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Thread: Study RE: Attitudes Toward Police Shootings

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    Default Study RE: Attitudes Toward Police Shootings

    Food for thought for the Monday Morning Quarterback from the Force Science Research Center:

    New study: When civilians would shoot...and when they think you should

    Fascinating experiments by 2 California researchers show that young civilians who might someday be on an OIS jury overwhelmingly disagree with veteran officers about when police are justified in shooting armed, threatening perpetrators.

    Interestingly, tests also reveal that when facing shoot/don't shoot decisions of their own, civilians tend to be quick on the trigger--and often wrong in their perceptions. Even in ideal lighting conditions, civilian test subjects show "a very low capacity for distinguishing" a handgun from an innocuous object, such as a power tool. Forced to make a time-pressured decision, the vast majority would shoot a "suspect" who is, in fact, unarmed.

    "On one hand," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, "this research should make civilians more sympathetic to officers who mistakenly shoot unarmed subjects under high-stress, real-world conditions.

    "But on the other hand, the study shows the woeful lack of understanding most non-cops have about the larger legality and appropriateness of using deadly force. And this can result in serious ramifications in the courtroom."

    The findings, by Dr. Matthew Sharps, an expert on eye-witness identification and a psychology professor at California State University-Fresno, and Adam Hess, a lecturer in criminology at the school, are reported in The Forensic Examiner [12/22/08], published by the American College of Forensic Examiners. Their paper, "To shoot or not to shoot: Response and interpretation of response to armed assailants," can be read in full by clicking here.

    In their experiments, Sharps and Hess report, they first addressed "how untrained people would react if placed in the position of police officers confronting a situation potentially involving firearms and firearm violence."

    Eighty-seven female and 38 male college student volunteers of various races were each shown 1 of 4 high-quality digital photos of simulated "crime scenes." The settings were stage-set with the guidance of veteran FTOs from the Fresno PD, "all highly experienced in tactical realities and the sorts of situations encountered by witnesses and officers on the street."

    Three photos showed a lone M/W subject, holding a Beretta 9mm pistol in profile: one depicted a "simple" scene, "sparse in terms of potentially distracting objects"; another a "complex" scene, "including street clutter, garbage cans, and other potentially distracting items"; the third a complex scene that included several bystanders and a young, female "victim" being threatened by the armed perpetrator pointing the gun at her in a 1-handed grip.

    In a fourth photo, the scene was the same as the third--except that the Beretta was replaced with a power screwdriver.

    Before any pictures were shown, each volunteer was told that a scene "which may or may not involve a crime or sources of danger" would be flashed for 2 seconds or less on a movie screen. "You may intervene" by shooting at the perpetrator "to protect yourself or others if you see an individual holding a weapon," the researchers explained. Participants could "shoot" either by pressing a button or by firing a suction-tipped dart from a toy gun.

    "The conditions for all 4 scenes involved uniformly excellent lighting (strong sunlight), and the relative comfort of witnesses being seated," Sharps and Hess write. "There was no movement or occlusion of important elements of the scenes, and of course there was no personal danger for the respondents in the experiment."

    The smallest number of individuals decided to shoot at the lone subject holding a gun in the simple environment with no victim. Yet "even under these circumstances, in which no crime was depicted," a strong majority--64%--decided to fire. This despite the fact that the "perpetrator" as depicted could have as easily been target-shooting as committing a crime, the researchers note.

    In the complex but victimless scene, 67% chose to shoot. When a victim and bystanders were added, the proportion of shooters rose significantly, to 88%--nearly 9 out of 10.

    But most revealingly, when the suspect pointed a power screwdriver instead of a gun, some 85% "shot" him. "In other words," Sharps and Hess write, "respondents were equally likely to shoot the perpetrator whether he was armed or unarmed, as long as there was a potential 'victim' in the scene. It made no [statistically significant] difference whether the perpetrator held a gun or a power tool."

    Across the range of scenes, "when untrained people...'confronted' a suspect, the majority decided to shoot him under all conditions....[The] very high number of those who decided to shoot the unarmed suspect under ideal conditions might be inflated even further under the rapidly changing and visually confusing circumstances of a typical police emergency."

    The challenge the volunteers faced in distinguishing between the gun and the power tool was relatively easy, compared to officers making split-second decisions in the field. Cops frequently have to employ "rapid cognitive processing" in darkness or semidarkness, often deciding in less than a second whether to shoot, the researchers observe.

