Good morning Chaplain…got a minute?
by Levi Bolton Jr -Trustee
Chaplains have been the spiritual companions of soldiers and men at sea dating back as early as 1917 when the first structured group of armed forces chaplains were forged to provide much needed spiritual assistance to the service men of the time. As you may have noticed I said spiritual and not religious. Although chaplains are people of a faith community their principle role then as it is today, is to provide spiritual guidance and support in times of crisis and need. The men and women who serve our communities are members of still another type of armed forces…they are police officers. Regardless of their religious background or by which name they call their God or if they don’t recognize one at all, each require the need for support at times in their careers. Many are unaware that most chaplains have extensive professional counseling backgrounds. I have enlisted the aid of Police Chaplains on many occasions and I could not have believed how significant the impact a chaplain can make upon a scene of utter disaster until Chaplains John South and Larry Derocher of Law Enforcement Ministries responded to New York and stood in rubble of the World Trade Center. Our chaplains tended to the needs of first responders, rescuers, and anyone else who was tasked with sifting through the aftermath of destruction that overwhelmed even those who traditionally are accustomed to seeing the worst that man can inflict upon himself. There may come a time in each of our lives when we too are overwhelmed and perhaps there is a source of comfort that you have either not yet considered or was fearful that reaching out to a chaplain would somehow conflict with your personal spiritual convictions. Chaplains are trained to work and counsel with persons of all faiths and believe it or not, persons of no faith. How you worship and if you worship is your business, providing a comforting ear and presence in times of need… is theirs.
PSB Tactics in Officer Investigations
By: Eric R. Wilson, Associate Attorney
Napier, Coury & Baillie, P.C.
By now, if you haven’t experienced it, officers must come to the realization that once under investigation, an officer is almost always presumed guilty. When was the last time you have heard of an officer being exonerated on an investigated allegation? When was the last time you have read a PSB investigative report that was shorter than ten pages and did not include PSB’s precatory opinion of what should have been done in hindsight? The consensus among PLEA representatives and PLEA’s attorney sitting beside the officers under investigation is that those days are gone. In the current disciplinary scheme, Chief Yahner may be your only fair shake.
PLEA’s attorneys from Napier, Coury & Baillie, P.C. have worked hard over the past several months in an attempt to expose the improper prosecutorial manner in which the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) conducts officer investigations and determines sustained violations. This tactic, dubbed the “gotcha game” has proven to be very problematic because it unnecessarily indicts officers and forces them to combat manufactured integrity issues. We have found, as you may have unfortunately experienced yourself, that too often potentially exculpatory evidence is being withheld, not considered, or omitted by PSB in the course of officer investigations. This gotcha game has left multiple officers facing a troublesome career trifecta: discipline to appeal, inclusion on the Rule 15 Database ( the Brady List), and Arizona POST certification jeopardy.
Civil Service Board
One glaring example of this was highlighted in a recent termination appeal before the Civil Service Board (CSB). One of the allegations for which the officer received discipline was a sustained violation of Ops. Order 3.13.6.A.(2) “ Employees will not lie during any Department criminal and/or administrative investigation or in matters of legitimate concern to the Department.” – that the officer provided untruthful statements to PSB investigators regarding the officer’s interaction with a citizen. Through the excellent advocacy of PLEA’s attorneys during the CSB hearing, the hearing officer found that the City did not carry its burden to establish the untruthfulness of the officer’s statements to PSB and even if it could, PSB’s determination to treat an inconsistency within the investigation as “untruthful statements” was inappropriate and overreaching. Ultimately, for the forgoing reasons and other mitigating circumstances, the CSB adopted the hearing officer’s conclusion and reinstated that officer.
Another example of PSB failing to consider directly exonerating evidence will be highlighted in another upcoming officer’s disciplinary appeal. Once again, an officer’s credibility was attacked by the department when PSB sustained an allegation of untruthful statements made to the officer’s supervisor. During the supervisor’s PSB interview, he indicated, as the recipient of the statement in question, that he did not believe the officer was being intentionally deceptive. These unequivocally exonerating statements made by the officer’s supervisor were omitted from the PSB investigation altogether. PLEA attorneys will bring PSB’s omissions to light during the officer’s CSB appeal hearing in an effort to mitigate the officer’s five day suspension.
Unfortunately, for both officers and PLEA’s attorneys, the fight against PSB’s dubious investigation tactics will not stop with the CSB because the City forwards the allegations to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Rule 15 Database (Brady List) and sometimes Arizona POST. Rectifying PSB’s attack on an officer’s integrity is tolling on the officer and requires the diligence and expertise that only PLEA’s attorneys can provide. Our team of PLEA attorney’s is dedicated to keeping officer integrity justly intact.
One proactive way that PLEA’s attorneys have attempted to combat these tactics was to work closely this legislative session with APA Executive Director Levi Bolton. Together we pushed SB1467, amending the Arizona “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” (ARS 38-1101 et seq.) to require employers to include exculpatory evidence in the officer’s investigative file. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate and the House, a last minute floor amendment attempting to soften that obligation, among others, left SB1467 in a position of being killed or vetoed. PLEA’s attorneys will continue, as we have done session after session, to secure your rights at the Arizona Legislature.
Another legal avenue pursued by PLEA’s attorneys was taken in the form of an MOU grievance that was heard before an arbitrator. The grievance alleged a violation of MOU Section 1-4(B)(4), which, in pertinent part, requires PSB investigators to provide the officer review of any materials used as a basis for an allegation of misconduct at the time of an interview and that the investigator may not intentionally misrepresent any fact or material issue to the officer. Specifically, PSB failed to provide a Sergeant’s written notes, that were forwarded to PSB and later purged, to the officer at the time of the interview. The arbitrator determined that the City did violate MOU Section 1-4 (B)(4) when PSB interviewed the officer and failed to preserve all of the documents in the investigation. As a remedy, PLEA requested that the PSB employees conduct resulting in the violation be investigated and that the investigation tainted by the violation be dismissed. Ultimately, after consideration of the arbitrator’s non-binding recommendations, the City manager determined not to intervene in the police department’s decision to terminate the officer as a result of the investigation. Whether you consider the result of this grievance a win, loss, or wash, PLEA and PLEA’s attorneys continue to combat the PSB problem on all available avenues.
Officers are strongly encouraged to contact PLEA and/or PLEA’s attorneys if they witness or fall victim to PSB’s prosecutorial tunnel vision. We can only combat this issue by bringing such blatant examples to City management and Arizona POST. Please contact us for more information on how to protect your career.
Brady v Maryland…should I be worried?
By Levi Bolton Jr – Executive Director
It has been some time since I spoke last about the so-called Brady list of employees and what potentially it may mean to you. As you may recall Brady v Maryland is not a new case nor one of its significant progeny cases, Kyles v Whitley. Both are capital murder cases and both involve the government’s obligation to disclose certain information to the defense. The United States Supreme Court has met a time or so since our graduation from the police academy and clearly since 1963 when Brady was decided. In at least several of those fateful meetings other court cases have very clearly defined what duties the government will have with respect to disclosure and went on the make sure that the prosecutor knew that this duty included providing information on its witnesses which included its police officers.
