Posts Tagged ‘RCMP’

Police selection should be at least as rigorous as the demands in the line of duty. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fifth in a series that started with “It’s Not So Black and White“, which was expanded upon in “Understanding Use of Force”. Specifics regarding techniques were discussed in “Understanding Use of Force: Knee-on-Neck”, and then we looked at overall police training standards in last week’s post, “Police Training Should be Better.” Over the course of this series I have frequently mentioned the need for better training and standards for policing.

This will be the last entry in this series on policing and use of force. It is my hope these posts have given you time and information to consider another perspective about police and the job, as well as use of force misconceptions. If your only source of information about the world is the mainstream media, it is likely you are getting heavily biased misrepresentation (often with the goal of gaining viewer attention rather than informing us). Or if you are only getting information from social media, a place where you may only follow people with similar beliefs and experiences to yours, then you could be living in a bubble, leading you to jump on poorly thought out causes (even if your intentions were good). No matter where you are in the world and what bubble you live in, seeking out other opinions and sources of information is key to forming well thought out ideas and policies. So, I hope this series has opened your mind to a perspective you might not have considered.

Which brings us to the next important topic: How do we select for policing? If you have followed this series you will have guessed that there is no single standard method of selection. Some require post-secondary, some do not. Some have age and fitness restrictions, be they high or low. It is likely we will never get it exactly right, but, as stated, it can be better. Some ideas in this article will be speculative, others are simply thoughts to further the conversation.

Let’s start with age. Personally, I think that the minimum age for policing should be 25, with no specific high-end limit so long as individuals can pass all required tests. Why? Simple, the idea that people are adults at 18/21 is an arbitrary number. A long time ago at puberty or around 16, you were generally considered an adult, because you could move to the next stage of life. The modern conception of 18 or 21 as the “age of majority,” other than it being after high-school or university, was based on our social/economic system’s needs. However, recent studies have suggested that the human brain does not finish developing until around age 25, at which point our brain chemistry and function is stable enough (scientifically) to be considered in the “adult” phase of human development. But I don’t think I need science to tell me that people over 25 are usually more stable and better at rational decision making. Which is why it makes sense that 25 should be the minimum age for a career in which decisions and reactions could have lethal consequences. Why do I think no maximum age? Well, as long as candidates are physically and mentally capable, why limit the selection? You will also be able to draw upon the expertise and experience from individuals who have lived and done more.

Why is it then that police organizations prefer younger candidates? The forces that do are likely seeking younger minds that can be molded to fit the existing police culture they want them to adhere to. Even Google does this, by hiring people right out of high school. Except, when it comes to policing I really don’t want someone who is young and has been conditioned to uphold the “old boys club,” or favouring your fellow officers over the law. Hiring older candidates will allow the institution to ensure that integrity is more likely to be enshrined in the force, both legally and morally.

Next, let’s talk about the obvious; physical requirements. Sometimes physical requirements are expected, with tests like the Peace Officers Physical Abilities Test (POPAT), while others have few or no requirements. First off, under no circumstances do I think it is acceptable to allow out-of-shape police officers to serve on the force, let alone as active street officers. Like shooting and tactics, fitness requirements should be maintained and assessed annually. While I cannot speak for other places, I can say that, from what I have heard in Canada, physical standards are often slowly being lowered. This is something I am very much against; the job doesn’t change but the standards do? That makes no sense, and is potentially dangerous. You may need to chase someone for a 100m sprint or a 2km run, with your gear on. Or you may need to grapple with an opponent to control them during an arrest; which is exhausting enough when you are in shape, let alone out of shape. Additionally, testing should be more realistic than it currently is, as the tests, like the POPAT, don’t really prepare you or assess you for fieldwork, rather it’s just generic fitness. There should be tiered levels of fitness tests required, each aimed at ensuring officers can operate for all aspects of their job. This can be done before, during, and regularly after initial training. The job doesn’t change, so the standards shouldn’t change, even if lower standards would allow more people in.

I personally don’t have an issue with shorter officers or smaller officers, but I do believe anyone with a “non-average build” MUST score higher on the physical combatives areas, as they are going to have to make up for their size with skill. It’s just physics. So, again, lowering physical standards for smaller officers is actually more likely to put their lives, or the lives of civilians, at risk.

