This is the third part in a series, starting with “Its Not So Black and White,” on the topic of police brutality, training, and various misconceptions thereof.
In last weeks post, “Understanding Use of Force,” I discussed the difficult nature of applying “use of force” concepts and making the correct decision, in the smallest amount of time, while under duress. While, yes, there are malicious police, I would say 10-20% (these are the ones that need to go), the rest are simply good people with an extremely difficult job. A job where everything you do and say is scrutinized to a level that would drive even the most stable person a little nuts. This is why even good officers will often side with their fellow members, even the bad ones, because of the “Us vs Them” principle.
In the media we once again see calls for removing more justifications for the use of force from police, rather than demanding better training and member selection. Slogans like “defund the police,” though popular on social media, are very misguided and misleading to the point that many top politicians who support the general movement are distancing themselves from them. What people need to understand is that the very LOUD minority on social media tends to disproportionately drive the conversation, causing “groupthink” to lead the masses into piling-on with out any real idea of what to do or how to make a meaningful change. “Defund the police” is no different than saying take away their tools.
Once upon a time the police were armed with batons and guns, and many times the smallest altercations meant extreme violence. Then they added non-lethal tools like bean bag guns, rubber bullets, mace, and tasers. Now we even see a trend toward a desire to take these tools away; this is akin to taking away a cat’s teeth. Then telling them they can’t even employ use of force concepts, because it isn’t nice, is like declawing that same cat. This idea that “no force is needed in many altercations” is, quite frankly, delusional. As, while there are certainly cases of police overstepping their bounds, most of the altercations resulting in violence are occurring due to extreme resistance. But before I move on, watch this video about why, with proper training (something I will discuss in another post), appropriate, controlled force (including Knee on the neck) is a necessary tool.
Please understand that, even if you don’t like this technique, if you read our previous post you may start to understand how difficult it is to control another person. As mentioned in this video, he is not resisting too much, mainly because he doesn’t want to; this is why controlled pain compliance is super important. Unless someone is on drugs or has a massive adrenaline spike most people will cease resisting and comply when you apply the appropriate pressure and give the appropriate verbal commands.
NO, two or three officers should NOT all be dog-piling or putting their knee on the neck. One trained individual should apply the technique, with others supporting by controlling the arms or legs.
I sincerely believe that most people who say police should not have any use of force options have no idea how dangerous the job is. Just because you will not be violent towards police doesn’t mean others won’t.
While there are definitely racial issues at play (on a global scale, stop pretending it’s just the US), when it comes to policing we should not assume every altercation is about race. If you believe it’s systemic then attempt to understand the issues within the system that make it appear that way to you. Remember, in a world with conflicting voices the middle ground is often where you need to be.
This means, better training and standards for policing BUT still allowing them to do the job while staying safe, which includes techniques like the knee-on-neck.
I have recently seen suggestions that there be unarmed, trained individuals available to deal with calls that require a lighter touch, such as social workers for calls related to non-violent mental illness. But, if you think for a second that their training should not include the use of force, then you are not being realistic about possible escalations. Talk to any ER Psych nurse or social worker and ask if they have ever been in a near violent or violent situation. These are hard jobs where getting attacked is a reality. Some people, for whatever reason, do not care about consequences and will be unpredictably violent; this includes towards the police and towards civilian role which require direct interaction. By removing use of force training and tools you are actually putting more people in unnecessary danger.
And to those of you who have multiple, negative police encounters (outside of racial contexts), you need to ask yourself “why are having so many bad encounters?” If you don’t take personal responsibility for your actions you are not being honest. Because, lets be reasonable, most encounters with the police are, by their very nature, negative experiences, as you only usually deal with the police in situations that are not ideal; from paying fines, to violent incidents. I have had both positive and negative encounters with the police, but for me the most frustrating issue, for both me and the police, is that often the responding officers cannot get involved because it’s “not an imminent threat.” Even if they agree that something should be done about a person, they don’t, because the system doesn’t always allow it. Which means they slowly become jaded and any time there is any “action” even the best of police can get caught up in the moment.
This is exactly why we must insist on better training for the police, and an understanding that the solution isn’t always going to be a move to “defang the police.”
Now that you have watched the above video and you have read these articles, it is my hope that you understand why techniques like knee-on-neck are important tools; they are, on average, less dangerous than other tools such as rubber bullets and tasers. So, before you jump on the Internet bandwagon, ask yourself, “Do I really understand use of force concepts?” and “Where does my hate for the police actually come from?”
Written by: Jonathan Fader