The prosecutor has the unenviable task of accepting and reviewing information submitted by police agencies from the files of their employees that may have Brady implications. In the case of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office a panel of seasoned attorneys, many if not all are bureau chiefs, examine the files that have been turned over to their office and following an examination of the information contained in the submitted documents, they then decide whether to place that employee’s name upon the Rule 15 List.
The merits of the information submitted actually reside within the four corners of the documents under review. Once the Rule 15 committee has determined that the MCAO has a duty to disclose this information to the defense, the employee’s name is placed on the Rule 15 list and the documents retained to meet potential future disclosure obligation. But the process doesn’t end there. The MCAO generally may file pretrial motions and among them is a request for an in camera examination by the court to determine if the information is discoverable. Remember that having to give up the information is not the same as getting to use it. In a vast number of cases the prosecutor successfully argues against the admissibility of the information despite its disclosure and in those cases the files are returned to the court for destruction with a preclusion of its use in the forthcoming trial.
So, how does one find themselves on this list? Perhaps the easiest way to describe the kind of stuff in your employment history that will likely land you on this list may be found among this cast of conduct categories: contrary or conflicting statements about the facts of the case; false reports by the officer in other cases; lying; evidence undermining the officer’s expertise; misconduct involving moral turpitude, untruthfulness or bias; misdemeanor convictions involving moral turpitude; reputation for untruthfulness; racial, religious, or personal bias against the defendant personally or as a member of a protected group.
Once on the list, is it possible to get off this list? The short answer is yes. But removal requires a rebuttal and the rebuttal must be submitted in writing. You should never personally author such a rebuttal (remember you most likely invoked your Garrity v NewJersey protections). Should you get a notice from your respective city or county prosecutor’s office that your name has been added to a Rule 15 list you should contact your association legal representative immediately to discuss your options. The APA will offer its services to assist you in preparing a rebuttal should your particular circumstance merit a written response. You must contact the APA office to arrange for an appointment to examine your Brady status and assist in rebuttal preparation.
The Continuing Attack on Police & their Unions
Ken Crane, PLEA Vice President
At a recent seminar on the rights of police officers, one of the topics addressed was the continuing attack on police and police Associations. All of us realize police officers, police agencies and police associations are being criticized now more than ever. Recent events in Ferguson Missouri, Baltimore Maryland, Charleston South Carolina and most recently McKinney Texas are bringing law enforcement agencies nationwide under increased scrutiny and there is a renewed sense of racial tension on a national level. Many departments are scrambling to form and reinvigorate community based policing and community task forces in order to engage in open dialog with the communities they serve. Police work and how we do it is rapidly evolving and police agencies are being forced to adapt their policies, procedures, and practices to keep up. Like it or not this is the reality of our world. Police departments and Associations now find themselves engaged in the war of public perception that, whether we like it or not, has taken a swing to the negative.
Tied in with these negative perceptions is an increasing sentiment from certain sectors of society that cops have it too good, make too much money, have too many benefits, and have too many rights or special rights that the average citizen doesn’t have. Those of us who work in the profession and put up with the day-to-day stresses of the job know that many of these viewpoints are skewed perceptions by people that have never had to walk a mile in our shoes. So what drives this negative dialog? Well to be blunt, those that don’t work in our career field are often jealous of what we have. Their mindset is ‘I never had it that good so why should you?’ Tied in with this mindset are numerous blogs and news outlets from around the country that increasingly weigh in with their opinions on public safety unions and fan the flames of public discontent with information that ranges from skewed at best to blatantly false at worst. Whether you agree with what is being said or not, the fact remains that a lot of negative information and opinions are being circulated and a lot of people in America are reading this information. What follows is a cross section of information culled from blogs, magazines and news outlets from around the country in the past year.
"Such is the inherent defect of law-enforcement unionism: It's peopled by those with a material interest in maintaining and enlarging the states most indefensible practices."
Jacobin Magazine, December 2014
"As a group, the union contract and [the Maryland bill of rights] create a police culture of impunity, collective sense among officers that they do not have to be held fully accountable for misconduct in important respects, this broader impact is more insidious than any specific provision. A police culture of impunity is contrary to the basic principle of professionalism."
Samuel Walker, University of Nebraska, May 2015
"In demanding apologies, police unions show white supremacy is a core value."
Daily Kos Blog, December 2014
"In truth, police unions further the all-too-accurate conception that the police are an occupying force in poor communities of color, and are antithetical in principle and action to the progressive principles of the labor movement.
In These Times Blog, January 2015
"The police are the problem: Why it's time to take on Maryland's cop unions. If lawmakers in Baltimore are serious about reform, they'll have to confront tyrannical police unions first."
Salon, April 2015
"In two rulings in 1967 and 1968, the Supreme Court sided with police officers who claimed that they had been deprived of their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The justices ruled that police could not be forced (by threat of firing or otherwise) to testify against themselves, even in an internal, administrative investigation. [A police bill of rights] gives a special layer of due process afforded to police officers that impedes accountability, and truly is a key element of our lack of responsiveness to these cases" of apparent excessive force."
The Marshall Project, April 2015
"The role played by police unions in shielding their members from accountability for excessive force has also contributed to the erosion of trust."
Jonathan Smith, The New York Times, May 2015
"It's strange that a law that thwarts transparency and accountability is called a "bill of rights." The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights has the same relationship to a real bill of rights that the Patriot Act has to a real patriot."
Samuel Butler, Georgetown Law (in New York Times), April 2015
"Unions are required under the duty of fair representation covered by the National Labor Relations Act and state laws to give the best possible protections, including legal aid and support in job negotiations, to all their members. Police unions, in acts that go beyond their legally required duties, also leverage the publics high regard for law enforcement to impede policy changes."
Vox Media, December 2014
"New York City's police unions need to get a grip. It's time for the NYPD to respect democracy."
The Week, December 2014
"Police unions have leverage that other unions don't have. They also have guns."
The Week, January 2015
"Getting the facts fast is the essence of good police work. That's why officer’s rush to interview victims, witnesses and potential suspects quickly after a crime occurs. But when a law enforcement officer is involved in alleged brutality or use of deadly force, investigations can be impeded by a special 'bill of rights' for cops."
USA Today, May 2015
"[One way to make police less violent] is accountability: it must be easier to sack bad cops."
The Economist Magazine, December 2014
"The political problem with abolishing police unions is obvious enough. Democrats reflexively defend unions, and Republican antipathy to public-sector unions disappears when it comes to cops and firefighters. Heroes, you know, every one. This rare bit of bipartisan concord leaves police unions spectacularly well-defended against reform. Until one party or the other begins to see the damage unions do, and becomes willing to fight it, anything more than superficial change is impossible."
The Dish Blog, December 2014
"Because good police officers and bad police officers pay the same union dues and are equally entitled to labor representation, police unions have pushed for arbitration procedures that skew in the opposite direction. Why have we let them? If at-will-employment, the standard that would best protect the public, is not currently possible, arbitration proceedings should at a minimum be transparent and fully reviewable so that miscarriages of justice are known when they happen."
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic Monthly), December 2014
["The National Review] also ignores the degree to which Republican politicians at the local, state and federal levels have been influenced by pernicious police and prison guard unions."
