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Walking in their shoes

Important story about how a community organizer who has been protesting police killings of unarmed people (especially blacks), participated in a police training exercise to get a better understanding of the situation:

We have a bad tendency in this country that when a few people of a specific group do something really bad, that we hold it against the entire group. When Muslim terrorists kill people, we blame all Muslims. When blacks get angry and commit crimes, we blame all blacks.

And ironically, we do the same things against police officers. Yes, there is no excuse for some of the things that police officers have done, and officers who break the law should face justice. But it doesn’t make any sense for us to blame all police.

Police face dangerous and difficult situations all the time, and occasionally something will happen that shouldn’t. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the police are at fault. As the video so graphically points out, we should not blame the police for something unless we know how we would react in the same situation. When we blame police for something that we shouldn’t, then it makes it just that much harder to bring police to justice who have actually done something wrong.

We should honor our police for their service and for risking their lives for our safety. At the same time, illegal or racist actions by rogue police officers should be punished appropriately.



  1. Jonah wrote:

    Agreed. The police deserve a lot more respect. Should definitely be paid more as well. I would argue that the entire force perhaps be reduced to only include the best and their compensation should be increased accordingly.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink
  2. Wildwood wrote:

    If the police, as a whole, were willing to police themselves, there would not be as big a problem. But they are not willing to recognize that some of their own are less than stellar examples. I think that a “good” cop who knows a fellow officer is a problem and does nothing is as complicit as the one doing the bad stuff. I also think that training should be changed to emphasize less aggression, that good salaries should be made mandatory in every municipality, and that retribution should be swift for any cop stepping over the line.

    I live in St. Louis County, where the infamous Ferguson is. We have at least 90 municipalities. We have dozens of police forces. Some pay little more than minimum wages and have little or no training. If a cop gets fired from one, he just moves on to another, regardless of why he was fired. The state now requires these towns to not get more than, I think, about 12 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets. That is forcing many to at least combine their police departments.

    There is a lot that needs to happen, in general, much better salaries, more psychological testing to see if they even should be a cop, better training, no more dependence on revenues from ticketing and forfeitures, and easier methods to remove cops and keep them from moving on to another city. And lastly, throw the book at those who abuse the power we have ceded to them.

    I’ve always thought that those who want to be cops are probably not the ones we want as cops.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  3. ThatGuy wrote:

    While I agree with the post in general and with Jonah, we need to be really careful with this video if we’re using it as an objective lesson in how hard it is to be a cop. If anything, this sort of training is horrible for judgement, as it’s basically a binary choice between “use gun” and “don’t use gun” against a constantly agitated, constantly aggressive, not to mention masked, individual.

    Forget for a moment that this organizer is completely untrained, a red flag in and of itself, and ask where are his other tools? A taser, or mace, or even a nightstick represent the degrees of force an officer can use to try to get a situation in hand before escalating to the lethal option.

    No one should doubt that being a cop his hard and very dangerous (look at the MD shooting this past weekend), people who do it well are amazing, deserving of our respect, and absolutely deserving of higher pay. But I can’t help but be critical of this particular video as a means of expressing the difficulty of the job. Any cop should be better trained than some random activist and no cop should be without less-than-lethal options when confronting citizenry.

    Again, yes, we need to extol the virtue of good cops. Police are an essential part of our communities and, for the most part, do more to keep us safe than anyone else. But at a time where the FBI has been warning for over a decade that racist organizations have been trying to infiltrate law enforcement, I am very skeptical of anything like that video trying to boil police-civilian interaction down to “gun or defenseless cop” when that is simply never the case. We should of course respect that this makes a cop’s job even harder, but that is why they need to be far more highly trained than this guy off the street.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  4. Hassan wrote:

    “Police face dangerous and difficult situations all the time, and occasionally something will happen that shouldn’t. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the police are at fault.”

    Sorry no body is talking/complaining about cases where police had to make tough decision in matter of life and death. We are talking about killing children for being crime of blackness.

    Yes we should not blame all police, we blame the system where few bad cops that are committing crimes are not being indicted even.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  5. Hassan wrote:

    Ok sorry, did not read last sentence, you and I agree.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  6. Michael wrote:

    Why am I not surprised to see the Fox logo in the bottom corner (yes, Fox affiliates are not the same as Fox News, I know). This entire segment strikes me as a set up to embarrass Rev. Maupin and the BLM movement, and to discredit the legitimacy of their concerns.

