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  #21  
Old 03 August 2016, 03:32 AM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
And for the tl;dr version:
My issue is not that military equipment and tactics are being used when there is an extraordinary, known, armed threat to officers, my issue is that military equipment and tactics are too often used for ordinary police work when there is no known or even credible threat.
This is my concern too. As well as making being a police officer more attractive to people who want to be bad asses rather than people who want to "protect and serve" or help people and be a part of the community.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having a highly trained force that can be deployed in emergencies. And regular officers should have some of that training too, but they also need much more training in dealing with people in crisis and with mental health issues, disabilities, and of course more anti-bias training.
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  #22  
Old 03 August 2016, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I don't think there's anything wrong with having a highly trained force that can be deployed in emergencies. And regular officers should have some of that training too, but they also need much more training in dealing with people in crisis and with mental health issues, disabilities, and of course more anti-bias training.
Yes, it often seems like a "if the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail" kind of situation.
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  #23  
Old 03 August 2016, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
I think it's game theory in action.
Can you clarify what you mean by this? Game theory covers a great deal of topics, some of them contradictory to each other.

ETA: I would say that the hammer/nail idea that Mouse and you talked about is a part of it. I think another part of it is the very understandable desire to minimize risk to the officers. The nearly unfettered combination of those two ideas is probably where the problem lies. There is always some unknown risk serving a warrant and they have all those battering rams, armored cars, flash bangs, and assault rifles...

The problem is, at some point, that minimization comes at the cost of increasing risk to innocent civilians.

Last edited by GenYus234; 03 August 2016 at 03:15 PM.
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  #24  
Old 03 August 2016, 05:58 PM
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For further reading, a group of UT history students and their professor put together this website: http://behindthetower.org/

One of the most notable things about the shooting is the way it was ignored in future years by UT officials. It simply wasn't discussed in any official way. There was no precedent. No floral tributes, no plaque. It was like having a brother in prison. Bring him up in front of company and you got the freeze out look. When they made movies or documentaries about it, UT refused to have any part in it. Finally, in the late 90's, people decided this wasn't helping. When you go up to the tower now, they take the time to cover the shooting.


Incidentally, the tower was closed from 66 to 68. In 1974 it was permanently closed due to the high number of suicide jumps off of it. It reopened in 1999.
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  #25  
Old 03 August 2016, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Can you clarify what you mean by this? Game theory covers a great deal of topics, some of them contradictory to each other.

ETA: I would say that the hammer/nail idea that Mouse and you talked about is a part of it. I think another part of it is the very understandable desire to minimize risk to the officers. The nearly unfettered combination of those two ideas is probably where the problem lies. There is always some unknown risk serving a warrant and they have all those battering rams, armored cars, flash bangs, and assault rifles...

The problem is, at some point, that minimization comes at the cost of increasing risk to innocent civilians.
That's where the game theory aspect lies. Who should we impose added risk on: police or civilians? And which civilians? Before you default to "the police, of course!" how much added risk would it take to drastically effect:
A) The odds of a police officer receiving a life threatening injury over a 20-year career.
B) Recruitment of the sort of thoughtful/level-headed people we all want as police (but that every other profession would like to have too).
C) Retention of trained police officers who have developed the soft skills and judgement that only comes with years of on the job experience.
D) The level of stress that these officers would be expected to endure on a regular basis and the extent to which sustained levels of high stress may have a negative impact on A and C above. We hear about PTSD and other stress-related disorders all the time with the military and veterans, but at least the military gets to leave the war zone or walk away from the "police action" for a while.

And so much more.

I think we have an unrealistic expectation that law enforcement selflessly assume all risk as society in general washes its hands of the whole messy affair that is policing a free people. I think the logical conclusion of some of the posts in this thread would be to create a model for police behavior that is simply not sustainable when you consider that, at the end of the day, we have to draw upon members of this same society to man our police forces.

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Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
Yes, it often seems like a "if the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail" kind of situation.
I don't think it's quite that. Because giving them a hammer doesn't deprive them of the screwdriver if they always had a screw driver. Not all police are SWAT, for instance.

I think it's more closely represented as "if you are a carpenter on your way to do a job of an ambiguous nature that may result in a lot of unplanned 'growth work' you might as well bring your hammer, nails, five different saws, and everything else you can fit in your kit bag just in case. After all, what's the point in having all this stuff if you don't have it on hand for unplanned contingencies?"

So you end up with warrants being served by SWAT, even if you might have served that same warrant with regular police back in the day. You end up with police decked out in riot gear "just in case" even if it's a peaceful protest because, if you've already got the gear, why not have it ready?

