• A Chief of Police or a Chief of Mayor?

    Does a chasm exists between cops and their chiefs?

    Could a problem in policing today be the gaping chasm that seems to exist between many American police chiefs and their rank and file cops. The position is known as Chief of Police. However, it seems a mayor appointing a person to the office, instead, expects him or her to be the Chief of Mayor. Sheriffs, who are directly elected, may have similar problems depending on the politics of the electorate, but at least they run their own departments.

     

    Alchemy in achievement.

    Police chiefs rise through the ranks either within their departments or are appointed by mayors of other departments to serve as their top cop. These chiefs are usually good people, but many are also, evidently, politically malleable (i.e., the ladder seems to lean to the left as they climb it). Could the philosophical and political separation between cops and their chief come from the alchemy that occurs within some people who rise through the ranks? Sadly, many succumb to the adage: go along to get along. There may be a necessary professional distance that exists between employees and their bosses, generally. However, law enforcement, being a risk-laden, paramilitary organization, poses additional considerations, and trust and loyalty in both directions is crucial.

     

    Conservative cops vs. Liberal leaders.

    It’s no secret that the vast majority of street cops tend to be politically conservative. It is also no mystery that the people running cities such as Seattle are liberal, have oodles of leftist-sanctioned diversity, but scant political diversity. So, what happens when it’s time for the liberal city leadership to choose a chief of police to “lead” its police officers?

     

    The selection process.

    We cops used to parody Seattle’s police chief selection process. We could imagine the mayor meeting the police chief candidates at SeaTac Airport and requesting the candidate hand over his or her ______ (balls for men and, for women, the female equivalent) before then being pre-qualified to be invited to city hall for the formal interview. The city employs a ruse that the rank and file has a “vote” because the Police Officers Guild interviews the candidates and makes recommendations. However, in reality, the guild leadership essentially has to choose among candidates who range from politically left to, far left to, have left the building.

     

    Chief of the cops?

    There hasn’t been Chief of “Police” in Seattle for a long time—probably since Patrick Fitzsimons (the chief who hired me). Coming from the NYPD, many officers may have had legitimate issues with Chief Fitzsimons, but there was no doubt he was the Chief. I often saw Fitzsimons visit the precinct–and pound his knuckles on officer’s chests to make sure they were wearing their ballistic vests. To the contrary, even if I were missing three fingers, I could count on one hand how many times I saw Chiefs Stamper, Kerlikowske or Diaz in a precinct roll call during either of their tenures. How should patrol officers feel knowing they will never work for a chief they can trust—someone they could follow with confidence. The truth is, the mayor and city council will never appoint a chief who the rank and file approves of, because city leaders have never seemed very interested in the cops’ perspective (just shut up and be good little socialists, as a certain officer once put it).

     

    Chief of Police or Chief of Mayor?

    Does this mean the rank and file won’t give a new police chief the benefit of the doubt? Of course not. We gave it to Chief Norm Stamper, R. Gil Kerlikowske, John Diaz (in whom we had the most hope, because he came from us) and most recently, to Kathleen O’Toole. Still, while all of these chiefs, from a patrol officer’s perspective, made good and bad moves, officers were mostly disappointed after these chiefs seem to have been (or are a) puppet(s) of the municipal handlers, more concerned with following political protocols than with truly leading police officers. While a chief, ostensibly, has authority over his or her officers, should we have to wonder who actually runs the police department in Seattle? Shouldn’t it be an apolitical (as much as possible) chief of police? If Seattle weren’t lead by its liberal elite, its police department might not have become the petri dish for liberal, social justice experimentation that it is today. And it would have a Chief of Police, not a Chief of Mayor.

  • Border Patrol Pauses to Reflect on Police Body Cameras

    Is it time to pause and reflect about police video?