Regarding combative skills; either through police prep schools or generic martial arts schools, candidates should probably start to have BJJ, wrestling, or Judo experience prior to hitting the academy. If, of course, out of high-school you want to be a police officer you could do 4 years of education related to the job, which is also plenty of time to get considerable martial arts experience. It also shows that candidates are serious about the job and are ready to get their egos smashed on the mats, rather than pursuing the job so they can impose their egos on others. This will further help screen people, as there is no better stress test than having a higher ranked, larger individual sit on you (even in a fun match).

Next is the question of education.

I like the German model that has POLICE SPECIFIC degrees. Such degrees, in my opinion, should have hand-to-hand combat and physical training aspects to it as well as theory. This would pre-screen candidates as well as provide them with all the training they need, well in advance of the actual job (which would also save tax payer money). Even if individuals do not end up becoming police they would walk away with practical, lifelong skills (martial arts, awareness, etc.). While Criminology degrees are good, like many degrees they are not specific to the job itself and will depend on who is teaching what, with regards to how practical the education is. Having a degree is also a screening method to ensure than individuals grow and develop, and show that they can work hard, prior to acting in the line of duty.

These are just a few items that should be in place, but there are other selection practices currently used that I strongly dislike.

First, is the fact that forces often want puritan candidates, with no “bad behavior” in their history at all. This I am very much against. How can you possibly understand how a drunk person thinks or feels if you have never been drunk? How are you going to understand the people you need to help if your life has never exposed you to anything negative. The no drugs ever, policies that many agencies enforce for pre-selection is insane and probably limit good candidates dramatically. Of course, you don’t want individuals with a severe history of addiction, but with the amount of alcohol police often drink, I see no difference between that and many categories of drugs. And, clearly, they MUST be sober on the job, if that wasn’t already obvious.

Another notion of selection is the common bias (even if subconsciously) to only select individuals who not only “fit in,” but also those who “won’t rock the boat.” This kind of selection bias is the reason why we have so many shitty cops out there (like many jobs), because you select for people who will not be honest about the problems they see in the behaviour of other officers, or the system, even though this is what the public demands (and is a self-scrutiny that will improve the force overall). I understand the concept of “brotherhood,” as I was in the military, however, while it may feel like, as an officer, you are going to war every day. It is not. Therefore, this idea of “protective brotherhood” I feel is less important in policing than in the military during wartime. While, yes, you want someone who you can trust with your life as a partner, for the sake of the job and your overall safety you cannot keep protecting bad behavior in the name of brotherhood. It is wrong, Full Stop!

What do you think?

These are just a few ideas about how to better select for policing. Many of these changes would require you communicating regularly with your politicians, mayor’s offices, and others, as the budget and changes are usually green lit by them and not the people who should actually be making the decisions. Everyone knows we need change and yet it often gets stopped somewhere in the blurry, inefficient mess that is bureaucracy.

So, if you had your way how would you select for police?

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com, or if you are in the metro Vancouver area come learn from me in person www.urbantacticskm.com

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RCMP cadets training at the academy’s Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan. (source)
Added contend in Audio. Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fourth in a series that started with “It’s Not So Black and White“, which was expanded in “Understanding Use of Force” and “Understanding Use of Force: Knee-on-Neck.” Over the course of this series I have frequently mentioned the need for better training and standards for policing.

Often, when this is discussed with officers, a few responses are common (I’m paraphrasing):

  • “I totally agree, but I don’t have the time or money to pay for my own training in my limited free time.”
  • “I totally agree, but the higher ups don’t seem to care and are not willing to make the change.”
  • “I don’t know what you are talking about; training and the academy was hard, so you don’t know what you are talking about.”
  • “I know enough, you are just trying to sell me something.”

No matter what the reason, whether the agree or disagree, the fact is simple; Police are not trained well enough!

Why do I say that?

Have you heard of the “10,000 hour rule” (popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success)? It is estimated than for any ONE skill you will need 10,000 hours to gain mastery. Even a Black Belt who has been training 5, 10, or 15 years often doesn’t even have that kind of level. This is the reason why black belts often say when achieving that prestigious rank: “Now I am ready to learn.” Given how long it takes to achieve mastery it is unreasonable to expect this level of expertise from police, given the number of skills that they actually need to perform effectively. However, we can reasonably expect them to at least reach a novice or advance level in both use of force and firearms usage under duress.