    For starters, it is a complete joke to suggest that this one exercise is in any way comparable to the months of training you have to go through to just become a rookie cop. Even then, you’re not just thrown into this type of situation on your own. And after that, you still go through training exercises on the job to keep your skills sharp. Of course an untrained amateur is going to suck at this exercise. While we’re at it, take your local high school football team and throw the Denver Broncos defense at them. The results would be about the same as what you saw in this video. For a more humorous take on the inadequacy of amateurs, check out the Daily Show version.

    Furthermore, the artificial scenarios here are designed to undermine many of the key facts about the BLM protests by equating the movement with the Mike Brown case. The 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot within two seconds of police arriving on the scene. Eric Garner was killed by a prohibited chokehold despite pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Kenneth Chamberlain was Tasered and shot after police broke into his home despite the fact that he asked them to leave because he didn’t need help. After shooting Walter Scott, the officer involved dropped his Taser by Scott’s body as false evidence that, “He took my Taser.” Freddie Gray was beaten to death while in police custody. Tulsa police allowed Robert Bates, who was 73 years old, not a trained professional, and carrying his personal gun, to enter a situation where he shot Eric Harris in the back, even though the latter was subdued with several officers on top of him.

    In addition, let’s not forget one other key point of concern for the protests: unnecessary escalation by police officers or wannabe cops. See the cases of Sandra Bland (who was harangued by the officer for being upset after getting a ticket) or Trayvon Martin (who was shot by a man who pursued him despite 911 dispatchers telling him not to).

    Yes, police work is hard and requires some very tough split-second decisions. But this segment is complete crap, and I fear that it is simply intended as a red herring to ignore the legitimate concerns that BLM protests raise.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement. But I still think that two wrongs don’t make a right — either treating all blacks as suspect, or treating all police as suspect. It has to stop somewhere. It is developing a siege mentality on both sides. Whether or not the video is bullshit is not the point — just having both sides talking to each other and walking in each other’s shoes is a good step. And just to make sure nobody misses it, it is absolutely required for wrongdoing (on either side) to be punished, otherwise there is no basis for trust.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  8. ThatGuy wrote:

    IK, absolutely true. The main problem is that there is immense over-policing of black and minority citizens and incredible under-policing of the police themselves. It’s becoming the Stanford prison experiment writ large. We already know that black suspects will be subject to the full weight of the criminal justice system, what we lack is the balance on the other end.

    This is similar to the All Lives Matter v. Black Lives Matter parallel. The latter is addressing a verifiable imbalance that the former implicitly suggests doesn’t exist. It’s not wrong to say that both police and black/minority citizens should be held accountable for bad behavior, that’s obvious, but it lacks the caveat that one is disproportionately held responsible while the other is not.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Totally agree with you, ThatGuy. The system is way out of balance. Anyone who thinks blacks (and other minorities) are not over-policed is delusional. I just don’t want our reaction to it to make things worse.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  10. ThatGuy wrote:

    Moderation is key!

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  11. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Great first step for “walking in the other guys shoes”, I’d also like to see police officers incorporate some training to walk in a victims shoes.

    99% of law enforcement officers are dedicated public serving officials. It’s the 1% that get all the attention. Yes, absolutely there are criminal homicides committed by police.

    For anyone interested here is a link to the 127 Officers who died in the line of duty in 2015.
    You’ll note that 39 were killed by gunfire, 8 by vehicular assault and 4 who were stuck by a vehicle as a pedestrian. 6 were killed by bombs.

    Michael, while I usually somewhat to mostly agree to your commentary, in this case your arm-chair rationalization is just extremely short sighted. You embellish a few scenarios to strengthen your position.
    In particular, “Freddie Gray was beaten to death while in police custody” is just plain false.

    Your conclusion that “But this segment is complete crap” just paints you as unable to grasp the complexities of the law enforcement job in mostly volatile situations. It’s obvious that you have never had to put your life on the line in any of our major cities or a battlefield. Yeah there might be 10-20 bad cops a year out of approx. 700,000 sworn officers in the US (2011 data), but as a percentage, that’s incredibly low bad to good ratio (like .003 %).

    We need more of exactly what this BLM protester did. There should be BLM leaders, OWS, and you Michael, that volunteer to take this training. And yes, Police should need to paly the reverse roll and get more training on de-escalating hot encounters.

    I was a Soldier, and rode in convoys in Iraq, as the convoy medic. When traveling in populated areas many times persons dressed as civilians were on the side of the rode and would stop and watch as the convoy went past. Sometimes people would run to the side of the road from a distance, sometimes they were carrying bags or objects. Most were friendly, but not all. Every person seen, needed to analyzed as to their threat potential. There was no time to twitter chat about ramifications. We had 3-5 seconds. There were 2 ways to make the wrong choice. Kill an innocent non-combatant, or fail to kill a combatant. 3-5 seconds.