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic Monthly), May 2015
"Police unions have become an impediment to police reforms. . .Trying to protect their members, unions have weakened accountability. The investigation process is softer on police than it would be on anyone else. . .More seriously, cops who are punished can be reinstated through a secretive appeals process that favors job retention over public safety."
David Brooks, December 2014
"What can be done about excessive police power? I'd propose a few reforms. First, remove collective bargaining for police officers entirely. They should be employed at will, and should be able to be fired without any arbitration whatsoever. Workplace protections can be good for workers, but retaining the publics trust in police is far more important than making the job of a police officer nice for someone."
Forbes Magazine November, 2014
"In other words the Law Enforcement Officer Board of Review (LEOBoR) protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food, water and bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us. These LEOBoR's epitomize everything that is wrong with America today."
The Rutherford Institute, May 2015
"Phoenix PD Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia essentially delivered his resignation in a defiant, angry press conference. He was wrong to do it that way but right about the police unions wanting to run the department. The unions ran off the last chief, and they started from nearly day one on hounding Garcia on virtually every important decision he made. There is a problem in this city and it's not Daniel Garcia. It's the machine politics of some of its public employee unions."
The Arizona Republic, December 2014
"Police unions, like teachers unions, exist to prevent reforms because their role is to protect their members, good and bad, not the quality of the system that employs them."
Reason Magazine, December 2014
"In Baltimore, like in Washington D.C., the government is confronted with a choice between two constituencies: unions and people in need."
The Hoover Institute, May 2015
"Police unions must be held accountable and we should consider whether they ought to be recognized by state and local government at all. Today, the existence of police unions, far from enhancing a strong citizen-oriented police force, threatens the continued peace and safety of our communities."
National Review Magazine, December 2014
"It's important to remember who ultimately employs law enforcement officers because the conflict of interest inherent in police unions pit the interests of public servants against the very public they serve. . .a conflict that should appear as irreconcilable as conflicts of interests come."
The Cato Institute
"Because police unions, like teachers unions, are using far too much of their substantial influence to protect bad apples, police unions also play an overly aggressive role in negotiating pay, and especially benefit packages for police officers that are simply not affordable, no mater how much they might actually deserve them. Police unions, along with fire fighter unions and other local public employee unions, exercise far too much influence on elected politicians who are dependent on them for campaign support. . .The real question is at what point will America's citizenry recognize that public sector unions - most definitely including public safety unions are fighting to protect their power and privilege at the expense of human rights and taxpayer rights?"
Union Watch, December 2014
"No issue looms larger than the need to discipline, suspend, and fire police officers who don't belong on the streets - and the obstacles their unions put up to that all-too-necessary process. The cases from all over the country where unions and arbitration boards have reinstated abusive cops make for an extraordinary and depressing litany."
Ross Douthat, May 2015
"Slagers quick dismissal from the department stands in stark contrast to similar incidents in other cities which, unlike North Charleston, have unionized police departments. Often police unions prevent officers from being dismissed without a lengthy arbitration process -- even when they have flagrantly abused their power. Elected officials should not have to bargain over whom to trust with deadly force. They – not government unions – answer to the public and should have the authority to take a dangerous cop off the streets. Because municipal collective bargaining is optional in South Carolina, that is exactly what happened in North Charleston. Other states should take note.”
Heritage Foundation, April 2015
Quotes like these are alarming and, for those in the police profession who know better, is sure to incite feelings of anger and frustration. Anyone with inside knowledge of how police bargaining as well as discipline and grievance processes work who reads these know that the authors of all of the previously mentioned quotes range from being misinformed at a minimum to completely ludicrous in their thinking and do not in any way reflect the true reality of how things really are in the police world. Despite this, quotes such as these exemplify the current messaging being pumped out for whoever will listen. Whether through ignorance or shrewd planning, this amounts to an orchestrated disinformation campaign on a grand scale designed to turn public sentiment against police Associations. There is a quote that has often been attributed to WWII Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels; “a lie, repeated often enough will be accepted as the truth.” This seems to be the tactic being employed on a national scale against police Associations. Also of concern is that the publications cited run the gamut from extremely liberal to extremely conservative.
In the last five to ten years, public sector labor from around the nation has been under attack like never before. Largely conservative groups often backed by multi-millionaire investors and corporate entities make it their mission to target public sector labor unions. The American Legislative Exchange Council better known by the acronym ALEC is one such organization that has been described as “a corporate [legislative] bill mill that make it much more powerful than a lobby or front group.” It’s board of directors, comprised of actively serving politicians from around the country, is easily 95% Republican. According to ALEC’s own financial documents, $7.2 million of its $8.4 million dollars of revenue in 2013 came from contributions. The donor names were omitted. Their “Private Enterprise Advisory Council” contains representatives from Exxon Mobil, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Pfizer, Koch Companies Public Sector, State Farm Insurance, and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Through ALEC, corporations are able to hand state legislators their wish lists that benefit their bottom line and many of these same corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. ALEC also hosts annual task force summits where predominately conservative legislators are invited in for multi-day seminars and are provided boilerplate, turnkey anti-union legislative language that can be used to run new anti-union bills at their respective state legislatures in an effort to further strip away rights and benefits.
You may find yourself asking why a group like ALEC is so intent on going after a group like police officers who are the good guys and who daily put their life on the line for society at large. In the big picture, liking or not liking cops isn’t the issue with these guys. If you were at a cocktail party with these folks they would tell you how much they appreciate what you do and how they could never do your job all the while heaping admiration and respect on you and the police profession. Confused yet? It’s not that ALEC and big business and corporate America and most conservative politicians can’t stand cops; they can’t stand organized labor of any kind. Therefore, public safety labor Associations by default, are lumped in with every other labor group such as the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Teamsters, and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to name a few, that are looked upon as pariahs by these organizations. Big business and conservative politicians, many of who are business owners themselves, view organized labor as a detriment to productivity and an obstacle to be overcome rather than a group to work collaboratively with. Elimination of organized labor means a lot of things to big business to include cheap labor, increased profits and productivity, not having to worry about or constantly bargain over working conditions and being able to make the rules on the fly as you see fit. It also means not having to bargain over pay and benefits, an otherwise utopian world if you are a business owner. Police personnel will feel these same detrimental effects as well if public safety unions are eliminated.
We as police officers and police Associations need to be proactive in getting the correct information out to the public on these issues. Here are just a few points that come to mind:
· We don’t advocate keeping and defending “bad apples.”
· Police Unions can and often do assist in walking officers out the door. Some folks aren’t meant for the job and some aren’t meant to keep it when they violate the public’s trust.
· We do believe in due process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty even for police officers.
· Cops, like people in any other profession, should be entitled to appeal rights if disciplined or terminated.
· Unlike the belief held by some in the private sector, Constitutional rights aren’t forfeited just because a person happens to wear a badge and a gun.
· There is a huge difference between a criminal interview and an administrative interview. Citizens accused of a crime can invoke their 5th Amendment right to remain silent; so can a cop. Citizens don’t undergo administrative police interviews and, on the rare occasion a citizen is asked to participate in an administrative interview, it is voluntary. Cops on the other hand are compelled to undergo administrative interviews and truthfully answer all questions put to them with the threat of losing their job if they refuse.
