badge heavy, benefit of the doubt, blue cities and states, Derek Chauvin, diversity hiring, George Floyd, MPD Chief Medaria Arradano, police recruiting, police retention, policing, Use of force
The aftermath of the Derek Chauvin Trial in the death of violent, misogynistic, addicted felon George Floyd is still playing out. For the the police, the lessons are stark and brutal. Derek Chauvin, the three other officers charged and awaiting trial, every officer of the Minneapolis Police Department and every officer around the nation watched MPD Chief Medaria Arradando throw his officers under the bus. They now know they have no protection. they will not be given the benefit of the doubt, even if they rigorously follow their training and police policy and procedure. They know any use of force against Black people is virtually certain to result in the ends of their careers, at least, and their death in prison at worst. They know their employment puts not only themselves, but their families in danger. They know the facts and evidence no longer matter, only the social justice narrative does. They also know body camera video will not help them if it conflicts with the narrative, which is ever and always that they are brutal, racist oppressors of the innocent, and murderers to boot.
NOTE: Due to the obligations of life, which occasionally get in the way of writing, I’m posting this Friday article a bit early.
For the time being the movement to abolish the police, to “reimagine policing,” and similar lunacy is confined to blue states and cities, which seem absolutely determined to turn themselves into Detroit, only much more quickly and violently.
It is now, in blue cities, taken as truth that when a police officer uses force against a Black criminal, he or she is a racist, and such force is therefore unlawful. Should that Black criminal be lawfully killed, they immediately become a social justice martyr, and that unfortunate officer’s future is very grim indeed. The result is police officers are being convinced beyond any doubt using force on criminals, particularly black criminals, is a sucker’s bet. Why risk career, life and limb when no bail will be required, and criminals won’t be prosecuted? Throw in a Democrat/Socialist/Communist Presidential Administration salivating at the thought of prosecuting cops for federal civil rights violations, and we have a recipe for disaster.
We are already seeing every police officer that can, flee these cities as from a plague. The Chauvin case can only accelerate that flight. It’s fascinating, and not a little disturbing to realize the leftist politicians of these cities, in persecuting the police, are driving them out, which has already, demonstrably and dramatically raised crime rates, including murder, to stratospheric levels. Decriminalizing crime didn’t help either. Yet, they continue to demonize the police, and work to abolish them entirely. Can they be so stupid as to be unable to foresee the inevitable consequences? Apparently, they can.
Let us, therefore, gentle readers, review the realities of police recruiting, training and retention.
In order to be hired as a police officer, one must be at least 21 years of age, in good general health, in good physical shape, and must have no felony arrests or convictions. Some misdemeanor arrests or convictions might also be disqualifying, as is any history of drug use. Initial applicants are subjected to screening designed to detect the minimum level of common sense and basic—very basic–human skills before more extensive and expensive testing. In recent years, police agencies have begun to dramatically lower their entrance requirements, including allowing felons, addicts and those with below average intelligence to apply. This is done in the name of diversity, and also, because fewer capable people with integrity are applying, particularly in blue cities.
The “diversity” of people applying for police positions is amazing–and disquieting. Some have no idea that when applying for a job requiring enormous maturity, responsibility and personal integrity, it would be wise to shave, remove all piercings, bathe, and dress in clean and pressed clothing. During my police days, I dealt with people who arrived unaware of the basics of personal hygiene, and even some smelling strongly of marijuana, and obviously high. Some tried to borrow money from me, a police supervisor unknown to them.
Once the basic screening is done–usually a written test–an eligibility list is compiled for further testing. The next step is often a physical fitness test designed to identify people obviously incapable of the basic tasks of the job. Such tests must be job-based, and each task must be defendable in terms of what officers are actually required to do. Many are dropped at this level, and some actually pass out or have cardiac events. In some police agencies, this step is now entirely dropped, or so easy, virtually anyone able to walk can pass.
Those that pass the physical tests used to undergo intensive background checks and psychological fitness exams, such as the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The next step was commonly questioning by a panel of serving officers of various ranks, and perhaps a personal interview with the Chief or Sheriff (in smaller agencies). A polygraph is also normally done, which can find skeletons in closets an applicant would rather keep closed. Again, in the interests of diversity, or merely of finding warm bodies, some of these steps have been abandoned or watered down.
