Force Science News #273:

Readers address tough challenge: Educating civilians on cop realities

The last issue of Force Science News, which featured a call to action by Lt. Glen Mills to educate the media and the public on the realities of police use of force, provoked the greatest response from readers we've ever received.

 

Here is a representative sampling of the emails that filled our inbox, edited in some cases for brevity and clarity.

 

In addition, we have posted a special item on the Force Science website that you may find useful. It's a Power Point presentation created by Dr. Richard Johnson of the University of Toledo's CJ program, which addresses "community concerns" about the force controversy. "Feel free to utilize or distribute this presentation as widely as you wish," Johnson writes.

 

CLICK HERE to download the presentation.

 

Key elements of an aggressive campaign to regain trust

The time is right to mount an aggressive, proactive campaign to regain the trust of the nation.

 

"No comment" can no longer be our standard response to use-of-force controversies. We need to respond at several levels, from the grass roots talks given every day by officers to local service clubs to offering expert opinions and education to national news media that might be willing to hear the facts.

 

We have many national LE organizations that, if they came together, could begin an organized campaign, to include:

 

• Developing educational talking points;

 

• Establishing a web-based forum to provide training videos and PPTs that agencies can use;

 

• Organizing a national group of savvy, force-educated administrators to be available as speakers for rallies, community forums, and media requests. (In all the coverage after the recent major incidents I heard only one commentator mention Graham v. Connor and its application.)

 

We must be prepared to respond to media immediately with science and facts regarding use-of-force incidents. I stand ready to assist in any way I can.

 

Doug Tangen, Training mgr./force coordinator

Idaho POST Academy

Certified Force Science Analyst

 

Let's try a "Law Enforcement Handcuff Challenge!"

I'm thinking of starting a new social media craze, like the Ice Bucket Challenge. Non-LEOs are called out and have to handcuff a noncompliant subject without resorting to those things they consider police brutality; i.e., choking, hitting, grabbing the neck, Tasing, etc. The "suspect" won't hit the "LEO" but will try to take away his or her fake gun. If the pretend-cop can't get the cuffs on in under a minute, they have to resort to "brutality" or the "perp" takes their gun, and they lose.

 

DEA Spcl. Agt. John Nitti

Latham, NY

 

Simulator training for civilians: "Zero negative experiences"

Our agency for several years has provided our POST simulator class for our grand juries, DA's office, and civic groups. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with zero negative experiences. Comments range from "Thank you for what you do" to "You could not pay me enough to do your job."

 

We focus on case law, the penal code, and department policy. These groups, including members of the DA's staff, need guidance in the use of various force options since they have little to no real-world experience with our tools. Each scenario is debriefed as to justification for use of force, just as we do for officers. We include the active involvement of the audience as witnesses and their application of case law, policy, and penal codes as spectators. It is very eye-opening for 15 civilians who just witnessed a scenario to not be able to give an accurate account of number of shots fired, suspect descriptions, what actually happened, etc.

 

For our next class, we will provide training to Shasta Citizens Against Racism (SCAR). To their credit, the group's leadership is looking for accurate information and wanted to schedule this training before an event they have planned addressing the issues as known to them in Ferguson.

 

Admin. Sgt. Casey Bokavich

Redding (CA) PD

 

Proposed laws tighten justification for deadly force

In the Missouri Senate, two Democrats have each pre-filed separate bills regarding the use of lethal force by LEOs.

 

One bill, specifies that an officer is justified in shooting a suspect only if all other means of arrest have been exhausted or are unavailable, the officer has warned the suspect, and the officer reasonably believes the suspect is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon. Any officer who fires on an unarmed person positioned 20 feet or more away would be immediately suspended without pay until after an investigation.

 

The other bill mandates that whenever an officer is involved in the death or injury of a person, the attorney general must appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the case. [Ed. Note: According to news reports, this proposed measure also specifies that tear gas can be used only during declared states of emergency and "only if a third party, such as Amnesty International, is in the area to make sure it is humanely used."]