Additionally, we need to select better candidates. Some places, like Canada, maintain physical requirements, and some do not. Some put in place an age requirements (not too old, not too young), some do not. Some uphold minimum education requirements and some do not. I will discuss selection in more depth in another article, but we must take into account the fact that the standards vary wildly.

Since I live in Canada, let’s start with discussing training standards within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Usually you do need a degree and some life experience, once you have been selected you will undergo 6 months of training at the RCMP Academy’s “Depot Division” (the details of which are broken down here.)

This is a general breakdown of RCMP training in “Depot”:

UnitNumber of Hours
Applied Police Sciences373
Police Defensive Tactics75
Fitness and Lifestyle45
Firearms Training65
Police Driving65
Drill, Deportment, and Tactical43
Detachment scenarios, exams, research, etc.120
As listed on RCMP Website

Before I move forward I will say that the standards of the RCMP in some ways are considerably better than those of many other police forces, especially in the US. However, the RCMP selection requirements have declined over the years.

Anyway, back to the point.

You can see how many scenarios, skills, and concepts they need to cover, and attain reasonable proficiency with, in only 6 months time. (Some agencies have less). What they consider “applied police sciences” could itself encapsulate numerous complicated topics.

Let’s take a look at “police defensive tactics,” which is allotted 75 hours of class/field time. I will assume this is the training of physical self-defence and control techniques, perhaps there is crossover with the material covered in Drill, Deportment, and Tactical (without more detail it’s hard to say), but let’s say these 75 hours encompasses the fundamentals. That length of instruction, 75 hours, is about the minimum time it takes to become a UTKM Yellow belt; the RCMP standard is therefore no more intensive than our CIVILIAN self-defence curriculum! (and this comparison assumes that the RCMP’s curriculum is up-to-date and comprehensive.) Objectively, most of my Yellow belts do not have enough skill to begin to safely deal with violent situations that are inevitable in policing.

In most cases my Green belts and up are the point at which students develop true proficiency in hand-to-hand combat and control techniques. That’s at a minimum 280 hours specifically in hand-to-hand combat; and they continue to train after the fact.

After completing Depot, RCMP officers usually do not engage in extensive training supplied by their own force. While America is different than Canada, the common lack of training is discussed by Jocko Willink during his recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience #1492 (around 17min in). Willink notes the range of training required for the duties of police officers, and how, on average, America police officers are no longer held to a physical fitness standard and receive only 2-4 hours of extra training a year. Which is nowhere even close to enough to maintain the skill to execute their duties with discretion and control.

While training Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ), which I highly encourage for anyone, I have met RCMP officers who were practicing BJJ out of a desire to expand upon their past training, which had not included a focus on grappling. They became interested in the ground-fighting skill set through private training sessions run by a fellow officer who happened to be a BJJ brown belt. This training, however, was done on their own time and on their own dime, AND only a handful of their fellow officers took part. The fact that grappling and ground-fighting isn’t standard training at this point is beyond me. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) at least have a Judo club for officers and recruits, so why don’t more agencies have wrestling, BJJ, or Judo training available to their officers? A while ago, former US Democratic Presidential nominee Andrew Yang suggested a reasonable requirement for police vetting could be a BJJ purple belt, and as we move forward this is something I increasingly agree with.

If Depot is the start of RCMP training, then it should be treated as exactly that, just a start. Officers should, at a minimum, be getting AT LEAST one hour a week of hand-to-hand training, EVERY WEEK! It should also be PAID and delivered within their REGULAR working hours. Jocko suggested a fifth of an officer’s time should be spent training, and I completely agree.

Now let’s look at the RCMP’s 65 hours of Firearms training. 65 HOURS?! There is no way that is enough time to become proficient with the range of firearms officers may encounter, especially working mainly with a pistol and especially under duress. In my 7-8 month army (IDF) training I would say most of the instruction and practice was related to firearms and weapon use, in combination, over hundreds of hours. I probably fired tens of thousands of rounds, in a variety of scenarios, across all platforms I was expected to be proficient in. Additionally, (while I am speculating) I suspect that much of the RCMP firearms training does not place candidates under (reasonably) realistic simulations that would allow them to develop the confidence to use their firearms effectively while under duress.

I have heard some agencies in Canada do pay for 10,000 rounds worth of training a year, but with the caveat that officers need to seek out and undertake this training on their own time. So I expect most officers do not bother (Many thanks to those who do!)

