POLICE USE OF FORCE

The Attack on Law Enforcement Rages On – Lack of Insight & Objectivity Alarming

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post

The horrific lack of insight and objectivity in main stream media continues to go down an extremely dark rabbit hole.

The attacks on Law Enforcement persist unabated even after the recent grotesque targeted assassinations of eight (8) police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.

“There’s Something Disturbing About the Way Cops Act Just After They’ve Shot Somebody,” was the headline attached to an article written by Julia Craven, a self-described “police violence and racial justice” reporter for the Huffington Post.

“But as scene after scene unfolds on shaky screens and in grainy contours, another element of the violence is beginning to come into focus: the pattern of officers showing no concern for the person they have shot, often fatally,” Craven writes.

She continues…

“The nonchalance around the injured and the dying is stunning in its own way.”

To support her hypothesis, Craven conducted analysis of several police involved shootings, the majority of which were fatal.

She writes;

“Letting the body lie there is a fairly common trend in these high-profile police shootings. After Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, on July 5, the officers appeared rattled by what had happened.”

I wonder just how “informed” Ms Craven is regarding the use of deadly force and the psychological and physiological effects such encounters have on police officers.

“The officers appeared rattled by what had happened.”

Imagine being a police officer in a life and death, lethal force encounter, using deadly force and not being a bit “rattled” by what happened.

Wouldn’t any normal human being be somewhat “rattled” in such a circumstance?

Ms Craven would do well to heed the advice CNN Legal Analyst and criminal defence attorney Mr. Danny Cevallos offered during the inflammatory reporting in the wake of the Ferguson riots.

“The problem is everyone becomes an expert on human emotion during times of crisis,” he said.

“Watching an Officer walking around after a shooting, I don’t know if that’s as compelling or that gives us as valuable information as hard science.”

So what’s the truth?

Are police officers robotic killers who’ve lost their humanity and see citizens as less than human beings as many of the Huffington Post commenters suggest, or is there more to the story?

Are police officers really “nonchalant” when it comes to the injured or dying?

Sadly, the Huffington Post story is yet another example of the press oversimplifying a dynamic, complex situation to the detriment of the men and women who serve and protect us.

While I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, experience tells me there is much more to the story.

Post Shooting Behavioural Impacts

During my career in Law Enforcement I was involved in many highly intense situations and investigations that included;

  • Fatal police involved shootings
  • Non-fatal police involved shootings
  • Arrests of murder suspects armed with firearms
  • Robbery suspect takedowns where shots were fired
  • Armed & Barricaded situations (SWAT)
  • High-Speed pursuits – involving armed and unarmed suspects
  • Foot pursuits – involving armed and unarmed suspects
  • Horrific murder scenes – baby deaths, dismemberment, decapitation, disembowelment
  • Horrific death scenes – gun shot wounds to the head, hangings, suicides, overdoses
  • Fatal traffic accidents

Experience gained during these events tells me there are many factors that affect the behaviour of a police officer at a critical incident or a post shooting scene.

Those factors may include, but are not limited to;

  • Adrenalin
  • Danger
  • Shock
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Trauma
  • Critical incident stress

Adrenalin

Very few people experience the kind of adrenalin rush police officers are exposed to during a critical incident.

Police officers often experience incredible “adrenalin dumps” in the moments immediately following critical incidents or a deadly force encounter.

While adrenalin can cause a euphoric rush in highly stressful situations, it can also have an adverse effect on the brain’s ability to process information, comprehend the immediate issue and develop appropriate responses to stimuli.*

Danger

Once shots are fired and a suspect is down it certainly doesn’t mean the danger immediately ceases.

Armed subjects shot multiple times by police can still present a deadly threat.  Goal oriented suspects suffering fatal wounds are still quite capable of killing police officers.

(The 1986 FBI Miami shootout with serial bank robbers William Matix and Michael Platt is a classic example. Both suspects were hit multiple times during the shootout and still managed to wound and kill agents.)

Police officers are trained to be cautious in the approach and to handcuff downed subjects for officer safety purposes.

The hands of an armed dying man can be exceedingly dangerous.

Officer safety has to come first.

Shock

Have you ever seen what shock looks like.

Deadly force encounters are extremely intense, stressful events.

