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LEO standards for behavior and the resultant public perception/trust

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by CarlMc, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

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    I mentioned this on the Renton road rage thread yesterday and said it was best as a separate thread, but for some reason its still bugging me and I wanted to get this off my chest.

    Alright, I was in the service many, many years ago. Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, to be more precise. If I were to visit the brig (thankfully, I never got in that much trouble) I was told the largest contingent of its occupants were MP's themselves. I didn't understand why at the time, but years later, in another occupation, I noticed that some people, when put in positions with some pereived positions of authority, changed from normal, upstanding individuals to real a***oles. It began my change in thinking that to this day is turning into a wariness for law enforcement officers.

    I know that in order to become a LEO in most places a series of tests are required, most notably a psych exam where the plan (I would think) is to weed out the ones that take their job too personally. Since it's a range of attitudes, there will inevitably be ones that pass through with less than the ideal character. I'm all too familiar with the types that flunked out of the cop exam and settled for security jobs, and the resultant bottom of the barrel type we call mall ninjas. FWIW, I've never applied to be an LEO, never really was that interested in it; yet have been investigated up and down for other job requirements/clearances, each time coming up clean, so I'm not coming from a position where I resent authority.

    The news has had stories of bad cops as far back as there was news. Departments that hire officers understandably have a hard time finding qualified individuals, so will be tolerant of some poor behavior because quantity is important, though hopefully a far second to quality.

    So, my question to all of you, LEO's specifically, is what is being done (or what is NOT being done) to improve public perception (perception being different than reality) of LE department standards for their police? I have a suspicion it's getting worse, but at the same time I'm losing sympathy for them overall. When I see cops taking a walk or getting a slap on the wrist for some truly atrocious behavior, I almost wonder if the leadership cares that BEFORE they want my sympathy/support for one of their own getting hurt/killed they should work a little harder to clean up their own house. Now seeing that I'm a more reasonable individual (for the most part :) ) I have no plans other than to talk about it, but I can easily see the less reasonable type taking out their frustrations more directly. It's been done before, and I can see it happening again.
     
  2. Trlsmn

    Trlsmn In Utero (Portland) Well-Known Member

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    Moved to Off Topic. Legal and Political section is for 2nd amendment Legal and Political posts only.
     
  3. MA Duce

    MA Duce Central Oregon Well-Known Member

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    There was a classic psychology experiment done in which subjects were put in the position of administering electrical shocks to other subjects. The rig was totally bogus as the shocks were not given and the ones "getting shocked" were acting. The aim of the experiment was to see how far a person would go. The scale on the device was clearly marked with a fatal range. I wish I could recall more of the details, this was a freshman level psych class and were still chiseling on stone then, but some subject got on such a power trip that they would go into the fatal zone if told to by an authority figure. The point is we are wired to compete and survive, some can apply ethical standards and cause no problems, some are willing to do whatever they can get away with. I think as long as police are human, (Gort, where are you?), we will be dealing with this issue. Unless we as citizens can hold the officials accountable there will be a loss of accountability. I don't think all cops are bad, or even most are bad, but it just takes one.
     
  4. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    I can't speak for other states, but Washington as I'm sure like other states have seen a decline in good solid applicants. The so called 'psych' tests are somewhat subjective, in that there is plenty of wiggle room to get people in if need be.

    We are seeing an influx of bleeding heart applicants who feel they deserve entitlements, yet have no or very little life experience. Kids who have had their noses wiped for them, they no nothing of sweat, other then the P.E. class in school, and tend to text 3-5,000 times a month...in short, very naive.

    Some state instructors had to attend a 'Millennium Child' seminar, to understand the above types of recruits that we are seeing more and more of.

    On the other side of the coin, we have a lot of gulf war vets signing up. Most are top notch, squared away people, but have trained to be a bit more hard core about dealing with people.

    Washington installed a 'Peace Officers Certification' some years ago. Which is similar to having a license to commit LE, which in turn can be revoked leaving the person never being able to be a LEO ever again. So far every state I know of honors this revocation process that WA. State has put in place...more states should follow suit.

    After all I've seen and heard over the years, me thinks they should have a minimum age one must attain to apply to be a LEO...that being about 27 or so.
     
  5. Riot

    Riot Benton County, Washington Well-Known Member

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    You are referring to the Milgram Experiment, but are over stating facts.

    1) There was no "clearly marked fatal range". There was just a shock board with different numbered levels...one "subject" would just claim to have a heart condition and complain about the test.

    2) This study was actually done to present facts that anyone obeying authority figures would follow orders- regardless of their moral implications or personal ethical integrity- if instructed to do so by said authority.

    3) The actual case findings were as follows:
    So stating that "some subject got on such a power trip that they would go into the fatal zone if told to by an authority figure" was straight false in the experiment itself...and even if true, only speaks of the sociopathic nature of the individual- so I fail to see the relevance in this particular topic. If anything I would have referenced the Stanford Prison Experiment as a better example to state that people in authority of others tend to abuse said authority if they are not held accountable for their actions or at the same level of standards they supervise over (meaning that they have to follow strict rules just as much as they are tasked to enforce).