Last edited by ASL; 03 August 2016 at 09:18 PM.
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  #26  
Old 03 August 2016, 11:02 PM
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I think we have an unrealistic expectation that law enforcement selflessly assume all risk as society in general washes its hands of the whole messy affair that is policing a free people.
Who has said that police should assume all the risk? They should assume the lion's share since they voluntarily took on that job and the civilians they encounter don't have the option of opting out. But that's far from saying that they should assume all risk.

And are such tactics making officers safer? Despite the fact that the general population has climbed by 50% since 1974, officer deaths have been on a general decline since then, long before the military equipment and tactics because common in police forces. (Only about 1/3 of those deaths are due to assaults, most officer deaths are due to automobile or motorcycle crashes or being hit by a vehicle.)

Quote:
So you end up with warrants being served by SWAT, even if you might have served that same warrant with regular police back in the day. You end up with police decked out in riot gear "just in case" even if it's a peaceful protest because, if you've already got the gear, why not have it ready?
The issue is not that they have it ready. The issue is that they use it way too often as their first tool. To continue your analogy, they have a hammer, nails, five different saws, an adz, two kinds of files, and they go ahead and use the hammer anyway despite the fact that the file would have been the better tool. And humans are not pieces of wood. You can't simply go out and get another piece of pine when your ill advised hammering badly damages or destroys a board.
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  #27  
Old 03 August 2016, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Who has said that police should assume all the risk? They should assume the lion's share since they voluntarily took on that job and the civilians they encounter don't have the option of opting out. But that's far from saying that they should assume all risk.
I think that's where we part ways. I think when police assume the lion's share of the risk in every encounter, overtime the chances of a single deadly encounter can become unacceptable. Police may have dozens of interactions with the citizenry per day.
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  #28  
Old 03 August 2016, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
I think that's where we part ways. I think when police assume the lion's share of the risk in every encounter, overtime the chances of a single deadly encounter can become unacceptable.
I think there are enough recent examples where it is pretty darn clear that it was the civilian that assumed all of the risk. A significant portion of the population fears that any interaction with a police officer is a sure way to get yourself killed. No doubt that is an unjustified view, based on the majority of evidence, but there is more than enough examples to make it a significant issue.
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  #29  
Old 04 August 2016, 12:26 AM
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I think that's where we part ways. I think when police assume the lion's share of the risk in every encounter, overtime the chances of a single deadly encounter can become unacceptable. Police may have dozens of interactions with the citizenry per day.
That's the nature of the job. If someone isn't willing to face the fact that they will occasionally face an increased risk to their life to make sure innocent citizens are safe then they shouldn't be an officer.

And don't forget that many times these tactics are used when even the police think there is no added risk.
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  #30  
Old 04 August 2016, 01:16 AM
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The choice to be "prepared" in a certain manner needs to take into account the effects of being equipped in those manners. These choices have consequences beyond, they'll be ready for x, just in case x happens. A person in riot gear is not as appropriately equipped for certain things, like connecting on a personal level, or giving someone a hugfor example.

In addition, I'm no expert, but I think the psychological concept of priming would apply, where thinking about something before you experience something can affect how you experience it. Preparing for a riot before going to a protest could change how officers see and experience the events that follow, because of the priming.
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  #31  
Old 04 August 2016, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
That's the nature of the job. If someone isn't willing to face the fact that they will occasionally face an increased risk to their life to make sure innocent citizens are safe then they shouldn't be an officer.
And that gets to the recruitment and retention issue. You want a better police officer, but you seem to think as it is police in general aren't assuming enough personal risk. So how much more money are you willing to pay for a better police officer who you also expect to die at a slightly higher rate than the average police officer today?

I see a pattern of society wanting police to be the sin eaters, to be the face of and solution to society's criminal justice ills (disproptionate minority interactions, arrests, deaths in custody, etc), to absorb the blame and accept the risks that society wants to deflect and won't deal with itself.
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  #32  
Old 04 August 2016, 05:49 AM
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Yet, there is a non-zero-sum solution, a way that improves the chances civilians and officers will stay alive and unharmed. It's called better and more police training.

Also, police street work is a dangerous job, no doubt about it and I think we owe a lot to the people willing to take that risk. However, the risk has often been exaggerated and that's a huge factor in these incidents. (It is comparable to other risky jobs such as truck driving and, to be fair, that is risky and says nothing about specific situations.) Not saying I could do better but I think they could with more and better training - not just in handling the equipment they're getting but more training how to deal with people.
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  #33  
Old 04 August 2016, 12:55 PM
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(It is comparable to other risky jobs such as truck driving and, to be fair, that is risky and says nothing about specific situations.)
Number 15 on the list, at least in the USA and in 2014.

There may nevertheless be a difference in stress levels; as probably part of what's going on is that the police officer feels they have no idea what the person they're about to interact with is going to do, while the logger or farmer thinks they do know what the chain saw or PTO is going to do.

