From the Windshield of My Prowl Car

Blog Note: This is the view of a typical patrol officer. I thought this officers view is  worthwhile to share with you. These are his views of the current controversies in policing.

Dear Chief,

From the windshield of my prowl car and behind the lens of my body worn camera, this is what I see:

Survivability. We need Cops to go home at the end of the shift.  We need Cops to make sure their partners go home at the end of shift.  We don’t want our leaders planning and administering over police funerals or going to hospital rooms to pay visits to injured cops.

Liability. It’s just a fancy way of saying responsibility.  So whether the corporation is liable or the individual is liable, each entity wants to protect itself from negative perception and monetary loss.  Because let’s be honest, in today’s realm of public service your reputation and frugality are paramount in the eyes of voters and taxpayers.  The beat cop wants to keep his job just as much as the Chief.

Proficiency. How well do something.  Your level of competency.  That is where we are failing.  The challenge lies in the fact that using force in a police situation is not an exact science.  Sure POST can administer testing anchors to measure the skill of recruits, but this is not truly testing the proficiency of a recruit.

The only time the recruit get a small taste of that is in the live scenarios in which they have to literally “fight for their life.”  But those scenarios are administered by individual instructors and are not graded by POST.  We put those on because we know it is essential to measuring and developing proficiency.  A large part of evaluating how proficient somebody is at doing something lies in decision making.  That is decision making under stress.  Physical stress. Mental stress.  Social stress.  Psychological stress.  What you decide to do and why you decided to do it are paramount in the decision making process and therefore learning environment.  Those are true indicators of just how firmly you grasp the concepts of what you are expected to do.

We are not going to make Kung Fu masters out of every police officer. Everybody is not going to be gold medal Greco Roman wrestler or black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  We’re not turing people into Floyd Mayweather. What we want to accomplish is for people to make the best decision they can, under adverse conditions, and carry it out to the best that their skill level allows This decision making likened to a thermostat.  Dial it up. Dial it down.  Adjust it. Act. Evaluate. Move. Wait.  Change.  Not to mention in many force encounters these things must happen in a matter of seconds.  NFL referees need numerous camera angles, super slow motion and minutes to figure out decisions that can alter the course of a football game.  Cops must make big league decisions in fractions of a second with no slow motion or replay, yet these decisions last for eternity.

Try this:

Draw a box on a piece of paper. Write “survivability” just outside the upper left corner.  Write “liability” just outside the lower right corner.  Now write “legal” just outside the bottom left corner and “moral” outside the upper right corner.  Survivability, liability, legality, and morality.  Those should be the buzz words right now in the national discourse but they are not.  Instead emotions and agendas are getting the best of everybody.  But I digress.

So we have our four cornerstone concepts of what it really means to be a cop in the 21st century in America. Right dead center in that box is “proficiency”.  The goal in my decision making is to float as close to the center as I possibly can.  Because as soon as I start drifting out to one of those corners or sides there will be greater consequences then if I was in the middle.  Some are physical.  Some are culpability.  Some are monetary.  Some are ethical.  Some are professional.  You decide.

We don’t want to foster a “live by the sword, die by the sword” mentality in our profession or in our country. HBO Series, Season 3 of The Wire:  Major Colvin talks to Sergeant Carver about the Corners.  He’s advocating to not treat it like a “war” because you have to have enemies in a war.  Pretty soon, all you will have it enemies.  He then explains to him that you can still be a “soldier” without being a “warrior”.  Warriors need a war.  Soldiers are part of a bigger picture. (graphic) As a cop I don’t want to view the entire public as enemies.

But our nation does need to realize this: law enforcement lives and breathes in the opposition and imposition of wills.  We make our money when people’s wills oppose each other.  The Police get paid to make sure people are not improperly imposing their will on somebody else.  When you’re in the business of monitoring “wills” you know that force, in whatever shape it comes, is a necessity.  Take sports.  Football.  Wrestling.  Rugby.  Basketball.  Hockey. Those sports involving the opposing assertion of wills.  Whomever can impose their will with the greatest amount of skill wins.  Imposing will means gaining ground and space necessary to defend against points or score points.  A great deal of force is sometimes necessary to accomplish this.  The person on whom the will is imposed dislikes it and laments its imposition-in sports and society.

The battle of will has comparisons to policing. When wills are at stake they are sometimes not easily forfeited.  In those times we must use force to do the job the public expects of us.  The caveat lies in the application of how we administer that force.  Was it legal? Was it moral? Was it humane? Was it professional?  Did it prevent potential increased injury?  Am I going home?  Did it get the job done and cage the will of the subject?  The box mentioned earlier and the proficiency to be reasonable and control the middle without going to the edges.  Some in policing and outside of policing would push us to the edge.

Policing and society must stop “standing” in the middle and start “acting” in the middle? Right now men and women in the same position as you, and their cops, are “standing” and just hoping and praying that another “person of color” is not the victim of “police brutality”.

And if that’s what the public wants the police to stand and not act, that’s what the public will get. Some call it de-policing. Whatever you call it, the consequences will be costly to society, the police each of us as individuals.

As for me and my prowl car, I’m gonna grind it out old school. Because I live in the middle of that four cornered box.

-Cat Fish



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