    It appears the U.S. Border Patrol has provided American law enforcement legitimate cause to pause and reflect on the use of police video, particularly, body cameras. I mentioned in a previous blog that a barista berated a friend of mine, still an active duty cop, for daring to answer another barista’s question about police body cameras by telling her the truth regarding arguments for and against police body cameras. During the rude barista’s tirade, she said, “I’d rather be filmed naked than let you cops get away with what you do.” I don’t think we have to decipher her open-mindedness on the issue. What happens when officers enter an innocent residence in error or while chasing a suspect on foot? (Yes, this happens) What happens when those people are caught on camera in legal, but compromising, situations? That footage is still open to public disclosure. Would you also rather be filmed naked, and then viewed by strangers–perhaps, a lot of them?

    U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

    Despite the barista’s neurotic fears, and acknowledging the pros, there are also legitimate cons regarding law enforcement officers wearing body cameras. Recently, on www.PoliceOne.com, an Associated Press article written by Elliot Spagat reported that the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection is recommending against the use of body cameras (US border agency staff rejects body cameras). The reasons cited were refreshingly “old school,” as the reasons reflect the concerns of cops as human beings. And, I’m saying this despite numerous officers being exonerated of wrongdoing due to vehicle and body camera footage. Still, the objections are valid and should be considered.

    A distraction and morale suffers.

    According to the article, “The yearlong review cited cost and a host of other reasons to hold off, according to two people familiar with the findings who spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been made public. It found operating cameras may distract agents while they’re performing their jobs, may hurt employee morale….” They also cited difficulties with the hot, dry weather conditions for agents stationed on the southwest border experience.

    Training

    The training many officers initially received on dash cam videos demonstrated that many officers concerns are valid. I remember attending in-car video training several years ago. One of the issues of concern instructors attempted to dispel immediately was that administrators and supervisors would proactively cull videos for use in disciplining or even retaliating against officers. Our instructor assured us videos would never be used in “fishing” expeditions against officers. Every officer in the class snickered with skepticism. Talk to any officer today, and you’ll find evidence that vindicates the skeptics.

    Video “fishing expeditions”

    Prior to the Department of Justice (DOJ) arriving in Seattle and presenting their bogus investigation findings, Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) investigations were relatively infrequent with some officers having gone without receiving a white envelope with a red stamp in their department mailboxes for years. I went nineteen years, all on the streets in patrol, without being a “suspect” officer in an investigation before the DOJ consent decree debacle. Following DOJ’s arrival I was investigated several times, mostly from internal, department initiated charges. Today, it is rare to find any officer who hasn’t been under investigation for some alleged violation. And video is often the weapon used to find these allegations.

    Now, even examples of police excellence are often questioned

    An example: Before I retired I was involved in what would normally be viewed as an exceptional example of great police work. Several units responded to a report of a knife-wielding suspect threatening a gas station owner. On arrival we determined that not only had the suspect threatened the store owner  with a knife, he’d also punched her. We arrested him, recovered a knife as well as items that indicated the suspect may have been posing as a police officer (though not during this incident).

    After receiving information from the primary investigating officer, we arrested the suspect. After the arrest, while waiting for the primary officer to gain additional information from the victims, one of the officers determined the suspect’s vehicle would be impounded, as it was blocking access to the gas pump island. Prior to a tow truck arriving to hook the car, officers routinely inspect the car’s interior and trunk to be sure there is nothing hazardous in the vehicle. In fact, policies and procedures at the time dictated officers do this. One officer did this.

    From my location, I could see a cardboard box, a piece of rope and maybe some other innocuous items within the trunk—essentially nothing of note. So innocuous, later, I barely recalled that portion of the incident. Subsequent to the inspection, the suspect’s sister arrived at the scene. The suspect requested his sister take possession of the car rather than it being impounded. The officer who’d inspected the trunk cancelled the tow truck and allowed the sister to take the car.

    Recap: We’d arrived in time to stop any further assault against the victim and arrested the armed suspect, confiscating a knife from him. Great police work, right? Commendations all around, right? Not post-DOJ. Resulting from this investigation, every officer present was investigated for alleged wrongdoing.

