Judging when to use force, and to what degree, is complex and time sensitive (Tony Webster)
Audio by: Jonathan Fader

The other week I wrote about the recent police incident resulting in the death of George Floyd, in the post titled, It’s not so Black and White

As this has become such a large and complicated topic, with factors such as dissidents, political activists, misinformation, and the media all blurring the facts, I thought I would expand on a few aspects of policing and its complex, often intricate, nature. Perhaps you have never heard of these concepts, or perhaps you don’t care, but if you have an open mind you will at least attempt to understand both sides of any argument.

For most of the world’s population, fighting may be a daily reality, or even a way of life; though for many others it is the stuff of nightmares. Now imagine being in a job where at any point you may have to literally fight for your life. This is, for often the case for people in law enforcement. Now imagine being under a constant microscope, whether right or wrong, and having to deal with one of the most complicated situations an officer may ever have to deal with: The appropriate application of force in a given situation.

To clarify (again), in the George Floyd case the use of force was NOT appropriate.

Before I move forward take a look at this:

This is an old “Use of Force” chart I made. One of the regular comments I receive from viewers is, “This is too complicated!”

My response is always, “Correct!”

It is complicated, and that demonstrates the complexity of the decisions and processes that need to go through a person’s brain when making a use of force decision. Add to that the pressure from the awareness that if you screw up you could loose your job, or worse, your life. Then add the pressure of onlookers criticizing you, screaming at you, and filming you. Then add to that the fact that you may not have received the training you felt you needed, or not enough of it.

There could also be further considerations that are not immediately obvious: Is the person on drugs? Are they having a massive adrenaline boost? Are they bigger, stronger, and faster than you?

Forget being in a fist fight, have you ever been in a wrestling match with someone? Do you remember how difficult it was to think and act with someone’s entire body weight against you?

Believe it or not, trying to move another human being who does not want to be moved (or comply at all), is very difficult. It doesn’t really matter what your belief system is, because this is simply a fact. In one example, this anti-police activist found out how difficult it can be. It doesn’t matter the source of the simulation, as, done properly, the results would be the same; it will always be harder than you thought.

It is the hope of every officer, be they police, security, or military, that when an arrest is required verbal commands are enough to elicit compliance. Unfortunately, as you know, this does not always happen.

Even with training it can still be difficult (police generally do not get enough, a topic I will discuss in another post). One thing Krav Maga realized is that when it comes to violent people, you MUST use violence to prevent harm to yourself or others. You can use your words all you want, but if someone is coming after you, then you are going to have to apply force appropriate to the situation. Words do not always work, and whether you want to or not, you will find yourself in a complicated situation where even the slightest mistake can get you fired, suspended, or dead.

What about those who didn’t resist violently? Well, you are correct, in those cases extreme use of force would not be warranted. A lighter touch is certainly needed when the situation allows for it. But, let’s say someone is just being difficult when putting the handcuffs on, and despite multiple verbal commands to comply they chose not to? Then a slightly higher use of force is needed.

Prior to the recent protests many people believe (usually on the left) that the only people who should have the permission for use of force is the government and its agencies (the police, FBI, etc.). If this is the case, if you believe this, then you must admit you know very well that you should comply with the police when necessary. Yes, there are bad apples out there, as the internet has shown, and these should all be removed from duty completely and immediately. But, for the rest of them, they will never know if any given person is going to comply or not. If the answer is “not,” then given the authority granted to the police by you, the citizen, then you must understand use of force is warranted to elicit compliance.

Enter, the complicated decision tree above. The situation will go well, or not, depending on your experience, skill, and training. On a good day, the officer involved possesses all three. On a bad day, maybe only one.

Let’s add in one more complicating factor: Exhaustion. Police often work long shifts that may be physically and mentally demanding. Catch even a well-trained officer with good morals on a day they are at their limit, and even they are capable of making a mistake.

The point is, if you have never stepped in a ring, on a mat, or into and octagon (or just done some backyard wrestling), your ability to judge what is appropriate and effective use of force is severely limited.

It is HARD to wrestle, or tackle and control another person. It takes lots of consistent training. It takes a clear mind and consistent application. At the end of the day, all things considered, it is not so black and white. From moment to moment the appropriate use of force may change, and decisions need to be made in that moment, whether it was right or wrong in hindsight. Failure to choose and act could be catastrophic.

So, if you feel it’s appropriate to get educated on the facts, like trying to understand what it might be like for a Black person in American. Then I urge you to do the same and get educated on all the facts, including trying to understand how hard policing is and how hard it is to be good at appropriate use of force.

Fight the good fight, get educated, expand your horizons, and get out of that echo chamber.

(The next in the series will discuss police training.)

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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