Editorial: Policing, Group-think, and Non-lethal force.

In this dramatic video you will see the the best possible outcome for a situation where a man is threatening officers with a knife and is not responding to commands to drop said weapon.

The responding officer remained in the safety of his vehicle until backup arrived. The officer was almost pleading for the perp to drop the knife. When he didn’t, and continued to move towards another officer, that officer fired a taser.

I understand that when a situation is deteriorating it is easy for things to spiral out of control. Tasers don’t always work, and if a single officer is faced with a threat and no backup, I understand why one would opt for their gun.

I do think that if there is sufficient backup that non-lethal means should be attempted on a knife wielding suspect. The fact that an officer might be justified legally in shooting a suspect at the time he or she pulls the trigger, does not mean that the situation was unavoidable from the start of the encounter.

I want cops to be safe, but I agree with Professor Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds when he writes about the institutional mindset in modern policing that creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality.

from Glenn Reynolds, USA Today:

“But police turn their attention inward. The people they are policing aren’t enemy combatants, but their fellow citizens — and, even more significantly, their employers. A combat-like mindset on the part of police turns fellow-citizens into enemies, with predictable results.

I sometimes think the turning point was marked by the old cop show Hill Street Blues.Each episode opened with a daily briefing before the officers went out on patrol. In the early seasons, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus concluded every briefing with “Let’s be careful out there.” In the later episodes, his replacement, Sergeant Stan Jablonski, replaced that with “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.” The latter attitude is appropriate for a war zone, but not for a civilized society.

This attitude is more dangerous than a Bradley, and the main danger of giving police military equipment isn’t that they’ll be well-armed, but that it fosters a war-zone mindset. The notion of unaccountable power is what does the real harm. A recentWashington Post column by an LAPD officer saying “If you don’t want to get shot, Tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you,” illustrates the problem.”

I do not think that policing in this country is motivated by racism. However, political policies such as the War on Drugs and the Welfare-state destruction of minority families have created an atmosphere of outright hostility between the police and large swaths of the citizenry. I am not excusing individual action or responsibility, but there is no denying the disparate impact that misguided Satism has had on minority populations.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t countless examples of good policing where officers do in fact deeply care about the communities they serve. One recent example in Knoxville is where black residents of a housing project came to the aid of a white officer who was being attacked by a cracked-out woman who was not dropped when hit by a taser.

from KnoxNews.com:

“Roberts witnessed the event through a window at the Dr. Lee Williams Complex, a senior citizens center he oversees in Walter P. Taylor Homes. Roberts had seen the confrontation develop despite Gwathney “trying to de-escalate the situation” and worried as he saw the crowd of black onlookers encircle the lone officer.

“With my experiences with police over the years, I was just amazed,” said the 69-year-old Roberts who led Knoxville’s black community through the racial tinderbox in the late 1990s when several black men died during confrontations with Knoxville officers.

“And it wasn’t just a few people, it was the whole crowd. I was shaking my head in disbelief, but it was a good feeling.”

Gwathney, an 18-year veteran of the Knoxville Police Department, said the woman bit two of the residents who came to his aid. The 28-year-old woman, he said, was wanted on 10 outstanding warrants and had been ordered to stay out of Walter P. Taylor homes.

The gathering crowd was a reassurance and not a threat for him. These are his people. He knows their names. He goes to their children’s graduations.

To residents of East Knoxville, Gwathney is “Officer G.”

I do not have a neat little bow to wrap up this post. In fact, I am really leaving the subject open for your thoughts. I do not have the answer, but policing for profit and the Incarceration-Industrial complex is out of control. The power of the State is derived from the consent of the governed, a fact that is too frequently disregarded by politicians and police alike.


  1. There is a lot of things to be said that those officers did right. The officer that we can hear was talking to him with respect, and not escalating the issue even more. however, the “OH” moment for me in that video was when the suspect smashed his head into the ground…that had to hurt.

    In regards to the rest of your comments…I’m not the biggest fan of police in my area, so therefore I just make sure not to give them cause to interact with me!

    There is no way for any average citizen to keep track of the laws anymore. I bought a slingshot a few months back online(what I think of as a kid’s toy). It had a wrist brace on it, and I just found out a few days ago that slingshot’s are fine, but wrist braces are illegal here. who would have thought?

    Less laws, more accountability would make it better for everyone I think.

  2. Roger says:

    I think if police over the country didn’t shoot and kill so many unarmed people, people with toy guns, choke men to death, choke pregnant women on camera, etc so much we’d all be on board with them using their discretion when applying potentially lethal force. BUT, there are videos of cops choking men and pregnant women and we’re told that those sort of chokeholds are banned by their departments. We’re told that police procedure is to announce themselves at any scene and give people the chance to put their guns down(we even see videos of cops doing this successfully), and then we see videos of a cop shooting a twelve year old while still half in his vehicle less than two seconds after arriving on the scene where he was already informed that it may have been a toy. We see video and hear stories of an officer walking into walmart to execute a man WHO WASN’T EVEN POINTING A TOY GUN AT ANYONE. And it should be noted that Crawford died because of Mothers Demand Action and their crazy demand to “swat” anyone with anything gun like. There’s a video out there of a cop killing a man holding a toy sword who was running away. “Why run away if you weren’t going to harm someone?” “Because there’s a guy pointing a fucking gun at you who has no qualms with shooting you in the back and all you have is an obviously fake sword.”

    I know a few cops. I trust them. But I hear from countless coworkers and friends that tell me due to recent events on the news, they don’t feel safe. And to be honest, I don’t either. Cameras haven’t raised accountability, all they do is provide us a POV of their murders and force police to write tickets and arrest people more(from what I’ve heard from cop friends).

    Furthermore, I feel the protected status of police is a big problem. They can offend, reoffend, etc with never having punishment more than a few weeks paid vacation. There’s a number of Baltimore City police officers who have been found guilty of numerous ethics violations, at least two of which were selling drugs WHILE ON THE JOB, who are still police. The guy who choked Eric Garner to death with a chokehold that other cops have been charged with assault for using(according to NYPD) is still a cop somewhere in NYC. The only high profile cop who was in the news and isn’t a cop anymore MADE THAT DECISION FOR HIMSELF BECAUSE HE CAN MAKE MORE MONEY.

    These are bad cops, and they get to stay cops. That’s a problem. There is no accountability. That’s a problem. I’d say it’s like living in an occupied country, but American Soldiers are held accountable when they do similar things. I think that’s because the government cares more about the “hearts and minds” of foreigners than the lives of it’s citizens.

    Good cops exist, but until the powers that be starts holding the bad cops accountable, they won’t be who everyone thinks of when they see flashing red and blues.

    1. Roger says:

      I should note that I believe the most dangerous thing in all of these encounters I mentioned, and others I didn’t, is the hoplophobia. If people weren’t afraid of weapons, if MDA did not make it a national directive to call the cops on anything vaguely ‘shooty’, many of these people would be alive. Instead of shooting a man on the phone with the mother of his child, the police officer wouldn’t have been there. Or even if he was called, he would have waited a second and saw the unrealistic plastic construction, determined he was not a threat, and arrested the simpering(and lying) coward for wasting police resources. Instead of immediately shooting a twelve year old he would’ve had the chance to put the toy down and walk away. And it’s not an uncommon outcome, there are plenty of videos of men pointing guns at police and being talked down. There are HUNDREDS of open carriers who never get shot.

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Editorial: Policing, Group-think, and Non-lethal force.

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