    The suspect–yeah, the guy who’d assaulted a poor business owner, punched her and threatened her with a knife–filed a complaint contending the officers had conducted an unlawful search of his car’s trunk. Due to the fact that the suspect’s sister was allowed to take the car—by officers at the scene, it was no longer an “impound” therefore investigators determined that the inspection of the trunk was illegal. OPA investigated we three officers for an “illegal” search. Despite only one officer having physically inspected the trunk, they also investigated the other two officers: the primary officer, who was inside the store interviewing the victim and witnesses, and me, standing by with the prisoner in the parking lot. Apparently, they investigated us simply for being on the property at the time the vehicle inspection occurred.

    The officer who inspected the trunk was sanctioned for conducting an “illegal” search, and the primary officer and I were eventually “cleared” but were referred to our supervisors for further “training.” Training in what? How to stand inside a store or in a parking lot while another officer peeks into the trunk of a car?

    Cameras

    This is where the camera issue comes back into play. In training, we were all taught some basic protocols. One was that sometimes the vehicle camera direction simply wouldn’t be pointed at where the “action” is occurring. After all, Steven Spielberg isn’t on scene directing this stuff. On arrival at an incident where a suspect has assaulted a victim and is armed with a knife, officers are not concerned with where their cameras are aimed, only their guns. Another protocol taught was if there is no audio to go with the video, there is no video. On arrival, my car happened to be pointed toward the west exterior wall of the store. The incident was taking place in the parking lot on the north side and the suspect’s car was at the west fueling island. When I arrived, I parked, jumped out of my car and ran to assist the other officer in taking the armed suspect into custody.

    Due to the parking lot configuration, the other officers’ vehicles were also facing directions not where the arrest was taking place (suspects and victims rarely stand still). In this instance, because the audio was not married to the video, officers were taught video was not required.

    Still, each one of us was investigated for not activating our video cameras during the incident. Having done great police work, protected a victim and arrested an armed suspect, my two fellow officers were officially sanctioned for not having their cameras activated during the incident. I only ducked the same fate because, during my transport of the prisoner to the precinct, I had activated my camera, videotaping the suspect in my backseat. Therefore, I actually had video of at least a portion of the incident recorded–a technicality. How I actually remembered to turn the camera on at all is a mystery to me. We were all still getting used to something very new to us.

    Let reason, not emotion,inform policy

    The Border Patrol’s findings give us a valid reason to pause and take a hard look at both the benefits and liabilities of these developing technologies and how best to deploy them without neglecting the humanity of those required to wear them. I wonder: would the politicians so interested in cops wearing body cameras be interested in wearing them too. After all, they are public servants.

     

  • Workers Need the Rich to Buy Limos, Yachts and Mansions

    Anti-capitalism seems all the rage. Malcontents in many cities throughout the world recently held demonstrations, including here in Seattle. Amusingly, in the Jet City, the police tasked with escorting the protesters outnumbered them, as they attempted to express their First Amendment “rights” by blocking Seattleites pursuits of happiness. For the left it was business as usual; it seems nothing is more important than what they believe.

    It’s nearly impossible to imagine what, besides time and experience, could get through those granite noggins. The fact—yes, fact—that free market capitalism has made the world a much better place than the one it found on its arrival in the arsenal of American Exceptionalism, is undeniable. However, it’s also no mystery that these perennial protesters deny the undeniable. Logic seems to play a small role, if any, in their thinking and actions.

    The anarchists, the socialists, the communists and the ignorant whine about the so-called “One Percent.” They ask derisively, how many jets, houses or yachts a rich person should have? I have two answers to that. One: as many as they want and can afford—it’s their money! Two: Hopefully, as many as possible. The second answer comes from all the aviation, marine and housing laborers who are responsible for putting food on their tables and keeping roofs over their heads.

