Just finished reading a nearly-there draft of Rory Miller's next book from YMAA, Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide, Understanding how Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force.
Title is a mouthful, but what you see is what it is, and I think it's a valuable tool for Monday morning quarterbacks–including Yours Truly–when it comes to second-guessing your local gendarmes after a dust-up in which civilians get drubbed–or sometimes killed.
I'm pretty much a supporter of the thin blue line, and my experience with LEOs has been more good than bad. And I've found that good cops are every bit as ready to kick loose a bad cop as anybody. Their standards as to what constitute that are different than most civilians, and this is a good reference book to understand why.
Mostly, the book covers what is legal and what is departmental policy when it comes to LEOs applying force to folk, be they known felons or relatively innocent civilians. How the various departments come to their rules of engagement and what those are, is the meat of the book.
There are some first-hand examples of confrontations good and bad, from the best-case to the worse-case scenarios. Some of these are stories Rory has told before, but they bear repeating. Being the first officer on the scene when it turns violent and possibly lethal, puts that officer into an instant pressure cooker. Life-or-death decisions have to be made in a heartbeat, and it's not a position I envy.
Rory has an informal writing style, two-people-having-coffee kind of thing that I enjoy, and it makes for much easier reading when you start getting into what can be dry points of law and policy.
Overall, the book is well-written, informative, and a must-read for every citizen or group that has interactions with their police forces. You need to know, for instance, that doing what the officer tells you is more apt to get you better treatment. Calling him a motherfucker or physically resisting is more apt to get you thumped. You should know that anything the man with a badge and gun does that is over the line can be sorted out later–as long as you are there to sort it out; if he's wrong and you're dead, that's a bad trade.
This one will be out in a few months, look for it, it's worth having in your library.
If Rory's book has a failing, it's that it doesn't really address the notion of bad cops. Rory says this could be because his department didn't seem to have many of those, or that maybe they tended to be better-behaved when he was around; still, it does need to be touched upon other than just, "Oh, well, yeah, there are bad cops." That won't do–that weakens the rest of the material. It doesn't have to be harped upon, but it does need to be acknowledged. I'd be really surprised if most of the good cops I've spoken to didn't have stories of guys in their department who got overly enthusiastic in their application of the law.
Most of the time, when officers get into trouble it's because they have overstepped departmental policy, and while the heat of the moment can excuse some of it, the right to wear a gun and use it with the force of law behind you requires a much higher standard of behavior than needed for civilians.
We expect our police to be honest and fair, and mostly they are, but when they cross the line, they should get nailed for it. There are LEO's who have been busted for driving drunk, road rage, sleeping with underage teenage volunteers, and that's all happened in or around Portland in the last couple of weeks alone. You don't have to look too far to find the occasional bad apple.
Now and then, an officer gets disciplined or even fired for going too far, and how those kinds of things are determined need, I think, to be shown.
An aside, but relevant to the discussion: Policy protects an officer, but policy isn't always right. Those rules get changed all the time.
As Rory points out in this book, the sleeper choke-hold used to be allowed all over, and he laments its loss, because usually it is effective and safe. MMA fighters do it all the time. I've had it done to me, just to see how effective it is.
It's effective. Really.
However: after a couple of folks didn't wake up after having a choke hold applied–I remember one case in Portland, involving a security guard who died–that policy was changed and the hold forbidden.
Some of the local police were unhappy with that and had T-shirts made: Don't Choke 'em, Smoke 'em!
I thought this was fairly stupid. The attitude of, "Fine, next time, we just shoot the bastard!" does not inspire citizens' confidence in their local police. Didn't me, anyway. Resisting arrest is not a crime that should be punishable by death.
That twelve-year-old girl a couple years back, on the MAX train platform who got shot with a beanbag round at contact distance? Well, there was no written policy at the time about how far away a shooter needs to be to cook one off, but Portland officers were trained (at the time) at ten feet minimum distance. (L.A. based PARC says twenty-one to fifty-feet is optimal. Inside ten feet is considered dangerous.)
The officers who came out in support of Chris Humphreys were reacting to him being hung out by the police commissioner when he had followed department policy, such that it was. I can understand that; but most of the citizens and press did not understand the police attitude. What they saw was the entire force backing up a guy who shotgunned a preteen girl lying on the ground underneath another officer.
(And no department, by the by, says you could should whip out the beanbag shotgun and fire it while another officer is wrestling with a suspect. One officer had taken the girl to the ground, was on top of her, and his partner scooted around to hold the shotgun's muzzle just over her thigh. Good way to make sure you don't shoot your partner, unless he takes a bad roll just then. But it is really bad PR, and crappy policy, no matter how you spin it, especially if it is all on video, as this one was.)
Let me presume to speak for the public: If two experienced street cops can't take down an admittedly-strapping twelve-year-old girl who is resisting but unarmed, without reaching for the beanbag shotgun, they need additional training.
Look at the video and see what you think ...