    "During that time, many factors in a scene must be evaluated: the suspect's motions; where the weapon is aimed; the presence of other people, including other potential suspects, and whether they are in the officer's probable field of fire; other potential sources of hazard, to self, to others, and to the suspect, in the immediate environment....

    "In view of these extensive processing demands, errors in perception or cognitive processing are likely to be relatively frequent....

    "[E]xtraordinary demands are placed on the cognitive and perceptual abilities of police officers in cases of gun violence. Public perception of these incidents, however, typically does not center on the cognitive or perceptual issues involved."

    Instead, officers' errors in shooting suspects brandishing innocuous objects rather than guns are "attributed, in many sources, to racism...and failures of integrity." It seems "incomprehensible, to many people, that officers could possibly mistake a [non-weapon] for a real firearm in the dark."

    Among several instances the researchers cite in which officers have been pilloried by the press and public for mistaken perceptions is the infamous case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot and killed by NYPD personnel in 1999 when he abruptly pulled a black wallet from his pocket during a confrontation. More recently, a subject was shot dead in Tacoma, WA, when he pointed a small, black cordless drill directly at officers.

    "It should be noted that the situation in which most people [in the experiment] effectively decided to kill an unarmed suspect was similar to the circumstances surrounding" these 2 cases, the researchers state.

    The intensely negative reactions of civilians toward officers involved in such incidents may, in reality, "have more to do with highly unrealistic public and mass-media expectations, and with popular ideas about deadly force, than with putative racism or integrity issues on the part of police," Sharps and Hess suggest.

    A disturbing insight into the public mind-set regarding police use of deadly force surfaced through a companion experiment conducted by the research team.

    Again using digital photography projected onto a screen, 33 females and 11 males recruited from freshman psychology classes were asked to view scenes in which a male or female Caucasian perpetrator, positioned "among typical street clutter," pointed a pistol in a 1-handed grip at a young, female "victim."

    After viewing the scene for a full 5 seconds ("far more than ample observation and processing time"), each subject was asked "what a police officer should do on encountering the situation depicted"...and why.

    Previously, 3 senior FTOs and a senior police commander had evaluated the proper police response. All concluded that "there was no question that this situation absolutely required a shooting response for both the male and female perpetrator.... [A]ny police officer encountering this situation must fire [immediately] on the perpetrator...in order to prevent the probable imminent death of the victim."

    To the researchers' surprise, the civilian volunteers overwhelmingly rated this a no-shoot situation. Only 11.36%--roughly 1 out of 10--"felt that a shooting response was called for," the researchers report. "[A]pproximately 9 out of 10...were of the opinion that an officer should not fire...although all of the senior police officers consulted stated that the situation depicted absolutely required a shooting response.

    "This result may have important implications for situations in which 12-person juries must evaluate a given police shooting....In any given, randomly selected jury of 12 citizens, these results suggest that on average, 1 or at most 2 jurors out of 12 would be likely to see an officer on trial in an officer-involved shooting situation as justified in shooting a perpetrator, even under the clearest and most appropriate of circumstances."

    Sharps and Hess want to conduct further research before drawing any solid gender conclusions. However, "no male respondent felt that a shooting response was justified with a female perpetrator," and only 1 in 16 female respondents favored shooting the male gunman.

    The reasons the respondents gave overall for their negative views on shooting graphically illustrate the cop-civilian disconnect. Some thought the suspect wouldn't really fire because of "the daylight, public conditions of the situation." Others "concocted elaborate rules of engagement" under which an officer might shoot: if the suspect fired first, or if the suspect had already committed murder, or if the officer had first tried to "convince" the suspect to drop the gun.

    Still others "literally invoked the need for clairvoyance on the part of the police, saying that an officer should not fire...because the suspect 'did not look like she wanted to kill.' Several qualified their responses with the idea that if the police had to fire, they should shoot the perpetrator's leg or arm, because...'a shot to the leg is relatively harmless....' "

    The researchers speculate that "many of these unrealistic responses may have derived from confusion of media depictions of police work with the real thing on the part of the public...and probably from unrealistic expectations concerning the workings and capabilities of the human nervous system...."