    The white-collar one-percent don’t physically build the cars; their blue-collar employees do. For every limousine, private jet or mansion built, companies need skilled and unskilled laborers to build them. Try making a list tracking all the hands involved in the manufacture of these products. General contractors, subcontractors, and designers; mechanics, carpenters, and bricklayers; stone masons, electricians, and plumbers; painters, landscapers, and gardeners; pilots, drivers, captains and crews; architects, accountants, and insurance agents and on and on. And this is just off the top of my head and not nearly a complete list. It doesn’t include the myriad ancillary businesses supported by the dollars these companies spend on materials, hardware, and parts, not to mention what their laborers pour into the economy.

    No issue is as black and white as the social justice agitators would like to have us believe. Then again, critical thinking has never been one of the left’s strong suits.

     

  • Reasons for Poor Police-Community Relations

    As I see it, there are three primary reasons for the current anti-police sentiment felt across America. (Officers who actually commit crimes also contribute to this, but I feel that is another discussion–not to mention, obvious). Lately, this acrimony has been expressed by some restaurant employees refusing to serve police officers or writing disparaging messages on their coffee cups such as, “FTP” (F**k the Police).

    The first reason is simple: a combination of ignorance and antipathy. There are people who simply do not want to know the truth about police cases where officers are cleared of wrongdoing. They prefer to remain ignorant and angry. They do not like the police, they do not want to like the police, and they do not want anyone else to like the police.

    They buy into myths such as, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” which, according to former Attorney General Eric Holder, who had contributed to trying to paint the officer guilty, never happened. While some police critics may come around as they mature and gain life experience, as a group these people are simply cop-haters—enemies of the police.

    The second reason is when governments pass unnecessary and redundant laws, which are often politically motivated. Most of these types of laws do not address legitimate public safety issues. Whenever government passes a law that doesn’t protect Peter from Paul but protects Peter from his own decisions, a collision course between cops and ordinary citizens has been assured.

    The third reason is caused by police officers themselves. Many, perhaps even most, people can recall a negative contact with a police officer at some time in their lives. Just like most folks can cite a negative experience with an employee at the post office, a restaurant or movie theater. However, negative experiences with police officers tend to remain long after the contact than with other “service providers.” The petty tyrants among police officers can cause a lot of problems for people but also for their fellow cops.

    When dealing with people, I always tried to keep in mind that our interaction set them up for their next meeting with a police officer. If I were rude or unprofessional, people might expect that behavior from the next officer as well.

    I’m not saying that professionally acting officers ignore when people disrespect them. People should be treated in a manner befitting what their behavior has earned them. This third reason results from when officers are rude or unprofessional with people who are being cooperative. Think about it. Do you have a negative story about interacting with the police? I do—a couple of them.

    Of course, having been a cop for so long, I have many more positive contacts that mitigate the few petty tyrants. Unfortunately, the average citizen does not have this advantage. They might have one, two or a handful, at most, contacts with the police, and probably for something relatively minor. This can affect how they think about cops, generally.

    In these instances, the contact can have a significant impact on people’s views on law enforcement. Cops should not join the cop-haters and politicians by helping to create this negative environment. The first two groups do it out of ignorance, hate or for political gain. Let’s not add insult to injury by aiding our own destruction.

  • “FTP” on Cop’s Coffee Cups and the Belligerent Ignorance of the Left

    The assault on the American police officer by the left continues, and the ignorance is appalling. While cops will always concede that there are anomalies among them who do violate policy and law, and who hopefully get caught, as with any industry the vast majority of cops do their jobs very well. And when you consider the rigorous hiring and training process cops go through, it’s probably an even greater percentage of good vs. bad employees than most professions.

    This is why the incidents of poor treatment of officers at the hands of certain anti-police employees in the service industry rankles me so much. This treatment includes servers declining to serve cops at some fast-food restaurants and coffee shops (treatment like this at a cop’s coffee shop, like Dunkin’ Donuts? Say it ain’t so…), and employees at MoKoBe’s Coffeehouse, in St. Louis, writing anti-police messages  “FTP” on coffee cups. The last two letters stand for: …the police. I’ll let you figure out what the “F” stands for. In follow-up response to customer complaints, the owners of the company tweeted that “it takes cup graffiti ‘as seriously as the police take murder.’”

    One appalled customer of one of the coffee shops said this was especially offensive because she’s seen employees of this shop call the police when they needed help such as in removing aggressive panhandlers and dealing with hostile customers. One customer suggested the coffeehouse may want to “opt-out” of police protection and take care of crime on their own.

    I came up with a term many years ago I use to describe this type of ignorance. It is an ignorance not borne out of a simple lack of knowledge, as we all experience, but out of not acknowledging, or wanting to know, the truth.

    Take for example: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which comes to us from a false scenario perpetrated by Michael Brown’s partner in crime, Dorian Johnson, when he lied to investigators when describing the incident during which Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot robbery and felony assault suspect Brown, killing him.

    Attorney General Eric Holder made this case a national priority throwing tremendous FBI and DOJ resources at the investigation. Despite that Holder, and the Obama administration, obviously wished for “justice,” but only for Michael and the Brown family, not for the police officer, Holder’s DOJ exonerated Officer Wilson.

    Get it? The federal agency in charge of the investigation into the possible violation of civil rights charges against Wilson didn’t find him “Not Guilty,” as in a court of law. Instead, they found the officer acted entirely properly, and that Brown had assaulted Wilson and attempted to take his gun, and that no charges existed that could be filed. Remarkably, to the belligerently ignorant, none of these facts matter.

    For the Black Lives Matter crowd (or, Black Lies Matter, as Milwaukee County [WI] Sheriff David Clarke calls the movement), white Officer Darren Wilson shot down in the streets like a dog, an innocent, black man, Michael Brown, who was surrendering with his hands up.  They don’t believe this because this is what happened but because this is what the belligerently ignorant want so desperately to have happened—the truth be damned.

    The belligerently ignorant will continue to maintain their ignorance and continue to insult those who protect them, as they—in the recesses of their private thoughts—hope to God the truth does not seep in.

  • So, You Think You Can Do Police Work Better Than a Cop?

    While every organization can improve, law enforcement agencies included, to essentially use it as an excuse to federalize local law enforcement is contrary to our federal system. What happens when the feds interfere is that society is no longer looking at what is right for law enforcement, generally, but rather what is right for, in this case, liberal Democrat ideology. There is a sage old adage that proffers: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Another adage also comes to mind: A society/community will get the police force it deserves.

    I’ll ask you, regarding the McKinney, Texas police officer at the out-of-control pool party (and, without assuming the officer’s actions were right or wrong): What would you have done in the officer’s place? Now, while your busy fabricating a solution while sitting in the safety of your computer, tablet or smart phone, keep this little tidbit in mind: assume the girl refuses to comply with any lawful command YOU give her. Often times, in people’s minds they substitute what actually happened to the cop with what they feel certainly would have happened if they were to handle the situation instead. Amazing how much goes right in your head. Often, people feel as though they would have the “magic” words that would have made the suspect/subject comply. Cops wish.

    This is why I asked you, while you’re building your own mental scenario, to assume she never complies. If you need this person to cooperate, after a demonstrable history of refusing to do so after many police commands, you are left with few options, none of them pretty. You can let her leave (although, I don’t know why she would, when she hasn’t up to now), which diminishes police authority and respectability. Her behavior has determined that physical force is the only practical and reasonable alternative left to the cops.

    Civilized society simply cannot allow her, or anyone, to interfere with law enforcement with impunity. People simply cannot pick and choose the police commands they will obey. Think about this for a moment. Cops don’t have time to debate or discuss police actions with everyone. Police officers are taught to be aware of their 360 (360 degrees around them) for potential attack. This is why a cop needs to get a situation under control as soon as possible. This reduces the chance of officer and citizen injury. Add this to your scenario. What is happening out of your field of view, behind your back? Are you willing to bet your wellbeing or life that there is no threat there? Many injured and dead officers have done just that… to their peril and tragedy. I’d be most interested in hearing any (reasonable, please) alternatives.