Virtually all new officers begin in the patrol division (or if a Sheriff’s Department, in the jail). He or she is usually in their early 20s–patrol work is a young person’s job–and most are embarking on a noble career of public service hoping they’ll be able to make a difference. Some—more these days, want power over others and a steady paycheck. Some police agencies require at least an associate’s degree–two years of college–but for most, a high school education is sufficient. One can make a reasonable argument for the proposition that a college degree has the potential to make one a more informed, well-rounded person, but good cops are born, not made. Some people just have the unique genetic endowment that allows them to think, see, anticipate and do things that others will never be able to do at nearly the same level. These people stand out–and are sometimes feared and driven out–in any law enforcement agency.
At one time, many officers were military veterans, even combat veterans. For about two decades, as the ranks of veterans thinned in society at large, so did the ranks of veterans in police work. Since the early 2000s, however, those proportions have increased to some extent and in some places. This is generally a good development as veterans understand discipline, the necessity of a chain of command, are reliable, capable and steady, and know how to work with a variety of people, all worthy qualities in a police officer. Their tactical knowledge is also valuable.
One recent development that worries many informed observers—apart from the tendency to recruit and hire the less then intelligent and responsible–is the video game warrior. Many of the current crop of police officers have been raised with shoot-‘em-up video games. There is a venerable police aphorism:
Train the way you want to fight, because you’ll fight the way you’ve trained.
I’ve found this to be true enough. When under stress, we fall back on our training, what we’ve been conditioned to do. I fear too many contemporary cops have been conditioned to shoot first and always, and sort things out later, and there are an amazing and disturbing number of incidents that reinforce that fear. Sadly, when undertrained officers make mistakes, many agencies, rather than take responsibility and make necessary changes in training, throw them under the bus.
For new officers, their first year normally consists of a basic academy where they learn the law, general police procedure, first aid, unarmed combat, firearms and emergency driving and tactics for dealing with people. The latter is, in many ways, the hardest and most vital thing to learn. Such academies normally last from 2-3 months, and are often conducted by the state at a single location. Some states require candidates to attend and complete private academies at their own expense prior to applying.
Upon graduation, they return to their host agencies and often undergo several months of in-house training on the specific rules, regulations, procedures and laws relevant to their jurisdictions. They also usually undergo additional tactical and firearms training and are commonly issued their duty handgun and equipment. Most have never been under arms before–many have no firearm skills–and have no idea how to wear or organize their equipment. They’ll eventually figure it out by trial and error.
Upon graduation from the local academy, they commonly enter a field training program where they work their way through a standard curriculum while rotating between at least three field training officers. During this phase of their training, they ride with those officers, who observe and mentor them and write daily evaluations. This phase normally takes at least three months, and often more. Among the things they must learn and master: driving, thinking, observing everything around them and speaking coherently on the radio while simultaneously making necessary notes and using the computer, all while not crashing into other vehicles or fixed objects. Many people simply can’t multitask.
New officers are not usually allowed in a police car on their own for about a year from their date of hire. By then, if they’re properly trained, they’re ready to assume their jobs at a basiclevel. They have an enormous amount yet to learn, but they’re not an obvious, imminent danger to themselves or others–theoretically.
By this time, agencies have a great deal of money invested in these people and want them to succeed. Even so, some always wash out during the initial training process, if they’re allowed to wash out. Yes, politics is more and more involved in policing.
One March 17, 2011, PJ Media published my article on the Dayton, Ohio Police Department. I wrote (in part):
It now appears that an even more egregious example of the racial discrimination that has become policy in the Obama/Holder DOJ was already underway.
Due to dozens of retirements, the Dayton, Ohio, Police Department began a hiring cycle. Using an initial test developed by an outside company to eliminate racial bias, a passing score on one part of the test was set at 66% and a second part was set at 72%. However, despite Dayton’s pressing need for police officers, the DOJ forced Dayton to postpone the hiring process for months, and finally demanded that the passing scores be lowered to 58% and 63%.
Under the new lower standards, 258 additional applicants passed the test. The city of Dayton has declined to identify the racial make-up of those passing.