    They conclude: "[I]f these ideas and attitudes are as widespread as the results of this initial research effort suggest, there is substantial need for better education in the realities of crime and police work for the public from which, of course, all jurors are selected....This extreme discrepancy between public perception and actual police policy and operations warrants further attention, both in future research and in the modern criminal justice system....

    "[I]t is clear that these [findings] assume special significance for the real-world courtroom circumstances under which actual witnesses, jurors, and public constituencies consider and testify as to the actions of law enforcement personnel in application to real-world violent crime."

    "Although this research is a welcome first step in helping to bridge the gap of understanding between many civilians and law enforcement, it's important to remember that the exploration doesn't stop here," says Dr. Lewinski. "Force Science Research Center Advisor Tom Aveni's work on contextual cues makes clear that in order to facilitate a more thorough understanding of these issues, this study should expand beyond static settings and expand into fluid and dynamic scenarios that better reflect issues of threat recognition and response in regard to human movement. Although we're supportive of and grateful for the work that's been done to date, we're hopeful that the focus will move in this direction."

    [Our thanks to Wayne Schmidt, executive director of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, for alerting us to this study. Reminder: register now for AELE's unique workshop on Lethal and Less-Lethal Force, Mar. 9-11 or Oct. 26-28 in Las Vegas. Go to www.aele.org for more information and online sign-up.]
    Kit Leblanc

    In Harm's Way

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    Thanks for posting this, Kit.

    As a simple civilian, I must say I'm not surprised at the findings. If everyday Joe's like me reacted in the same way as trained law enforcement, I would be disheartened.

    Some parts of the study I agree with, but others have me confused.

    This seems quite logical to me:

    Previously, 3 senior FTOs and a senior police commander had evaluated the proper police response. All concluded that "there was no question that this situation absolutely required a shooting response for both the male and female perpetrator.... [A]ny police officer encountering this situation must fire [immediately] on the perpetrator...in order to prevent the probable imminent death of the victim."
    We are asking trained officers to make these decisions, not members of the public. This is what happens at trial or in a civil proceeding: civilians get to check their expectations against that of the police and judgments can be made about what is "reasonable." It's a push-pull process, but a valuable one.

    I would expect a difference in opinion between experts in the field who do this for a living and college students simply participating in a study.

    I am perplexed by this part:

    "But on the other hand, the study shows the woeful lack of understanding most non-cops have about the larger legality and appropriateness of using deadly force. And this can result in serious ramifications in the courtroom."
    This seems to be leaving out the crucial step of how a case winds up in front of a jury to begin with: A D.A. must bring it. We can make the blanket statement that D.A.’s bring nonsense cases against police all the time, but I’m not sure that would actually hold up to scrutiny. Even if we accept that a Grand Jury is a rubber stamp, the D.A. still has to believe the burden of proof will be met at trial. D.A.’s that abuse their power should be checked by either judges or the electorate. So, before a “misinformed public” gets to hear a case, a legal expert has to decide if there is merit. The “legality” is a question that the D.A. has to decide long before it gets to a jury.

    Civil cases are another matter, but judges can still adjust awards if it is obvious that facts are being overlooked. I guess my point is if even if the public is woefully obtuse about what is a reasonable action for a police officer to take, there are informed parts of the system that can correct this.

    Or a new norm is being established by the community a specific deparment is being charged with protecting. This may be a valid way to impact police procedure.

    I think the piece goes a bit too far in implying that judgments against police are the result of misinformation or unreasonable expectations.

    I guess this would be the central question I would have about a study like this. To my mind, agents of the State with the powers of the police should be held to a higher standard and called to answer for their actions more so than other professions are. Sympathy is required and we need to see our police officers as human beings and fellow citizens, but there also should be a clear line of societal expectations.

    For example, the study mentions the Amadou Diallo case. There is quite a bit of important background to that case that impacted the reaction of the community, but even if we just take the facts as they stand: is it reasonable for a society to expect that trained police officers would act differently given the same set of facts? Was the “pillory,” as the study put it, a valid reaction for a society to have to such a situation?

    I think it is important to affirm that in cases such as this that officers will have to answer for their actions in formal proceedings. In the Diallo case, the facts came out and it was determined to be a reasonable reaction. The system did what it was supposed to do and a message was sent that police will have to answer for their actions in fair and open proceedings. They did and all officers were acquitted of criminal charges. This, I think, is a good thing. (The civil case was different, but there is a lower standard to be met there.)