Basically, we are asking Police to do a good job, be experts in the use of force, maintain an even temperament, develop interpersonal skills, and gain an understanding of the law, but we barely give them any training or time to do so.

So far I have used the RCMP as an example, as, fortunately, they have a fairly detailed website on the matter.

Let’s now take a look at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). Their training program isn’t listed in detail but the basic process is.

They undergo almost 3 months (11 weeks) of academy training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), then they do approximate 6 months on the job (shadowing, etc), then a further 3 months of JIBC training. I actually like this model, as it mimics the apprenticeship model and is something that should be considered for continued development over the course of an officer’s career. However, without knowing the details of their curriculum it’s hard to say how much use of force training or firearms training is included. However, the total process is about a year of learning AFTER selection; which is good but, again, how much time is spent on what?

By the way, usually a degree or later age is required for the RCMP, whereas VPD may take applicants fresh out of high-school (which is more common than not.) Though someone recently suggested there is a min credit requirement prior to application (anyone care to confirm this?)

The famous LAPD, require applicants to be 21 years of age and to possess a high-school diploma (or GED), and once selected they will go through a 6 month course (the details of which I could not find). The NYPD, also internationally known, requires age 21, some post-secondary or military service, residency within the five boroughs of New York, and the completion of a written exam. The NYPD does have an academy which offers training for new recruits, civilian roles, and in-service officers, though I cannot track down a specific number for how long the in-class training is for prospective police. (The fact it is so hard to find details on their training program indicates a concerning lack of transparency.) The Minneapolis Police Department (MNPD), by the way, requires a 2-4 year degree and then some psychological assessments and aptitude testing; but, again, no specific mention of what happens at the academy.

Now let’s compare these North American programs to German police training (It’s difficult to find information in English but I have talked to several people about German programs). Training is generally the same for all Bundespolizei (Federal Police), but may vary to some degree across the sixteen Landespolizei (State Police) forces. After a degree their RECRUIT TRAINING is 2-3 years straight, before they can be certified as a police officer. By the way, in Germany they have degree programs SPECIFICALLY for those wanting to become police officers, so it is likely that these would be sought in candidates, if not required. Again, in Europe or much of the world such degrees in policing and security are normal. Here in Canada at least, individuals usually take a general Criminology degree which, while it deals with crime and the law, is not actually a degree program specific to policing. This is the best approach! Get an education, be a little older, and then we will train you EXTENSIVELY in the job, before you start doing it. German officers’ actual training time is 4 to 6 times longer than the average in North America.

It bears mentioning that the firearms training provided to German police forces centres first around safe handling and marksmanship, then on training to only use your service weapon as a last resort. This includes numerous hours of training under duress to avoid “tunnel vision” in order to learn how to manage your reactions and decisions when in real world encounters.

If you dig deep you will find that, in much of Europe and other areas of the world, police generally receive considerably better training.

Yes, your 3 or 6 months in Depot may be the hardest time you have ever had, but I am here to tell you that it is simply not enough. It does not even allow you enough time, in any one topic, to even be considered a skilled novice. Is this really the standard we want?

I don’t think so.

So, instead of jumping on the social media bandwagons, demand that the politicians force police to offer better training. If the job is harder to get into, and pays better, you WILL attract a better class of officer.

But if the job is overworked, underpaid, and poorly trained, why would the average person want to do that job?

The solutions are simple: Better training, more training, and consistent training during your entire career as an officer.

So, what do you think? Is 6 months of training enough for the people putting their lives on the line to keep us and our communities safe?

Written by Jonathan Fader

rcmp

I’ve been at the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) training academy, better known as Depot, for two months now.   My experience here so far has been amazing, and a major part of that is due to my Krav Maga training at UTKM.  Krav Maga has helped me in more ways than one while I’ve been at Depot.  Of course, there’s the obvious, such as doing the Police Use of Force classes, that I have an advantage because I am familiar with being in a combative environment and learning the techniques comes with ease.  But the bigger role that Krav Maga has played for me is the mental strength to keep going forward.  Just like when defending yourself, one of the objectives is to keep moving forward (of course with the added continuous strikes to your attacker) and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  Taking on one task at a time and progressively always moving forward.  Even if I’m not exactly sure what to do, doing something is better than doing nothing.  For example, if you need to defend yourself against a person with a knife and your not sure what to do, its much better to do something, like a punch, kick, bite, eye gouge (even if that’s not the correct defence), than stand there doing nothing.