    *edit*

    Just to add to the actual question itself....many departments in the past used to just hire the biggest, meanest mother ****** that they could to help control the streets. Although standards have changed quite considerably in the last ten years, many of the big, bad hot heads are now training officers and supervisors. It will probably take another decade to weed out the people that straight refuse to attempt to actually be any type of "public servant". Mind you, these only make up a small majority of Law Enforcement Officers. Some come just for the power, some for the paycheck, others come to actually help people. Nevertheless, not everyone is cut out for the job or can take the stress with such stride.

    Years on the street dealing with the worst of the worst changes people. Seeing the insides of a child after a car wreck because the mother refused to buy a car seat will change an officer from dealing a verbal warning to just writting the biggest ticket they can to the next person they pull over that doesn't have their kid belted in a car seat.

    You might call him a jerk, but he feels he's doing his job. I, personally, would rather be called a jerk than watch a child get splattered on the road.

    *sigh*

    Most of you reading this won't understand...being an LEO, Firefighter, EMT, Doctor, Nurse, or other public servant is different than any other job. They see people at their worst...not just angry and upset, I mean at their WORST. People undiagnosed with mental dissorders cutting on themselves or others, people so high on drugs they suffocate their own children, people so drunk they run them off the road or put a college in a wheelchair. You think you know how hard it is to do their job, but you have no idea. Unless you actually get sued for TASEing someone, get feces thrown on you by some druggie, get a death threat in the mail by some ex-con and then spat on and called a "pig" by the public in the same day you have NO IDEA what they go through.

    I seriously don't even know why I'm typing this...some of you on this board just read "blah blah blah, you don't know how hard it is, blah blah blah" and go on with your day without a second thought for the men and women that sacrifice their own personal safety, wellbeing, health and family to put on the uniform and catch bad guys.

    http://blutube.policeone.com/Media/2190-Cop-for-a-Day/
     
    CarlMc and (deleted member) like this.
  6. brianjronk

    brianjronk Marysville, WA Active Member

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    The Stanford Prison Experiment was exactly what I was thinking about while reading this thread.
     
  7. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    I spent a small amount of time in the industry and have spent much more time around it from various other angles. I've been held at gunpoint by LEO's (no connection with me no longer being in LE). I've spent a lot of time with LEO's listening to their stories from at least five decades of Law Enforcement. That's my background.

    In my opinion, law enforcement isn't getting worse. Its getting better. The stories I hear about what law enforcement was like in the 60's and 70's make what we see today look tame. I'm certainly not saying that there isn't a crop of bad apples out there today. There is, just like every profession. But we've got much better media coverage these days. Everyone has a camera on their cell phone. We're simply seeing bad behavior better publicized than it has been in the past. And that's a good thing. The more the public knows, the more pressure there will be to remove the bad apples.
     
  8. MA Duce

    MA Duce Central Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for setting the record straight...as i said it was a Looooong time ago. you got my back....thanks.
     
  9. the puma

    the puma Oregon City Active Member

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    My $.02, having never been in the military, but currently a 12+yr cop.

    First issue is relating past military experience to current LE situation. My best friend was in the Air Force for 14 years and vividly remembers basic training. Obviously, it was nothing compared to an infantry based branch of the Armed Forces....I digress. He said those that didn't perform to the expected level, and those that weren't 'good' enough to get their requested MOS would end up as MPs. I don't know if this was just his experience or if it was a widespread phenomenon. He said nobody wanted to be an MP, so the MPs he knew, for the most part, were MPs because they couldn't hack anything else. As he explained, the bar was set pretty low. There were a few that wanted to be MPs, but he said those were the exception. That was a long time ago, so I don't know if that is the case in other branches and if it still happens.

    The second issue is a bit more complex, so I'll try to give the Cliff's Notes. Having worked the streets for over 12 years, I can say with 100% certainty that anyone that has never worked as a police officer (or at least spent many, many days riding along with police) has no idea what it's like to be a police officer. Much of the 'experience' is from actually being a police officer 24/7, not just the 40+ hours a week on the job. Unfortunately, we've all grown up watching all kinds of 'cop' shows, so many people think they know proper tactics and know everything there is to know about police work. This is where the 'public perception' issue gets stick. The general public can be split into three groups: Those that distrust and really don't like the police, those that aren't sure so they look at each issue, and those that just assume the police are usually right.

    The people that distrust and don't like the police will always feel that way. They will make all kinds of goofy arguments to support their position or use very limited personal experience to draw conclusions about the 800,000+ law enforcement officers currently working in the USA. As an example, a good friend of mine from work was shot by a suicidal guy (by a .243, scoped, from about 50 yards away), and a rather notorious local anti-establishment website commenter was livid and said the police instigated the entire incident by knocking on the person's door....there because the guy's g/f called 9-1-1 saying the guy was suicidal. I think these types of people are in the distinct minority, but they are, by far, the most vocal and fervent of the groups.