· Cops are held to a higher standard than their counterparts in the private sector, misconduct allegations are taken seriously, investigated and discipline often results.
· Believe it or not, citizens often make false complaints against cops (and are rarely prosecuted for filing false reports).
· When a cop who is fired, appeals and gets his/her job back, it is because a Civil Service or Merit Board comprised of citizens heard ALL the evidence to include hours of witness testimony and review of reams of documentation (as opposed to the bits and pieces contained in a brief media segment) and decided that reinstatement was warranted.
We are all aware of the philosophy of strength in numbers. This is especially true when it comes to the protection of your pay, benefits and your legal rights. I firmly believe there has never been a more dangerous time in America to be a police officer. More often than not your Association is the only entity fighting for you. If you are not a member of the Association or know someone who isn’t, then why not? To quote another famous historical figure from the days of the American Revolution, “We must all hang together or we will most assuredly all hang separately.”
- Benjamin Franklin -
(special thanks to Will Aitchinson and Labor Relations Information Systems LRIS for much of the information contained herein)
FORCE SCIENCE INSTITUTE, Ltd.
124 East Walnut Street -Suite 120 Mankato, MN 56001
USA T: 507-387-1290 F: 507-387-1291
10 limitations of body cams you need to know for your protection
A special report from the Force Science Institute
The idea is building that once every cop is equipped with a body camera, the controversy will be taken out of police shootings and other uses of force because “what really happened” will be captured on video for all to see.
Well, to borrow the title from an old Gershwin tune, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
There’s no doubt that body cameras—like dash cams, cell phone cams, and surveillance cams—can provide a unique perspective on police encounters and, in most cases, are likely to help officers. But like those other devices, a camera mounted on your uniform or on your head has limitations that need to be understood and considered when evaluating the images they record.
“Rushing to condemn an officer for inappropriate behavior based solely on body-camera evidence can be a dicey proposition,” cautions Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute. “Certainly, a camera can provide more information about what happened on the street. But it can’t necessarily provide all the information needed to make a fair and impartial final judgment. There still may be influential human factors involved, apart from what the camera sees.”
In a recent conversation with Force Science News, Lewinski enumerated 10 limitations that are important to keep in mind regarding body-camera evidence (and, for the most part, recordings from other cameras as well) if you are an investigator, a police attorney, a force reviewer, or an involved officer. This information may also be helpful in efforts to educate your community.
(Some of these points are elaborated on in greater depth during the Force Science Certification Course. Visit www.forcescience.orgfor information on the course. An earlier report on body cam limitations appeared in Force Science News #145, sent3/12/10. You will find online it at: www.forcescience.org/fsnews/145.html )
1. A camera doesn’t follow your eyes or see as they see.
At the current level of development, a body camera is not an eye-tracker like FSI has used in some of its studies of officer attention. That complex apparatus can follow the movement of your eyes and superimpose on video small red circles that mark precisely where you are looking from one microsecond to the next.
“A body camera photographs a broad scene but it can’t document where within that scene you are looking at any given instant,” Lewinski says. “If you glance away from where the “Likewise, the camera can’t acknowledge physiological and psychological phenomena that you may experience under high stress. As a survival mechanism, your brain may suppress some incoming visual images that seem unimportant in a life-threatening situation so you can completely focus very narrowly on the threat. You won’t be aware of what your brain is screening out.
“Your brain may also play visual tricks on you that the camera can’t match. If a suspect is driving a vehicle toward you, for example, it will seem to be closer, larger, and faster than it really is because of a phenomenon called ‘looming.’
Camera footage may not convey the same sense of threat that you experienced.
“In short, there can be a huge disconnect between your field of view and your visual perception and the camera’s. Later, someone reviewing what’s caught on camera and judging your actions could have a profoundly different sense of what happened than you had at the time it was occurring.”
2. Some important danger cues can’t be recorded.
“Tactile cues that are often important to officers in deciding to use force are difficult for cameras to capture,” Lewinski says. “Resistive tension is a prime example.
“You can usually tell when you touch a suspect whether he or she is going to resist. You may quickly apply force as a preemptive measure, but on camera it may look like you made an unprovoked attack, because the sensory cue you felt doesn’t record visually.”
And, of course, the camera can’t record the history and experience you bring to an encounter. “Suspect behavior that may appear innocuous on film to a naïve civilian can convey the risk of mortal danger to you as a streetwise officer,”
Lewinski says. “For instance, an assaultive subject who brings his hands up may look to a civilian like he’s surrendering, but to you, based on past experience, that can be a very intimidating and combative movement, signaling his preparation for a fighting attack. The camera just captures the action, not your interpretation.”
3. Camera speed differs from the speed of life.
Because body cameras record at much higher speeds than typical convenience store or correctional facility security cameras, it’s less likely that important details will be lost in the millisecond gaps between frames, as sometimes happens with those cruder devices.
“But it’s still theoretically possible that something as brief as a muzzle flash or the glint of a knife blade that may become a factor in a use-of-force case could still fail to be recorded,” Lewinski says.
Of greater consequence, he believes, is the body camera’s depiction of action and reaction times.
“Because of the reactionary curve, an officer can be half a second or more behind the action as it unfolds on the screen,” Lewinski explains. “Whether he’s shooting or “People who don’t understand this reactionary process won’t factor it in when viewing the footage. They’ll think the officer is keeping pace with the speed of the action as the camera records it. So without knowledgeable input, they aren’t likely to understand how an officer can unintentionally end up placing rounds in a suspect’s back or firing additional shots after a threat has ended.”
4. A camera may see better than you do in low light.
“The high-tech imaging of body cameras allows them to record with clarity in many low-light settings,” Lewinski says. “When footage is screened later, it may actually be possible to see elements of the scene in sharper detail than you could at the time the camera was activated.
“If you are receiving less visual information than the camera is recording under time-pressured circumstances, you are going to be more dependent on context and movement in assessing and reacting to potential threats. In dim light, a suspect’s posturing will likely mean more to you immediately than some object he’s holding. When footage is reviewed later, it may be evident that the object in his hand was a cell phone, say, rather than a gun. If you’re expected to have seen that as clearly as the camera did, your reaction might seem highly inappropriate.”
On the other hand, he notes, cameras do not always deal well with lighting transitions. “Going suddenly from bright to dim light or vice versa, a camera may briefly blank out images altogether,” he says.
5. Your body may block the view.
“How much of a scene a camera captures is highly dependent on where it’s positioned and where the action takes place,” Lewinski notes. “Depending on location and angle, a picture may be blocked by your own body parts, from your nose to your hands.
“If you’re firing a gun or a Taser, for example, a camera on your chest may not record much more than your extended arms and hands. Or just blading your stance may obscure the camera’s view. Critical moments within a scenario that you can see may be missed entirely by your body cam because of these dynamics, ultimately masking what are viewer may need to see to make a fair judgment.”
6. A camera only records in 2-D.
Because cameras don’t record depth of field—the third dimension that’s perceived by the human eye—accurately judging distances on their footage can be difficult.
“Depending on the lens involved, cameras may compress distances between objects or make them appear closer than they really are,” Lewinski says. “Without a proper sense of distance, a reviewer may misinterpret the level of threat an officer was facing.”