    I also think the point made in the study here is a bit off base. It doesn’t matter if I, a regular schmo, would shoot when a guy pulls out a wallet. It is, rather, if it is reasonable to expect a trained law enforcement officer to shoot under the same circumstances. That is the standard. I think it would be dangerous to lower the standard in this regard to that of untrained members of society.

    So, what do we do with the findings of a study like this? Is somebody like me, who isn’t charged with working in a world of violence and crime ever really going to understand the decisions police have to make? Would too much sympathy be a bad thing? I can see how police feel put upon, as they are just trying to do their jobs the best they can, but I wonder if the scrutiny isn’t a good thing for society as a whole.

    I hear all the time how we are country that is quite wary of unchecked State power. Perhaps our attitudes towards police come out of this idea of keeping an eye the agents of that State that do have considerable power. (Although, I would bet there would be a discrepancy between our attitudes towards police power in general and the individual officers we know on a personal level. I’m quite trustful of the school resource officers I know here at school, but I am wary of general police power on a state or national level.)

    Kevin Cantwell
    Last edited by K. Cantwell; 3rd March 2009 at 19:22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K. Cantwell View Post
    A D.A. must bring it. We can make the blanket statement that D.A.’s bring nonsense cases against police all the time, but I’m not sure that would actually hold up to scrutiny. Even if we accept that a Grand Jury is a rubber stamp, the D.A. still has to believe the burden of proof will be met at trial. D.A.’s that abuse their power should be checked by either judges or the electorate. So, before a “misinformed public” gets to hear a case, a legal expert has to decide if there is merit. The “legality” is a question that the D.A. has to decide long before it gets to a jury.
    There is another critical check on the DA in this type of situation. I'm sure it varies from office to office and region to region, but as a general rule prosecutors work very closely with the police. If he's worth anything as a prosecutor then he's spent a lot of time talking to his officers, done ride-alongs with them, etc., and is therefor extremely sensitive to their perspective. Alsoi, the ADA in a given case has probably been working with that particular officer for years, and knows that he will have to continue working with that officer or that officer's buddies for years to come. Unless he's a complete moron he's going to be reluctant to take actions that serve no point but antagonizing the local police.

    Otherwise, great read. I'll be forwarding the article along.
    David Sims

    "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum." - Terry Pratchet

    My opinion is, in all likelihood, worth exactly what you are paying for it.

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    Here is the website of the Force Science Institute, which conducted the research for the article above:

    There are some other interesting articles in the "Past Articles" section of their news header. (There was one on the legalilty of using a Taser on a passivley resisting subject that was a good read.)

    Seems like an interesting group. They do seem to be focusing their research on consulting for law enforcement agencies rather than for purley scientific ends.

    Kevin Cantwell

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    Force Science research has already cleared several officers (most notably in the UK, where it may work differently) from criminal charges and, IIRC, got at least one former officer released from prison. Some of the comments may be based simply on the fact that their views, based on what they have dealt with, may not necessarily reflect the bulk of cases.

    In general, it seems once a jury gets all the facts, hears from all the experts, and is properly educated on how police are actually trained - and what "real life" is like, they more often than not clear officers of wrongdoing.
    Kit Leblanc

    In Harm's Way

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    Something else the public doesn't understand is that it is impossible to "fully" train a police officer through any length of academy and/or simulated situations - even though both have become pretty advanced sciences.

    It is well accepted in Law Enforcement that the majority of practical, real-world learning, occurs in the field - working as fully empowered & sworn police officers servicing the public. The time period I hear a lot locally is: five years of sworn field experience before new officers gain enough varied experiences to really "know their job". That is why there are usually FTO's (field training officers), seasoned officers that new officers are assigned to for a varying length of time when first entering the field. However, situations such as shoot/don't shoot comes down to the individual, regardless of how experienced/seasoned the officers around them might be.

    The fact is, there is a big learning curve in police work that can only be learned on-duty, in the field, conducting police investigations. Think of it like the traditional practice of apprenticing in a field which requires significant specialization.

    BTW, this learning curve is why it is important for departments to try to keep their senior membership happy, rather than throw them aside in favor of heavy recruitment efforts. Technically, a City suffers the higher the percent of new officers being trained at any given time increases (aside from the benefit of crime suppression through high police visibility).