    On one convoy when a lead vehicle failed to eliminate a combatant that was mistaken for an innocent, it cost us 2 dead and 6 injured. I held a young kid, barely 20 years old in my lap while he spent his last minutes in this world scared. I didn’t want him to die alone, 8000 miles from home. I still see him everyday.

    My point is humans not computers have to make these decisions in 3-5 seconds. They will never be able to make the right decision as much as we’d like. It is a tragedy when either a friendly or innocent is killed by the wrong choice, but it is inevitable, the nature of the business. We just need to mourn and get back to work.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  12. Never wrote:

    Sorry, if cops respond the same way any other person would at a critical time, then they have been badly trained. We expect them to know how to deal with situations that they face on the street – because we pay them to be professional and keep the peace on our behalf. Making excuses for them doesn’t work. There is NO excuse for using deadly force on an unarmed person – ever.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  13. Michael wrote:

    Other than the Freddie Gray case, I do not see how any of the cases I listed were embellishments. Regarding Freddie Gray, I will admit to overstating the case for the sake of brevity, and I will rephrase it as follows: Freddie Gray died as a result of head and spinal cord injuries sustained while in police custody, after he was arrested without probable cause. The exact cause of the injuries will be determined when the six officers involved are tried in a court of law on charges that include false arrest, manslaughter, and second-degree murder. If any of the other cases are overstated, please state how.

    I’d like to also argue against this sentence: “Your conclusion that ‘But this segment is complete crap’ just paints you as unable to grasp the complexities of the law enforcement job in mostly volatile situations.” I think you misunderstood my point. The scenarios presented in the segment are NOT crap. The empathy gained by going through such an exercise is NOT crap. The change in viewpoint that Rev. Maupin now has is NOT crap.

    What IS crap is the presentation of the segment as fair and balanced news. The segment claims that he went through some brief training then went into the exercise. Based on the presentation in the video, it looks like the entire thing (training, exercise, and debriefing) all took place in a manner of hours. It is designed solely as an ego check for the participant. It is not designed to inform viewers about the complexities of the issues. And considering this was on a Fox channel, it strikes me as being designed to embarrass Rev. Maupin, to put him in his place, and to discredit the legitimacy of his protests.

    A segment that was truly meant to inform would have spent some time pointing out the extensive, on-going training that is required to train professional police officers. It would also have pointed out the limitations of training, particularly in relation to issues of implicit bias (e.g., studies have shown that police officers of all races routinely overestimate the age and size of black men when compared to men of other races). It would especially have highlighted how easy the heat of the moment causes mistakes, as in the case of Amadou Diallo. And it would have emphasized how important (and difficult) it is for everyone to work toward de-escalation.

    I don’t underestimate the difficulty of the job. I think the segment does by creating the artificial scenario of putting an untrained amateur into a realistic, volatile situation. That’s why I liked the Daily Show version. At least that was honest enough to be actually presented as comedy, not news.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  14. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Never “There is NO excuse for using deadly force on an unarmed person – ever.”

    Never say never. I can kill you with my fists, especially if I am physically bigger. It happens all the time.
    However I do agree that there have been blatant examples of obvious misuse of force and position. And yes those criminal police should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    But again, we are talking about 1/1000th% not even 1% of our police officers who fall into THAT category.

    Michael – ” it strikes me as being designed to embarrass Rev. Maupin, to put him in his place, and to discredit the legitimacy of his protests.”

    I do not believe that to be the case. Through my eyes I see him now as a person truly willing to look at a problem from both sides. In my eyes it raises him to a higher level as a leader who can analyze beyond the emotionality of the subject matter. I applaud the reverend and I can tell you when he talks to the men and women in blue, they will listen and they will respect his words as not merely rhetoric. More leaders should try that approach.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink
  15. Michael wrote:

    I agree 100% with everything you say about Rev. Maupin. My complaint about the segment is the broader context. The segment in isolation from a neutral party would be acceptable. But that’s not the case. The segment was produced and aired on a Fox channel. As such, we need to look at the segment within the broader context of the other segments on Fox channels. And Fox channels (both Fox News and Fox affiliates) have spent most of their time criticizing BLM and branding them as anti-police. This segment, within that context, then seems like a, “See. We told you. These BLM protestors are just ignore of what cops go through.” Had the segment come from a different news source, my reaction would be different. Had the segment contained more information about training procedures, biases, etc., my reaction would be different. But the fact that this came from Fox and really only showed how badly he screwed up changes things, and that’s why I still see this as a set up.

    Friday, March 18, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  16. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, you do have a good point.

    Aren’t you glad I changed the context to here (Political Irony), where we can have a fair and balanced discussion about this? 🙂

    Friday, March 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink