The unchecked—and almost totally uncontested by the media—anti-police sentiment has reached a fever pitch. Every time I think it has hit its peak, I’m proved wrong.
As of now, there doesn’t even have to be proof that a police shooting event was illicit or unlawful. Police shoot someone and immediately the most hateful of rhetoric ensues. Even before the facts are out, people are busy attributing racist motives or systemic evils.
And, unfortunately, very few among the highest ranks in law enforcement seem willing to get out ahead of the screamers and defend the men and women in their profession. It’s risky, yes. But only in the near-term. In the bigger picture, it’s essential that we address misinformation head-on.
The following are myths about the police that are increasingly prevalent in our society. Left unchecked they are downright deadly.
1: Going Home
“Going home at night shouldn’t be your goal.” I hear this refrain more and more lately, and recently I was asked by members of the media if police officers should stop saying that their primary goal is to “go home at night.”
This apparently is a misunderstood dichotomy. A police officer going home at night isn’t mutually exclusive with others not going home.
And: If going home at the end of our shift was our only goal, we wouldn’t go to work. Police officers prove every time they report for duty that they are willing to risk their own lives for the lives of strangers.
When cops jump into rivers, run into burning buildings, leap towards cars ablaze, step between combatants, and chase down gunfire, they are risking their lives to protect total strangers, regardless of color, creed, and sexual orientation. They do this all the time! Much more than they take lives or fire their weapons.
The premise that cops need to risk their lives more is insulting, and it’s picking up steam. Instead anomalies are promoted as the norm, giving credence to the cliché that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Force events are misinterpreted or facts bastardized in order to maintain a narrative that will sell.
And too many law enforcement leaders sit silent, or worse, are complicit with the law enforcement haters. They refuse to stand up for the rank-and-file, who work so hard and at so much risk every day.
2: Police Officers Train Like Warriors
There’s no arguing this. Warriors train daily for war. Most cops, if they’re lucky, will go down to the shooting range twice a year. Very few organizations require empty-hand control tactics be practiced more than once a year. Heck—too few do cardio, let alone lift weights!
Yet we still have some leaders supporting the false belief that we train to shoot too quickly and are programmed to believe everyone is a threat. Nonsense! The truth is we don’t train enough and certainly not the right way.
Rarely, and sometimes never, do we address stress. Just as we rarely practice performing under stress. Therefore when officers encounter true stress on the street they sometimes overreact, something Calibre Press refers to as “hyper-fight.”
Hyper-fight is when the brain and the body go into overload. Instead of reacting in a reasonable way, the lack of exposure to, and understanding of, stress causes a maladaptive response. This is exhibited in unacceptable and often frantic behavior: screaming, swearing, hitting, etc. The brain will experience cognitive deterioration, decision decline, chronological confusion and time distortion. Memory will be affected and an officer’s veracity may be questioned.
A shot may be fired when it shouldn’t be. This almost never happens, but inadequate training makes it a greater probability. In my experience, it’s very fixable. If leaders demand it …
3: Police Work isn’t Really Dangerous
There are more dangerous professions than policing, no doubt. Not only that, but police deaths since 1974 have largely been on the decline in the U.S. There are lots of contributing factors—improvements in medicine, safer cars, use of body armor—but for our arch critics none of this matters.
To me, the single greatest contributor to officer safety is more and better training for our officers. It also makes for safer communities and criminals.
But our critics disagree. Calibre Press has come under fire for using the word “warrior” in one of our seminar titles and showing videos of officers being murdered.
Activists and even police executives, who have never seen our program, have fashioned their own narrative, trying to find a correlation between officer safety training and out-of-control police officers. Recently someone claimed that Calibre Press teaches officers to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Another prominent critic believes that we, as well as other training companies, teach officers to shoot at the first sign of hostility.
And while this is complete and utter nonsense these narratives persist. Why?
Social media can turn a baseless opinion into a fact over night. If 1,000 people on Twitter like it, it must be true, right? And while our critics are at their smartphone and computers incessantly, most cops are just too busy. Worse, our leaders have shown time and again a willingness to cave to noisy mobs, even when they know better.
There’s a saying: Perception is reality. This is at once true and untrue. A person’s actions are based on their perceptions, and with their actions they can create a reality. Maybe I’m just old fashioned: To me there is an objective truth out there as well.
We as a profession need to join the conversation and steer it towards the truth. This begins with our leaders. Look behind you, bosses: Do you have willing followers? If you don’t, they don’t trust you. Anyone can sit in a chair and oversee budgets and give speeches during the election cycles. Anyone can protect his or her job at all costs. Leadership is another thing altogether.
Educate the public about who your officers are as people. Don’t throw them under the bus at the first sign of trouble. Don’t let those who don’t know dictate how you train. Bottom line: You can’t lead if your people don’t believe you care about them. And you can’t bridge that gap if you don’t recognize the humanity and truths of all sides.