    Anyway, just another LE reality that public scrutiny does not allow for.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Nathan --

    There are studies that show that, on average, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become truly expert in a field. So, if you work 40 hours per week, then it really does take about 5 years to reach 10,000 hours. The math? Assume:

    * 60 months (5 years x 12 months)

    * About 20 work days per month. I know, there are an average of 22 work days per month, but we want useful experience. Therefore, eliminate the day wasted each month in meetings, and the day used each month in sick/vacation time. Assume an average of 8 hours per day. 60 x 20 x 8 = 9600 hours.

    Obviously, time is shortened if you work lots of OT and stay healthy, and lengthened if you don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Svinth View Post
    Nathan --

    There are studies that show that, on average, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become truly expert in a field. So, if you work 40 hours per week, then it really does take about 5 years to reach 10,000 hours. The math? Assume:

    * 60 months (5 years x 12 months)

    * About 20 work days per month. I know, there are an average of 22 work days per month, but we want useful experience. Therefore, eliminate the day wasted each month in meetings, and the day used each month in sick/vacation time. Assume an average of 8 hours per day. 60 x 20 x 8 = 9600 hours.

    Obviously, time is shortened if you work lots of OT and stay healthy, and lengthened if you don't.
    This is generous math; many hours are spent "booking" suspects; paper work consumes a huge part of a police officer's work. Even if you account for overtime, one must consider court time, testimony, dispositions, interviews, interrogations, etc, etc.

    I'm not trying to be argumentative just being over analytical (it's what happens on Spring Break). I'm a HUGE proponent of the 10,000 hour theory. In fact, I tell most of the guys I train with that I'm in the 20,000 hour club which leaves them in the 20,000++ club.

    Here's the guy who "proved" what martial artists have known for centuries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Gladwell
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...---review.html

    Regards,

    Andrew De Luna
    Daito Ryu

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    Plus, don't forget that it takes time to set a skill. The neural connections associated with it may not solidify for 2 weeks or so, depending. Thus, overtime may not actually help with some things.
    Trevor Johnson

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    I am a graduate from the Mankato Law Enforcement program back in the day. Dr. Lewinski was a brilliant professor. He is the only teacher I had in college whose ideas I think were truly valid. I use his stuff everyday.
    Kyro R. Lantsberger
    "They couldnt hit an elephant at this dist--." Last words of Civil War Union General Sedgewick

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    Something else the public doesn't understand is that it is impossible to "fully" train a police officer through any length of academy and/or simulated situations - even though both have become pretty advanced sciences.
    Leaving the statistics of acquiring skills aside, I'm not sure how the "public" figures into this. You have a series of "skilled" people making judgments about police work long before the public can even think of stepping in.

    I guess I'm not seeing the veracity of the claim of the "ill-informed" or "ill-intended" public in this. Accurate statistics of police shootings can be hard to come by for a number of reasons, but there is no dispute that there are many more shootings than there are court cases that the public gets to weigh in on. Even then, there is no verifiable trend that once an officer is indicted, he will be convicted. As Kit said above, juries do show an ability to analyze facts and reach reasoned decisions.

    I'm not saying that in certain jurisdictions, you don't have a palpable anti-law enforcement sentiment. (Whether or not this is warranted is another matter.) I just don't see an overarching anti-police sentiment, however, once the legal ball starts rolling in actual proceedings against police. You may see protests and such, but Joe Public doesn't get a meaningful say until department officials and prosecutors have allowed the ball to get to them.

    When you look at results of police convictions, it does seem that they understand because they don’t just jump to convict. So, I don’t think it is a matter of understanding so much as not knowing the ins-and-outs of a profession that is not their own, which is a reality we all face. When members of juries are presented with cogent evidence that, indeed, a police officer shouldn’t be reasonably expected to do something, it does seem like they listen.

    It just seems the “public” is getting dinged here and, as a member of said public, I think we deserve a bit more credit.

    Kevin Cantwell

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    Mr. Cantwell,

    I guess I'm not seeing the veracity of the claim of the "ill-informed" or "ill-intended" public in this. Accurate statistics of police shootings can be hard to come by for a number of reasons, but there is no dispute that there are many more shootings than there are court cases that the public gets to weigh in on ... You may see protests and such, but Joe Public doesn't get a meaningful say until department officials and prosecutors have allowed the ball to get to them.
    First of all, I didn't think we were only addressing the issue of a criminal conviction against a LE for an unlawful shooting. That, I agree, is quite rare, when compared with the number of officer involved shootings.