    The people that look at things on a case by case basis are pretty quiet, however the biggest issue I see is that these people get their information from local media (usually), which is usually very biased and not very accurate. Print and TV media get revenue from advertising, and I know plenty of examples where the local media gives out incomplete, slanted or just plain wrong information, many times creating controversy when none actually existed. I have no doubts that MSM presents news in a way that will intrigue the public in order to increase viewership.

    The people that generally think that the police are usually right are also a minority, but there are more of them than the vitriolic cop haters. This group is usually 'white middle America' who has had limited or no police interaction. These people are very quiet.

    Unfortunately, "public perception" depends largely on the political/sociological makeup of any given area, and in most cases, many people aren't swayed by anything. They pick the news that supports their position and discredit the stories that don't support their position. In my experience, people have an opinion and they stick to it. I know many instances when the local media refused to print stories that we present because it doesn't fit into their scheme of things.

    So, there will always be a public perception issue, so I try to live with it.
     
  10. MEP1000

    MEP1000 Milwaukie Active Member

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    Well said PUMA :thumbup:
     
  11. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

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    I understand there's a lot of that as well, and believe me, I'm sympathetic. Recent events in WA state where officer involved shootings/fights/etc., get a walk for the officer (or close) don't look make the LEO community look good; it certainly appears as if the blue wall matters more and they're protecting their own.

    What, if any effort, has the LEO community done to combat that perception? Learning to live with it is acquiescing, but unless steps are taken to address it, it will only get worse.
     
  12. the puma

    the puma Oregon City Active Member

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    Carl, I'll try to answer your post, albeit in a roundabout way.

    Please understand that I know there are plenty of instances where an officer is just plain wrong, and unfortunately the consequences can mean someone dies at the hand of the police. I didn't follow the events in Seattle (the woodcarver incident), but I did read a few things. The officer wasn't charged IIRC, and I *think* he was protected by state statute, and that the prosecutor said he wanted to charge the officer, but was bound by law and couldn't charge the officer. I also remember something about an officer in the Seattle area who shot a man who was in his Corvette, and that officer was prosecuted.

    Just like the TV show "Law & Order," the police don't prosecute the crimes. The District Attorney prosecutes, and people seem to forget that police are not responsible for charging a person with a crime. The police usually investigate, but the DA's office also has investigators. If the DA decides not to prosecute, that's their decision. In many instances, the local (or National) police union will advocate for it's member, which is what it's there for. I can tell you this is a huge source of misunderstanding. In Portland, for instance, I know of at least 10 officers that were investigated and fired with no protection from our union because it was obvious the officer had no defense. One of those also was convicted and did time.

    There are also instances where the officer may have followed procedure and done everything right , but sometimes there is no accounting for human behavior and the human decision making process, and the end result may be the same. This, IMO, is the typical situation. This is also the biggest gap, and the situation where I think "public perception" is most apparent. Often, there are philosophical differences that just cannot be bridged. There are people that honestly think there is no reason for the police to use deadly force, and there are people that say there is no justification to use deadly force on anyone that doesn't have a firearm. Most people also have no 'force on force' training experience, but use their lifetime of TV watching as their guide.

    Interestingly enough, we hold "citizen academies" from time to time and invite local media (and others) to participate. With very few exceptions, the participants are much quicker to use deadly force when in our scenario training. Those that don't quickly resort to deadly force generally freeze and don't do anything, then comment that they just couldn't process what was happening. Both types of people leave the training with a glimpse into the dynamic reality of dealing with potentially deadly situations.

    Our PIOs (Public Information Officers) constantly give stories to local media, but we can't force any of the outlets to publish or air our stories. They pick and choose, and often add their own spin to them. Also understand that there are over 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country, and thousands of police departments. All are different, yet people seem to treat us all the same. It's tough to address your question because there really is no organized "LEO community" so combating the issue of public perception is handled on a local/micro level.

    Just because I "live with it" doesn't mean I'm giving up. This is why I spend time answering questions like these. I know, however, that there will always be the "public perception" gap no matter how hard we try to address it. This is why I "live with it."
     
  13. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

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    I pretty much had a handle on what you said already, but I appreciate your input on the matter nonetheless. I'd like to think that one could hold LEO's to a higher standard, but unfortunately, it doesn't take many bad applies to call that standard into question, and the media is a serious part of the problem, unfortunately.

    When my kids used to whine about the refs and other players when they played sports, they hated my response: "No matter what anybody else in the world does, YOU still have to be better than that." I was generally referring to sportsmanship, but that applies to all of life.

    Thanks for your time!
     
  14. CEF1959

    CEF1959 Willamette Valley, Oregon New Member

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    Trlsmn is right.