But I suspect that the officer who approaches every interaction seriously expecting trouble is giving off lots of signals, some of them outside the conscious perception of all involved in the interaction but picked up on other levels, that trouble is expected. And one of the things that differentiates humans from PTO shafts is that many of them react differently when trouble is expected than when it isn't.

So expecting trouble from humans is all too likely to increase the chances of their being such trouble. (Whereas forgetting to expect trouble from chain saws and PTO's is what increases the chances of getting killed by those.)

-- that doesn't mean that training police officers that everybody will be nice to them, or at worst will run away, is a bright idea, of course. But awareness of the problem, as much as possible on everybody's part, may go some way towards reducing it.
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  #34  
Old 04 August 2016, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
There may nevertheless be a difference in stress levels;
This is very true. And we know that constantly being put in stressful situations can lead to serious physical and mental problems as well as just being uncomfortable. As opposed to a truck driver, or pilot, for example, the risks and stress are far greater during those moments. So it’s not fair (and it wasn’t my intention) to compare the numbers only.
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that doesn't mean that training police officers that everybody will be nice to them, or at worst will run away, is a bright idea, of course.
Also true. Also not the kind of training I was suggesting (just for the record).
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  #35  
Old 04 August 2016, 02:11 PM
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Also not the kind of training I was suggesting (just for the record).
Sorry -- didn't think you were. I put that in to clarify that I myself wasn't suggesting that.
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  #36  
Old 04 August 2016, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
And that gets to the recruitment and retention issue. You want a better police officer, but you seem to think as it is police in general aren't assuming enough personal risk. So how much more money are you willing to pay for a better police officer who you also expect to die at a slightly higher rate than the average police officer today?
Do you have any evidence that slightly increased risk will cause large numbers of applicants to decide to not become police?

And you are still working with the assumption that these tactics are actually making police safer. As of yet I've not seen any studies that show that to be the case.

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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
However, the risk has often been exaggerated and that's a huge factor in these incidents.
Based on the statistics from the 10 year cause of death study I linked to above, each encounter with a civilian carries a 1 in 32,028,469 or a 0.0000031% chance that the officer will be killed by being assaulted*. (This is based on the assumption of 8 encounters per shift, 250 shifts per year. More assumed encounters per shift would of course make the risk per encounter lower.) A similar rate for death by vehicle** would be 1 in 29,556,650 or 0.0000033%).

* Categories of beaten, bomb, shot, stabbed, strangled, or terrorist attack.
** Auto, bicycle, or motorcycle accident plus struck by car or train.

Finally, the PTSD argument works both ways as a no-knock raid is certainly going to be a traumatic event for those inside.
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  #37  
Old 04 August 2016, 03:59 PM
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What risk is being discussed? The risk from mistakes, or the risk of injury or death?

The lion's share of the risk of injury should be borne by actual violent criminals, then police, and then a small portion is on innocent civilians. This is what things like use of force guidelines should be designed to accomplish, and in general, when they are followed, I think they do tend to accomplish this.

Under typical guidelines: Officers are usually not supposed to shoot people, e.g., unless and until it is reasonable for them to believe that the other person is going to seriously injure or kill the officer or someone else. That means an officer bears the risk of waiting to act until it is very likely (not just suspected) that the person they are using force against is in the "violent criminal" category. A person who is violently resisting arrest risks injury or death depending on how their actions (not intentions) can be viewed. And there is some risk borne by innocent civilians because officers' beliefs can be reasonable but mistaken. A realistic toy gun, eg., could create a reasonable but mistaken belief that is a risk to innocent civilians, and it would not be a good idea (IMO) to try to allocate 100% of that risk to officers, because it would greatly increase the danger to them when confronted with a gun if they have to wait until they are 100% sure that it is not a toy.

I think the main areas of conflict where people disagree about risk allocation isn't the general allocation described above, but rather in the grey areas of what is "reasonable." If a suspect is not complying, how much force is reasonable to use to take them into custody? What are the risks of not using force when suspects resist? How sure should an officer have to be that the suspect a) has a gun and b) is going to use it, before drawing or using their own gun? What are the risks (to violent criminals, to police, to innocent civilians--including bystanders) of requiring a higher or lower degree of certainty? What will be the potential effects on police recruitment and retention if more risk is allocated to police, and how will those effects affect the overall risks to both violent criminals and innocent civilians?
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  #38  
Old 04 August 2016, 04:24 PM
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I was discussing the risk of death to the officer from encounters with civilians. ETA: I assumed ganzfeld was too as he was talking about police street work.