A moment in training that Krav Maga has been the most helpful for me was overcoming extreme physical pain.  One thing at Depot that all Cadets must go through is getting OC sprayed, commonly called pepper spray.  And that day came for me.  I had a bit of an idea that being OD’d was gonna sting the eyes. My thought was that it was gonna feel like the burn you get when sweat runs into your eyes.  Wow, was I ever wrong.  As soon as the OC spray hit my face it didn’t feel too bad.  I blinked once or twice and then BAM! The pain shot through the roof! My eyes completely shut and stung like acid was just poured onto them and my entire face felt like it was engulfed in flames.  But of course, we are tough RCMP Cadets and must run an obstacle course that combined both physical parts and thinking parts.  Immediately when I felt the pain, my Krav Maga training kicked in.  I pried my eyes open using my hands and moved forward and didn’t stop until the job was done.  In a way, I related this experience to one of my belt tests I had done earlier at UTKM before Depot.  It was essentially the same but trade the pain for exhaustion.  Even though I felt so tired during my belt test that I thought I was going to pass out, I still had to keep going.

The “mental conditioning” that Krav Maga teaches is truly something great.  The ability to overcome, fight through and always be focused is very important.  Not panicking in a situation where you need all your energy and focus to get through is something I’ve learned at UTKM and am truly grateful for my instructors sharing their knowledge, experience and skills with me.  Krav Maga is more than self-defense, it’s your fighting spirit.   ”

Editors note: This is not RCMP Training but a comparable scenario. I have been Bear Maced and had a face full of Military Grade Tear gas, it is not pleasant but can be tolerated if the need arises. However, I do not recommend you try this at home or with out proper supervision and medical personel available.

Red men challenge force protection personnel

If I had a dollar for every time a Law Enforcement officer told me that he or she was too busy to train, I believe I could buy myself a fancy steak dinner………..with deserts. Joking aside, few LE ( Law Enforcement ) officers want to train on their own time. After talking to many LE officers the from Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Border Service Agency, Vancouver Police Department, Translink police, New West Police, Buffalo City Police, Federal Corrections gave me some insight as to why they do not want to train  and add skills outside of the job.

Some of the reasons include:

  1. They are too tired to train after their shift is over
  2. They feel they are not obligated to spend their own money and time when the agency (command) should provide the necessary tools and trainings for their work
  3. They are afraid to train in systems that might or will contradict with what they are taught in the academy. They do not want to get themselves in trouble during the arrest process.
  4. They simply have no interests to train themselves
  5. Budget

 

Let’s take a look at these.

Reason 1 : I am too tired to train after my shift is over

Police+Car+Trunk

Policing is a tough job and, unless a person has done it before, you cannot relate to the challenges of the job both mentally and physically. First, they carry 25lb to 35 lb of police gear constantly. That alone is physically draining. Second, the night shift is just plain tough on anyone. Third, most agencies are undermanned and they often pull double shifts. Some agencies are more difficult than others because of the nature of its work. For example, in municipal forces most LE officers are trained as first responder on the scene. They are able to pass the follow-up tasks such as detective work with other departments of the same agency. That is not the case with federal agencies such as the RCMP. RCMP officers are responsible for the entire investigation of the crime and everything that is related to the crime. That puts an extra burden on their work day. These are not just jobs but ongoing, often disturbing cases.

Reason 2: They feel they are not obligated to spend their own money or time because the agency (command) should provide the necessary tools and training for their work

In the academy or depot, some argue that the police training is good for 90 % of the police work; from writing a report to a gun fight. If there is anything else more that needs to be done, the agency should provide it because that’s their job. The higher ups should come up with the training program and allow officers to train during their shift.

Reason 3: They are afraid to train in systems that will contradict with what they are taught in the academy and get themselves in trouble during the arrest process.

This logic is probably the most legit reason for officers not to want to train in systems like Krav Maga which is a highly aggressive and striking based system. Sadly, recording technology means that everything our officers do is put under the public microscope. The general public has an “untrained“ eye and judges any aggressive move such as striking as an inappropriate use of force. The public will judge a situation based on their perceptions and not from the mindset established by training. It is a sad reality that modern LE officers have to face in today’s world.

