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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fear Has Lost its Value and Has Become a Liability (But don't tell anyone)

Fear or intimidation as a primary law enforcement tool has a long distinguished past. Because of that, when the tactic is challenged one will hear things like, “It’s the way we have always done it” - “It has always worked in the past” – “You have to intimidate ‘these kind of people’, it’s all they understand.”
Unfortunately, empirical support for these statements can be found, fear does produce results because it is the core emotion. As Seth Godin correctly states in Linchpin; “Fear dominates the other emotions, because without our ability to avoid death, the other ones don’t really matter much.” (p. 124)
For all these reasons, and many others, fear as a tactic is difficult to give up on. Law enforcement for generations past engraved the “social contract” manual of fear and intimidation into each succeeding generation, the cement has dried. One ought not to blame the line element officers for using fear as a tactic. Fear and intimidation has always been the favorite management tool of police commanders. It is the old “carrot and stick” regimen of gaining compliance. This is what officers have been taught and seen modeled since day one of their careers.
Fear and intimidation still reigns as the primary management tactic, and policing tactic, to this day. Regardless of the fact, the tactic itself has ceased to be a resource and has become a liability. This is especially true in a day of budget cutbacks, when we most need cooperation and synergy with our community to solve complex problems. Ironically, those on the outside of law enforcement, who would to change the culture, rely on the same fear and intimidation tactics; see the absurdity? Those who most resent the social contract of fear and intimidation – blindly use the same tactic to change the contact! Of course, all they do is strengthen the contract.
My point is this; we probably have dangerous cities with high crime rates because fear and intimidation as a tactic no longer works. The “wolves” are not intimidated – the vast majority of community members who would otherwise be partners, eyes and ears ARE. The “wolves” on one side and police “snarling sheep dogs” on the other side. I was recently speaking with a colleague who supervises a homicide squad. He told of a shopping cart with two decomposing bodies sitting in a neighborhood for days, a trail of blood leading to the “wolves” house who had perpetrated the murders. Not only did no one call police, no one “knew anything” during an area canvass. The military would call this a pro-insurgency environment. In other words, the social context of the neighborhood is such that the insurgents (criminals, drug dealers and gang members) are having their way. This is because in a fear based social environment (just to name a few of the more obvious ones):
· There can be no trust
· Safe, open, honest communication will not exist
· Creative solutions to complex problems will never emerge
· Everyone dodges accountability out of a sense of survival-blame shifting is normative
· Wolves move about with impunity doing what wolves do
We will soon reach a logical conclusion for the 9-1-1 hamster wheel. The final step is real time crime analysis, so we can be where the victims of crime are BEFORE they call to report the crime. Police will have reduced reaction time as low as possible. Law enforcement will hit a natural ceiling; we can no longer react to the tragic results of fear and intimidation as a tactic any quicker. Then what?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deadly Sexism – Deadly Ageism – Deadly Racism

I have been fond of saying, “Our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and dangerous. Rather than judging others, we must learn to be aware of, and responsive to, their full human potential for good, and evil.”

After a brief chance conversation with some colleagues, I am changing my position:
“Our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and “deadly.” We must constantly confront our natural subconscious prejudices, biases, fears and loyalties, which generate our judgments of others so that we can be aware of their full human potential for good and evil, and be equipped to properly interpret and respond to their behavior in the context of the situation.”

Let me set the context. I was talking with a friend in the hallway of the academy when an officer came from a seminar we were hosting regarding officer survival. The instructors were using data from the FBI LEOKA (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted) studies. The officer was beside himself regarding two separate incidents the class had highlighted where officers apparently ignored a male subject’s girlfriend. In each case, the girlfriend was able to obtain a weapon and kill officers. The point of the training seemed to be - honor female cohorts’ adversarial worth.

My mind instantly began reeling with another video I have seen of a Texas DPS Trooper stopping a motorist for not wearing a seat belt. The motorist pulls into the median strip to stop. A lone white man who was 72-years old at the time emerges from the driver’s seat and produces an assault rifle. The motorist walks toward the officer brandishing the assault rifle. Approximately 8 seconds passed with the brandished weapon in plain view and approximately 5 seconds passed after the man is standing within a few yards of the trooper pointing the assault rifle at the trooper before the man fires the first round from the assault rifle (ignoring repeated orders to put the weapon down). Other officers arrive who are held-at-bay for some time, unable to provide medical assistance for the wounded officer, but probably too close to safely deal with a shooter possessing an assault rifle.

On the other end of the spectrum was two West Memphis police officers gunned down May 20 by a teenager with an assault rifle as they struggled with the teen’s father. The youth emerged from the minivan with an assault rifle just as the struggle began.

Imagine if the exact scenarios were to happen again, and this time instead of the shooters being female or an elderly man or a youth – the suspect has the appearance of a “dangerous” gang-banger covered with jailhouse tats. Do the officers close the hesitation / cognitive dissonance / disregarding gap and survive?

Think of Fort Hood TX and the active shooter. If you take the shooter’s race and religion out of the picture and simply deal with the behaviors and the total context of the developing circumstances – is the Army able to objectively assess the situation and take decisive administrative action to avert the catastrophe?

If the answer to the questions posed by these tragic scenarios is yes – or even probably, we may have a case of deadly sexism, deadly ageism and deadly racism.

Again, our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and deadly.