'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

22 July 2011

Bad Officers

By now most everyone has seen and commented on the travesty out of Canton, Ohio. The video is horrible and made me duck my head in shared shame. Words fail me. I forced myself to watch the whole thing, partially because I wanted to take in the entirety of the criminal behavior of that officer and partially because of the need for this retired officer to bear witness against another officer not worthy of the name and title of Public Servant.

I have done most things an officer can do, including training others. I have my FTO credential and am certified by both the NRA and FBI as a police firearms instructor. I've taught everything from patrol procedures to firearms to motorcycle operations and anything and everything between. I have never taught my officers to do what this person did. I refer to him as a person because it is no longer in my heart to refer to him as an officer. Disgrace tends to dim my view of anyone who acts like he did.

I'm going to speak from the heart here and also talk a little about why we're seeing this kind of behavior from a purely training and leadership point of view. I'm also going to speak for my father in law, Sarge, a retired Arizona DPS Trooper.

There is simply no excuse for behavior like this. None. He wasn't taught this, though he may have picked up a tacit understanding that such was going to be overlooked by the climate of the department. I've never interacted with the canton PD so I cannot speak to that but I can speak to what goes into the making of such an individual.

There were certainly warning signs along the highway of this persons career. People like this are not made, they are born and later encouraged. And make no mistake about it, saying nothing is as bad as covering up such conduct and there is no, zero, chance that this is the first manifestation of this persons mental disease. Let me say that again. There is simply no way this is the first time this person has displayed these bahaviors.

I saw one comment on the video that made reference to him possibly being a veteran suffering from PTSD. I reject this outright. The commenter knows nothing about PTSD and I refuse to allow our Iraq and Afghan veterans to be painted with the same brush that so unfairly and destructively colored our view of our brave Vietnam veterans. This is not PTSD behavior it's the rantings and violence of a lunatic who possesses no self control and no courage. He is afraid and allows his fear to control his actions.

Last year I wrote about Johannes Mehserle and what went into his perceptions and actions. This is more of the same. This persons reaction and actions were based on fear coupled with an inability to face that fear and a complete lack of self control. He's a coward who believes he has the authority and backing to release his fear in the form of threats and severe, criminal misconduct. He has to know that the camera is recording what he's doing so he either does not care or can't care because his fear reaction is greater than he can contain. You can see his response escalate, especially after the arrest. It's classic bully/coward reaction.  Many of the tough guys I arrested went very quietly into handcuffs but as soon as they were snapped on they went off, secure in the knowledge that my response was limited and if I violated policy or law he would be the beneficiary. This is the same tune with different players. This person is secure in the knowledge that the arrestee is no longer a threat so he is free to vent and threaten without personal consequence. Remember, he's still not thinking about that camera. The camera isn't a threat to his safety and to the fear driven that is the only thing they can focus on.

