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?


  1. The old adage of the carrot and the stick…….if the stick is implied, but never used, it becomes merely a “carrot holder” and not a level of force. Fear can be used as a form of control “force” as long as the subject the fear is directed towards accepts it as fear. As soon as the subject understands the force is merely implied and not applied, the fear simply becomes only an implication.

    You also touched on the human factor of the use of fear as a controlling action within and without a police organization. Using fear works short term, as explained above, but as soon as the fear becomes an implication, resentment, anger, and hurt can quickly manifest into negative actions against the fear applier. Scare human beings and expect a reaction from them. The reaction usually starts out as a positive aspect for the fear applier and negative for the fear recipient, and then completely reverses for both parties as soon as the fear becomes an implication. History outlines some dictators have used this action/reaction to great effect over the years, by waiting for the reaction and THEN applying heavy force to re-introduce/reinforce the fear even more, thereby gaining complete control for a time.

  2. Your last question, "Then what?" is the perfect ending for this thread of thought. Fear, even delivered in perfect execution, at best yields mere compliance. It will never generate cooperation. Cooperation is what our cities and neighborhoods need, not compliance. If all we end up with are compliant citizens, we will have a stagnant, atrophied community. But if cooperation exists and is expected, then the community grows and thrives. Fear then--used by the wolves or the sheep dogs--will have a very short lifespan or will be kept in abeyance entirely.

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog and the mirror blog on US Army COIN website. When I was in Iraq and received the opportunity to work with Law Enforcement Professionals (LEPs) I always valued their opinion. The LEPs always understood the value of the population in a Counter-Insurgency (COIN) environment. They can provide valuable intelligence and single out the true enemy in a situation that would prove otherwise impossible to discern the enemy. All too often we in the military resort to brute force when taking down an enemy or insurgent house. We learned the hard way that using the tactics described above can produce amazing results and will truly turn the population against the insurgent.
    I am wondering one thing. Is this a relatively new tactic in police departments or something you have been using for a long time?

    MAJ David Dee
    Student (ILE)

  4. Maj. Dee
    Thank you for your service to our country! In addition, thank you for your comment.
    To your question - Our (Chip and I) combined 43 plus years of experience in L.E. tells us that fear and intimidation is the norm of our culture. This is true of both how we treat one another within our organizations and how we treat community members (outside of personal loyalties of course). BUT there has always been individuals and pockets that are exceptions, and I study the exceptions. The Anicom S3 system (the COIN webinar) is the product of discovery borne from the undeniable evidence produced by professionals in the field, by the essence of their cumulative expertise and by the force of discernment and wisdom. Anicom S3 codifies and explains what masters of influence and effectiveness have done since earliest times, in their brightest, most effective and most heroic moments. If you would like a PDF summary of the Anicom S3 briefing just e-mail me at unleashingrespect@gmail.com and I would be honored to send it to you.
    Thank you again

  5. Jack;
    I appreciate the regards, but I must thank you as well. L.E. is ensuring the citizens are safe at home, which is just as important as the military mission. I would be very interested in reading the Anicom S3 system. Please send it to deed42@gmail.com
    Best Regards