Pity the citizens of Dayton, Ohio and any city forced to hire substandard candidates in the name of racial or gender diversity, or just because they’ve so alienated competent cops, they have to settle for what they can get.
Another more recent, and terrifying, police trend is agencies that actually hire only people average in intelligence, or slightly above. It’s an issue I addressed back in 2017. The basic calculation is if agencies hire people that are too smart, they’ll get bored and quit after the agency puts a great deal of money into them. Also, such people tend to be harder to manage because they’re less willing to put up with bullshit, and they tend to know what their superiors are up to. Dumb supervisors don’t like smart employees.
The biggest stumbling block to excellence in police work is that agencies are limited to hiring members of the human race. This always means some will be fundamentally unfit for the job, even if an agency retains high, professional standards in recruitment and hiring. Most will be average, and some few will be excellent. Remember this: half of the population is below average in intelligence and everything else. Citizens will never know which of these they’ll meet when they’re pulled over, or when an officer comes to their door to take a report.
New officers have to decide whom they will emulate. Working with others, they quickly learn who is sharp, hard-working and trustworthy, and who is not. They learn who is honorable and dedicated to public service and who is lazy, ill-tempered and self-centered. They also quickly learn who is prone to violate the law and people’s rights, and who is actually dangerous to themselves, their fellow officers, and the public. Remember, officers are hired from the same public with whom you work, with all of the strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities you see every day.
Inevitably, some officers become “badge heavy.” They come to see themselves as the masters of the public, but above all, they take things personally and make decisions in anger. Badge heavy officers are overbearing and take pleasure in exercising their authority over others. They harass and browbeat the public. They often provoke confrontations, and when they do, are quick to use force, often, excessive force. They make arrests where more professional officers would simple employ words. Everyone knows who these officers are, and most do their best to avoid them. When agencies hire less than the best, a larger proportion tend to be badge heavy, lazy, stupid and irresponsible.
New officers quickly learn how important it is that politics be kept out of their decision-making processes. Everyone must be arrestable. If they work in an agency where certain citizens are immune from arrest, their agency is corrupted. They soon realize how important the support of their superior officers is. Accusations of wrongdoing are easy to make, and true or false, can taint an officer forever. Superiors who make such decisions based on favoritism, politics, or whim are dangerous to the police, the justice system and the public.
Officers quickly learn police administrators, particularly in large, blue cities, are not cops, but bureaucrats in uniform. Their jobs and careers are dependent on their absolute subservience to the political agendas of those that hired them. When it’s politically necessary for them to shoot their officers in the backs, they’ll do it in a heartbeat. This is why such agencies are having such a hard time retaining and recruiting competent cops.
Unfortunately, these issues often lead to a blue wall of silence and support for officers in trouble, regardless of whether they have done wrong. If officers cannot reasonably believe that mistakes honestly made will not result in grossly unreasonable punishments, it’s not hard to see how they would tend to circle the wagons in all situations.
Remember that officers are expected to make absolutely correct judgments under incredible stresses and to take flawless actions, all of which will be analyzed months later by people with unlimited time in the safety and security of their office chairs. Amazingly, over millions of contacts with citizens every year, they mostly succeed.
Officers quickly learn that at least some of their supervisors were promoted not by merit, but because of who they know, or in some cases, because they were so dangerous as patrol officers they were promoted to put them in a job where they could do less damage. Unfortunately, instead of damaging the public, they tend to damage good police officers. A great many are promoted because they are willing to do a Chief’s dirty work in dealing with his subordinates.
It quickly becomes obvious that some supervisors and administrators can be trusted–at least to a point–but some cannot.
AFTER THE SECOND YEAR:
By this time, new officers have made something of a name for themself and associated themself with various groups. They are no longer called “rookie”–which pleases them greatly–there is a new class of officers on the street to assume that name. Unfortunately, in agencies in the throes of defunding, cadet classes are often canceled. There are no new officers to replace those that have, wisely, fled.
By now, those officers who take firearms seriously, even enjoy them, have begun to notice that they are very much in the minority. Where they are willing to spend their own time and money to improve their skills, most of their fellow officers are not. Where they read extensively in the gun and tactics press, their fellows do not. Where they always carry off duty, many of their fellows do not. Where they buy their own weapons, trying and discarding various accessories, their fellows own few, if any, weapons apart from their issued handgun. Where they shoot at or near 100% in qualifications, their fellows barely pass, and often have to reshoot multiple times to barely pass.