These encounters often happen with lightening speed leaving the officer overwhelmed with the after effects of sensory overload, stress, adrenaline and emotional trauma.

When the dust settles police officers are often left in a state of shock and confusion.

Fear

Police officers experience fear like anyone else.

A deadly force encounter presents many elements of fear for the subject officer.

  • Fear of the deadly force threat.
  • Fear of the person who precipitated the deadly force encounter.
  • Fear of the continuing threat.
  • Fear of dealing with serious or fatal injuries with only basic first aid training.
  • Fear of other potential threats.
  • Fear of hostile onlookers in the case of urban deadly force encounters.

Fear is known to impair judgment and the cognitive thinking processes.

Hence the expression “paralyzed by fear.”

It’s a real thing.

Anger

Most people live out their lives without ever having to defend themselves from people who try to kill them.

I’m sure that’s true for Ms Craven.

No one has ever violently attacked her or tried to kill her because of her work as a Huffington Post journalist covering “police violence” and racial justice issues.

Yet she sits in judgement of those who have experienced such attacks.

Police officers are frequent targets of violent assaults, with and without weapons.  Attacks on police officers can be highly intense, emotionally traumatizing events.

That aside, it can be very difficult to switch from using lethal force to defend yourself from a deadly attack to playing the role of a paramedic to save the life of someone who just tried to kill you.

The expectation is that police officers should be able to flip that switch in a matter of seconds.

I can assure you it’s easier said than done.

Trauma

Police officers are not immune from work related emotional trauma.

Police officers involved in deadly force encounters are almost always traumatized. The degree and severity of the trauma varies depending on a number of factors.

PTSD in Law Enforcement is only starting to be recognized as a serious issue for police officers.

People react to trauma in variety of ways.

Trauma can have many effects on a police officer involved in a deadly force encounter:

  • it may impair the officers cognitive ability
  • it may trigger intense emotional responses, or conversely, may cause the officer to withdraw or become numb
  • it may cause the officer to suffer distortion of time and space, auditory exclusion or tunnel vision
  • it may enhance feelings of depersonalization, dissociation or derealization
  • it may intensify feelings associated with the siege mentality

Critical Incident Stress

Police Organizations are only beginning to understand the vast impacts of critical incident stress and PTSD.

The impacts of critical incident stress are generally categorized in four distinct areas:

  • Physical Signs
  • Cognitive Signs
  • Emotional Signs
  • Behavioural Signs

Relevant cognitive sign impacts have been identified, but are not limited to the following:

  • Confusion
  • Poor attention
  • Poor decision-making
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased or decreased awareness of surroundings
  • Poor problem solving
  • Loss of time, place or person orientation
  • Disturbed thinking

Critical incident amnesia (memory impairment) can also be caused from exposure to critical incident stress.

Reality Bites

In reality, you can find plenty of examples of police officers rendering first aid to suspects who’ve been shot or injured in deadly force encounters with law enforcement.

I suspect any competent researcher could find far more examples of police officers rendering 1st aid or CPR to fatally wounded suspects than instances of ambivalent officers standing around watching people die.

But that doesn’t fit the narrative in the Huffington Post story.

There’s another tremendously disturbing angle in the story.

“If black lives truly mattered, the police would make an attempt to save the dying.  If black lives truly mattered, the dead would be afforded more dignity. It is this lack of caring for a fellow human being in his last moments, over and above the violence itself, that reinforces the belief that black lives don’t matter.”

There you have it, another false narrative is born.

The writer found a way to inject allegations of police racism into the equation.

But wait…

Not a paragraph later she writes;

“Videos of police behaving nonchalantly after shooting white people have also come to light.”

So I ask, which scenario is it?

Is it black lives that don’t matter or are we going with white lives don’t matter?

It’s hard to believe the Huffington Post would print an article with such an extraordinary contradiction separated by a mere sixty-one (61) words.

What we have here is another blatant example of main stream media publishing poorly researched, race baiting, anti-police rhetoric designed to alter the public perception of law enforcement officers.

These kind of articles sow the seeds of judgement, hatred and discontent with police that manifests itself in the streets of Cities like Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.

You need only read the comment section in the Huff Post article to get the point.

The anti-police vitriol is alarming.

There was a time, long ago, when journalists conducted research, engaged in investigative reporting and published well written, fact based, non-biased accounts of meaningful stories, current events and political issues.

