badge heavy, basic human skills, diversity, dumbed down standards, firearms training, overtime, physical testing, police recruits, Portland, psychological testing, Seattle, stress, video game warriors, violent crime
At City Journal, Charles Fain Lehman connects the dots between crushing the police and rising violent crime:
In 2015 and 2016, the coincidence of a major surge in homicides following mass protests over the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, prompted a heated debate about whether the demonstrations, and the anti-police hostility they engendered, helped cause the murder spike. Law enforcement leaders and some public commentators—including City Journal contributing editor Heather Mac Donald—identified a ‘Ferguson Effect,’ whereby public scrutiny reduced police proactivity and led to an increase in violent crime. Supporters of the protests just as fervently derided the idea as imaginary and “debunked.”
Social scientists made a few contributions to this debate, but the research they produced offered limited insight into the causal relationship between scrutiny, proactivity, and crime. Two new studies, however, rely on better data sets and methods to provide strong evidence that highly scrutinized officer-involved fatalities reduce discretionary police activity and lead to an increase in violent crime.
At PJ Media, Kevin Downey explains how Portland’s police will no longer be able to, well, police:
‘Portland’s police chief and mayor are set to announce Tuesday [06-22-21] that city police will no longer be directed to stop motorists for low-level infractions, such as equipment failures or expired plates, to reduce disproportionate stops of people of color,’ reports Oregon Live. ‘The changes also are aimed at curtailing the potential for deadly encounters between police and people of color and allowing police to focus on more serious violations that pose an immediate threat to public safety.’ No report on how many ‘deadly encounters’ have occurred between Portland police and black folks pulled over for a bad brake light.
Traffic stops are one of the most valuable tools police officers have. Criminals drive cars, and the evidence of their crimes is often in them. And of course, traffic stops, legitimately done as most are, are a valid public safety tool.
I’ve often written about how the defund the police movement, and insane, racist prosecutions of police officers have caused thousands of our most experienced officers to retire, quit or seek jobs in sane cities and states. But now, as Mary Chastain at Legal Insurrection reports, there’s a new, self-inflicted, cause for police attrition:
Seattle, WA, has not been the safest and cleanest place in the country after anti-police riots took over in the summer of 2020. Remember when then-Mayor Durkan said they could be experiencing the “summer of love” that year?
Well, the Seattle Police Department said it lost 170 police officers in 2021 due to terminations, retirements, resignations, and deaths.
Overall, the department has lost 320 since 2020.
To make matters worse the department has over 100 officers sidelined due to the mandatory COVID vaccine.
There are about 950 officers on the force, where there should be no less than 1500, and Seattle is about to fire at least 100 more for refusing vaccination. Finally, consider this from the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson at American Greatness:
In the immoral calculus of woke, the poor white or Southeast Asian offspring of poorly paid high-school dropouts constitute “the privileged.” And a multimillionaire racist like the TV anchorwoman Joy Reid claims to be the perpetual victim, not the inner-city African American retiree who in 2021 has lost local police protection.
In March of 2014, I wrote the second article in the Connecticut: The Coming Storm series, titled: Who Are The Police? It’s time to update that article. I’ll put contemporary comments in italics.
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. Initial applicants are subjected to screening designed to detect the minimum level of common sense and basic human skills before more extensive and expensive testing.
Circa 2022, in blue cities and states where competent police officers have been driven away, minimum standards are being dramatically reduced, standards including minimum IQ, physical fitness, and a clean criminal record. Drug users are actually being considered in many places, so desperate are agencies to put bodies on the street.
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. I’ve actually dealt with people who arrived apparently unaware of the basics of personal hygiene, and even some smelling strongly of marijuana smoke–and obviously high. Some have tried to borrow money from me.
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.
Written tests are designed to establish an absolute baseline. Can the candidate read? Understand what they read? Write? “On at least Jr. High level?” Do they have any common sense? Are they apparently sane? Circa 2022, even these tests are being dumbed down.
Many people try to become police officers because of the romance and authority of the job. Unfortunately, their view of police work is usually drawn from TV and the movies; it has nothing to do with reality.