  • Police Use of Force Will Never Look Good.

    Physical actions cops take when attempting to arrest people who are resisting arrest, especially teenaged girls, the disabled, or the elderly, will never look good—never! Did I say, never? However, it should not be ignored that had the girl complied with police officers’ initial commands (the police told her several times to leave), as she is legally required to do, force would not have been necessary.

    It bother’s me that Casebolt’s police chief, who has handled this better than most, initially, rather than waiting for at least a substantive review of events, cast his officer to the wolves by saying his actions were, “indefensible.” My goodness, even if Casebolt overreacted, indefensible is going too far. The teen girl in question suffered no injury. How, “indefensible” could it have been?

    Such early premature and definite conclusions by a police chief can affect an officer’s right to fair treatment. While the chief had made his assessment, reasonable police officers were still discussing the officer’s actions and no clear consensus has been reached—even today it’s not entirely settled among cops. Good respectable cops fall on both sides of this issue, each for valid reasons. To real cops this situation is not as clear-cut as it might seem to non-cops and political appointee, no-longer-real-cops, such as so many police chiefs. We’ve had similar police chiefs in Seattle with similar lack of prudence when commenting on officer actions after high profile, politicized incidents. The chiefs are almost always, inevitably, found to have been wrong. But it sounds good to certain, loud, segments of the public with whom they seek to ingratiate themselves.

    The fact that Casebolt had already responded to two suicide calls earlier in his shift points out the unique nature of police work. In what other job are you required to respond to a person (or two) who’s taken (or attempted to take) his or her own life, and then respond to 150 out-of-control teenagers at a pool party?

    In my book, Is There a Problem, Officer?, I write about an incident to emphasize this point. One Christmas season, I responded to a woman who’d been stabbed in the abdomen by a man during a robbery in her home while her ten-year-old son hid behind their Christmas tree. After arresting the subject, my partner and I performed CPR on the dying woman. Medics arrived, and when they turned her over, we learned that the victim had also been stabbed five times in the back. Sadly, she died. On the way back to my precinct after writing my statement at the Homicide Unit, I had to make an unavoidable traffic stop. From homicide arrest, attempted life-saving measures and murder investigation, to a mundane traffic stop. This is an aspect of police work most people fail to consider when criticizing officer actions. In most jobs, if someone dies at work, by accident or medical emergency, the shop or offices closes for the day and employees are sent home to deal with their emotions. Cops go back to work!

    Disproportionate public, and media, critique is what happens when police “accountability” becomes political. Have the police critics ever stopped to think that they might be trying to “fix” something that ain’t broke? Of course not. Ideological people don’t stop to think—it’s too dangerous. And, until everyone believes as they do, nothing will ever be “fixed.”

     

  • When Cop Supporters Don’t “Get It,” They Help the Cop Haters Hate Cops.

    People think they understand police work—they sincerely do, and I’m glad some try. However, cops know that people don’t understand police work—they sincerely don’t. I don’t know of another profession where more people profess to know better how to do the job than those trained to do it.

    Two elements are essential if a community truly wants better relations with its police:

     

    1.  Better public education about what police do—how and why.

     

    2.  Give cops the benefit of the doubt.

     

    Unless you have done police work, not a ride-along or two for a few hours or even an entire shift but daily or nightly for an extended amount of time, you can never fully appreciate what society requires of its cops.

    Even people who support cops sometimes fail to understand the work, and it’s reflected in their comments. For example, Fox News Channel anchor, Megyn Kelly, who I consider a major cop supporter, after viewing the video where McKinney, Texas police officer, David Eric Casebolt attempted to subdue a female teenager who was resisting his commands to obey, called his actions, “brutal.” Does she realize that most cops watching may have thought, at the most, that the officer was a bit, exuberant, but to call it brutal is an insult to those who have legitimately been brutalized. After all, this “brutality,” resulted in no injuries. It just looked bad—it always does and always will.