In the Force Science Certification Course, he critiques several camera images in which distance distortion became problematic. In one, an officer’s use of force seemed inappropriate because the suspect appears to be too far away to pose an immediate threat.
“There are technical means for determining distances on 2-D recordings,” Lewinski says, “but these are not commonly known or accessed by most investigators.”
7. The absence of sophisticated time-stamping may prove critical.
The time-stamping that is automatically imposed on camera footage is a gross number, generally measuring the action minute by minute. “In some high-profile, controversial shooting cases that is not sophisticated enough,” Lewinski says.
“To fully analyze and explain an officer’s perceptions, reaction time, judgment, and decision-making it may be critical to break the action down to units of one-hundredths of a second or even less.
“There are post-production computer programs that can electronically encode footage to those specifications, and the Force Science Institute strongly recommends that these be employed. When reviewers see precisely how quickly suspects can move and how fast the various elements of a use-of-force event unfold, it can radically change their perception of what happened and the pressure involved officers were under to act.”
8. One camera may not be enough.
“The more cameras there are recording a force event, the more opportunities there are likely to be to clarify uncertainties,” Lewinski says. “The angle, the ambient lighting, and other elements will almost certainly vary from one officer’s perspective to another’s, and syncing the footage up will provide broader information for understanding the dynamics of what happened. What looks like an egregious action from one angle may seem perfectly justified from another.
“Think of the analysis of plays in a football game. In resolving close calls, referees want to view the action from as many cameras as possible to fully understand what they’re seeing. Ideally, officers deserve the same consideration. The problem is that many times there is only one camera involved, compared to a dozen that may be consulted in a sporting event, and in that case the limitations must be kept even firmer in mind.
9. A camera encourages second-guessing.
“According to the U. S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, an officer’s decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations are not to be judged with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight,’ ” Lewinski notes. “But in the real-world aftermath of a shooting, camera footage provides an almost irresistible temptation for reviewers to play the coulda-shoulda game.
“Under calm and comfortable conditions, they can infinitely replay the action, scrutinize it for hard-to-see detail, slow it down, freeze it. The officer had to assess what he was experiencing while it was happening and under the stress of his life potentially being on the line. That disparity can lead to far different conclusions.
“As part of the incident investigation, we recommend that an officer be permitted to see what his body camera and other cameras recorded. He should be cautioned, however, to regard the footage only as informational. He should not allow it to supplant his first-hand [For more details about FSI’s position on whether officers should be allowed to view video of their incidents, see Force Science News #114 (1/17/09). You will find online it at: www.forcescience.org/fsnews/114.html]
10. A camera can never replace a thorough investigation.
When officers oppose wearing cameras, civilians sometimes assume they fear “transparency.” But more often, Lewinski believes, they are concerned that camera recordings will be given undue, if not exclusive, weight in judging their actions.
“A camera’s recording should never be regarded solely as the Truth about a controversial incident,” Lewinski declares. “It needs to be weighed and tested against witness testimony, forensics, the involved officer’s statement, and other elements of a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation that takes human factors into consideration.
“This is in no way intended to belittle the merits of body cameras. Early testing has shown that they tend to reduce the frequency of force encounters as well as complaints against officers.
“But a well-known police defense attorney is not far wrong when he calls cameras ‘thebest evidence and the worst evidence.’ The limitations of body cams and others need to be fully understood and evaluated to maximize their effectiveness and to assure that they are not regarded as infallible ‘magic bullets’ by people who do not fully grasp the realities of force dynamics.”
Our thanks to Parris Ward, director and litigation graphics consultant with Biodynamics Engineering, Inc., for his help in facilitating this report.
For more information on the work of the Force Science Institute, visit www.forcescience.org. To reach the Force Science News editorial staff please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts from a Pension Spiker
The following article was submitted by retired Phoenix Police officer Jim Maish #R1139 who now continues to proudly serve as a reserve officer.
I am a conservative. I support organizations representing my worldview with my money and time. The Goldwater Institute, Sal DiCiccio and I probably vote for the same political candidates and embrace similar beliefs.
I am a retired Phoenix police officer, a Reserve officer and a PLEA member for 31 years. I receive a pension that Sal and the lawyers at the Goldwater Institute claim was negotiated illegally by “union bosses…working in secret negotiations.” They claim the union representing me is “...dangerous to the taxpayer.” These clever conservatives say I “stuck it to the taxpayers” by “illegally spiking” my pension.
My scorn for liberals diminishes in my contempt for the phony conservatives in the Goldwater Institute, Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Craig Harris from the Arizona Republic. These counterfeits use the same shrill rhetoric of the liberals they despise.
I was seventeen years old when I left home three days after my high school graduation to enlist in the Army. With the exception of the years I was a full-time student to earn my college degree I have been a “public servant” thirty-four years or what the Goldwater Institute and Councilman Sal DiCiccio refer to as “living off the public dime.” Sal and his lawyer pals at the Goldwater Institute consider me a thief of the public treasury because I “spiked” my pension by calling in sick only three days in twenty-six years. My desire to retire rich caused me to miss five days of work after one knee operation and miss eight days after a second knee operation. Obviously, this was because I was hoping I would get a “fat pension” as a reward for not using the funds and time available for work-related injuries. I was thinking “big retirement dollars” when I came back to work the morning after dislocating my shoulder. My lower legs were burned after an accident and I came back to work with the oozing remnants of cadaver skin, water blisters and staples in my legs. I apparently deceived my supervisors and doctors when I returned to full duty without a medical release because I was thinking about how much cash I could steal from the wallets of “hardworking taxpayers” and conservative lawyers at the “Goldwater Institute.”
I never worked a desk. My entire career was working South Phoenix patrol and almost twenty-five years on SAU (SWAT). I never had the desire to promote. I loved my job. I had no idea in 2005, when I was working twelve hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week for months to find the “Baseline Killer” responsible for nine murders, and the “Serial Shooters” who wounded eighteen people and who were convicted of six murders, that my motives were to “spike” my pension. I wish the good lawyers at the Institute could have counseled me or held workshops so I could have refused to work overtime and save the citizen’s money. In my ignorance I didn’t “put the taxpayer first” by working overtime to arrest serial murderers.
I was in over twenty situations where people shot at me or were shot and killed by me or someone else within a ten-yard radius. I thought those were dangerous circumstances. However it takes a lawyer to redefine the word “dangerous.” One of the Goldwater Institute’s “Boss Lawyers,” Nick Dranias said public safety unions are “dangerous.”
Maybe “Boss Lawyer” Nick and the attorneys could have volunteered to be police reserves to help with manpower shortages and save taxpayer cash. I’m sure many of them considered it but changed their minds knowing a background check and polygraph would scrutinize their truthfulness. Maybe after a tough day of suing cops and firemen they could have volunteered for a Neighborhood Watch program but since there’s no money in it they found other commitments like helping Sal make good real estate deals.
I never met one officer who said he became an officer to retire rich. We are not eligible for Social Security and those that are have greatly reduced benefits because of a pension.
Councilman Sal and his cheerleaders at the Institute never tell you what they think a “fair” pension is. They also never define what a “fair wage” is. How much do they think we are worth? How should pensions be calculated? Who should represent officers regarding pay and benefits before City government? The Chief hired by them? Yeah, right! They never say because their job is not to look for a solution. Their job is to sue on behalf of a client and destroy public safety unions.