Let me address training. There are two training issues here. The first is officer safety training. I've said it more than once but it bears repeating, again and again if necessary. Our cops are being scared out of their wits by their officer safety training. There are four major officer safety incidents that are used in most (and more probably all) officer safety training programs. There may be others used locally but these four really define the core of that training.
The Newhall Massacre
FBI Miami
North Hollywood
In each the trainer explains the hazards of lax officer security (and it is a killer) and how to avoid these particular pitfalls. In officer safety training we typically see scenario training in which the trainee is presented with a vague situation (car stop, domestic violence call, etc.) and thrown into the fire. The problem comes in what the trainers do during the training and more importantly, what they don't do. What generally happens is that the situation goes so totally bad that the trainee can't take the time to make rational decisions, form a plan or respond in any way that will salvage the scenario short of violence and bloodshed.
Here's an example; It's a car parked blacked out on a rarely used road at o'darkthirty. You see two men in the front seat. Ready? Go. Our intrepid trainee, already completely stressed out from the knowledge that failures will get him kicked out of the academy and on edge from the wide eyed and panicky looks of those who came before him (but who are sworn to secrecy) and the reputation of the training, approaches the scene. He's keyed up and more than a bit scared. He does things exactly as he's been trained but suddenly the passenger gets out and runs, the driver starts banging away with a hidden gun and the trunk suddenly pops open to reveal a machete wielding madman. Never happen? This was a routine scenario in my Academy training. When I was a firearms instructor we had three rules we had to live by. The training had to be Recent, Relevant and Realistic. Training had to include don't shoot targets and scenarios as well as those with targets to be ventilated until neutralized. Common sense right? Not so in officer safety training. There we see only situations where all has gone to hell. What's the result? Officers on routine calls expecting the world to end every single time. They're so amped up they're literally on hair triggers. Yes, we need to guard and protect ourselves but we also need to guard and protect the populace we are sworn to protect and serve. Officer safety training needs to be revamped with more emphasis on reasonable responses to routine occurrences and less "let''s see how bad we can scare them because then we'll seem like total badasses for having done the job they're trying to acquire the skills for." Billy Badass has no more place in officer safety training than Casper Milquetoast. They're two sides of the same coin. Mature, common sense training where officers are taught to be calm, aware and in control at all times are vital. Add in unstable personalities and you get disaster.
You can tell a lot about an agency by watching it's officers on routine calls, and this was a very routine contact. I'll break down just a small part of the contact to make the point. First, the stop wasn't called in until after physical contact was made. No no.  Second they made the contacts haphazardly. Everyone can stay in the car, everyone can get out (and sit on the curb) or you can make contact one at a time with the rest either in the car or on the curb being watched by the fill officer. To leave one in while the other two are out requires the primary officer and fill officer both to divide their attention. That is a real officer safety issue (not a manufactured one). It is beyond my ability to describe what a bad idea it is to have one person (suspect) outside the car being watched by one officer, another cuffed and in the car being watched by the same officer while the other officer does a car search with the remaining person (suspect) behind the wheel! It's poor tactically and is indicative of poor or nonexistent training. Not the sign of an agency that takes it's training and therefore retention responsibilities seriously. Any officer who engaged in such contacts in a truly professional agency would be identified and trained up or escorted to the door. Behavior like this is what officer safety training is supposed to be about. Doing things properly and carefully negates 90 percent of the dangers and makes sure the officers are prepared for the unexpected 10 percent.

The second training issue is in evaluation. We have a system where officers are evaluated (commonly daily while on FTO and in the Academy, monthly of yearly during probation and after) but where the priorities are skewed. The real culprit is money. In California it typically takes ten months to a year to produce a solo patrol officer. That's ten months of paying a salary and benefits for an officer who may be doing the job but isn't filling out a roster slot. He's riding with his FTO and undergoing on the job training and evaluation. Add in the cost of an Academy and by the time he's ready to be a name on the daily lineup he's cost the agency a significant percentage of their ever shrinking training budget. The agency is inclined to keep him unless he's an absolute fuckup. I can tell you with absolute certainty (because I was either directly involved or close friends with the FTO officers who were and privy to the details) that unfit officers are retained with regularity and sometimes with dreadful results. There are a variety of tools they use including "extended FTO" and "Close Supervision". Whatever justification it boils down to an issue of money. Many agencies (most?) will give an officer every chance to pass that they can find or invent and hope that the decision doesn't come back to bute them on the ass.

Retention. Negligent Training, Negligent Retention, Failure to Train are all buzzwords pounded into my head during FTO training but routinely ignored or down played by administration. I, and many others I know, have recommended dismissing a candidate officer as completely unfit only to be denied and watched as he was shipped off to a promotion minded FTO. It's as if the words Vicarious Liability don't have any meaning. Am I ranting? Good because I've seen unfit officers pass FTO and go on to solo careers that still give me night sweats. I'm expecting to one day testify about that trainee I evaluated and recommended against retaining only to be overruled. Expecting. If that doesn't give you pause you need to check your pulse. The bottom line is that the system is set up to retain those it should be dismissing before they get to that late night car check call. I know it's tough to find and hire good people but we can, we must, do better than this. I'm passionate about this because the stakes are so high. The standards for hiring, training and retention must reflect that. Far, far better to work alone than with a hysteric, craven bully. Officers are supposed to be selected for their inate ability to handle stressful situations calmly and with a clear head but far too many are hired and retained without possessing those critical skills. They can and must be identified and weeded out. We expect our officers to be aggressive and inquisitive. They need to be out there, nosing around and asking questions. That is how crime is prevented. But this is absurd and, from a purely crime prevention perspective, counterproductive.

All this is a failure in leadership, all the way down the line, both at the agency and government levels. The FTO's who passed this person failed and are negligent. The command staff who agreed to promote him off FTO training and into patrol failed and are negligent. The supervisors who either refused to see or lacked the ability to identify his obvious issues failed and are negligent. The government in charge of the police department (Mayor, City Council, City Manager, whathaveyou) that has allowed their department to fall into such disrepair that this person was hired and retained failed and are negligent. In any and all cases this person should have been identified as unfit or in need of basic and continuous training and observation. He has to be identified and removed. Has. To. Anything else is abject failure and negligence. This systemic failure on the part of the city of Canton and Canton PD is inexcusable.