    On the other hand, the "ill-informed" and "ill-intended" public do have a chance to weigh in and have a say - anytime there is a news camera nearby. Sensationalism sells in the news world, and the vast majority of media does not broadcast everything they record - only that which sells. Like other issues that end up being political in nature, the minority of extremists (liberal and/or conservative) are the loudest voices, and as such, are more often than not listened to the most. Therefore, when the public outcry (ill-informed and/or ill-intended extremists featured on TV) occurs in a city in which Chief of Police and other top positions are influenced by politics, more often than not, there will be some type of disciplinary action given in an attempt to make "everyone" happy (politics).

    That may not mean getting fired, but it may mean a relief from duty or suspension from work for "it could have been handled differently", or "there could have been better tactics employed", etc - catch all phrases used by non-field officers who were not there but are in a position to second guess you based on what they think would have done in your situation. In other words, you might be awarded the medal of valor for surviving an extremely heroic deed, and at the same time suspended or otherwise disciplined in order to appease the extremist minority public. Or worse - if the public outcry is loud enough, you may loose your job or have your reputation so tarnished that you can't work the field or any other related job again. In some well known departments, the general rule is that if your actions end up attracting negative media attention, you will be thrown under the bus in order to preserve whatever positive perception the public appears to have of the department (sacrificed for the good of the whole) - even if you were in the right legally and within department policy technically.

    As far as a jury trial goes, for the most part, who do you think actually shows up for jury duty (at least in big cities)? Most "normal" people don't feel very compelled to sacrifice their paycheck to serve on a jury. So that leaves, in many cases, jurors that are economically / educationally challenged (welfare, disability, unemployment, etc.) who live in higher crime areas (ie: increased police contact). Many of these jurors are not swayed by black and white logic as much as personal prejudices and emotions, and this fact is why some famous people manage to get their court trials moved to smaller towns outside of the bigger cities.

    I'm not saying that in certain jurisdictions, you don't have a palpable anti-law enforcement sentiment. (Whether or not this is warranted is another matter.)
    Let's just say that people like Firemen all the time. But with the police, people only like the police when they are in need of help, but dislike them when they are the subject of enforcement actions. Even if you are a regular Joe from a smaller town, the majority of your contacts with LE are probably in the form of getting traffic tickets, right? Just because you know you were in the wrong doesn't mean you appreciate getting caught and fined! Not to say that everyone "hates" cops, but...being a fireman is starting to look pretty good!

    When you look at results of police convictions, it does seem that they understand because they don’t just jump to convict.
    Personally, I believe that once a normal person with no agenda is educated on the facts of an incident, the law, and how LE are trained to respond, they should have no problem understanding the situation and coming to the correct conclusion (whether it be for or against). But what I wrote above is more the reality - at least for some big departments in big cities.

    It just seems the “public” is getting dinged here and, as a member of said public, I think we deserve a bit more credit.
    It's not my intention to underestimate the public's wisdom or common sense. But those who are not pretty knowledgeable about the criminal legal system, and LE in particular, simply are going to be more influenced by the movies they see on TV. "He didn't say 'freeze - drop the gun' prior to shooting". How many citizens do you think request to be taken on a police ride-along? Almost all the ones I've ever seen are those applying to the department, and all who did said it was an eye opening experience.

    Anyway Mr. Cantwell, it was not my intention to insult the public. I'm sure you are a reasonable, "normal" person. But even reasonable and normal people typically are not exposed enough to LE reality to correctly understand how LE are trained, how the laws are enforced, and what the various department policies are. It's nobody's fault - we all have jobs to work and family to spend time with (and what little time is left training budo). Unjustified public pressure and criticism is just one of those things that comes with the job for many LE. I think it's great when the public makes an attempt to better understand these issues through direct contact or forums such as this. For that - thanks for your time.