They quickly discover that handgun qualifications are a joke. Normally held once a year, they consist of 50 rounds of practice ammunition, light-loaded ammo with diminished recoil, muzzle flash and report compared to their duty ammo. The courses of fire are not at all challenging, and are commonly held only in clean, dry, well-lit conditions. Passing scores are normally in the 70% range, which means that about three out of ten rounds fired can nearly miss, or entirely miss. For many officers, reshooting qualification is the only practice they ever do. The only stress involved is that of having to shoot a minimum passing score.
They will also discover many officers have no idea how to disassemble or clean their handguns, nor do they have cleaning equipment at home. Some will complete a 20-year career having never cleaned their handguns.
Diligent officers will be stunned to discover candy wrappers and other refuse in the barrels of the shotguns in their vehicles. They will be concerned to learn that they never have the chance to shoot those shotguns. On the rare occasions when shotgun “qualification” is held, a few shotguns will be taken from the armory. Officers will commonly fire a few rounds of 00 buckshot at a target 10-15 yards away, and as long as about half of the pellets hit the entire target, that will be sufficient. Those agencies that carry rifles do not better. Smart officers will leave those weapons in their vehicles and rely on their handguns. At least they mostly know where those will hit.
Officers quickly learn that dealing with the public is a piece of cake. In fact, most officers like working with people. Dealing with their own? That’s something else again. Some officers will quickly settle into a routine of doing the minimum necessary. They go along to get along, and avoid any potential political troubles. Some are screw-ups who are always getting into minor troubles, but not quite of sufficient importance to justify firing. Others work hard and excel. Some of these will do their best to ingratiate themselves with supervisors and administrators. They’ll kiss any behind and stroke any ego that can get them promoted, for in police work, the only way to make substantially more money is to enter the supervisory, and then the administrative, ranks. Others care primarily about catching real bad guys and doing their jobs as well as possible. They are, as the Japanese say, the nails that stick up, and which get hammered down.
Circa 2021, the trend in policing, again, far more common in red cities and states, is for officers to do the absolute minimum. Rather than being proactive, rather than working hard to catch criminals and solve crimes, they drive around, waiting for radio dispatches. Only then do they answer those calls and do as little as possible. The point is to absolutely minimize contact with anyone or anything that could get them fired or prosecuted. Some will figure out any way to avoid any potentially dangerous call. Call it, reasonably, self-preservation, and it pays the same.
During my police years, I had two separate police chiefs tell me that I was too smart to be a policeman. I sort of appreciated the backhanded compliment, but was fully aware of the irony. They really didn’t appreciate what they were saying about themselves, their police agency, and their fellow officers. Perhaps they were right, and in any case, it was reflective of my experience: most police administrators want their officers to be only smart enough and no smarter. They’re easier to control.
Does this mean that most cops are dumb? Certainly not. Until recently, most were brighter than the average bear. Many are very smart indeed, particularly in the pursuit of their jobs and their understanding of human beings. One must know human nature very well to succeed as a police officer. But as with all occupations, what is usually lauded as good is mostly average. What is praised as excellent, is often only good, or at least particularly adept at ass kissing. And what is truly excellent is often attacked.
Final Thoughts: This has been a whirlwind dose of reality. When a new officer is hired, he or she won’t be any good to the force for at least a year. Understand this: to put one officer on the street, 24/7/365, it’s necessary to hire about five officers. That’s one each for three daily eight-hour shifts, and two or so to cover for vacations, court time, training time, all manner of administrative duties, sick time and any other issue that might take an officer off the street. Police agencies, even the good ones not under political attack, are never over staffed—quite the opposite. Losing the kinds of numbers fleeing blue agencies these days is a public safety disaster, even if their agencies were not prevented from doing their jobs by idiot politicians.
Yes, these horrific trends are mostly affecting larger, blue cities and states, but the societal fallout will affect red states and the stability of our republic. Every American has a personal stake in the intelligence, responsibility and diligence of every police officer. They likewise have a stake in seeing they have the support they need to uphold the rule of law, for everyone’s sake.