There was a time when journalists presented the facts and left it up to the reader to form their own conclusions.

There was a time.

“Letting the Body Lie There is a Fairly Common Trend”

In the aftermath of a fatal police involved shooting the decision to move the body becomes the sole discretion of the Medical Examiner Investigator (MEI) who has complete jurisdiction over the decedent at the crime scene.

The MEI works closely with Police Crime Scene investigators.

The body becomes evidence and must be treated in accordance with proper crime scene processing protocols.

Police do not intentionally leave deceased bodies laying in the street to emotionally damage family members or send a message to the community.

Police in Ferguson, Missouri faced tremendous criticism in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting after they left his body lying face down in the street for four hours.

“I am not trying to in any way excuse or justify why this took so long, I’m just saying this is what happened,” explained Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

Issues that affected the expedient removal of Brown’s body included;

  • Limited personnel (The shooting occurred on a Saturday)
  • Safety issues created by a large hostile crowd
  • Shots fired in the area after the shooting
  • Tactical Operations – SWAT team called out to secure scene so Medical Examiner Investigator could work in a safe environment
  • CSI investigations – detailed, time-consuming work

The Michael Brown case is an extreme example.

The Final Analysis;

The Huffington Post article raised a legitimate question regarding police officer post shooting conduct during the aftermath of deadly force encounters.

The lack of investigative reporting and decision to engage in sensationalistic race baiting is regrettable.

Perceptions of police officer indifference must be taken seriously.

Police agencies must be alert to the issue raised in the article and ensure police officer training addresses the need to immediately engage in life saving efforts once a suspect is downed in a deadly force encounter.

Police officer and public safety must remain the primary consideration before life saving efforts can be safely performed.

It’s important to remember police officers only receive basic first aid training and do not have the skill sets or equipment to perform advanced life saving techniques.

That’s why dispatchers send EMT’s and Paramedics to shots fired calls.

It’s equally important to remember that perception isn’t always reality.

I’ll let you make up your own mind on that.

Police Involved Shootings Noted in Article

Charles Kinsey – North Miami

  • African-American behavioural therapist accidentally shot and wounded by officer responding to 911 call regarding man with a gun. The case is still under investigation.

Alton Sterling – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

New York Daily News - Front Page
New York Daily News – Front Page
  • African-American armed with firearm fatally shot by police during struggle for control of weapon. The case remains under investigation.

Michael Brown – Ferguson, Missouri

  • African-American man shot and killed after committing robbery and trying to disarm police officer.  The beginnings of the narrative “hands up, don’t shoot” subsequently proven false by forensic and witness evidence.

Cedrick Chatman – Chicago, Illinois

  • African-American teen shot and killed by police after fleeing from a stolen car obtained during a car jacking. Police indicate Chatman had a black cell phone case in his hand officers mistook for a firearm.

Tamar Rice – Cleveland, Ohio

  • 12-year-old African-American youth shot and killed by police responding to 911 calls indicating the boy was pointing a gun at people in a park.  The gun turned out to be a replica firearm.

Eric Harris – Tulsa Oklahoma

  • African-American man accidentally shot and killed by a Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Charles Bates (73) while being subdued after he fled from police.  Bates intended to use his taser and had no intention of using deadly force.  He was subsequently found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

LaQuan McDonald – Chicago, Illinois

  • African-American teen shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke after McDonald refused to drop knife.  Reports indicate Mcdonald was armed with a knife, was breaking into vehicles, slashed a tire on a police car and damaged its windshield.  Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in 13 seconds. He was subsequently charged with 1st degree murder.

Walter Scott – North Charleston, South Carolina

  • African-American man shot and killed by police officer Michael Slager after Scott fled on foot during a traffic stop.  Slager fired 8 shots at Scott as he fled with 5 projectiles finding their mark, 3 in the back, one in the upper buttocks and one striking one of his ears.  Slager was charged with murder after a video surfaced that contradicted his police report.
Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 9.53.20 AM
Dash Cam Video – Andrew Thomas Shooting

Andrew Thomas – Paradise, California

  • Caucasian man shot and wounded by police after he rolled his vehicle in a DUI pursuit.  Thomas’ ex-wife was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.  Officer Patrick Feaster drew his firearm to challenge Thomas as he exited the damaged vehicle.  Feaster accidentally discharged his weapon striking Thomas in the neck instantly paralyzing him from the neck down.  Thomas died of complications from the gun shot wound.  Feaster was originally cleared of charges only to be charged with manslaughter when the case was re-opened.

