officers being trained to use the idealistic Critical Decision-Making Model from Great Britain? Well, that’s pretty much what we do now. PERF, are you expecting them to hold a clipboard and check off each step? Oh, wait, you missed the “rapidly evolving” element SCOTUS addressed in that Graham v. Connor decision you don’t like. Tell us EXACTLY how you expect that to work in the real world, please.
#20, “Tactical training and mental health training need to be interwoven to improve response to critical incidents.” Given that we don’t have enough mental health workers to put one in every patrol car or for that matter enough budget for all the cops we need, that suggestion warrants a few more details. As it stands, the PERF recommendation sounds as if it was written by someone who might need a mental health worker of their own.
#24, “Training as teams can improve performance in the field.” Yes, thank you, we know that. We also know that much of America, particularly rural America, has so few officers to provide police service that more than one officer is unlikely to get there until after the suspect-generated crisis is over.
#26, “Agencies should consider new options for chemical spray.” We’re always considering new equipment, didn’t you notice? How about some actual research from your research forum to back up the specific new product you suggest? Not to mention demonstrating some specific techniques to us with your recommended Policy #28, using personal protection shields against violent criminals armed with deadly knives and bludgeons, instead of using deadly weapons against deadly weapons, which has thus far proven the safest approach to the cops and the citizens they serve to protect?
For some years, I had the privilege of serving as a senior advisor under the late Professor Preston Covey, who headed the Center for Advancement of Applied Ethics at Carnegie-Mellon University. When asked to define “Applied Ethics,” he replied that “ethics” was something generally determined in ivory towers, and “applied ethics” were what was needed when the rubber meets the road. PERF being seen by most of the police profession as being more toward the ivory tower, we who train those on the rubber-and-road side of things would like to see more details from PERF on their suggestions.