For a bit of humor on a humorless subject, go here to the Babylon Bee, where they list seven non-lethal alternatives for police officers. Number 7:
Walk back to the police car, drive away, and get a job in sales: This is probably your safest option.
More and more officers are taking that advice.
Kevin M said:
I agree with all of that, especially the Bee’s non-lethal alternative #7. I retired as the part-time chief of a part-time force in my tiny town Dec. 2019, and I have to say my timing was excellent. The current chief keeps asking if I want to come back so he’s got another local officer to respond to calls, and as much as I like him and liked parts of the job I think I must refuse. Most of the reasons for that you covered in this article.
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Kevin M:
Thanks for your service. Tragic that so many good officers are finding no alternative but to leave the profession.
I think your “reality check” on law enforcement, sprinkled with what seems to be a personal animosity, you’ve given a great narrative for a need for some level of police reform.
To further clarify a certain reality to your disapproval of cities run by Democrat mayors… in the top 100 cities (by population) it seems 63% are run by Dem mayors. Within that number… not one “big city” mayor, that is, a city over one million, is Republican. So, you are praising the Conservative mayors of small cities for their (amazing leadership) ability in not having civil disorder, when in fact, small cities typically do not experience the same pressures as large cities. In fact, you don’t see a Republican mayor until the 13th city on the list, Jacksonville, FL., a place not necessarily making news lately as a center of racial percolation under control by the GOP mayor… and certainly not a singular place of a racial Utopia by any means.
Regarding police officers “quitting in droves”… this does seem to be the case in some areas. Being a stat wonk in general because in a perfect world stats should form policy (and we do not live in a perfect world) , I’d love to see reliably collected data present the reasons for their departure (I am sure it’s not entirely all about “The public doesn’t like us anymore.”). Blathering political opinion and biased speculation and “gut feels”, is not accurate data collection.
Actually, I find more value in wanting to know why an officer would choose to stay… not quit.
Mike McDaniel said:
You’re imputing animosity where none exists. I’m merely giving readers a dose of reality.
I’ll be addressing the idea of “police reform” in Monday’s article.
Indeed, I disapprove of the Democrat-run cities that are contributing to our national decline. “Conservative” cities tend not to have such disorder because they actually enforce the rule of law and judge people by the crimes they commit regardless of the color of their skin. They also allocate law enforcement assets based on where crime is worse, again, regardless of the color of those committing those crimes. Equality rules there, not equity.
Data is somewhat lacking because things have become horrific in the last year. It takes longer to start putting that sort of data together, but what is known is very bad indeed. Because I know police work, and still maintain contacts among actively serving police, I provide what insight I can.
Officers stay because they are dedicated to their profession, because they really do want to help others, because they like to catch bad guys–thus protecting the public, because they have too many years vested to quit, because they have strong personal, family ties, and all the other reasons anyone stays in a particular job in a particular place.
“…fewer capable people with integrity are applying, particularly in red cities.” Did you mean ‘blue cities’?
Mike McDaniel said:
Oooh! You’re quite right. It’s soooo hard to be consistently perfect! It’s fixed; thanks for the catch.
A friend of mine who lives in a more heavily urbanized area in our city saw a young black man wearing a hoodie hop his elderly asian neighbor’s fence and disappear into the backyard. He called the police to report suspicious activity and about 30 minutes later a squad car rolled by at about 5 miles an hour… and left. No attempt at contact whatsoever, didn’t knock on the door or get out of the car. Shockingly when his elderly neighbors got home later that day they found their house had been subject to a smash and grab, the thief took their jewelry and a ipad.
Sort of makes having a police force pointless. Not that my friend and I could defend ourselves or our homes without the police showing up and possibly carting us off to jail for doing so.
Maybe it really is time to defund the police. Good cops seem few and far between.
Mike McDaniel said:
We must keep in mind we don’t know what the officers were told. It’s not uncommon for dispatchers, who are paid considerably worse than police officers, to fail to tell officers the whole story. They might have only been told of a suspicious person in the area, or anything but what your friend told them. Why did it take 30 minutes? If it was not dispatched as a probable burglary in progress, it would be a low priority call. If the officers were busy and no one was available…you get the picture.
We have to be careful not to paint every officer and agency, and most do very well given their resources, with the few that do poorly.