    Regards,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 19th March 2009 at 20:50.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    On the other hand, the "ill-informed" and "ill-intended" public do have a chance to weigh in and have a say - anytime there is a news camera nearby. Sensationalism sells in the news world, and the vast majority of media does not broadcast everything they record - only that which sells.
    I guess I'm making a distinction between the sound and fury of the public and real results on law enforcement. For example, there was a ton of public outcry concerning the Diallo shooting. The system did what it should, however, and granted a Change of Venue for a fair trial. People can shout all they want but "those in the know" will act according the proper principles.

    Same here:

    As far as a jury trial goes, for the most part, who do you think actually shows up for jury duty (at least in big cities)? Most "normal" people don't feel very compelled to sacrifice their paycheck to serve on a jury. So that leaves, in many cases, jurors that are economically / educationally challenged (welfare, disability, unemployment, etc.) who live in higher crime areas (ie: increased police contact). Many of these jurors are not swayed by black and white logic as much as personal prejudices and emotions, and this fact is why some famous people manage to get their court trials moved to smaller towns outside of the bigger cities.
    The guy you are imagining would have a devil of a time making it through challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. Now, either side may want emotional ones more than rational ones, but blatant prejudice won't make it on.

    Also, the notion that one can skirt jury duty has become a bit of a myth, at least the times I've tried in New York and New Jersey. I'm a teacher and that doesn't cut it anymore. There is no "feeling compelled," rather there is simply compulsion. If they tell you to give up your check, you do so. Middle class people can't claim economic hardship that easily anymore. Last time I was called we had all sorts and nobody was getting out for personal reasons. (A bunch of us did eventually did get released, but it was simply because the court already had enough of a pool.) Us "normals" simply can't self-select off anymore.

    If you take a look at the stats from the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, you see that "Substantiated Claims" range from 4% to 11%- 2003-2007. "Unsubstantiated" and "Employee Exonerated" make up the overwhelming majority of the findings. New York is a pretty tough place to be a police officer and public sentiment definitely runs on the negative side in some neighborhoods, but police are getting a fair shake when it comes down to it.

    So, I’m not saying that police don’t have to deal with a negative public, but rather that when you cut away the emotion and drivel of community "spokesmen", their actions are often seen as reasonable and proper. The system doesn’t desert them nearly as often as one might think, nor does the negative public perception take away careers on a regular basis. When/If this does happen, officers do have recourse to Wrongful Termination suits. (You can't be lawfully fired if you are discharging your duty within the law and someone just doesn't like you.)

    Also, any supervisor that sacrifices an officer to the public should face sanction. There are numerous hurdles in place to judge police action and if those hurdles are cleared, politics should play no part.

    This is not to say that dealing with an unappreciative public doesn’t take its toll…it certainly does. There are stresses in that profession I would wilt before. I just don’t think those public perceptions have career altering effects on a system-wide level. The system does seem to get it right quite a bit, and when really called upon, so does the public.

    (The psychological effects of the ordeals LE has to endure is another, quite serious matter. Even if a case is deemed "Unsubstantiated," there are scars to be dealt with, I would imagine. I'm not sure there is any balm for that type of injury.)

    Kevin Cantwell
    Last edited by K. Cantwell; 19th March 2009 at 23:54.

  14. #14
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    Mr. Cantwell,

    Though I appreciate your reply, it doesn't sound like we are going to be on the same page. What I described in my above post may not perfectly reflect the atmosphere in every police department or city, but it does reflect the atmosphere in at least one department and city I know of, FWIW.

    People have and still do find ways of getting out of jury duty as well, and the discipline I mentioned - up to and including getting fired - comes from the Department level, not the judicial level. Like most corporations, departments can and do select any number of reasons to take exception with you if they think doing so is in their best interest.

    If I sound bitter, I'm actually not. I've never found myself in too bad a situation. I just have knowledge of many who have.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    I am in agreement with Nathan.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Scott
    ;...the discipline I mentioned - up to and including getting fired - comes from the Department level, not the judicial level. ....
    The "administrative aftermath" of many critical incidents is the primary cause of many, if not most of the issues that LE officers find themselves facing, for a variety of reasons. Interpersonal rivalries, jealousies, internal witch hunts, "sacrificial lambs," and political manuevering within the department ranks are the recipe for making many an officer who served well bitter and unmotivated after being put through the wringer.

    Very few people who haven't been there understand this. In many, many agencies, officers are more afraid of inept, incompetent, and biased Administration than they are of juries or the public.
    Kit Leblanc

    In Harm's Way

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