The title “Goldwater Institute” hides the motives of an organization representing clients they call “donors.” Many of these donors hate labor unions and with the help of Goldwater Institute lawyers they attempt to portray Phoenix Police and Fire Unions as the equivalent of crooked east coast unions led by obese, cigar smoking boss thugs of the Teamsters and SEIU. In order to keep donor money coming in from concerned conservatives they make public safety unions look like another obnoxious tentacle of the liberal Democratic Party. These donors pool their money and collectively hide in the skirts of lawyers claiming to “stand on principle, not politics.”
The lawyers from the Goldwater Institute have found a sympathetic Judge, newspaper reporter and politician. They argued PLEA and the City of Phoenix are “endangering public safety” and that to allowing officers to perform union work on city time “is an unconstitutional subsidy.” Their rhetoric of stereotyping unions with a language of thievery is typical of a profession that has transitioned from an institution of justice to a business of legal technicians. These hypocritical attorneys have used the playbook of the liberal ACLU hoping for new laws and interpretations being created by a judge and abrogating the decades long agreements between the City of Phoenix and its employees. These technicians are expert at blurring the lines when interpreting law and fall in line with liberals applying legisprudence instead of jurisprudence by failing to focus on what should be foremost in in their calling: doing what’s right and pursuing justice.
The conservative legal techs at Goldwater and their allies at the Arizona Republic use the tactics of liberal leftists when they parade 153 retirees out of 2,400 who make “more than $88,000 - more than two times the average income in Arizona.” Most of these retirees are upper management personnel who retired with more than 32 years of service. Since when does a conservative cry, “that’s not fair” instead of fighting for what’s right? They need to tell us what a “fair pension” is for these 153 retirees. Should a Phoenix Chief with 37 years of service receive a pension equal to a retired Chief from another city or a pension equal to a Sergeant or Officer? The legal techs are not concerned with what is right - they want to use grammatical nuances rather than the higher purpose of law to define not what is right but what is legal.
Police and Fire Unions are alone in preventing supervisors from abusing their power and governments who want to use management to enforce their culture on Public Safety. The Goldwater Institute is either naïve or stupid in their pursuit to consolidate power in fallible elected officials and their appointed Public Safety Chiefs. Phoenix public safety unions ensure accountability in chiefs and elected officials. Respect and accountability benefit everyone including the lawyers at the Goldwater Institute.
If Goldwater legal techs need some work to prove to their donor/clients they can make headlines, I know they could find some city employees who can point them towards some bigger fish to fry. Maybe they can go after real economic waste such as how the city pays for repairs on vehicles and facilities or the bidding process on everything from oil filters to dog food.
It seems these lawyers could not pay their bills chasing ambulances so they found a niche suing cops and firefighters. These self-righteous legal techs refuse to see their hypocrisy when their favorite cheerleader, the self-proclaimed “fiscal watchdog and hawk,” Councilman Sal voted for a $78,000 per year pay raise for the City Manager and raises for over 300 city officials at a time when city employees are working with pay cuts and reduced benefits. These pay raises “spike” those pensions but Goldwater law techs are silent because they don’t want to wake their pimps.
When I joined the Phoenix Police Department there were nine line of duty deaths in the previous 57 years. The next 31 years I would see 27 more line of duty deaths. Those deaths are memorialized in funerals and monuments but there are no memorials for countless others seriously injured in the line of duty; the flesh burned off of Officer Jason Schechterle’s face as a result of a horrific on duty vehicle collision or the leg lost by Officer Jeff Dauer after being shot by a suspect with a rifle. How many remember Dave Logan taking a bullet in the neck or Tommy Jansen surviving a bullet in his head? What were Sal and his lawyers doing when Robert Sitek and others were recovering from bullet wounds and car crashes that left them with missing body parts, brain damaged or in wheel chairs? Sal and his Goldwater buddies don’t care about taxpayer waste when cops who are wrongfully fired have to go through a lengthy legal process costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to get their jobs back. What is a fair pension or wage for someone whose health was left in an alley or street? Sal and his lawyer Komrades are silent because those tragedies don’t buy votes or keep the money flowing into Goldwater Institute coffers.
Sal and the lawyers stay silent in the shadows when cops and firemen are buried but once the flowers wilt on the graves they want to make sure the public knows it’s “not fair” cops get huge pensions and they get it via “Union Bosses” stealing from taxpayers and circumventing state law.
I don’t see integrity in city leaders who talk fiscal responsibility while taking pay raises. I don’t see integrity in reporters or lawyers looking for a fight in places where they have nothing to lose and I don’t see integrity in Sal playing politics while standing on the necks of retired cops and firemen while his bank accounts spike from peddling political influence.
We didn’t get into public safety expecting a big check at the end of 20 years. We entered public safety knowing we were offering ourselves as a blank check to the City of Phoenix. Police work is a deeply satisfying profession. It had its risks and there were some bad days. I knew there were intangible assets I needed to keep no matter how much I faltered. A paycheck or pension will not compensate for lost honor, respect, courage and integrity.
Integrity, truth and trust are not spelled out in state or local law but we expect these qualities because they are implicit parts of law. These qualities make a police and fire department. Our virtue creates public trust. These are incomprehensible qualities to Sal, the Goldwater Institute and the Arizona Republic. Their bottom line has nothing to do with character but with votes and cash while whipping up discontent amongst the citizens of Phoenix.
These shameless hypocrites seek to nullify promises that are older than me and made by past and current taxpayer/citizen elected City officials. Sal has been in City Hall since 1994 and only recently discovered the City was breaking state law while claiming intimidation by “Union Bosses”? Why am I a villain for having a pension? I never asked for something I was not eligible for when I was hired. These guys claim I obtained my retirement illegally. What invigorated Sal and the amoral legal techs to abruptly appear and find a judge to beat up retirees and attack the unions? Why won’t Sal and his pals tell us what they get out of this? I don’t think they are working for free.
I hope Sal and the Goldwater Institute look for some real dragons to slay. Those dragons exist but to fight in a real battle means taking a risk and going where the battle rages the hottest. They won’t do it. They use the courts in the same manner as their liberal counterparts because they are hollow conservatives. You can tell what these people are made of. Their fight doesn’t require honor, risk, integrity or courage. They know they could never cut it as a cop or firefighter yet they will continue to attack the very men and women who willingly risk it all daily for the honor of serving and protecting their fellow man.
My name is Barbra Heller, currently a resident of Glendale, but by location, Phoenix. An Arizonian for about 50 years.
First, I want to Thank Governor Doug Ducey & this board for wanting to hear us & frying to find solutions to this on-going statewide problem with police shortages! I never thought I would be standing hear begging for your intercession in an ongoing lack of refusal to provide adequate protection of the city of Phoenix legal citizens, by the city of Phoenix Council & Manager!
The city of Phoenix did not hire any officers for 6 years; not even to replace officers they knew were retiring! Our officers & recently all city employees have given concession after concession to assist the council in balancing to outrageous misspending of taxpayer monies! Due to this & since 2009 started seeing a serious LE manpower crisis, which we now may never recover from.
