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Hullabaloo


Thursday, November 05, 2015

 

Lack of good order, discipline and supervision

by Tom Sullivan

A friend who worked for a local news crew once got to ride with police officers practicing tactical driving on the training center's skid pad. "You do not want to mess with them afterwards," he told me. "They are so pumped full of adrenaline they could really hurt you." One officer admitted that once while swinging his nightstick to knock a fleeing suspect off his feet, he had broken the man's arm.

Adrenaline. Is that all there is to it?

Najee Rivera panicked when two Philadelphia police officers pulled him over on his motor scooter in May 2013, reportedly for running a stop sign. Raw Story takes up the story:

“To be honest, I was afraid,” Rivera said. “I saw them get out of their car with nightsticks. I heard one of them call me a spic. I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I took off. I shouldn’t have, but I was scared of them.”

Given recent, highly publicized police encounters, he may have had reason to be scared.

Rivera took off — at a blazing 25 mph — on his scooter. The police cruiser rolled up behind him. An arm shot out the passenger side and knocked him off the bike and, as he lay injured, the officers beat Rivera until his nose was broken, his eye socket damaged, and his gashes "required 38 surgical staples to his head and 18 stitches to his face." Their report said Rivera had "slammed one into a wall" and thrown elbows.

After Rivera's girlfriend went door to door in the neighborhood and found a surveillance video that captured the moment, the two officers were arrested for "multiple charges of assault and filing false reports."

David Krajicek reports on the psychology of the encounters:

“It’s called contempt of cop or POP: pissing off police,” says Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminologist and leading expert on police violence and pursuits. “These guys have a sworn duty to catch the bad guys, and that becomes an overwhelming instinct when someone runs from them. They’re going to try to catch them.”

And when they do, bad things often happen. Nothing seems to transform an otherwise reasonable police officer into a crazed beast faster than someone who flees.

Adrenaline, yes, says emeritus professor of criminology at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Sam Walker. But training is supposed to teach officers how to "curb instincts and impulses and to act rationally and carefully” under stress.

Time to recall the textbooks?

“None of these cases ever begins with an officer saying, I’m going to go out and kill somebody,” Alpert told me. “But the process is the same. You get ramped up, you get excited, and you get yourself deeply invested emotionally in a pursuit. You think what you’re doing is right, you believe what you’re doing is right, but it turns out not to be right.”

Former Atlanta cop Gregory Gilbertson who teaches criminal justice in the Seattle area calls most pursuits “totally unwarranted.” It indicates “a lack of good order, discipline and supervision in the field.” He continues:

“Everyone asks the same question about the Freddie Gray case,” says Gregory Gilbertson. “’Why was he running? If he’s so innocent, what made him run?’ Well, I don’t care what Freddie Gray was doing and why he ran…Just because they run from you doesn’t justify you chasing them. Simply looking at a police officer and taking off running is not a crime. Is it suspicious? Yes. But it’s not a crime….Maybe they’re afraid and just want to get away. We should always remember that a certain segment of the American population has never had a good experience with a police officer.”

And people like Rivera are turning up dead and hospitalized over "chicken crap stuff."

Isn't the whole point of training to teach officers to perform professionally in a crisis in spite of  the tunnel vision produced by fear and adrenaline? If police academies were public schools, we would blame the teachers and their unions, amirite?