 

Capt. Keith R. Hoskins, Asst. Detention Director

Boone Cnty. (MO) SD

 

More misguided & restrictive legislation feared

Currently in many states the law requires that civilians must retreat if possible prior to their use of lethal force. With the uninformed outcry regarding use of Tasers, shooting to wound, warning shots, and shooting weapons from the hands of offenders, I can imagine a legislator introducing legislation that would further encumber our officers from defending themselves and third parties. If we fail to be proactive in educating our citizens, they will continue to be led down the misguided path of television and movies.

 

Dayle Hammock

Coroner/death investigator (ret.)

Routt Cnty. Coroner's Office

Steamboat Springs, CO

 

Create short videos on the science of force

With the prevalence of social media and platforms like YouTube out there it would be fairly easy to put together some 10-15 min. videos, addressing one force-related topic at a time from a scientific standpoint.

 

Ptl. Ofcr./SWAT oper. Joshua McKissick

Bellingham (WA) PD

 

Media misinformation problem is global

A social media campaign that addresses lethal force and dispels the myths (shooting for the limbs, the limitations of handguns, ballistic realities, and the increase in the use of edged and blunt weapons against police and how dangerous they actually are) is essential. But make it global, because the problem is global.

 

Here in Australia, we have had seven OIS incidents in the past year; four individuals were fatally injured. There is public outcry here as well, with the usual misinformation permeating through the media.

 

Sr. Const. John Morrisey

Queensland (Australia) Police Service

 

Media change hinges on better ratings

Change how the media portrays use-of-force incidents and you will change how the country views them. I am not the least bit optimistic that the media will have any interest in changing. Still, a strong, coordinated, and aggressive movement placed upon them to do so may be worthy of considering if we can show how doing so will create better ratings for them. ?

 

Tracy Schiller, training specialist

Kentucky Regional Community Policing Institute

Richmond, KY

 

"Why such an outcry?"

I am fascinated as to why there is such outcry about this topic [police use of force] and not outcry about the 210,000 to 440,000 patients each year who, according to the Journal of Patient Safety, go to the hospital for care and suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.

 

I implore everyone who chimes in on incidents involving the police to educate themselves before forming an opinion. I firmly believe the media is fueling this fire for the sake of ratings as they are like any other business--they exist to make money.

 

Should we strive to strengthen the relationships between the police and ALL communities? Of course. Should we always seek to improve on how the police operate? Absolutely. But don't jump to conclusions about how wrong the police are in doing an almost impossible job in an environment where you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

 

There are a thousand reasons why a cop should never exit his/her patrol car throughout a shift. Yet, they do it anyway, knowing each day the legal and physical dangers involved. I have had several friends/coworkers who've been shot or otherwise seriously injured (broken femurs, ankles, arms, torn muscles, etc.) trying to do what so many are not willing to do. One has had numerous surgeries on damage to her neck and now suffers from chronic pain that prevents her from leading the life she had before encountering and attempting to arrest an unarmed man beating his wife. He drove my friend head first into the pavement, forcing her brainstem down and compressing her spine (if I understand it correctly).

 

Educating the public with real, provable conclusions is the only way for us to counter the rhetoric we're seeing, and it will likely take organizations such as the IACP and FOP which have some financial resources to mount a campaign that includes citizen academies, advertising in mainstream publications, and various other strategies.

 

Asst. Prof. Rich Martin

CJ program director, Accelerated Studies for Adults

Keuka College

Keuka Park, NY

 

Research vs. "camera-grabbing pundits"

The next time you hear a camera-grabbing pundit spouting off about "aggressive police targeting unarmed black youth," consider the following research findings.

 

A person lying prone and spread-eagled on the ground, 10 ft. from you, head facing away, can be on top of your chest with their hands around your neck in less than three seconds. Don't believe me? Try it with a friend. Suspects even in full, four-point hogtie restraint have been known to injure officers.

 

Law enforcement deadly force encounters do most often involve white officers and minority citizens, but this is due to the demographics of most high-crime communities, which have a predominantly Anglo police department and predominantly minority citizenry. There is no evidence that white cops "target" minority citizens. Young black males are more likely to be affected by deadly force encounters because young males of any race or ethnicity are disproportionately involved in aggressive confrontations of all sorts.