Those that pass physical tests undergo intensive background checks and psychological fitness exams, such as the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The next step is usually questioning by a panel of serving officers of various ranks, and perhaps a personal interview with the Chief or Sheriff. A polygraph is also normally done, which can find skeletons in closets an applicant would rather keep closed.
Circa 2022, physical testing is being dumbed down, and in many places, psychological testing is curtailed or entirely eliminated. Polygraphs too are being eliminated lest they eliminate too many candidates.
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. Many police agencies now 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.
Circa 2022, even the high school requirement is shaky in some places.
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 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.
While training has not been greatly curtailed for current recruits, passing standards are being lowered. Lower quality recruits do not learn at the same pace or as well as truly qualified, intelligent candidates. As I’ve often noted, the trend in law enforcement, even before the woke avalanche, has been to hire officers at only average or slightly above intelligence levels. Now, below average is about all many agencies can get, or want.
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. This 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.
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 do it.
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 basic level. 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 often involved in policing.
Circa 2022, fewer are allowed to wash out, particularly if they’re diversity hires.
On 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. Pity any city that has to hire people because they’re friends or relatives of local politicians or of already serving cops.
Imagine what Dayton is doing now.
The biggest stumbling block to excellence in police work is that agencies are limited to hiring members of the human race. This always means that some will be fundamentally unfit for the job. Most will be average, and some few will be excellent. 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.
The less intelligent the officer, the less responsible, the less personal integrity they have, the more likely they are to be badge heavy, or to use their power for personal advantage.
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.
Imagine teaching and enforcing strict police ethics when officers aren’t allowed to do their jobs, and when arresting members of preferred, protected victim groups is likely to get an officer fired or prosecuted.
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.
Circa 2022: or flee, or do the absolute minimum, abandoning their jurisdictions to criminals.
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, they mostly succeed.
If they’re sufficiently intelligent, well trained, and well supervised.
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.
Circa 2020, virtually no one reaches a high position in blue city agencies unless they are entirely untrustworthy toward professional, competent police officers. Rank means political reliability, not police competence.
AFTER THE SECOND YEAR:
By this time, new officers have made something of a name for themselves and associated themselves 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.
Circa 2020, there may or may not be new officers to replace those who retired or quit, which makes those remaining forced to take huge amounts of overtime, which makes everyone tired, sick, touchy, and resentful.
By now, those officers who take firearms seriously, even enjoy them, have begun to notice 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 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 that 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. Smart officers will leave those weapons in their vehicles and rely on their handguns. At least they know where those will hit.
Imagine how officers below average in intelligence and personal social skills do with firearms. More agencies these days are carrying carbines, usually AR-15 variants. They spend no more time in training and qualifying with those than they do with shotguns. The ammo is much more expensive than handgun ammo, and circa 2022, often harder to get.
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.
Again, remember, the original article referred to policing in the pre-woke environment. That still applies in most agencies in most red states, and even some in blue states, but the downward trends are alarming and dangerous, and not to criminals.
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. In fact, most are 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.
I am fully aware, gentle readers, that I’m generalizing, and in generalizing, I am certainly painting some underserving of criticism with a broad brush. I trust you know I do this not to unfairly castigate the worthy, but to explain the realities of policing and the relationship of the police to the people most cops honorably serve.
Final, Final Thoughts:
Once again, keep in mind my 2014 article spoke to the realities of policing circa 2014. In much of the country, those realities hold true. But in Blue cities and states, they do not. Things have changed, and continue to change, and not in good ways.
We need the police, but we need competent, intelligent, professional police officers. When someone is breaking down your door at 0200 and you’re at work—your wife and children are home alone—who do you want responding to that 911 call? Officers of better than average intelligence, professional, capable, experienced, diligent and skilled with firearms, or the kinds of people big city agencies are stooping to hire these days?
If you want the former, D/S/C readers, perhaps you might give some thought to stop voting for the kinds of politicians who are more than happy with below average people answering that 911 call.