    To be effective language should be accurate. This points out the problem the police have with educating the public. If a top-rated, intelligent and talented news anchor who generally supports the police can be swayed by how something “appears,” just imagine what cop-haters will do with such incidents.

  • Ordinary People Cannot Understand Police Work.

    People, generally, don’t have a clue about what cops do! And, while that is not their fault, failing to give cops the benefit of the doubt is dangerous for society.

    Many well-meaning people say they support the police, but until people truly understand the unique nature of police work, they cannot properly assess it. Unfortunately, non-law enforcement people aren’t capable of fully understanding police work; it’s just not possible. Unless they’ve been to a police academy and have spent years and decades on the streets actually committing law enforcement, they can never understand. This is why it is so important to understand that they can only work to understand the nature of the job and then give cops the benefit of the doubt they deserve.

    Fox News Channel’s Brian Kilmeade demonstrated this the other night on an evening news commentary program. When asked to comment on a particular high profile police action, Kilmeade answered that he had not attended the police academy, is not a cop, and could not fathom what decisions the cop was facing at the time of the incident. He gave the officer the respect of an initial benefit of the doubt. To the contrary, the political left too often give cops the detriment of certainty, without the nuisance of waiting for an investigation. If, after a thorough investigation is completed, an officer is found to have acted intentionally improperly or illegally, then gloves off. Until then, cops deserve the benefit of the doubt. Once people accept they can never fully understand police work, society will be on its way to a better relationship with their police.

     

  • Prisoners Attempt Injure Themselves Often After Being Arrested.

    While I do not agree with the sentiment, I can certainly understand the cynicism honest people might have with the defense scenario offered by the six Baltimore police officers recently charged in Freddie Gray’s death. Reasonable people have a difficult time understanding things that, while unbelievable in their world, are routine in a cop’s world.

    When writing my first book, Is There a Problem, Officer? I went round and round with an editor who refused to believe that anyone would not obey orders and would even swear at a police officer. She thought I was making it up for dramatic effect. I’m not sure if I ever truly convinced her that people swear at cops—all the time, but the story made it into the book, so…

    People don’t believe that Freddie Gray would have intentionally injured himself to avoid going to jail or in an attempt to frame the officers for police brutality. To the reasonable person, this behavior is difficult to fathom. For the unreasonable cop haters, it provides much fodder for their animus. For the reasonable police officer, this behavior happens daily.

    Back in the ‘90s a sergeant had another officer and me team up to transport a domestic violence assault suspect from the scene to the jail, as he was deemed too unruly for just one officer. On the way to the jail, our prisoner, in the backseat, kicked at the patrol car’s windows and at the cage behind our seats, and screamed and yelled in Farsi, his native language. Just before we arrived at the jail, our suspect began smashing his forehead into the sharp bottom edge of the barrier, which separates suspects from officers.

    We arrived at the jail within a few seconds of when he began banging his head and got out to gain control of him, so he wouldn’t injure himself further. Even in this short time, he had significant lacerations on his forehead. Blood covered his face, as head wounds bleed heavily. As we walked the kicking, flailing and bleeding suspect into the jail processing area where the corrections officers were waiting with a specialty restraint chair used at the time for uncooperative prisoners, I can easily see where a group of “reasonable” people might suspect that we’d used excessive force on the suspect during the transport. However, neither the reasonable corrections officers nor the reasonable cops thought anything unusual about a prisoner injuring him or herself. Once again, this is a case that points to how poorly law enforcement educates the public about what cops do.

    Yes, Virginia, suspects fake illnesses and attempt to injure themselves often. In fact, cops have a word for it: Incarceritis. Suspects are perfectly healthy one moment but suddenly suffer catastrophic medical issues once they learn they are going to jail. But, don’t ask just any reasonable person about this phenomenon; ask a reasonable cop.