 

All things being equal, three factors are associated with lower rates of police deadly force encounters in a community: 1) higher overall educational level of the rank-and-file patrol force, 2) higher investment in mental health response and verbal crisis intervention training, and 3) greater efforts at police-community relationship-building.

 

Ironically, the trend of most police agencies toward utilizing less-than-lethal force procedures may become the basis for even more strident accusations of police brutality, where physically restraining a suspect in lieu of shooting, Tasing, or clubbing him--often at considerably increased risk to the officer--is then vilified as gratuitous manhandling.

 

Dr. Laurence Miller, police psychologist

Royal Palm Medical Centre

Boca Raton, FL

 

Monitor social sites to stop lies

All departments have an affirmative duty to IMMEDIATELY get on the airwaves as soon as a high profile use-of-force case occurs in their jurisdiction. The agency needs to be out in front of any public nightmare, keeping the public informed (without breaching investigation protocols) and quickly correcting any misinformation being whipped up by any activist or vote-seeking politician.

 

I suggest that every agency have an officer assigned to every large social networking site to inform the public about the real facts, stop lies from being repeated, and hold elected officials accountable for warmongering statements.

 

Police Atty. David Demurjian

Corona del Mar, CA

 

Free lecture that "resonates well with the public"

I would be happy to present, pro bono, my lecture on the Ethical, Legal, and Tactical Dynamics of Deadly Force Encounters to any public audience on behalf of LE agencies. It seems to resonate well with the public.

 

There is a very small minority that are either uneducable or so biased that it is not worth the effort, but I sincerely believe that most Americans can be better educated in these matters. It takes more than a 10-sec. news flash, but the fight is worth the effort.

 

Also watch for the forthcoming book, Virtuous Policing: Bridging America's Gulf Between Police and Populace. It explains in laymen's terms why police make decisions they do in situations that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.

 

David Bolgiano

Chief counsel/sr. partner

Countermeasure Consulting Group

Wilmington, DE

Certified Force Science Analyst

 

"Why'd You Stop Me?"

Please check out the "Why'd You Stop Me" program by Long Beach (CA) PD officer Jason Lehman, at wysm.org and also on Facebook.

 

His program addresses police/citizen contact issues and has been instrumental in changing public perception about the job of police and the threats police face. Though in place long before Ferguson, the program relates directly to current hot button issues.

 

Det. Chris Coseglia

California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division

Commerce, CA

 

Enlightening those "sitting on the fence"

The public is being force-fed a terrible misconception that the use of deadly force by police is a race-driven and/or common occurrence. It is neither.

 

A coordinated response and website to educate the public and dispel use-of-force mythology is an excellent idea. I believe we have many defenders outside of law enforcement who are frustrated by the lack of easily accessible, easy to understand information with which to confront the cherry-picked data and sound bites used by the media and our detractors. I have my doubts that it could ever sway firmly entrenched bias, but it could enlighten those who are sitting on the fence.

 

Lt. E. B. Van Arsdale

Ponca City (OK) Police Dept.

 

How a national education resource center could help

A national education resource center could both assist police departments dealing with critical incidents and educate politicians and the public by providing:

 

1. Consultation and training to law enforcement in Force Science, critical incident management, and community and media relations.

 

2. Actively liaison and consult with media to educate the public on Force Science principles and police use-of-force standards, as well as provide perspective on critical incidents as they arise. (Wouldn't it be fantastic if every time a police use-of-force incident occurred, media networks would automatically reach out to a person knowledgeable in Force Science and crime scene analysis for their perspective?)

 

3. Enlist qualified speakers for agencies to use to address public forums, legislative bodies, and other community groups.

 

4. Provide training and direct assistance to PDs in developing educational social media methods.

 

5. Assist agencies in expanding their websites to better inform the public on the good things police are doing.

 

6. Actively pursue outside funding sources for research and training to minimize costs to police agencies.

 

FBI Spcl. Agt. Gary Graff (ret.)

Independent consultant/police instructor

Broken Arrow, OK

 

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.