Kajieme Powell – St Louis, Missouri

  • African-American man shot and killed by police in St. Louis after stealing from a store, brandishing a knife and aggressively approaching and challenging police to shoot him.

Freddy Gray – Baltimore, Maryland

  • African-American man fatally injured during transport with police in a prisoner transport van.  Six police officers charged with a variety of offences by DA Marilyn Mosby.  All officers subsequently cleared in the case.  Mosby now faces allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

*Policeone.com article by Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL. (ret)

One Comment

  1. Ahhh James, you know what they say about pointing a finger….you point three back at yourself. In your effort to highlight “lack of insight and objectivity in mainstream media”, you dug the hole three feet deeper. When Police Officers are killed – you describe them as “grotesque targeted assassinations” but when citizens are killed they are criminals. I would like to suggest to you, that the Police deaths in Dallas and Baton Rouge are the result the Blue Brotherhood not holding their own to account. The Police did not win their case vs Freddie Gray. They may have won the legal trial, but in the court of public opinion, when a multi million dollar payout of taxpayer funds is extended to the family, Police have lost credibility in the eyes of the citizens. What the average person sees is a young healthy man who was running at the time, get handcuffed and thrown into a van and while in police custody, sustained injuries leading to his death. This loss is suffered by friends and family and you will never convince anyone differently as to who was responsible. Charles Kinsey, was holding his hands up, lying on his back in the middle of a street yelling to the cops, its a truck. There have been reports that 10 officers surrounded this scene. Did no one have binoculars or a scope on a long gun to confirm “the truck”. Are you telling me that these officers were too scared to approach so they could hear the word “autistic”? The bullet that ended up in Kinsey’s leg was intended for an autistic man. It was in fact a bad shot that should never have been fired. Alton Sterling, what you didn’t mention is the two officers in this case have been before internal disciplinary authorities five times for excessive force in their careers. You also don’t mention, that they took the stores video of the incident without a warrant providing legal authority to do so. Tamir Rice, Cleveland, was sitting at a Picnic Table in a gazebo area in a park and the police car came to an abrupt stop in front of him, within two seconds of stopping Officers jump out of the car and shoot him. They don’t give the child any time to explain or talk to them. James, you failed to mention that the officer that fired this fatal shot was let go from the Independence Police Force in Ohio. He was there for five short months, four of which were in the Academy. He was deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for the Police Service. In March 2014, after spending two years being denied by every police force he applied to, Timothy Loehmann received an offer from the Cleveland Police Department. They did not check his personnel files. A few months later, on November 22, 2014 at 3:30 PM, Loehmann shot and killed a 12 year-old child named Tamir Rice. He will not face charges. In the LaQuan McDonald case, you do not disclose the fact that LaQuan McDonald is walking away from the police when he was shot 16 times in 13 seconds….there appears to be new rules that officers are operating by, you get shot when you don’t follow orders…it used to be officers could only shoot you if they feared for their life. The Walter Scott case is interesting…James’s account that Officer Slager was charged with murder after a video surfaced that contradicted his police report. What is missing from this account is that the video shows Officer Slager planting evidence, Slager’s taser gun, on Walter Scott to provide justification for this shooting. He had been with the Charleston Police force for 5 years…is this the first time he has planted evidence? If he is found guilty, all previous convictions this officer had anything to do with will be called into question and possibly re-litigated. As I have pointed out before, the lack of credibility in the eyes of the citizens will not change until the Police Brotherhood start holding their own to account and speak objectively about these officers. They shouldn’t be on the force to begin with. They were not talented or gifted enough to be officers. By digging heels in the sand and stubbornly defend these individuals, your personal perspective lacks credibility. If PTSD is something that occurs in the profession and is used to justify “bad shots”, “lack of vision”, “excessive force” , then maybe we as a society should consider term limits for Police Officers. It is being considered for other 1st responders, firefighters, EMS etc….there should be no shame in admitting you are unable to serve & protect to the extent of public expectations. It would definitely save lives and reduce risk of taxpayer funded payouts.

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