My issue with risk allocation is where the officer(s) involved go directly to the option that they would use for the riskiest situations without any credible evidence that the situation is that risky. I'll use a traffic stop where the car has no license plate as an example. The driver could be the owner who doesn't know that their license plate has fallen off, a non-violent car thief, or a heavily armed cop killer who just broke out of jail.

Option 1: Observe the driver through the back window, then approach the car from the side, keeping a close watch on the driver.
Option 2: Perform a felony stop on the driver and any passengers.
Option 3: Smash the car window, drag the driver out, take them to the ground and handcuff them.

In too many cases, the officer(s) are going directly for the equivalent to option 3 without first assessing the situation. For an extremely vivid example, I use the situation of James Blake. A witness identified him as a suspect in a fraudulent credit card scheme. A plainclothes officer approached Blake, who was leaning against a pillar with both hands, and immediately tacked him and took him to the ground.
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  #39  
Old 04 August 2016, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Yet, there is a non-zero-sum solution, a way that improves the chances civilians and officers will stay alive and unharmed. It's called better and more police training.

Also, police street work is a dangerous job, no doubt about it and I think we owe a lot to the people willing to take that risk. However, the risk has often been exaggerated and that's a huge factor in these incidents. (It is comparable to other risky jobs such as truck driving and, to be fair, that is risky and says nothing about specific situations.) Not saying I could do better but I think they could with more and better training - not just in handling the equipment they're getting but more training how to deal with people.
Hey, I agree with you there, but I think you take it for granted that "increased training" on "how to deal with people" by itself would have the effect you are hoping for. I would argue that "improved" police training has led to several of the instances of apparently excessive use of force that we see today, particularly shooting incidents.

Watch enough videos on how quickly an encounter with an armed citizen can turn deadly for an unprepared police officer and you might begin to understand why a police officer might not wait until they were certain the person they've decided to shoot has a real gun rather than a toy gun (or even toy truck!). You might understand why a police officer would shoot someone, watch them drop, and keep on shooting until their weapon is empty. You might understand why they would gun down a non-compliant suspect with a knife even as they stand 15 feet away.

There are actually training videos (most of them very distributing, showing actual dashcam footage of officers being killed in the line of duty, available on YouTube no less) that make all of the above seem like perfectly reasonable responses from the police officer's perspective. Certainly it explains why a police officer might respond "aggressively" or unholster their sidearm before you might otherwise think it appropriate.
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Do you have any evidence that slightly increased risk will cause large numbers of applicants to decide to not become police?
I have no idea. I only note that the perceived dangers of an occupation will understandably influence the decision-making process of perspective applicants.
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Finally, the PTSD argument works both ways as a no-knock raid is certainly going to be a traumatic event for those inside.
Absolutely. But when the burden shifts to the police, that burden is born by a smaller force which may be burdened many times a day rather than once every lifetime/few years/months/days (depending on the demographic group and the type of encounter). At what point does it become unreasonable? Does anyone care? Or will we insist that a relatively small number of law enforcement officers bear every burden thrust upon it by a risk-averse society?

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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Option 1: Observe the driver through the back window, then approach the car from the side, keeping a close watch on the driver.
Option 2: Perform a felony stop on the driver and any passengers.
Option 3: Smash the car window, drag the driver out, take them to the ground and handcuff them.

In too many cases, the officer(s) are going directly for the equivalent to option 3 without first assessing the situation.
I am not a police officer, but I doubt that any police force trains its officers to EVER go with option 3. Absent evidence to the contrary, I would assume that an officer who behaved in such a fashion was performing contrary to, rather than in accordance with, training. But who knows... Maybe there really are police departments that either a) don't train officers how to approach a vehicle with caution or b) train officer to approach using option 3.

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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I think the main areas of conflict where people disagree about risk allocation isn't the general allocation described above, but rather in the grey areas of what is "reasonable."
Agreed.

Last edited by ASL; 04 August 2016 at 09:49 PM.
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  #40  
Old 05 August 2016, 03:19 AM
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I was discussing the risk of death to the officer from encounters with civilians. ETA: I assumed ganzfeld was too as he was talking about police street work.
That can't be what you are discussing, because that risk cannot be allocated to anyone else.

ASL referred to "added risk" and police "assuming all risk," and you said this:
Quote:
Who has said that police should assume all the risk? They should assume the lion's share since they voluntarily took on that job and the civilians they encounter don't have the option of opting out. But that's far from saying that they should assume all risk.
So you are talking about a risk that can be allocated, like the risk of injury or death (to anyone) during police/citizen encounters.

Ganzfeld was talking about the relative riskiness of law enforcement as a profession.

I'm not pointing this out to be pedantic. I am interested in the conversation, but I want to be clear about what exactly everyone is talking about, and whether anyone is actually using that term the same way as anyone else.

Last edited by erwins; 05 August 2016 at 03:28 AM.
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