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New Style of Police Training Aims to Produce Guardians, Not Warriors (washingtonpost.com)
278 points by tokenadult on Dec 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments

My first experience of American policing in action was at a hotel in Gainsville, most of which was booked out to people attending the same punk rock festival. There was a whole bunch of people hanging out by the pool in the summer afternoon, playing music of a ghetto blaster, drinking out of kegs and just generally hanging out. I think someone may have let off a firework; but the general scene was on the mellow side of rowdy.

Around 8 or so police suddenly burst out into the patio, guns drawn, shouting at people, throwing them face down onto the floor and handcuffing them. The whole thing would have been farcical if there wasn't such an underlying threat of mortal violence.

Contrast to a scene in Whitechapel, London a couple of years later; a roof party on top of a tower block. Considerably larger sound system and bigger crowd. Unsurprisingly, around 3AM one of the residents made a noise complaint.

Couple of bobbies turn up, as usual, unarmed apart from the standard issue baton; ask to speak to the organisers, give it bit of "well well well, what's going on 'ere then". Some banter ensues and a polite but assertive request to turn down the music and disperse is made, which is duely acknowledged and the party winds down/moves elsewhere.

I noticed a very similar contrast watching the UK and US police responses to these Twitch streamers who were swatted. American SWAT team bursts in and arrests streamer at gunpoint even after they've established there's no threat, while UK police knock on door, ask a few questions and leave ("We got a call saying someone killed their family here." "Oh, no, do you want to speak with my mom?" "No, that's alright").

US: https://youtu.be/TiW-BVPCbZk?t=114 UK: https://youtu.be/Kda5rv_kyGs?t=30

That's an extraordinary phenomenon I haven't come across before(Hoax calls to police giving a streamer's address). People will do really stupid things for kicks.

The thing I'd really like to get is stats on exactly how often does the SWAT team go in hard and discover a situation that might otherwise have been mortally dangerous for officers. The other side being how often have they just found some shellshocked people, maybe some recreational drugs and a gun in a closet somewhere.

Probably helps that the UK doesn't allow guns.

We do, but we just have sensible gun laws.

Basically you can have a non-automatic shotgun or rifle as long as you agree to regular stringent inspections.


Yes, it was a bit of a generalisation. You wouldn't expect people to hve a gun in their house in the UK unlike the US.

I lived in London. Across the street lived a guy dealing drugs from his window. Like a drive through. This was in a nice area in Zone 1.

Due to the noise created two or three times a week by junkies who sat down there and got high, I called the police. About once a week around 2 or 3 AM for a few months. I took pictures documenting all the action and gave them to the police. When the police arrived in time to find the screaming drug addicts outside my window, they were just as you describe: incredibly polite, and ineffective. They would ask some questions then leave.

Please think about it from the perspective of the people whose sleep is disrupted night after night after night by substance abusers screaming and drunk people carousing, before we celebrate the kind and gentle bobby.

I think you're creating a false dichotomy. A reasonable police force would start with the gentle approach and escalate as necessary; staying stuck at "gentle" is obviously not ideal, but it doesn't follow that defaulting to violent aggression at all times is the right choice.

Let me clarify then: I am not in favor of a brutal approach to policing, but I am in favor of positive action. If it is 3 AM and residents have complained and there is a very loud scene outside, that is what the British call "anti-social behaviour." There should be consequences for that--not violence certainly, but perhaps a fine, and for repeat offenders, a free trip to the precinct to wait until they are sober.

The person I replied to praised the bobbies for letting them move their party elsewhere. It's entirely possible they went on to disrupt citizens in another part of town. The way London policing works, this sort of thing can go on all night--an "anti-social behaviour crawl." It isn't fair to the people who actually live there.

I do agree with you, but there is a big difference between disruption of the peace and an immediate and dangerous situation.

Partying and anti social behaviour should be dealt with over time with care. Things like dry zones, fines for property owners, police presence and steering the crowd somewhere less impactful.

While not fair for you to deal with, the punishment needs to match the crime. Guns and violence aren't appropriate as per America, fines for property owners could be a solution, and most immediate action such as jail or on the spot fines needs to come after the situation escalates, not on a neighbour's whim.

A word and a written warning is absolutely enough to begin with, if it carries on then start to escalate consequences.

In my experience most people will either leave or tone it down when police show up. Just their presence is usually enough to let you know to keep things reasonable.

In Australia we have some massive fines for things like disturbing the peace, which is why police presence works. 300+ depending on state. But they are not enforced until absolutely nothing else has worked.

I'd argue against the police escalating. The police should take evidence only in this case. The escalation should happen through court and the legal system since there is no one in danger here.

What do you want them to do? Subpoena the drug gang?

> defaulting to violent aggression at all times is the right choice.

or at any times.

Well, I dunno, I think it's reasonable to have training and procedures to deal with actual violent criminals. There just needs to be a lot more clarity on when overwhelming force is appropriate (very, very seldom).

Well, I was referring specifically to the "defaulting."

If you think drug houses in the US aren't a thing, you're sadly mistaken.

or loud parties/people for that matter.

If you want to say that the bobbies are ineffective because gentle, go on, say it.

Not being funny, but if your first concern is a good nights sleep, why move right to the centre of one of Europe's biggest cities?

Two things that people commonly do in the centre of cities is get drunk and buy drugs. They go to parties, nightclubs, pubs, they make lots of noise. That's the whole point of cities. They are supposed to be grimy, raucous and beautiful.

If you want a good nights sleep, move to the suburbs.

London's a big place, including quite a lot of residential areas. Cities are 'supposed to be' dense places where a lot of people live and work, not hipster party drug scenes. That's a byproduct of some cities.

Your London experience mirrors all my Canada experiences with this same issue. I think the US is the outlier here.

Your Canadian experiences mirror all my US experiences.

When I was a teenager I was in the room when police bust into a place with guns drawn. This was in a white/affluent area where mostly kids were playing Warhammer 40k. Someone thought the hard-cases people were using to transparent their minis looked like gun-cases and called the cops. American police are ridiculous.

To be fair, I've seen some of those miniatures cases up close, and they do kind of look like gun cases. The response was over the top, but I can understand someone getting confused and calling the police about them.

so someone suspected something wrong going on and called police. police acted on a tip. i can see why it might be ridiculous by whoever called police, but why police itself is ridiculed for that?

The criticism is due to the fact that they burst into the room with guns drawn. It was an over-reaction to a completely unknown situation that was about 99.9% benign.

The police's mantra of "overwhelming display of control and power" can certainly be blamed for that.

In addition, the original poster didn't indicate whether or not a warrant was served before entry -- is the police required to present a warrant while acting on such tips?

> The criticism is due to the fact that they burst into the room with guns drawn. It was an over-reaction to a completely unknown situation that was about 99.9% benign.

The cops received a report about armed individuals- that warrants an armed, yet retrained response, no?

Not necessarily, if the report has a high chance of being false.

On any given day, the odds that I will use one of my fire extinguishers is very very small, ditto the gun I carry concealed almost every time I walk out the door (have never used either, in decades). The odds that cops with such a referral will encounter weapons is a whole lot higher.

I suspect you're right, sadly. The reason it is especially likely is because of the same laws that allow you have your gun.

The chances of someone being armed and dangerous in general goes way up.

I'm not as sure. One could argue that if you removed guns from the equation while still retaining a population prone to violence the police would be in an even worse posture, because up close edged weapons are very dangerous and they don't wear stab vests (which I suppose they could switch to, but I'm told they're even more uncomfortable than soft ballistic body armor, which is bad enough). Prone to violence in that as I recall our edged weapon murder rates exceeds most of "the developed world's".

Watch Tueller Drill video, then factor in the police having to close with someone with an edged weapon, an option I as a civilian can almost always avoid. I say worse, because the public generally doesn't realize the danger people armed with knives poise.

The experience of Brittian is suggestive, it:

Started getting serious about gun control a century ago (fear of the Left, becoming panic with the Bolshevik's win).

Effectively outlawed the use of guns for self-defense in the '50s (courts) and '60 (statutory law).

Then went almost all the way to banning guns that might be useful for self-defense a few decades ago.

Hasn't helped violence, hasn't made much of a dent in "gun violence" as I recall, but could be wrong, and now the obsession is with knife control.

Which suggests a people problem, not an object problem.

(Then again, when the police are nationally centralized and used as a weapon to punish areas that vote "incorrectly" by mostly withdrawing their protection, you've got bigger problems, but again people problems.)

So, choose a different approach because it's an expensive, white neighborhood?

Expensive, yes. White, irrelevant. The solution to racial inequality isn't to punish white (or Asian, or any other "lucky" race) more.

we don't know what police been told. if neighbor told "they got machine guns and looks like are going to slaughter our neighborhood" - this is enough to break door with guns drawn in my opinion.

Trust, but verify.

Because P(gun|tip*neighborhood) is very small.

Really? I'm a Canadian who had an awful experience with US police. I was attending a music festival that had a noise complaint, officers came in with guns drawn. I've never seen this approach in Canada.

I'm an American who's only had good experiences with US police.

I'm not gonna spill all my interactions with the police on the internet, of course, but I've been to college parties where the cops just told us to shut up. I've been speeding once or twice and had the officers bump the ticket down or give me a warning.

Perhaps we have good cops over here in Washington?

I'm an American who's had very mixed experiences with the police.

I've had police give me arbitrary orders. I've had police in a state of ever-escalating anger while I'm being completely cooperative and saying not much more than "Yes sir, no sir!" I've had police rant and rave at me outside my car window. I've had police bury incidents of threats and physical intimidation against me as a favor to their friends. I've had police tell me bald-faced lies about the District Attorney's office that the District Attorney told me were complete fabrications.

I've also had very good interactions with the police.

I'm an Ivy League graduate and have often been a highly paid professional -- which was my status for most of the above interactions with the police. I have no police record of any kind. I am rather small in stature and have a meek personal demeanor and a clean cut appearance. I am, however, not "white." My interactions with the police have been astonishingly varied.

Being a teenager is a similar offense. In my teen days we drew the attention of 8 police officers (who circled the building) by sitting nearby a police officers wife who apparently didn't like our language. Mostly just frisked for drugs and whatnot; it became a running joke.

It depends alot on you. People that assert their rights, particularly their right to remain silent, often find themselves confronted with a power-tripping neanderthal armed with a loaded weapon and arrest powers. If you simply cooperate with them - answer questions etc. - you will likely have more pleasant interactions with them, however you dramatically increase your chances of having legal issues because of whatever you say or do not say to them.

This video [1], of course, should always be mentioned when discussing police interaction. In short, don't ever talk to the police. US Police are trained to make exercising the myriad rights we have both uncomfortable and counterintuitive. But you have to remember that by the time you are in front of a police officer, it's too late to talk your way out of whatever situation you are in. You can only make it worse by talking to them.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

> Perhaps we have good cops over here in Washington?

My first year in college (in WA), campus police (actual po-lice with a campus jurisdiction) conducted a coordinated raid on pot dealers in the dorms which they treated like a raid on a meth lab : guns drawn, doors kicked in, loud noises, innocent bystanders thrown to the ground, etc.

Obviously, this isn't analogous to a party - and cops do in fact have a SOP they follow when it comes to drug raids - but I still feel like it was handled in an unnecessarily heavy handed and tone-deaf way that's somewhat symptomatic of a larger problem.

Heh I was just about to say that we shouldn't conflate one experience to "all cops in the US", but then realized all of my experiences have also been in Washington, so maybe we just have kinder police.

Because Police are trained state-by-state, county-by-county... and even city-by-city. Some cops are awful, other cops are fine.

That is crazy to me. I'm an American and in the probably twenty or so times I've interacted with police at various times in my thirty plus years, I've never once had a gun drawn on me nor had the threat or implied threat of having a gun drawn on me. I can't think of a single person I know well who's ever had a cop pull a gun on them either.

Are you white? There's your answer. Not even joking.

If the police barge in guns drawn does that mean they peek in the window first before they go in to check what the people look like?

The plural of anecdote is not data.

Every single time this topic comes up here there are always one off incidents of how violent the police are, or are not. These one off's really aren't useful either way.

Also another reason why police arrive here with guns drawn when they've been called to some kind of incident/argument/disturbance is there is a much higher chance that someone here has a gun and could do them harm. I'm not sure why everyone glosses over that fact when the USA has 300 million guns vs. some place like London.

>there is a much higher chance that someone here has a gun

valid point.

You don't have to look into a window to know whether you are in a black or white neighborhood.

I'm an American who had my windows smashed in by police supervisors because I asked them to identify themselves. In Winnipeg.

Don't think we're too far off from our friends down south.

I could imagine the SQ doing that.

I guess you have been a lucky duck!

Yes, apparently the US is the only democratic country where there is no distinction between the police and the army.

I've heard that France is similarly military in style, and that a lot of Europe is the same, their police culture is military. Britain was the one that innovated a civilian police force (as opposed to the older practise of using the Redcoats - the army). America copied us, but, has drifted towards militarism.

> I've heard that France is similarly military in style

The french situation is a bit complex.

* the national police is the regular police, they are more armed than bobbies but not heavily so (IIRC the standard sidearm is a SIG Pro variant — the SP2022), their jurisdiction is mostly cities and large towns but there are rapid-response, riot and anti-gang police units which tend to be more heavily armed, national surveillance also falls under the national police

* the gendarmerie is a branch of the military mostly tasked with police duties in small towns and rural zones (including highway patrolling), the regular gendarme may be somewhat more heavily armed than the regular policeman but not much so IIRC, they also have military police, special forces/counter terrorism units, maritime surveillance (and sea police), etc…

* finally since the start of the Infinite War (on terror) and the endless "vigipirate", actual military forces have been patrolling public spaces (e.g. train stations) more or less continually since the mid-90s.

I feel like there are too many Farva type cops that have seen one too many movies and think that's reality and the proper way to act.

I had no idea American police were trained like army recruits. It explains a lot.

I actually heard somewhere (TV probably) that army members are actually trained to try to avoid escalating conflicts like this.

It's true. In both advanced individual training (the job specific one that follows the famous "basic training") and before deploying to Afghanistan, I underwent a good amount of tactical and combat training. In both situations we were not only taught proper protocols for "escalation of force" and "rules of engagement" but also threatened with doom if we didn't follow them.

It varies on many factors, but generally before pulling the trigger you have to visually identify a threat, yell a verbal warning, show your weapon as a warning, fire a warning shot, aim at the threat and repeat the verbal warning, then fire if necessary.

Obviously this doesn't apply to full-combat situations, but for instances of the type that our domestic police force encounter, it most certainly would. It's so ingrained that I always wonder how we have so many occurrences of police shootings.

Sad situation, especially because (imho) the vast majority of police are amazing, selfless, community minded heroes, whose profession is besmirched by these brutal thugs who share their uniform.

If the percentage of "good ones" is so high, why do they protect the "bad ones"?

I agree, that's definitely part of the problem. "Closing ranks" to protect each other is, I think, an inherently loyal and noble response, but it has to be tempered by humanity and reason, and that does not seem to be happening.

There is probably also a strong element of fear- as mentioned in the article, many of these police really are trained in aggressive response, and that becomes both muscle memory and instinct, it genuinely does.

I think many great officers imagine the "what would I have done" and in their doubt and worry over that hypothetical, provide a unified front against the repercussions of justice for their fellow officers, in case the same should ever happen to them.

"Never rat on your own" comes ingrained with the Y chromosome. Nobody likes a snitch. And being branded as one is for a lifetime and it shuts you outside of all social networks. For obvious reasons spies get a pass here. Throw some "Real man deal with their own problems and not call authority" and you have potent silencing mix. It is hard to verbalize, but it is real.

The statements I read defending police violence suggest that it's necessary and appropriate to protect the lives of police. I feel like the military accepts that if you carry a gun for a living, there's inherent risk in that, and it doesn't justify leading always with overwhelming force.

One of the names for these folks used to be "peace officers"....

I'm pretty sure that police are in most first world countries too.

The US confuses me a lot. Is it the presence of guns that makes them train like that, or just bad policy?

Both, and the mixture is especially toxic.

With less discipline and more self aggrandizing macho bullshit.

Totally agree. There's no way a person can be grounded in any semblance of reality and still pull those kinds of shenanigans.

I'm the first to admit that American policing is overly violent and militaristic, but I do think your experience was unrepresentative. I have been to many parties in the US that were broken up due to noise complaints. It was always more like your Whitechapel example than your Gainsville one.

Your London story is how noise complaints are typically handled in the US as well.

I see a disconnect between what the public believes the job of the police is and what police officers believe the job of the police is.

In my mind, police officers sign up for a dangerous job knowingly - that's why they're revered as heroic by many in society. They are willing to put themselves at risk to protect society from harm, and that's noble.

What most police academies teach is the opposite. They teach officers to put their own safety over that of everyone else. They talk in terms of "reducing officer casualties" and "overwhelming force". This is not a heroic police officer sacrificing himself for society; it's jackbooted thugs threatening, terrorizing and killing the very civilians they are supposed to protect. Turns out it's really hard to tell a bad guy from a good guy by looking at them, so they play it safe and treat everyone like a bad guy.

