Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Assume The Position ... of Risk

This Washpo piece is infuriating on a number of levels.

For instance, his discussion here:
And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go. Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers must cease use of force.

pretty much contradicts everything before and after it. "You don't have to submit" ... but don't resist?  "You can refuse consent" but do what the cops tell you, etc.  Just so much utter crap here.   I could just refer to an epic rant by Joshua Foust, but I do want to focus on a key element here.  "An average cop is always concerned with his or her safety and tries to control every encounter."

In the McChrystal stage of Afghanistan, there was an effort to develop "courageous restraint."  The idea is that shooting first was bad for winning hearts and minds or building confidence or whatever.  So, the soldiers were asked not to shoot if there was a risk of collateral damage.

In American policing (or the policing in any democracy), we tend to think that asking the cops to engage in restraint pretty much all of the time.  People call it militarization, but I think that helps cause us to lose focus on this key aspect: that there has been a decline in the willingness of police officers to assume risk.  That in any interaction, bad things can happen, and if the cop is restrained, it is possible that they will get hit before they shoot.  So, it might seem like we should give the cops the ability to act more quickly and even pre-emptively.  The problem is that this then shifts the risks, the burden, to the citizens.  

And that is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Yes, I am not a police officer, so it can be mighty big of me to ask them to take the risks BUT THAT IS THE JOB.  The job of the police officer is to protect and serve.  And the missing words there are public--to protect the public and serve the public and not themselves.

Zero casualty tolerance might mean that the American forces in Bosnia spent most of the time behind the wire.  It meant not fulfilling the mission, but did not directly endanger the public (indirectly? sure).  Zero casualty tolerance in the US for the officers means endangering the public.

This is all without adding the complication of race which is clearly in play here (shooter may not have been a racist, but the police responses certainly seem to be).  This shifting of risk is huge and then gets even more dangerous once race does come into play.  Which means we really need to re-think what the job of the police is and perhaps return to basics--protect and serve.

Oh, and the refusal to give one's name or badge number because they fear "Anonymous" might hack them?  Suck it up.  You are a public servant--be ready to be accountable for your work.  Or quit the job.

1 comment:

Steven Greene said...

Great points. That column was absolutely horrible. And this is a better post than the one I was going to write on it and never did.