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Policing as an Avocation

I ran into a High-School special education teacher that applied to the LAPD. During the police academy interview, he was asked why he wanted to join the force. In response to the reply “I want to help people lead safer lives,” he was told “Don’t quit your day job.” My friend was later apprised that most of the LAPD saw itself as manning the front lines in ethnic and criminal wars. Rather than a culture of public service, they saw themselves as warriors.

Most warriors come back after a couple of years with severe psychological trauma. Considering a career of twenty or more years under similar stresses, we would expect most police officers to have side effects. John Violanti summarizes some of the health statistics for The Conversation.

Also today I came across a piece by Redditt Hudson, a minority police officer, sharing an insider’s perspective on police misconduct at Vox. Police work and disciplinary practices may allow aggressive officers to become progressively more aggressive as their testosterone levels rise through successful confrontation. Hudson observes that 15% of the force create the problem of misconduct, and their aggression draws others into dangers that force them to emulate their behavior.

A senior sheriff once told me that his principal role was to rein in the younger officers. It’s important that civilian authorities recognize the link between the tough and aggressive conduct that safeguards the public and the descent into psychopathic aggression – such as manifests in faces slammed against walls. In Ferguson, where this was allowed to rise unchecked, the only way forward was to fire the entire department and start over from scratch.

7 thoughts on “Policing as an Avocation

  1. Police recruitment and training is an important public question, to be addressed by the voters as well as the police. Without oversight, officers do not know how to keep hold of their own weapons, let alone the Bill of Rights. Lately, the question has been raised as to weather police shootings are intentionally fatal to avoid the legal implications of letting one live, once shot, to sue and testify.

    • One way to resolve that would be to compare the lethality of police shootings against shootings in other countries, or by other security services.

      There’s also been sad talk of “suicide by police.”

    • Please view the video of the shooting of the 17 year old in Eaton County, Michigan, and consider why these people are being shot 4, 7 and 16 times. The question is: Do police have an unwritten teaching to make sure these shootings are fatal, even for legal reasons, their own interests in avoiding lawsuits and sticky questions. Eaton County determined that no charges would be filed in the death of the 17 year old, and we have not even heard of a reprimand for the officer. The Chicago shooting, of 16 shots, has brought the charge of murder. The Minneapolis case, the man was shot four times, and no ambulence called, at least for a while, while he died in front of his girlfriend there. There was sad talk of his reaching for his wallet, as ordered by the cop, to produce his license.

    • I have to admit that I have trouble generalizing from the stories that I read. I have seen a situation in which I believe multiple shots were fired by multiple officers in order to avoid a certain determination as to who fired the bullet that killed a victim who was known to be armed, having been seen slashing tires. I have seen a single officer looking for an armed robber in whose voice I heard clearly “Oh, shit. I fucked up!” I have seen a chaotic situation in which police involved in a car chase were firing at a man fleeing on foot, and intercepting officers down the street ended up believing that he was armed. These were all in different precincts, with different policies and procedures. To me, it seems likely that these were situations in which the officers went off the reservation under the influence of adrenaline and testosterone. Whether they reflect the typical police shooting seems unlikely: otherwise they wouldn’t receive the media attention that they do.

    • But is there a policy, written or unwritten, that teaches them to empty their guns into these victims? We, the citizens, need to ask the police if there is such a policy, like that saying about dragging the guy into the window for legal reasons. What accounts for the appearances we are seeing? The Minneapolis shooting was so obviously an innocent shot in error. Why four times, and why no ambulance? Then five cops get shot. If there is such a policy, we need to help the cops out here, because they do not know that it will lead to civil violence, as in Baltimore and Dallas, before which nothing was done and police were not held accountable. The prosecutors are their buddies, and will not press charges. Now that everyone is armed, the police are very nurvous, and are shooting too soon, in video after video on the Internet. In Eaton County, the cop had his low beams set bright so he could pull people over when they flashed their brights, which no one knows is a ticket. Who taught these cops the Bill of Rights? No one: They have not read it and do not understand its principles.

    • What I have heard said is that federal standards should be said for police training programs. We have also seen a number of major city PDs subjected to federal oversight, typically because the had become over militarized, leading to a lack of regard for citizen rights. So I agree with the direction you are suggesting, and I believe that what we will eventually see is a loss of independence by local police departments, much as we have seen a loss of independence by local school districts.

    • Too bad we cannot upright things locally. The Feds are most helpful regarding the infiltration of the State and local PD’s by organized crime, which will occur more where there is no oversight. But it is in fear of the local powers that we even make suggestions, such as training to keep hold of weapons or a brief reading, at least of the Bill of Rights. While the Feds might help, the State police are under the Governors, who have a share of sovereignty, so if we, the citizens do not insist upon and elect especially sheriffs and chiefs who understand the difference between liberty and tyranny, we will suffer the civil unrest. We have a guy ready to impose “law and order” who does not understand the law and has not read the Constitution.

      P. S. Did you hear Hillary use your “Man behind the curtain” idea? There is an outside possibility that they picked it up off my reblog. What fun! Keep up the good work!

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