Not every officer thinks this way, but it's common enough that it leads to a lot of police shootings. IMO a police officer should be more willing to take a bullet than put one into someone. I realize body armor isn't foolproof, but the job is inherently dangerous and the officer goes into it knowing that - something a person on the street doesn't get.

Let me start off by saying I agree with you (if you're bored, crawl through my HN history and you'll find some very strong condemnations of certain LEO practices).

However... let me also explore a different perspective on this.

Do you feel the same way about paramedics and firefighters? We choose to put ourselves in harms way for the sake of others. Heroic, right? No... not really... My first priority on any scene is to go home to my wife and daughter at the end of the day. In fact, my priorities (usually...) are me, then my crew, then you.

Firefighting is not without risk, but in reality, modern firefighting is very conservative, and growing more so every year. There are practical reasons for this though. When a cop or a firefighter is out of the fight, they're not doing anyone any good. In fact, they are now causing a division of resources in the operation as they have now become someone else we need to rescue.

I am my first priority because I can't do anyone any good if I'm injured. My crew is my second priority because they are the ones that are going to take care of me if things go sideways. Keeping those priorities straight is what maximizes our effectiveness in preserving life.

I realize this comparison is not perfect (it's generally easy enough to identify fire vs innocent civilians), and I am by no means excusing the military mindset of many modern police forces, but I hope that gives you some insight into the mindset behind some of the tactics used.

The people you are helping are already in peril, and only remain in that peril if the situation is not safe enough for a first responder to reach them. That seems eminently reasonable, and I don't think there's any expectation to ignore overwhelming risk to yourself to get to someone.

But for someone who is, say, selling cigarettes illegally, their life is not in peril until a police officer takes it upon himself to put that person in a choke hold or take other potentially deadly action. It's especially galling when the officer's life and safety was never in danger.

I think the distinction is in the ability to perceive the risk.

A burning building is a burning building (ok... there's actually a lot that going into assessing the risk posed by a fire in a building, but you get the idea...). A potential confrontation with someone selling cigarettes is an unknown. Odds are, it's not going to be a problem at all. However, there is a small (but non-trivial) chance that it will become a violent encounter (even with fantastic deescalation skills). Given that unpredictability, the safest course of action, it makes sense to have enough manpower on handle to safely deal with a violent encounter.

That being said, the cops in Eric Garner's case did not attempt any deescalation at all (quite the opposite, in fact). The resources on scene were not the issue, the rapid escalation was the issue.

Even at that, it was not the 'chokehold' that killed Eric Garner. It was being placed on his stomach, with his arms behind his back. It's difficult for anyone to breathe in that position, and _very_ difficult for someone of Eric Garner's size. The fight dramatically increased his body's need to get oxygen (and more importantly, get rid of carbon dioxide), and then he was placed in a position that made it all but impossible for his body to do that. We have known for years that this is a dangerous thing to do, yet it happened anyway. Even the EMTs on scene later ignored the risks of his position, and in my opinion, are just as culpable in his death.

Even at that, it was not the 'chokehold' that killed Eric Garner. It was being placed on his stomach, with his arms behind his back. It's difficult for anyone to breathe in that position, and _very_ difficult for someone of Eric Garner's size.

Do we actually know whether that was the case? It seems like he might just died from a stress induced heart attack. The preliminary report said that he died of cardiac arrest in the ambulance. I never was able to find a full copy of the final medical examiner report. The summary of the final report was that he basically died of everything, which was not at all helpful.

Obviously I did not examine his body (nor would I be qualified to do so), but a "heart attack" occurs when the myocardium (heart muscle) is not getting enough oxygen. The fight (brief as it was) ramped up his myocardial oxygen demand, and his position limited his body's ability to deliver that oxygen. That's a recipe for a heart attack.

I should note that while "positional asphyxia" is a generally accepted theory, it's not without its detractors, and more research needs to be done.


Does it matter? The position probably could have killed him, and there was no compelling reason to keep him in that position.

> Do you feel the same way about paramedics and firefighters?

No, because I don't think they do the same thing. A police officers job often isn't to save the subject, it's to save third parties and apprehend the subject. It's also to have power over us, a measure of control which firefighter/paramedics don't. We surrender power to them so to speak.

On the other hand, firefighters and paramedics are more often concerned with directly helping the subject and don't have this power over us.

There are complex situations with various crossovers (particularly in firefighting where extinguishing a fire might save third parties for instance) but in general the above holds.

I think this is an important distinction because we expect the preservation of life. A firefighter can let a building burn (die) and save some third parties and they aren't (necessarily) penalised for it. A firefighter/paramedic is also only concerned with the preservation of life, that's their sole motive. Police officers motive are necessarily more complex, so if a firefighter can't get through a fire to save a subject we forgive them because their intentions could only have been noble - all they would be trying to do is save life.

A police officer on the other hand must be seen to save the subject and third parties lives. We seem to demand of police officers that if the subject is trying to kill third parties for example, the officer should step in and take the 'hit' and get killed. He/She must be restrained enough to not kill the subject and brave enough to sacrafice themselves for the good of the third parties.

I don't think this is demanded of firefighters and paramedics.

I think this extra demand is placed on police officers because of their position of superior power. If they are to be afforded superiority over us citizens, over our liberty and with the power to ruin our lives - we demand of them that they have a noble streak and are prepared to sacrafice themselves for us if the shit hits the fan.

I think you've done a great job outlining the differences between the two missions (and many of the things you mention are why I agree with the OP).

However, I think there is value in understanding _why_ LEOs seek to minimize risk, rather than assuming they all just want to be Rambo (though there are certainly those too...).

The article itself discusses this: what we're seeing is spillover from a militarized environment, with criminals and police (and criminals versus other criminals) in an arms race. This started with criminals adopting new 9mm semi-automatic handguns in the 1980s, then police switching to the same weapons after the Miami shootout, and a series of other problems as documented in the article. These days, drug dealers routinely keep huge packs of pit bulls, and release them when the police show up; without ten policemen and an IFV, the law could easily lose a fight like that.

The problem is that the same people responsible for pitched battles with heavily-armed drug dealers are also expected to do ordinary police work. It would be better to make this sort of thing the responsibility of the FBI, or even the military, ensuring that there would continue to be a lightly-armed, non-military police force to handle more ordinary situations.

>It would be better to make this sort of thing the responsibility of the FBI, or even the military, ensuring that there would continue to be a lightly-armed, non-military police force to handle more ordinary situations.

There is an endless supply of people with nothing willing to replace a busted dealer. Rather than call for a special anti-drug military, how about we just let people use drugs.

Why not let people use drugs? For the same reason we don't let them drive drunk or refuse to wear seatbelts.

The Japanese legalized heroin in occupied China in the 1930s, as a way of encouraging the Chinese race to die out -- and heroin dependency isn't a pretty way to go. Marijuana is less potent (although modern marijuana has been bred for potency), but what's true of heroin is true of other hard drugs (and persistent hallucinogens) as well.

I think a bigger factor in police switching to semi-automatics was the introduction to the Glock, which as I recall was the first "respectable", widely adapted service handgun without an external safety. That, just point it and pull the trigger, like the revolvers the police were used to, something previous manufacturers apparently weren't willing to do.

Now, I wasn't paying close attention to this at the time, since I was in localities where owning a handgun was impossible to impracticable and I'd already settled on another model for when I could buy them (M1911), but this would suggest it was a combination of ergonomics and a perception that a semi-auto without an external safety was safe enough for police (and also note things like the extra heavy "New York trigger), plus of course the superiority of semi-autos in combat, in functioning in dirty conditions, etc. (They are more likely to jam, but you can clear that in the field, a revolver jam is generally a job for a gunsmith.)

I'm pretty sure this wasn't all that related to the 1986 FBI Miami shootout, the biggest conclusion from that was the correct observation that penetration is critical, in this case, through someone's arm and then into their vitals.

Ballistics Nerd details: 9mm is much better than stock .38 Special, but inferior to the .357 Magnum, which had been a big thing since the 1930s, and could easily shoot lighter loads equivalent to 9mm or wherever you want to trade off recoil for power, an inherent advantage of revolvers.

4 of the officers were carrying .357s, one a .38, all loaded with a .38 Special +P over-pressure rounds, presumably the "FBI load", that falls quite a bit shy of 9mm. But 3 were carrying 9mms, and the FBI's answer was a very powerful 10mm round, which they then backed off to what became the .40 S&W, and now they say bullets have evolved enough that 9mm is OK (and cheaper, and many say easier to fire).

