- Police make bad hires.
- Bad hires must be held accountable.
- That accountability must have consequence.
Unless practices of an organization reflect policies, policies are to no avail. Said differently, a police department can have multiple policies addressing excessive force, but if infractions bear no consequence, then the policy has no effect. Why then have the policy?
Media coverage of the George Floyd trial has consumed the last several weeks; everything you read, see and hear in the media is devoted to the content. The more significant question is how did we get to this point?
Don’t most police departments address excessive force? Don’t all police officers know that you can only use reasonable force, authorized and appropriate under the circumstances?
I think most officers understand and abide by these principles. They are the same people that will tell you they joined the department to serve and protect the community. The prominent corner office, the big car, the big house were not their goals. They leave their homes each day and hear their companion tell them, “Have a good day and be safe.” They know that they may be taking calls for service with no backup or dealing with individuals who are “comfortably numb” and don’t care about their authority. They know they may witness horrific personal crimes and have exposure to death. They know they may have to make immediate decisions of criminality based upon their interpretation of ambiguous behaviors. They know that the abnormal will become routine and that “not all squirrels live in the woods.” Most importantly, they know that a bad day for a police officer might be that they never go home again.
Yet, their job remains to serve, protect, and care for the citizenry’s general well-being.
But then there are the exceptions. Sometimes police departments make a bad hire. There is one in every department, often more. You know the person who digs power over people, who’s at their best when confronting and lashing out quickly at people. Who is always overly aggressive and combative regardless of the situation. Who escalates problems first, then seeks resolution. These examples are why police officers are the default button for criticism, anger, and outrage.
What’s more upsetting to me is how did we get to this point?
We got to this point because the bad hire has a history of complaints lodged against them by the general public. They survive because the case against them was closed with “no discipline,” or if there was a ruling, it was a written reprimand.
Chief Medaria Arradondo, who testified against Derek Chauvin, was praised because he and other Minneapolis police personnel broke the “Blue Wall of Silence.” They violated the informal code of silence among police officers not to report on fellow officers’ errors, misconduct, or crimes. My question to Chief Arradondo is, what has been done to ensure that the department’s policies are reflected in their practices? And how is this monitored?
Suppose the “Police Complaint Process” is brought up in the discussion. In that case, I’d ask how many complaints filed resulted in discipline with consequence?
For policy to equal practice, it takes day-to-day thoughts, monitoring, and actions. Police leadership must realize that what it wants regarding equitable administration of justice and what is actually happening by a few bad hires are two different things.
Bad hires will overestimate the severity of the crime at issue. They will misinterpret whether the suspect is an immediate threat to them or others. They will often overstate whether an individual is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. In essence, their logic is neither linear nor rational.
The world of policing in 2021 is that police can do 1,000 things right, and when one officer does something wrong, the media blankets all law enforcement with this adverse event. I will continue to believe that this is the exception and not the norm. I want to trust the police and think they will respond to my call for help. I also think that there is nothing worst for a good police officer than a bad police officer. I can only hope that Police Chiefs hear this and develop practices that rid their departments of their bad hires.