Reason 4: They simply have no interest to train themselves

I have met many good LE officers who take no interests in firearms and martial art training. One of our former students said, “ You do not want to go and spend several hours on your day off to shoot guns when you carry one 24/7. “ Many LE officers just do not have the dedication and interests to train in martial arts on their leisure time.

Reason 5: Budget

Believe or not, LE officers are well paid in Canada compared to their US counterparts. Like everyone else, they have their economical burdens such as mortgage, child support and so on. Some people just cannot justify paying a gym membership to train themselves when most of the time they are not going to use the training. Many of us live well and we can probably make a distinction between things that are wants rather than needs.

Those are legit reasons and most issues come from the agency (commands) not individual officers. However, living in this imperfect world we can only rely on ourselves to address some of the issues. After all, isn’t that what being a LE officer is all about — being the solution, not the problem?

Solutions:

  1. In the sports medicine world, LEO’s, firefighters and military personnel are known, as “ industrial athletes.” Meaning, no matter how tired they are from their shift they still have to maintain a certain fitness standard for their job. They can always choose sports like boxing and grappling that are also great cardio and muscle workouts on top of training good hand-to-hand fighting skills. Kill two birds with one stone.

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  1. I recommend that people spend their own money on extra training. Just like everything in government, most agencies only do the bare minimum. After all, just like everyone else, the department has a limited budget. For command, buying new pistols might be viewed as more important than hand-to-hand or combative training. If LEO’s are worried about their personal budgets, find out if there is a discount. Most martial art gyms and ranges offers LE/ MIL discounts ( UTKM offers 30 % off ). Some people might have skills useful for a seminar and could barter an exchange.

 

  1. If people are worried about using excessive force learned in training outside of command, the concern is legit. Consider the school and their experience working with LEO’s. They know that the more training their students have, the more likely they are able to respond effectively under stressful conditions. Better-trained first responders are more comfortable getting physical, responding faster, and staying calmer. Well-trained people become more effective during extreme stress compared to people who have less training. A reporter asked UFC champion Jon Jones once “Are you afraid of walking into ring? “ Jon Jones said “ It is my job. You don’t ask a mail man if he is afraid of walking into a post office.”

 

It is your job and you chose this route. The more prepared people are for the job, the less mistakes you are going to make.

4& 5. Marry your job with your interests and pick a hobby that is related to your work. Life is fair: everyone only has 24 hours but it is how we use that 24 hours hat makes a difference. Some cops once said that “Policing is not a job but a life-style.” We all have different hobbies: fishing, movies, running and so on. If we can choose hobbies that can enhance our ability to do our jobs, then why not ? After all, we can all go fishing when we retire.

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“ If you only have a hammer in your tool belt then every problem looks like a nail “ When LEO’s do not have the right tools to handle the dynamics of police work, it usually leads to “ excessive force “ or even “ deadly force.”

Honestly, this reasoning reflects on the agency and command; however, in this imperfect world it is usually the individual who takes on the duty to make the necessary change. Don’t fall victim to your department or command’s lack of foresight and politically inspired budget cuts. Ask a person who requires your protection and service to show-up ready to do your job. You think your training is not up to speed I pledge to “ take the steps to find the solution to those issues because otherwise, you are a liability to the public safety not an asset. “

Most importantly, work with your family and community for ways they can support you in helping you find the resources of time and money to train. We all want our LEO’s, first responders, military, and firefighters to return home safely.

Unless you have been living under a rock, the media has been covering more and more situations involving death of a civilian by a police officer using a firearm. While the majority of these covered are out of the United States, there is occasionally such an event in another country that makes media headlines. Though it is not as widespread or as widely covered in a country like Canada, “death by cop” as the media often calls it, is something that happens whether you hear about it or not.

forcillo-day-2-nov-878x494

In Canada’s case, the death of Sammy Yatim by Toronto Police constable Forcillo has been in headlines since it occurred in 2013. As I am writing this the date is January 25th and the verdict of the trial against Constable Forcillo which started in October has been announced.