All that said, the conclusions about the Miami shootout certainly didn't hurt police adaptation of semi-autos.

Thank you for your perspective as a fighterfighter.

There is a huge difference between giving ones life to save others, and taking "reckless" chances and dying.

One comparison would be when a fighter pilot ejects out. No fighter pilot wants to eject out. Pulling the handles and ejecting is the last ditch attempt to save their lives, but in certain situations, its the only way to save their lives.

The problem is that police training doesn't seem to teach that use of deadly force should be the last option to save lives. It shouldn't be the first choice for police.

Cops carry guns and hence should be held to a (much) higher given the ready ability to cause grievous harm.

>In fact, my priorities (usually...) are me, then my crew, then you.

So you take an inherently unsafe job and then act to maximize your safety? If those are your priorties then why do you ever go out on a job? Certainly the safest place for you and yours to be is playing cards at the firehouse.

You know, I know, the reason you go out is because if you don't go you'd be fired for insubordination. You'd be fired because you're being paid to go out on those calls and take those risks. So you do the next best thing: you go out on the call, but you make a series of operational decisions that, essentially, make you as safe as if you didn't go out on that call. And what's your justification? So you can be well enough to go out on the next call - and not take risks there, either. So you end up going on call after call, and on each call acting for your own benefit, rationalized, you say, to keep you healthy for the next call.

No, my goal is to remain effective on _this_ call. If I take a stupid risk and fall through a floor, now the entire operation stops, all but guaranteeing no one else will be able to effect a rescue either. That does not mean I never enter a structure. It means I consider the construction type, the size, nature, location, and duration of the fire, and make an educated decision about whether or not the risk is worth the potential reward. If I decide it's worth it and end up going through the floor anyway, well... that was the choice I made. It sucks, but it's the nature of the job. Here's hoping the RIT is ready to pull my ass out.

Firefighting is a dangerous job, I'm not disputing that at all (not as dangerous as say, farming... but still).

My point is not to avoid all risk. My point is to avoid needless risk, and to prepare as thoroughly as possible for the risks we do need to take.

Are you in the business? From the sounds of things you either just started out, or retired years ago, before we started applying actual science and data to firefighting tactics.

I don't know that it is universal, but placing self-protection first is normal in all the training I've had, or have heard about. It is the same principle as the patter you hear on planes about putting oxygen masks on yourself first, then assisting others.

Dead/injured/incapacitated first responders don't respond, they require assistance, which just make the situation worse.

Before you go imputing others' motives in a topic you don't know about, mayhap give some thought to learning a little first. I promise you that anyone who has any sort of first-responder training just wrote that post off as clueless.

My guess is he is either a very young firefighter or a gung-ho, but fairly inexperienced, volunteer.

He uses some firefighting 'slang' (referring to a call as 'a job', etc).

I remember being surprised by this sequence of priorities when first learning them on first-aid course. I guess we like to picture people like you as heroes, bravely stepping in to save the day, ignoring the risk to themselves, but we don't stop to consider that this may not be the most effective course of action. As usual, the optimal way of doing stuff is quite different from what we see on TV.

Yeah, it's a far more pragmatic business than many people realize...

Risk a lot to save a life, risk a little to save property, risk nothing to save nothing (i.e. if it's past the point of being saved).

Because a dead firefighter is useless? Because he has a training that would help save many lives in the future for the many other fires to come. Sure a "heroic/fool" firefighter could have saved one more life that particular day, but if instead he ends up dead, he might have sentenced to death future fire victims.

So in term of life saved these priorities seems perfectly good.

You assume "maximizing his safety" means going home without any bruise. You assume he is a coward.

>We choose to put ourselves in harms way for the sake of others.

You don't get paid? If you are getting compensation, then you're not doing it for the sake of others.

>Heroic, right?

Nope! No more heroic then the gas station attendant who puts his life on the line every single night so that others can fill up their cars.

I would say that the gas station attendant is a hero to his family, in that he does put his life on the line to feed, clothe and shelter them. And I am sure your family feels the same way about you!

I am compensated as a paramedic. I volunteer as a firefighter. However, my compensation as a paramedic is $16/hr, which isn't awful (at least it's more than minimum wage), but I certainly don't do it for the money... The money that feeds my family comes from work as a software developer.

There are a variety of reasons why I do what I do. A desire to help others is certainly one of those reasons.

Did you just stop reading after "Heroic, right?" The very next word was "No"...

the job is inherently dangerous and the officer goes into it knowing that

I think that forums heavy with computer desk jockeys like HN tend to throw this idea around too casually.

If outsiders kept callously telling us "you signed up for it knowing that you would work 80 hours a week" or "you signed up for it knowing that your stock options would probably be worthless", we'd be up in arms and demanding that no one should be treated that way.

Yet we expect officers to put themselves into situations where they'll be hurt or injured unnecessarily. Take, for example, the Eric Garner case: "They didn't need 5 officers to tackle that guy who was resisting arrest". Really? That was a big dude. If he had decided to start punching; officers could have suffered knocked-out teeth, irreparably damaged eye sockets, and broken bones. Can you imagine going to work every day where the public expectation is that the risk of your knocked-out teeth when confronting someone resisting arrest is perfectly acceptable?

There are very few jobs I would never do, but being a police officer is one of them. The public is just way too callous in thinking that it's okay for you to be injured or killed because "you signed up for it".

[grammar fix edit]

Those police killed Eric Garner. Do you think the police would be so understanding of someone who killed another person in a bar fight because there was a chance of having a tooth knocked out? That's not a normal standard of behavior. Even if you don't think it's reasonable to hold them to higher standards of behavior, holding them to a lower standard seems really strange to me.

The police subdued Eric Garner in an effort to arrest him because he was resisting. What they did was reasonable and only the hindsight of his health problems says otherwise. Eric Garner shares a large portion of the blame in his own death since he is the one who resisted, was breaking the law, and knew about his own health situation.

Your bar fight scenario makes no sense because there are lots of ways that a bar fight could result in one participant's death and the other participant would be judged to have acted reasonably just defending himself from an injury as "minor" as a knocked-out tooth.

No, what they did was not reasonable. You're assuming he died because of the fight... In reality he died because of how he was positioned after the fight (on his stomach, arms behind his back). We have known for years that this is a dangerous thing to do (it makes it _much_ harder to breath, at a time when he was already working harder than normal to breath). The NYPD actually has a policy against exactly this sort of positioning...

I partly agree with you and I definitely concur with your post above on this whole issue. I'm regretting mentioning Garner in my own post since it's a rathole of preconceptions.

But I will point out that reasonable is not the same as perfectly following every policy. It's important to note that there were no indictments handed down in this case.

> It's important to note that there were no indictments handed down in this case.

OTOH, those who complain about police excesses usually also complain about prosecutors being uninterested in pursuing abuses by police as crimes, seeking indictments, etc. So, "no indictments" can be viewed different ways.

True, but I've yet to see the decision-based situation in the universe that couldn't be viewed differently by someone.

Compared to Internet second guessing, the lack of indictments is a pretty strong data point.

It's important to note that there were no indictments handed down in this case.

The USA court system is every bit as flawed as (and certainly more corrupt than) USA law enforcement. This appeal to authority completely misses.

Absolutely not. Gauging your response to a purported suffocation on the false assumption that "if you can speak, you can breathe" is not at all reasonable.

(Incidentally, that's pretty scary: to be made to suffer by someone who doesn't realize it and has constructed ironclad "proofs" that you must not be suffering.)

Are you justifying unnecessary force and unnecessary force multipliers by invoking hypothetical situations? This is madness. When any hypothetical situation is a valid excuse for use of force, all uses of force will fall back on hypothetical situations as justification.

And most do, when it comes to the police and use of force.

Have you ever seen the South Park episode where they forbid the killing of animals unless in self defense, so hunters shout "it's coming right for us!" before lighting them up with automatic gun fire?

Yeah, this is like that.

Go back and read the post to which I was responding where the author stated that in his mind he thought that officers signed up for a dangerous job knowingly because they're heroic and self sacrificing.

I'm saying it's a job, in many ways similar to your job and my job where putting all this heroic self-sacrificing burden on them isn't fair.

Interesting how you criticized me for creating hypotheticals which are almost direct quotes from everyday stories on HN and then tried to prove your point by referring to a South Park episode - a cartoon that features fictional characters doing outrageous things for the sake of comedy.

I read it, and I disagree with your evaluation of the situation. There is risk with all jobs, and for cops, firefighters, etc., that risk can be great.

You referenced Eric Gardner, which really sat poorly with me. It's pretty universally accepted that he was murdered by cops with no care for the public or their constant overuse of force. It was a terrible example.

South Park is not just a cartoon - as with many shows like it, it's pretty heavy with political commentary - which this is.

It's pretty universally accepted that he was murdered by cops

Do you have some polling data on that? That's not at all the impression I get from the wide variety of news sites that I peruse.

Regarding South Park, yeah, I know all that. I love SP. But you were the one criticizing hypotheticals.

I don't require police to martyr themselves. My own problem with the Garner homicide is that I don't think they needed to tackle Garner at all. An even more cynical view is that they wanted to tackle him, wanted an excuse to act violently, and cultivated that situation hoping for that end (not necessarily that they wanted to kill him, but they wanted an arrest, and were game for a use of force). I don't know the whole truth of it but I do know that the basis of it was tax evasion, not an imminent threat to public safety that needed immediate detention at all costs.

Saying "it's dangerous" doesn't mean "accept being hurt or killed", just the same as saying "they'll expect 80 hours a week" or "stock options may be worthless" don't mean "accept being abused and left poor".

It means "make sure your contract guarantees hours or appropiate payment for extra hours before you sign". It means "research the markets and the startup and demand proper pay if it looks bad". It means "make sure the citizens are safe, make sure you are safe, but don't pretend that killing someone is anything but the last resort when you failed to properly address a tactical situation".

"If outsiders kept callously telling us "you signed up for it knowing that you would work 80 hours a week" or "you signed up for it knowing that your stock options would probably be worthless", we'd be up in arms and demanding that no one should be treated that way."

No, not really. It's really only irritating because I started out every day telling myself that.

"Can you imagine going to work every day where the public expectation is that the risk of your knocked-out teeth when confronting someone resisting arrest is perfectly acceptable?"

Yeah, I've known a few bouncers in my time. Also, some farmers and ranchers.

...farmers and ranchers.

Haha, somehow I've refrained from shooting the cow that broke two of my fingers last week.

Except those 5 officers had no need to arrest Eric Garner. They could have issued a citation and left. Discretionary arrests are a police officer's method of punishing someone in advance of that pesky finding of guilt (or not) -- now that person has an arrest on their record, may have to spend a night in jail prior to receiving a bail hearing, may be stuck in jail until trial or a plea arrangement if they can't afford bail, etc.

> The public is just way too callous in thinking that it's okay for you to be injured or killed because "you signed up for it".

Agreed with this point. A police officer effecting a routine traffic stop to potentially issue a citation should not be cause for alarm. And perhaps, most of the time it's not. But that 1/x times it does turn violent, the officer needs to be ready, or risk not going home.

A police officer should not have to believe that pulling over a driver may be a life and death situation. Yet, they train knowing they are entering a potentially dangerous situation. The public telling them, it's okay they signed up for it, is reprehensible.

There is a balance between the need to preserve officer safety and the acceptance of danger required to do the job.

There is no universal public belief that police are guardians. People who are protected by police think they are guardians; but people suppressed by police probably don't have that belief.

That's why there is so much controversy around police violence, because some people genuinely believe police are protectors, and they have no reason to suspect otherwise based on their own and threir aquaintances' experiences.

With this attitude, no one will want to be a police officer. Or at least, no one who has any other reasonable options. That means when someone has to call 911, either no one will show up or the person who shows up won't be the highest caliber individual.

It sounds like you expect everyone who becomes a police officer to be willing to dive in front of a bullet like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. There are noble and heroic people who are willing to do this, but they are few and far between. Most of police work is routine and boring: mediating domestic disputes, filing paperwork, processing evidence, etc. We need people to do all of those things without having to be willing to sacrifice their lives for strangers.

I'm sorry but a cop that stands by and does nothing when duty calls is worse than a cop that goes on a shooting spree killing people. (To go off on a tangent, people who don't want to do a job, shouldn't have to do the job to not starve to death. Any employee/worker/volunteer/service member whatever should not have to take a job just to put food on the table. This is where some kind of a basic income should come in. I'd rather have a smaller police force of people who belong there than a bigger force of people who do not.

and no I am not saying sacrifice life but at least show some initiative in something other than writing tickets and meeting quotas.


I can't upvote this enough.

However, even the phrase "law enforcement" implies a different mindset rather than "To serve and to protect (the public)". It seems that phrase got perverted into "to serve and protect (thyself)" instead. Which makes me sad.

We need more officers to think like this one. [1]

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/US/san-bernardino-officer-ill-bullet-s...

This is correct. And reinforces my personal belief that it is policy that needs to be repaired. For the most part, these officers that are doing bad things are only acting in ways that have been encouraged. Until we can make an adjustment, we will continue to see police on people violence.


In the 3 cities I see most, yes. They almost always wear a "second-chance vest" under their uniform.

(Oops; didn't see that you'd replied before I deleted my comment. My deleted comment asked whether cops routinely wear body armor. I figured I could research that on my own rather than ask.)

I agree with your position and would also like to see officer pay increased to reflect the dangerous nature of their work.

Are you sure about that? There are officers already making a very good salary...


And police officers don't make the list of top 10 most dangerous jobs.

Most police officers die in routine traffic accidents.


Fascinating. So in addition to increasing pay for police officers there are other careers that warrant hazard pay. Thanks for pointing that out.

Yeah I'm positive. Median in my area for police officers is 50k. While we're at it, teachers, firefighters, and (especially) EMT/Paramedics could use some love.

> Median in my area for police officers is 50k.

Yeah, most paramedics would kill for that...

I make $16/hr working as a paramedic (which is why I only do it part time and keep my day job as a developer).

I've made double that delivering pizza and that was almost 20 years ago. It's criminal what you guys are forced to try to live off off.

I'm for pay for performance here. Bonus for successfully descalating situations without taking of lives.

Paying for performance in a problem fixing job is dangerous. Even if you concentrate on deescalation. We already know of many cases of planted drugs. This would be just an invitation to "Hey, he had drugs (that I totally didn't plant) and I solved the situation without violence, even though he had a gun (that I also totally didn't plant)".

I think I understand the sentiment behind this and agree overall but have fun trying to track that metric without introducing perverse incentives.

I think many individual public servants would be happy with pay for performance, if a workable scheme could be devised. Unfortunately, public sector unions would fight that tooth and nail.

Police officers are not a top 10 dangerous job. For that, it would start with construction, logging, fishing. If fact, I think I see a negative correlation between pay and dangerous jobs in general.

> I agree with your position and would also like to see officer pay increased to reflect the dangerous nature of their work.

Police officer pay and benefits relative to other public sector employees already are high, largely justified by the dangerous nature of the work.

Who are you kidding? Vast majority are there for pensions, donuts and occasionally (the 1% of cases) the thrill of the chase.

Where do you think LEO come from? Do you think if one dies there are 10 more people willing to stand in their place?

Reducing officer casualties is a must in order to even have law enforcement at all. To enforce the law there needs to actually be people to enforce the law. Can't do that if a number of them are dying on the job which also hurt future employment rates.

There is some disagreement with what I am saying being factual reality. Can anyone point me to the nearest LEO tree? Or maybe there's a secret VAT lab growing clones to be our guardians of the future that I'm unaware of?

Dead officers aren't easy to replace. They aren't goldfish. You can't just go out and buy a new one to replace the old one. Expecting them to take needless risks that end up with them dead isn't a realistic option if you expect to maintain a police force.

There is a reason Kyle Dinkheller's video is used in training. "Hesitate to use deadly force. Don't hesitate so much that you end up dead."

There is a huge difference between putting your life on the line and throwing it away. Putting it on the line is having a gun drawn on them. Throwing it away is letting the other person take the first shot. It seems many here are asking they not only put their lives on the line, but that they throw them away too.

Most of the police I've met came right out of the military. And there are plenty of people in the military with skills not marketable anywhere else.

"I know that people wouldn't usually rap this

But I got the facts to back this

Just last year, Chicago had over 600 caskets"

For the criminals creating urban chaos, they don't expect to live to 25 years old.

However the police do have a reasonable expectation to live to see their kids grow up, and that means they can't get into 50/50 situations with borderline suicidal gunmen.

I think all us sheep on HN will rue the day the good guys are selected for low-testosterone personality.

"I think all us sheep on HN will rue the day the good guys are selected for low-testosterone personality."


That is, if you can give us a way to separate the good guys from the bad guys.

> They teach officers to put their own safety over that of everyone else. They talk in terms of "reducing officer casualties" and "overwhelming force". This is not a heroic police officer sacrificing himself for society; it's jackbooted thugs threatening, terrorizing and killing the very civilians they are supposed to protect.

This is patent nonsense. Emergency workers (police, fire, paramedic, rescue... even nurses) takes a lot of training (and good ones need a lot of experience) and are hard to replace. They can't be considered disposable, and preserving themselves is the first order of business. A civilian might have an emergency once in a year (usually less). Emergency workers have them every day, usually multiple times.

The first order of business of any emergency worker should be protecting themselves. Police are not bodyguards - they're there to keep order in society, not to take a bullet for you.

> Gone, too, is a classroom poster that once warned recruits that “officers killed in the line of duty use less force than their peers.”

Wow. That was a thing that existed?

> Alexis Artwohl, a former police psychologist and consultant to the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association...is skeptical of some guardian-style training. Artwohl has co-written a book on deadly force whose promotional blurb begins: “In a cop’s world it’s kill or be killed.”


I hope this new-style training actually has an impact.

An acquaintance of mine who used to be head of training for Oakland PD once commented to me that police officers had essentially the same psychological profile as gang members. I thought he was just engaging in some self-deprecating humor but he was at pains to point out that he was serious and regarded it as a chronic problem in police culture.

Reminds me of a black hat/white hat distinction. Both occupations require basically the same skill set and provide similar thrills, they're just on the different sides of the law.

That sums up the distinction perfectly.

My ex-girlfriend's uncle is an honest man, has a stable job, is in a stable marriage with a wonderful woman, and has two kids. At the time of this story, his kids were in High school and on the junior varsity and varsity football teams, and were getting good grades. He and his family are devoutly religious. In his family, young men are expected to be celibate until they get married. He lives in a small river town in Louisiana.

The police officers of his town are almost all white, and this is how they treat him: If they see him and his sons conversing in a parking lot, it is assumed that they are planning to break the law, and they are always told summarily to leave. They could talk to him and be civil. They could even ask him for useful information. However, they only see young black men who might be perpetrators.

I've also seen the police of this town herd crowds of black people on 4x4 vehicles like cattle on the 4th of July. They were clearly afraid of the crowd, which mostly consisted of high school students. Kids, really!

There are American police who are afraid of their citizens, and only see them in terms of their ethnicity and potential danger. Something is very wrong here!

John Basil Barnhill said, "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty."

The cops should fear us to some reasonable degree, they just shouldn't be able to act out of it.

When the cops can't just plain talk to a law abiding human being who is on their side -- a father with his kids, no less -- then there is something very wrong. Do you think that cop would demonstrate a finer granularity of classification and a different sort of interaction when meeting a white father with his two football playing high school aged kids?

Police who are a part of the community and who know their fellow citizens are going to be able to do a much better job.

"In 1986, two FBI agents armed with six-shot revolvers died in a shootout near Miami with bank robbers armed with more powerful weapons, including a semiautomatic assault rifle."

There's quite a bit more to that story.


The bottom line is that one suspect (the other fired only one shot causing no injuries), after receiving a fatal wound, killed two FBI agents and wounded five more.

These are parts 1 and 2 of an FBI training video on the incident:



This incident seems to be so obviously a fluke that it would be hard to find any generally applicable lessons, although as the article points out, lessons have been found from it.

(One was the introduction of the 10mm pistol round and pistols chambered for it---that didn't last too long as the recoil was deemed too heavy for accuracy and the pistols seem to have suffered failures---and then the move to the .40 calibre S&W round (based on the 10mm with a reduced powder charge).)

And now they're moving to 9mm, which 3 of the agents in the Miami shootout were armed with, but certainly not the more effective loadings that the FBI in part uses to justify this move. See https://news.ycombinator.com/edit?id=10716811 in this discussion for a few more TL;DR details gleaned from the Wikipedia article.

Don't cheer yet. This is how Seattle cops react to training. Go to the 1:22 mark. Cop talks about sticking a gun in someone's face as his method of de-escalation.


That same article has a great video of a very nice deescalation by Seattle PD. So clearly not all Seattle cops should be lumped together as overreachers.

This isn't a new style of policing. It's Sir Robert Peel's principles of law enforcement, from 1822.[1] The UK still tries to follow those.

The militarization of American police is a reaction to the rise in gun ownership, especially guns with higher firepower. US police have to assume when they approach someone that they may be armed. UK police don't.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_Principles

Personally, I live in one of the "murder capital's" of the U.S.. Them going for dangerous people highly armed would make plenty of sense. Still, despite high crime, police are quite safe with them rarely dying and that's not due to militarism: hood areas could pour 100+ rounds into any cop that showed up. Most people, even crooks, just wouldn't try to kill a cop. Run or resist a bit? Yes. Gun down? Only the dumbest, most evil, or most mentally ill. Very few and cautious, non-asshole cops can handle them with training.

Cops still regularly use plenty of macho attitude and force against many here. This ranges from kids smoking weed to drunks to white collar criminals. I knew one teenager that got SWAT'ed because his mom was a small time meth dealer. She has some addiction and non-violent crime then her kids are on the ground with machine guns shoved in their heads and their belongings torn apart? Please... No wonder they "learned" that police were heartless pricks to avoid when they themselves became dealers or whatever to get ahead.

The OP may be going too far with it but I've seen a number of police departments adopt the stance of "we care about you, working with you, and will drop you with a quickness if we have to." They're doing fine last I heard where militant areas like mine surely ain't. Hood rats pride themselves in fighting or being jailed by such police. So, it not only doesn't work: becomes a vicious circle between police and thugs.

Glad to see more taking a less simplistic view than "more violence = more compliance."

Exactly. It's difficult to blame US police for acting as though they're members of an occupying army when all of the people they meet could be armed with guns. I can understand why a policeman in the US would want to be equipped like a soldier.

Thing is, though, when the US has been literally acting as an occupying army in the sandbox as of late, they have much more restrictive Rules of Engagement; in the ones relevant to this sort of thing, as I recall they're not that bad.

Perhaps best explained by Marine General James Mattis, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet", one of his rules to live by for his men in Iraq.

I personally have no problems with their equipment loadout (it's too much like mine!), it's the attitudes, it's their actions, in too many localities their arrest quotas (see the very highly recommended http://www.amazon.com/Arrest-Proof-Yourself-Dale-C-Carson/dp...). The equipment has no agency.

> Artwohl compares police work to defensive driving, which is about “expecting something bad is going to happen. It’s not about dealing with normal traffic flow.”

> “We should go out there and expect something bad will happen and watch for it,” she said. “If we are not paying attention, we could die.”

If that's how she views defensive driving it might shed some light on her approach to policing.

I don't think defensive driving means expecting that at any moment something horrible can happen. It's more about being aware, anticipating events, preventing problems, and having a plan B. And it's very much part of dealing with normal traffic flow, responding to common road conditions in a defensive way that prevents problems or at least offers you a good response should a problem occur.

I think she's entirely correct. I consider "defensive driving" not to be about expecting horrible things, but rather thinking about (and taking action to mitigate) unsafe events.

I explicitly distrust other drivers, more than might be considered reasonable, specifically because there have been times that, had I not been so pessimistic, either I would have been injured or my vehicle damaged.

- I distrust turn signals. I've seen too many people approach an intersection that I want to turn into that had forgotten to turn their signal off. I believe it when I see your car change course, or start braking. (I also live in an area where many people don't bother to use them in the first place.) - I assume most people are speeding, and am conservative about pulling out in front of oncoming traffic -- which has saved my bacon when my car has stalled. - I assume people on the freeway going faster than me will cut in front if me. Strangely, this _reduces_ my stress while driving, as I am not surprised when it happens. - I approach my car from the front, so that I can see oncoming traffic before stepping into the road.

Being prepared for statistical outliers is important, because as a driver (or as a police officer) you have many encounters in the course of your career -- and your cumulative chance of encountering such an outlier increases the longer your career.

Yes, defensive driving is about having higher margins. Which is where her comparison falls short. Because police often escalate the situation to get the upper hand on a perceived threat. Which is more like tactical driving, where you e.g. drive in a convoy at high speed to avoid getting stopped. If there is no real threat you have most likely made the situation worse.

A couple years ago I was considering getting a bike and mentioned the idea to a friend that is pretty experienced to get some advice. I decided against it in the end, but his advice stuck with me. "Always make sure you ride like everyone on the road is actively trying to kill you." I started applying the idea to driving and it's saved me from accidents quite a few times.

Brit here, with many years driving experience in the UK and Australia, and multiple months driving in the USA and Israel.

The depressing thing about "Defensive Driving" is that it is essentially good driving sense.

Reading about defensive driving, it's clear to me that it is a concept that is expected to be taught in many countries driver education programs - and consequently tested for. And it's definitely missing from most USA state's driver education/testing regime.

I've just got back from a week in the USA, and the constant accidents that cause huge traffic congestion is really not a surprise at all given how terrible the state of driving in the bay area is.

Driving whilst assuming that other drivers on the road are not going to act consistently is good driving in normal traffic. Do I expect drivers to pull out in front of me, to stop suddenly, etc? Well, yes, if the drivers behaviour has suggested as much. Being observant and watching the behaviour of cars approaching from behind, or cars you are catching up to, gives you clues. More clues come from the conditions, time of day, car, etc.

"I don't think defensive driving means expecting that at any moment something horrible can happen. It's more about being aware, anticipating events, preventing problems, and having a plan B."

"anticipating events"

I feel like maybe you are just making quick conversation, but do you not see the contradiction? I used to ride a motorcycle everywhere, and I took some pretty advanced motorcycle courses while in the military (on par with motorcycle cop courses), and me riding defensively certainly is me anticipating horrible events and avoiding them.

I think one downside to the evolution of car safety is that what it turns people who drive all the time (don't walk, ride bikes or motorcycles) into what motorcyclist call "cagers"... that is they don't see anything smaller than their vehicle, and that they have a lack of respect for the power of a vehicle. So I keep an eye out particularly for "cagers".

Example, me going down access road, I see soccer-mom suv 400 yards up ready to right hand turn into same lane, I notice kids in the back and vehicle nudging forward indicating it's in a rush... I am going to eagle eye the intentions of that vehicle and have already shifted my weight and moved further to the left in the lane.

If I failed to do these things, and the vehicle pulled out in front of me... I would most likely be dead on the spot.

Now, back to the subject, I think the real point is that you should be able to read a situation and expect the worst but hope for the best, and use your skills to respond in a way the de-escalates and reduces risk to all involved, and it is that last part that the majority of police are failing to do.

A lot of my old buddies went contractor (aka mercenary), but a few did join the force. I always told them I knew I couldn't be a police officer because I had such a muscle memory for killing... I think the real problem is that we have allowed a military people who got used to occupation operations to transition into police work without correcting that mind-set for how they interact with people. We are not in a war zone here... and we don't want to make it one either! (which seems to be what is happening)

Police officers should be peace officers, not storm troopers.

While I'm on the subject, I have two very particular gripes with current police conduct:

1. Lack of trigger discipline and willingness to unholster their weapon, and lack of barrel discipline once their weapon is out.

2. Unconstitutional police methods such as no-knock warrants, often hitting the wrong house which could have been avoided with some simple police work.

You combine the two and you get something like my brother in arms in Arizona, a Marine who was shot at least 22 times by a bunch of undisciplined trigger heavy fucktards posing as a SWAT team.



Maybe each officer needs to be reminded of their own roots, in the form of the Peelian principles? It should be an easy sell, as the principles have been "their own" for nearly 200 years. Dating from 1829, they are the founding principles of the London Metropolitan Police Force. In summary, policing is a self-regulation function by the community being policed, not imposed by an external force.


Thanks for posting this, this is great.

I wholeheartedly approve of this shift in focus. Yes, police do have to deal with violent and dangerous people, but most people are neither violent nor dangerous (nor ought they be criminals). The police force is not the military; one's fellow citizens are not one's foes.

> The officers were charged with felony assault but acquitted by a jury in 1992, sparking days of rioting and protests.

For completeness, the article really should have mentioned that they were then convicted by a federal court, the Constitution's prohibition on double jeopardy being held not to apply.

"Policing" and "law enforcement" are different.

Policing: hey, you're not allowed to jaywalk, so stop.

Law Enforcement: here's a $100 fine for your first jaywalking offense.

We have too many law enforcers, too few police.

Real policing would ignore the so-called offence of jaywalking,unless the person is putting themselves in harm's way. "I know the nearest crossing is 80 meters away, but have a think about where and when to cross - the drivers of cars that come around that corner can't see you until the last second:

Not to mention, that the parking meter box is across the street, not on the corner, so to get to it legally you'd have to walk half a block down, cross with the light, walk half a block, put your money in, get the slip of paper, walk back half a block to the corner, wait for the light again, walk back to your car to put the paper on the dashboard (hoping you didn't get a parking ticket in the mean while), then go to your destination. Repeat every 2 hours.

This is Chicago's parking meter system.

Don't you have an app for that?

We have too many murderers and abettors of murderers, and too few virtuous people in the ranks of the guards... the major concept suppressed is the idea that the guards are servants of the people rather than oppressors.

By giving police the power to judiciate through selective enforcement of the rules, you are guaranteeing that there will be rampant abuse.

Look at the UK. Police there have far more judicial discretion than is common in the US, but abuse/bribery/etc is incredibly low.

Although it should be noted that UK police have no incentive to fine people, the department doesn't profit from it, whereas in the US a lot of departments are primarily financed through fines.

I think that that's the root of the problem, or at least a much bigger part of it than either political side is interested in letting on. Not everything is shaped by money, but when there's money involved, it's worthwhile to know what incentives it sets up...

Except we already give them that power - see the all-too-common offenses of driving while black, contempt of cop, and the tried-and-true 'I'm pretty sure I smelled weed in the car'.

On top of that, we also give prosecutors the power to judiciate selective enforcement.

But even just assigning someone to jaywalking duty is already selective enforcement. Even if the entire police force was on jaywalking duty, you couldn't catch all the jaywalkers in the city.

Replace the police with robots? No thanks.

The report "From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals" mentioned in the article is available for downloading from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.[1] The report includes a lot of information about police training.

[1] https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248654.pdf

What I like about US or West is, reflect, retrain and retool. That is absolutely missing in other parts of the world. I know it is early and a bit congratulatory, being an Immigrant and having seen the other world, I am happy to call US my home.

I was watching a video, where the YouTuber, who is a cop, was trying out a video-wall computerized training tool for police. One thing that disturbed me was that the simulator was supposed to help police know when to deploy their firearm. However, every single scenario required the use of lethal force. The only question was when to use lethal force.

Eh, one of those was a bonus in the mandatory Missouri concealed carry training class I took (taught by current duty local police officers in the local college's police training academy), and that you will have to use lethal force at some point is vastly outweighed by all the times you might but cannot legally and morally use it.

In none of the scenarios was it clear at the beginning that you'd need to fire your weapon at some point, and, hmmm, all that I recall were in defense of a 3rd party on the scene. Although I'm sure there are ones where you personally are in simulated danger.

What was disturbing to me, was that all of the scenarios dealt with the police having to defend themselves using lethal force.

There's such a thing as not wasting training or simulator time. That cops trained with such simulations don't then go all Terminator when they're out on the streets says something.

And as noted there are simulation suites which focus entirely on protection of 3rd parties, you're oddly enough never at risk, which was itself unsettling.

I have a friend who went through the Seattle academy training then left the SPD after a year. He said this attitude runs very deep. Citizens are seen as the enemy and it is a bunch of insecure, macho dudes who get off on intimidating people.

I think some of the reason people disagree on this subject is that police across the country vary a lot. In SF where I live now police are, to most people anyway, pretty good. Growing up in Seattle and living there until I was about 35, I was harassed and intimidated many many times.

I'm no expert, but reading TFA I can't help but think that though this new training is an improvement, it's not going to make much difference. It would take a saintly person not to menace and abuse the public when placed in the position in which we place cops. As long as we rely on the goodness of people, on the availability of "heroes", we'll be disappointed. We'll still have a system that rewards corrupt and brutal behavior while imprisoning people who smoke pot.

This thread is a perfect illustration why. We have numerous comments claiming that police should just put up with serious risks to their lives, which is ridiculous. The risks that e.g. deepwater oil workers face are inherent to current oil drilling technology. Though such workers are paid enough to accept those risks, safety technology is always improving. In contrast, every risk involved in police work is due to arbitrary decisions society has made, which could be changed at any time if we cared enough to do so. It's no wonder that police have responded with a bunker mentality.

Society has invented numerous victimless crimes, many of which attempt to counteract basic psychological and physical drives. Society has outlawed "risky" behaviors rather than punishing actual harms caused by those. Society has given municipalities, agencies, and contractors commercial interest in draconian enforcement. Society has decided to employ multitudes more police than we actually need, so that they are forced to menace the public in order to make work for themselves.

My suggestion for a maxim of policing would be to follow physicians: "first, do no harm". Actually living that rule would be a vast change to current LEO practice.