Recently they have hired 447 people who are still in training & not solo ready for at least another year.
The city of Phoenix is now in the process of making drastic changes within the department, instead of trying to find a way to keep hundreds of experienced, trained officers from leaving in the first place; they again fry to cut the pie into more pieces by getting rid of many important special detail squads and cutting the rest down to again unsafe numbers. The purpose is to get more officers on the streets and cutting overtime! Again, the City Manager and council continue to make decisions that put the very lives of not only our officers but also us, the public, at an extreme risk!
One of these squads, Fugitive apprehension (FAID) AKA (major offender bureau), are highly trained and specialize in arresting the worst of the worst, drug dealers, child molesters, human trafficking, murderers and rapists just to name a few. They will be completely wiped-out; all 20 detectives will be sent back to patrol leaving detectives without help clearing those violent offenders.
FAID has been involved in many high-profile cases. (Upwards of 450 arrests each year)
Just to name a few, the arrest of Michael Crane who is on trial for the double murders in Paradise Valley of the prominent couple. The killer of Father Kenneth Walker who was shot and killed along with another priest that was savagely beaten in the same incident Gary Moran was located and arrested by FAID. Ramon Bueno, who shot and critically wounded a DPS officer, during a traffic stop on the 117 in mid-2015.
FAID detectives are highly trained officers that have acquired resources to locate and track down the most violent offenders, hard core felons who now will remain untouched until they are contacted by patrol officers, who may be unaware of who they are dealing with, possibly getting them hurt or killed.
Imagine how we the citizens feel knowing these hard core violent felons are now not going to be actively sought and apprehended! Let's just leave them on the streets just to cut overtime costs!
This move alone makes me & others question the ability of those sworn in to provide safety & protection for its employees & citizens! Shouldn't this be, first & foremost the most important goal of any city?
All of our officers/detectives have worked their entire careers to get to these important squads and are now being told they have to go back to patrol.
The other problem this creates is an unfair change in all of the officers/detectives schedules. Some have made sacrifices to be able to be home with their families and have gotten on schedules that work with their spouse's jobs and child care needs.
A rebid means patrol officers that have gotten to these schedules that work for their families could lose their positions due to someone with more seniority knocking them out of their spot. This is not only unfair it can and does have serious results to the family unit, as in financial problems, undo stress, anger, trust issues, fights, counseling, separations and or divorce, and depression!
All of these will & do have a trickle down effect to their job performance! Such as anger, bad attitudes, deadly decisions that could involve others, internal investigations
and even suicides! (Law enforcement suicide occurs 1.5 times more frequently
compared to the general population.
Yet again loss of more officers, more crime, again trickling down to the community!
l. Anger, mistrust of LE & the City, protests (which is a major cause of overtime BTW), violence and destruction!
Hearing all of this in the media could be making us ripe for terrorist activity & attacks.
Businesses leaving or not wanting to relocate here!
Loss of taxes, income & jobs!
All of this is due to manpower! Get Priorities straight!
According to many sources including, International Association of Chiefs of Police http://www.theiacp.org/portals/0/pdfs/Officer-to-Population-Ratios.pdf
For a population of I .6 million, we should have 2.5 officers per 1,000 + 4,000 less the 2,722 we have 1,278 short at this moment but we have 744 who could & may leave as of now!
We need this as a minimum required standard. We need to keep already seasoned, trained, solo ready boots on the ground.
Real & true response times!?
Not spending 30 million on LED lights! Artwork! Bike paths hardly used! Dog parks! Not when short this many!
Possible Legislative measures to alter DROP requirements or redoing contracts and using those for training, traffic control, accidents, priority 3 calls, ect.. ..?
Possible alternate funding sources? Rico Funds? Dollar for dollar tax deductions?
Trust Accounts and donations from private groups, citizens, businesses (like the
Senates Joint Border Security has done) for grants for LE equipment & MANPOWER? Citizen's academy or LE classes starting in grade school? Creating more interest in LE futures? Possibly keeping more out of trouble, off drugs?
High school LE Explorers as the do for ROTC?
Free college Scholarships for LE candidates?
Please remember when it comes to the safety of your citizens, there is NO PLACE FOR POLITICS or you have made us all victims!!
Arizona Police Association
Feb 15, 2016
Statement from Phoenix Law Enforcement Association re: NFL Super Bowl Halftime performance
The men and women of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association stand in unity with the growing number of police organizations from across America that have expressed their outrage and disappointment at the blatant political and race based message exhibited by Super Bowl halftime performer Beyonce Knowles. The performance was laden with the symbology of violence against police; black panther style uniforms, criss-crossed gold sashes made to mimic the look of bandoleers of ammunition, black power salutes, and field formations in the shape of an X ostensibly as a tribute to Malcolm X combined with other inferences to the Black Lives Matter movement.
While we respect Ms. Knowles First Amendment right to free speech, it is ironic that the very men and women her message attacks are the same ones who provided her with a police motorcade escort to and from the Super Bowl in order to expedite her travel and keep her and her entourage safe. These same law enforcement officers also provided security and protection for her and her performers during their halftime performance.
Today we are seeing the antithesis of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of peaceful protest through civil disobedience as well as his message of unification rather than division. We see now, more than ever, a generation of youth within America that believe it’s their right to oppose, argue with, provoke, bait, resist, and aggressively fight with police rather than to submit to lawful authority. Why then are so many that have the ability to influence the youth of America perpetuating and advocating the message of violent protest? Protest through violence are the hallmarks of Malcolm X, the New Black Panther Party, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Their message and methods of protest promote divisiveness not unity, and violence rather than peace. They promote a message that one race group matters more than others instead of a true message of equality and the message that all men are created equal.
Everyone should be outraged at the message espoused by this performance. Of equal or greater concern is the fact that the NFL is of the belief that this is an appropriate performance for a Super Bowl halftime show. Certainly, any entertainment for a venue of this magnitude has to go through several levels of vetting. This begs the question; who in the upper levels of the NFL believed this was an appropriate message for a Super Bowl halftime show? Why now, more than ever, does it seem the NFL is comfortable in allowing the halftime venue to be used as a platform for the political messages of individual performers? One has to wonder; would the NFL allow a performance to occur that promoted a pro-police message, pro-life message, or a pro-Second Amendment message? Probably not in this century.
The 10,000 Good Things
Ken Crane, PLEA President
For the average person watching the nightly news or surfing Facebook or YouTube, it seems there is no shortage of videos depicting police officers in a negative light. It is easy, even for the best of us, to start to lose faith in our own profession if we allow ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of what seems to be an endless litany of negative media coverage.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a media-driven world in which news and information is shared in video clips and sound bites through a variety of social media, not to mention a plethora of news websites accessible to anyone with a smart phone. In our increasingly tech-driven culture, fewer and fewer people get their news from nightly TV news broadcasts or newspapers instead increasingly relying on news feeds, blogs, and info circulated on social media.
The police community is woefully underprepared in many instances to cope with the onslaught of negative media publicity generated against the law enforcement profession. So why is this happening? I think it’s because our job is and always has been pretty simple; catch the 1-2% of society that preys on law-abiding citizens. Our job has never been to wage a media war to validate our actions or convince people we are the good guys. This, however, is exactly the position we find ourselves in. We are in a game of catchup, trying to convince the public and maybe even some of our own that we aren’t as bad as the media makes us out to be. Several issues compound the problem:
Radical groups in society that advocate violence as a solution to problems between police and the community, whether those problems are real or perceived.
Media that is often more sympathetic to radical groups than to police officers.
A tepid response at best from the nation’s capital when it comes to supporting law enforcement and decrying violence against police.
Millions of citizens equipped with the ability to instantly capture and edit audio and video and rapidly share the information with news outlets or upload it to internet sharing sites.
Like it or not, the news media runs on ratings. Ratings equal money and money equals staying in business. News doesn’t always have to be high-quality or factual, and the first one with the story is often the ratings winner. If a news director has a five-minute slot on the six o’clock news and has to make a choice between running a story on a police-run toy drive for the local orphanage or a police pursuit that ended with the bad guy getting shot (which will immediately be played out as an execution since five cops shot at the same time), which one do you think is going to get the airtime? In their world it’s just business. In their minds, if they don’t run with the story a competitor certainly will, and they can’t let that happen or they might find themselves last in the ratings race.
Have we as a police community really gotten that bad? I don’t think so, and statistics back me up. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the estimated population of the US in 2014 was just over 268 million. This population was serviced by 12,656 police agencies. Those police agencies were staffed by 899,212 employees, 627,949 of whom were actual sworn officers. So to keep things simple, let’s say 127,949 (just over 20%) of that number are police supervisors or officers working in administrative positions. This leaves us with a nice even number of half a million police first responders to police a population of over 268 million. Now, let’s further assume that on average a police officer has 5 citizen contacts in a day (in reality, the number is probably higher but we’ll go on the conservative side). This could include arrests, traffic stops, radio calls, educational contacts, motorist assists, medical assists, or any other public contact you can think of.
On a national level, this equates to 2.5 million contacts per day, 75 million contacts per month, and 900 million contacts per year. As police officers, we know that the vast majority of police citizen contacts are handled without incident and that, when force must be used to gain compliance, it involves minimal to no injury in most cases. Is it a far stretch to think that out of 2.5 million contacts in one day maybe 10,000 of those contacts involved cops who went the extra mile to ensure a positive outcome? I’m talking about all the extra things cops do that aren’t required by the job but they do anyway because they care. Things like taking the time to shoot hoops with neighborhood kids, combing a neighborhood looking for a lost pet, giving a homeless person items of clothing or food, repairing a broken down car to get someone back on the road, paying the tab for a hotel bill so a displaced family has a place to sleep for the night, delivering groceries to an elderly shut in, buying gifts so a needy family can have a Christmas, and so many more. 10,000 out of 2.5 million contacts equates to about one half of one percent (0.5%). I believe this number is very realistic and in all reality, is probably much higher.
Considering these numbers, we find that instead of concentrating on the 10,000 exceptionally good things the police did on any given day in America during their contact with 2.5 million citizens, we succumb to the victim mindset of a society that chooses to ignore the good in exchange for the next salacious viral YouTube video that is played and re-played, tweeted and re-tweeted, passed around on Facebook and Instagram only until the next video showing a real or perceived misdeed by a cop surfaces. It reminds one of the old quote attributed to the Communist Socialist Vladimir Lenin, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” In this case, the lie being perpetuated is that police are brutal thugs that lack patience, are corrupt, and routinely trample on the rights of citizens. The point is that the endless cycle of negativity has a brainwashing effect that can easily persuade the average citizen that the police can’t be trusted and given enough time, can also make just about anyone start having doubts about themselves or their profession. To keep yourself grounded in reality, consider this: if, on a national level, 120 negative police videos hit the airwaves in a year and we balance it against 900 million police contacts per year, the percentage of negativity is .000013%. This is not to say we shouldn’t worry about negative press, and endeavor to always do better but doing the math helps keep things in perspective.
Whether we like it or not, police nationally are engaged in a media war and we have two choices: stand on the sidelines and get steamrolled or get active and fight fire with fire. We have to become media specialists by default and learn to get proactive in using social media and other methods to show the positive side of police work. There are a lot of police agencies and associations that are already starting to do this. There are also a lot of citizens groups that support the police and are all too happy to assist in getting positive messages out there.
To answer the question; no, we really aren’t that bad. We are just allowing a small segment of society to use a very effective media machine make us look that way. We all know that cops are human and can and do make mistakes, some more serious than others. We also know we work in a profession with some of the highest standards that results in constant scrutiny. Complaints alleging misconduct are investigated and dealt with either through administrative discipline, termination, or criminal charges.What is important is that the numbers cited above allow us to keep the picture in true perspective. Don’t succumb to the propaganda and, more importantly, when you see the next negative video surface on YouTube, don’t forget the 10,000 times (or more) police officers across America go above and beyond every single day.
Wrong butts in seats!!!!!!
By Dr. Levi Bolton – Executive Director -Arizona Police Association
In the not so distant past I was part of a conclave of community activist, law enforcement command officers, police chiefs, educators, clergy and the proverbial kitchen sink of anyone else that purported to have an interest in the so-call epidemic of unreasonable force used by police in neighborhoods across America. It was a noble attempt to advance the President’s 21st Century Policing plan. While the organizers were assembling their guests list it came as no surprise that one group was most notably and routinely absent; the law enforcement leaders of the Labor Associations that represent the actual law enforcement service providers. Police chiefs are not those folks. While our chiefs need to be present and contribute, they actually are not the frontline practitioners who are the true barometer of the challenges at the service level. In the lobby of my office are pictures of fallen police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the residents of their community. I knew most of them personally. Not one of those pictures were of a command officer or police chief. Virtually all were line officers and first line supervisors. To put it plainly, they are the folks who actually engage the threats in our communities. The same folks who are habitually underrepresented in these strategy forums. Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. I do realize the important work of our leadership which starts with our police chiefs. I am saying that while this 21st Century Policing dialogue is certainly well-intended; it is unlikely to be productive until there is a realization that we do not have all of the right butts in seats.
Political correctness tends to dominate meaningful discussion in many of these forums. Clever slogans, bad information, grand standing and close mindedness are the soup d jour. The reality is that these conversations that represent a caricature of today’s law enforcement officer as biased and trigger happy racist are generally fact deficient and miserably miss the mark as to the accurate dynamics of police use of force and the circumstances that precipitate deadly force encounters. Sadly, the conduct of the suspect prior to and at the time of contact by law enforcement is suddenly irrelevant because it does little to perpetuate the myth the police are systemically killing members of our communities.
Perhaps someone should fact check the numbers before alleging that police officers are the most significant threat to the lives of black citizens instead of mentioning that the true likelihood of a homicide of a black male in our neighborhoods is more likely to be at the hands of another black male. Facts matter and somehow those facts don’t find themselves into the discussion.
I am not giving bad cops a hall-pass for misconduct or behavior that is unlawful. I am also not proposing to anyone that bad cops do not exist. When officers cross the line and their bad or unlawful conduct exposed, they are dealt with in the same criminal justice system that is used to judge anyone who runs afoul of the law.
I do have hope that we will make progress. Law enforcement is listening. We have reached out to our community partners. Building trust and legitimacy can be achieved, but it starts with the right butts in seats.