Look, I love my brothers and sisters in law enforcement with a deep and abiding love. They do a job that is so difficult and so filled with pitfalls and arcane rules and regulations it would give most people an ulcer. It's mostly thankless, dangerous and difficult. A beat cop needs to be part den mother, part psychologist and part superman. He needs the patience of Job, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, above average physical skills and a very large dose of common sense. It's an impossible job filled with very fallible people. This isn't that fallibility. This is the actions of a cowardly bully who never should have had the badge in the first place. They need to be removed, or better yet cut off before they ever get a chance to be put into this situation in the first place. Hiring, training and retention are the keys. Make sure your agency is doing the job you're paying them to do.

And to the puke we see in this in that video; no, to both of the pukes we see in that video. I can't say it any plainer than this. I'm ashamed of both of you. You have tarnished the men and women I love so very much. You caused pain and fear where they were uncalled for. You made an arrest that was unwarranted. You displayed cowardice in the face of no adversity. You failed to self correct or bear witness. You failed you miserable pieces of shit.

Fuck You. Both of you.

Six and Sarge

Update: Go and read the comment to this post by Murphy's Law and keep in mind that this is a man who was involuntarily pulled from front line service due to a severe injury suffered in the line of duty. After he finished rehab and was ready and able to take up those duties again he was refused and turned away because his administration was as stupid as Canton PD's. Now ask yourself who you'd rather have answer your call for help or back you up on a hot call, Murphy's Law or the putz in the video. Then ask yourself why Murphy's law couldn't get his job back in spite of a clearly demonstrated ability to do the job but officer sphincter boy could keep his in spite of a clearly demonstrated inability. The system is broken and until it's addressed and fixed expect to keep seeing more like this. Take if from me, the two morons in the video couldn't carry Murphy's Laws spare leg and yet he's the one on the sidelines. Makes me angry and it should you too.

Update 2: Fixed for clerical errors. I really need to do a better job previewing these things. My report writing instructor would be aghast.


Borepatch said...

You're getting as wordy as I do, but this was an excellent post.

Borepatch said...

Oh, and I want you training my local PD.

Six said...

Thanks BP. Hey, I learned from the best!

Six said...

They'd hate me BP. Hate. I used to give my trainees nightmares because my standards were so high. The standards whould be all but unachievable precisely to stop people like this from becoming police officers. I'm passionate about this because the stakes are so high.

Murphy's Law said...

Yet my old agency continues to water down the training standards and skimp on searching for the best candidates, instead hiring pretty much anyone who can pass the written test and background and then dropping the training standards to keep from washing so many of these future slaps out. The result: new rookie classes filled with young men and women who just want government jobs with guns and badges who don't want to do any proactive policing, especially after riding with burnt-out FTIs who beat into them the fact that all they need to do is show up on time and answer the radio in order to get along here. End result: Permanent employees who aren't worth a pail of warm spit as cops and who, when the shitstorm hits, are totally unsuited to the task because most were never warriors in the first place and the few that had the potential had it stomped out of them by their lazy-assed peers and a lack of realistic in-service or refresher.

Six said...

Amen brother. It is a crying fucking shame bordering on criminal stupidity that those people denied your return yet assholes like this moron get hired as your replacement (figuratively speaking). Makes me raging angry and is the exact reason that we're seeing so many abject failures in uniform.

Ed Rasimus said...

Excellent from first word to last and clearly the voice of someone who has BTDT in royal flush spades.

The problem goes right to the top and by that I mean the politically correct/corrupt elected officials who arbitrarily set the policy and by definition the climate of the entire organization.

At the ultimate level the perfect example of what I'm saying here is Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano.

Six said...

Thanks Ed and your example is spot on. As a leader yourself I know you are all too intimately acquainted with failures in the command and political structure. The problem is we know how to fix the car but no one will let us under the hood.

Blue said...

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Six said...

Thanks Blue. Officers like Sarge and Murphy's Law and myself must bear witness precisely because we know exactly what the problems are and what must be done to fix them. It's important for everyone, officers or not, to be active, engaged and working on solutions. In order for that to be possible knowledge must be shared and acted upon.