The best way to get better cops: Putting multiple cameras on every cop & car, and prosecutors who make it clear they side with the people over the police. Seriously punish any amount of power tripping or harassment of citizens.

It may take a few years, but the people who sign up for police academy will be different. Being a police officer will no longer be attractive to those who want to wield power.

Prosecutors shouldn't side with "the people" over the police - the police are the people. They should side with the evidence and the rule of law.

The policy-actionable bits of that (cameras, particularly) may help.

But training affects expectations and behavior, both directly and individually and more broadly by shaping institutional culture. So, training reforms of the type discussed in the article are, IMO, part of the solution.

Isn't this more like returning to an "old style"?

So far this year, police have shot and killed more than 900 people, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings — more than twice the number recorded in any previous year by federal officials.

Surely this indicates the utter failure by any federal agency to track this statistic more than it does exceptionally violent LEOs this year?

Surely? No. Possibly? Yes. Likely? Both.

Lots of people have searched for this stat. It isn't kept by DoJ, which one presumes is why WaPo is attempting to do so itself.

Far better for the authority of a policeman to come from citizens' belief in the importance of law and respect for their governmental institutions than from fear of deadly force. Even if the rule of law is ultimately guaranteed by force it is a really bad idea to continually confront generally law abiding citizens with that fact, they are going to follow the law anyway most of the time and pointing guns at them is just going to escalate the situation because the one pointing a gun is seen as an imminent threat and 'other.' Dangerous for everyone involved and stupid if you care about building belief in the importance of rule of law.

Although I am no authority to properly comment on the American police system; having never lived there. I think we should not boil it down to a black-white issue of police training. I definitely agree that training police should not be in the same fashion as military, I think this needs to be coupled with anti-gun laws, and proper education to ever see a true decline in police brutality. After all, being confronted with an armed suspect, will lead to escalation, remove that game changer, and a properly trained police should be able to subdue them.

I can't think of any gun control that would help this situation, plus it's not happening in the forseable future.

But thinking about your comment just now, less gun control would help in the 8 states that don't have "shall issue" or better concealed carry regimes, which include the high population states of California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

Knowing that outright murder and the like might be opposed by a legally carrying concealed citizen has got to have a chilling effect on the worst of the police. Knowing that 5% of the citizens 19 or older in my county have concealed carry licenses should also have some good effects of various sorts, and temper some of the sorts of things we've been told about in this HN topic.

Won't help when they're dealing with "known criminals" or the young (the threshold age is generally 21), unless of course a parent is there or the like.

To the extend citizen concealed carry decreases crime (a hotly debated topic that's very hard to prove when things like demographics are also steadily decreasing it), that would also help.

I remember when the Abu Ghraib and similar revelations came out, I was relatively unsurprised. Military training is to prepare people to fight a war, against a defined enemy, where the general gist of the available tactics all come down to "kill the other guy first". And if you put someone with that kind of training in a situation that calls for police, you're going to get bad results.

I had naively assumed at the time that police were still trained to a different outlook and set of priorities.

This is great, but I wonder if without a pay raise if they will be able to fill the ranks.

Cynical me thinks maybe a large number of current cops would do the job for even less, so long as they were allowed to carry a gun and a stick and order people around and maybe even get to shoot them.

So with that approach we get a less expensive police force that is fairly effective (for the privileged class) as it ruthlessly beats and suppresses the unprivileged class. Win-win for the privileged class. Keeping the thugs down at bargain prices.

So now policing gets more expensive? Many cities are strapped for cash at the moment. (Heaven forbid we consider cutting unneeded bureaucrats to pay for better police officers). So higher taxes it is? I'm certainly ok with paying for quality. That is... if I actually get it.

It's hard to explain their observed eagerness to shoot harmless dogs in any other way than the power trip thesis.

This article shows how far ahead some people (in the Mideast) are:

"They number roughly 6,000 [police] officers, all of them elected; a women-only force deals with sexual assault and rape. (All recruits receive their weapons only after 'two weeks of feminist instruction,' according to Cengidar Mikail, the director of the Qamishli police.)" (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/magazine/a-dream-of-utopia...)

What happens when people dare to think deeper. And they're not only in ISIS' backyard, but the ones beating them.

Police need to just behave more like firefighters.

Not only that, but I think that a lot more cops need to be out on foot. Not bikes, not segways, none of that. They should be out walking around, talking to people. IMHO, I should know who the cops assigned to my neighborhood are.

Here's a thing that happened last week that highlights a problem I have with the cops:

At about 1:30 in the morning, my dog starts doing her dog thing and informing me that IMMINENT DOOM is upon us in the form of somebody being outside of the house. I get up and walk to the kitchen to find that, yes, indeed somebody is outside of the door trying to get in, which is a scary feeling. I don't have a peephole on that door, it's the middle of the night, and they aren't knocking, they're trying to get the handle to open.

Now, luckily I'm a pretty huge guy, so while this was scary, it didn't really seem life threatening, (they weren't trying to bust through the door, just trying to come inside, so probably just a very disoriented person). Eventually, they left, and I went back to bed.

A few minutes later, however, we heard a car alarm go off next door, indicating that the person had just moved on to the neighbor's house, which is really sad, because there is an old lady that lives next door, who might not brush off the idea of somebody trying to come into her house as readily as I could.

I go outside and find out that the person trying to come in was a ~20 year old girl who couldn't have weighed more than 110lbs soaking wet. Basically the least threatening person imaginable, but she was trying to get into the neighbor's house.

One part of my life involves volunteering for a group of people who deal specifically with this sort of thing at a big dessert party that lots of people in SF have probably heard of. My mode switched from being worried about the lady next door, to being worried about the obviously confused kid trying to get into somebody's house.

I loudly convinced her to come and talk to me away from the lady-next-door's house (so as to make sure that the lady inside, who I am sure was scared, could hear that everything was alright), and we started trying to figure out where she was supposed to be, and a plan to get her to that place safely. Sidenote: turns out she just has some really shitty friends who more or less ditched her and went home.

While I was talking to her, the cops showed up (presumably my neighbor called them), and I got to see how they would have handled the situation.

There was a guy just riding his bike by the neighbor's house, and the cops started YELLING at him

"What are you doing?"

"Just riding home."

"Huh, why are you here? Why are you riding here? Huh? Why here? What are you doing? Is this your house? What are you doing? Do you know you can't be here? This is an alleyway you can't ride here [EVERYBODY rides their bike in the alley, which is practically a bike path], why are you here? This is illegal. What are you doing here?"

Just started machine-gunning questions at this poor dude who happened to be riding by at the wrong time.

Eventually, they figured out that the girl I was talking to was the person that they were looking for. I explained to them who she was, what she was doing, and where she needed to be.

The thing that absolutely FLOORED me was that they refused to give her a ride home. They wanted to stick this obviously disoriented, possibly drugged, girl into a cab (a fucking CAB! Yikes!), and make her into the cabby's problem (hey, get into this random car and hopefully this drugged up girl will make it home safe!)

Luckily they did NOT do this, because the girl said she didn't have any cash. The ended up calling some sort of non-police-police van who gave her a ride to [hopefully] her house. (It was their Crisis Intervention Team, I think. Like people who show up and talk to people who have just had a traumatic experience, I guess they weren't busy, and had time to give this girl a ride).


Watching the whole thing was just sad to me. Not only was the FIRST response that the cops had to start yelling at some dude, but when presented with a REAL opportunity to improve somebody's safety (this girl), they either didn't want to, or were not allowed to.

Keeping some disoriented girl safe in the middle of the night seems like the cliche of what cops are supposed to be doing, and here when presented with the opportunity, they wouldn't do it.


I'm a fan of this video that tears down lousy police training during a tough encounter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4VeHOkt_o8

I believe they have others, too. Our cops are simply not trained for de-escalation and disarming like they should be.

Holy smokes we need this so badly in the States!

Yeah hopefully they bring this to Washington!

The article is about the program in Washington.


This is akin to trying to stop crime by changing the high school curriculum. We already have civil and criminal legal systems that even police are supposedly bound by. Why not fucking apply them?

Reminds me of the movie "Demolition Man". For those who don't know, this is a Sylvester Slallone futuristic movie where a thug named Simon Phoenix wakes up from a cryo-prison somewhere around 2032. But LA is a pacifist utopia now, and the cops are all "nicey nicey" without any weapons with them, so who is going to stop Simon now?

I think, as a society, we are progressing towards that kind of pacifist utopia.

Modern policing seems to be moving more in the Rambo direction, if we're picking Stallone movies.

First Blood was ahead of its time, in that the audience was expected to sympathize with the victim of brutal policing.

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