The results are as such:

On the charge of Second Degree Murder – Not Guilty

On the Charge of Attempted Murder – Guilty

For a little bit more of a detailed breakdown of the trial and history of the events leading up to the trial see this National Post article:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/jury-has-reached-verdict-in-trial-of-toronto-cop-charged-with-murder

Before I continue on with this, one of the main reasons the public went into a frenzy over this particular case was because within minutes of the death video footage of the event was made public on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG6OTyjzAgg

Another video is the released footage from the bus can be seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx2iQnYMQfM

First of all, if you found that disturbing, please take a breath and understand that this is the kind of thing that any and all police officers may have to face at any point, and before you sit and judge, ask yourself what you would have done in his place.

Of course, you most likely easily answered – oh, of course I would not have shot! But despite what many of you think, it is not such an easy decision to make, especially in the moment. Here is a short clip (Yes, I know its fox news but still, it makes the point clear) of an activist who is critical of police actions going through simulated real training:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfi3Ndh3n-g

OK! So let’s go back to the case. The question you have to ask is – how can someone be found guilty of attempted murder when the person in fact died, and then not be found guilty of more severe charges? Here is the first problem in logic with the verdict.

Does this mean I think he should have been charged with the more severe charges? I want to be perfectly clear, that NO, I do not think he should have been charged with any of these charges.

Now before you jump down my throat for saying that, you must understand this DOES NOT mean I think he should go unpunished.

Before I go on with my opinion on the events that occurred I would to establish that unlike most of you reading this, I am far more qualified to asses a use of force situation objectively. Why? Because I served in the IDF for two years, which in itself doesn’t mean anything but most of my active service was in the West Banking doing police work. There were numerous times when I faced potential threat to not only my health and wellbeing, but also to others, and I know exactly how I react in such situations. In addition I have dedicated my life to studying and teaching use of force through Krav Maga and firearms training. In addition, I am also a certified machine gunner and infantry sniper. But I am not here to talk about myself, but I would just like to give you some idea as to why my thoughts have a little more weight than the court of public opinion.

Ok, so let’s break down the event. Here are the facts that matter in my eyes:

  1. We have a knife wielding individual on a bus that has made threats to the general public
  2. Before the police arrived, passengers vacated the bus in a panic and Sammy remained on the bus
  3. Sammy is relatively contained in the bus
  4. There were multiple officers some, with guns also drawn but then re-holstered and others with guns still drawn
  5. The first 3 shots from the constable are potentially justifiable
  6. The next several shots were not really justifiable
  7. After shots were fired and Sammy went down, not one of the police immediately jumped in to either
    1. Take the knife away
    2. Offer immediate first aid until medics could arrive
  8. The constable has a history of misconduct among other things.

So 1 and two are fairly self-explanatory and I don’t think I need to get into this any further.

Number 3 -The fact that Sammy was in the bus with a knife and no hostages means that he was relatively contained, which should have made it more comfortable for the police to attempt to calm Sammy down. They could have (any or all of them, tried to calm him down with relatively little worry that he would harm others or themselves. This means that putting the fault for not to attempt to calm him down cannot be exclusively put on constable Forciillo because any one of the officers should have done this.

Number 4 – Many of the officers made the assessment that it was necessary to draw their weapons. This means that any one of them knew that they could have potentially needed to use lethal force. Some decided to re-holster because for one individual you really do not need that many guns drawn. In this situation, with Sammy contained, 1 or 2 drawn pistols would have been enough. If you are sitting there saying that they did not need to draw their guns at all then you are mistaken. They were in relatively close proximately and were under 21 feet which means that had they had their guns all holstered Sammy could have easily charged and stabbed any one of the officers before they drew their guns. If you don’t believe me, believe myth busters:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckz7EmDxhtU

This means drawing their guns at that range was 100% justifiable in any and all circumstances when a knife is present.

Number 5 – The first three shots are justifiable in the moment because Sammy walks into the bus then quickly turns to the door at a faster speed. IN THE MOMENT, not one of you could have determined if he was charging or not. If you assessed he was charging, which officer Forcillio clearly did, then the correct response is to shoot. This is a split second decision and making the wrong one could be fatal to more than just the knife wielder.

Number 6 – Because Sammy was already CLEARLY down the next round of shots is not really justifiable unless he was trying to get up and attack, which he was not. This action is most likely what caused the crown to seek charges in the first place and potentially caused the public to freak out (I say potentially because the public is generally very anti-police in Canada).

Number 7 – After the first 3 shots were fired and Sammy was CLEARLY down officer, Forcillo or any other officer for that matter should have immediately charged in to remove the knife and control Sammy, and then offer medical treatment. While I cannot specifically say why this was not done even though it is what should have been done, it is very likely that this comes down to Canadian police training which is what his defense attorneys are saying is why he took the actions he did. I have talked to many Canadian police officers and it is my opinion that due to their training they are severely lacking in hand to hand combat and arrest training, and as such do in fact rely a little too much on their firearms as a means to deal with a situation. This means that if training is a big factor, which is based on what I know and the lack of reaction from the other officers present that it is potentially the police force and the governments fault for such behavior.

Number 8 – This is a big reason why the constable should be punished. Due to his historic bad performance as well as the poor judgment and potentially negligent action causing death it is clear that no matter what happens he should not be allowed to continue as a law enforcement agent.

So why do I think finding him guilty of attempted murder is wrong you ask? The obvious is the logic of finding someone of attempted murder to someone who died is completely illogical but that’s far too easy an explanation.

In my opinion, charging a law enforcement officer of ANYTHING to do with murder when responding such a call, regardless of good or bad judgment, is wrong and irresponsible. This is essentially saying that anytime an officer uses lethal force against someone with a weapon even if it was a good kill, will potentially result in a murder charge for doing their job.

You may not think this is a big deal, but in a legal system based on common law, which all of Canada except Quebec uses, means that this case sets precedents. This means that any time an officer kills someone in the line of duty the Crown counsel can seek to use this case as a means for various murder charges. This also means that if this charge is to stick, all future judges and Juries may be required to use this case as a general standard for future decisions.

So you are now putting another legal hurdle in the way of officers from doing their job, which is protecting the public form unwanted harm.

This means that instead of simply forcing officers to continue to be judged by the court of public opinion which is based on emotion and BULLSHIT usually, there is now that, plus legal precedents working against them.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely scenarios when an officer should be charged with murder but these should be reserved for very specific unique scenarios that does not involve an officer doing their job.

For example a police officer just off work but is still in uniform with his firearm. Their neighbor whom they do not get along with just let his dog shit on their lawn. THAT’S It, the officer had enough draws is gun and shoots. This would be murder because it has nothing to do with the officer doing his or her job but rather is an emotional outburst resulting in death. Which, by the way, in Canada would be manslaughter.

So how do we solve this problem? Clearly In constable Forcillos case, he should no longer be allowed to continue as a police officer and should in the future not be allowed to do any work in a similar line of work.

I would like to point out that I do not find fault in the jury but rather in the Crown Counsel, the legal system and the government. This is because he clearly should have be punished, but the only option of the three charges they could punish him with was the lesser one. Because if they didn’t find him guilty of something then another bad cop (Which is an extreme minority, despite what you may think or what the media may say) gets to walk free. This would not only make the situation worse but most likely lead to protests and potential riots. As such, I think this verdict is more of a political decision than actual justice.

What should happen is the legal system and government should create a new charge. Let’s just call it for arguments sake extreme negligence and judgment in the line of duty. This new charge, would result in a criminal charge. Would result in a dishonourable discharge. Would result in a ban from any job of similar nature and would result in probation.

Such a charge would:

  1. Rid the force of any actual bad officers from a legal and moral perspective
  2. Prevent them from doing any such action again in the future
  3. Give them a criminal record
  4. Give them punishment in which the public so often demands.

Such a charge would NOT:

  1. Set legal precedence potentially further restricting officers from using legal force when required
  2. Continue to aggravate police public relations

So, Again, Forcillio should NOT be found guilty of anything to do with murder but he SHOULD be punished and SHOULD NOT be allowed to continue as a police officer.

Now with that being said there is clearly a BIG problem with training for the overall police forces in North America, but this is largely political and related to budget concerns.  This of course, is an issue for another article but is definitely a problem.

So before you jump on any anti-police bandwagon, please consider the following:

  1. Legal ramifications of any decision in court under common law
  2. The fact that you were most likely NOT there in the moment
  3. The fact that you most likely DO not have any training on the subject matter
  4. The fact that it wasn’t you in the moment and if you say you know how you would have reacted with no prior comparable experience, then sorry but you are lying to us and to yourself.

Regardless, there definitely needs to be improved relations between the police and the public lest we descend into either an anarchist state or a police state, because if things continue as they are these are, these are two potential devastating outcomes.