6 posts / 0 new
Last post
mosul's picture
Police Violence in America

The BBC radio programme 'Inquiry" had an episode this week called "Why do U.S. cops keep killing unarmed black men?"

Please do not respond to that question, at least not until you have listened to the whole programe.

The reason I post it here is that at around the 14min mark a Professor called Seth Stoughton is introduced. According to his studies Police Dept training programs in the US have on average only 8 hours of conflict resoloution training, as opposed to an average of 60 hours of deadly force training and over 60 hours of slef defence training.

Prof Stoughtons point is that being a police officer is a highly stressful occupation and when people are stressed they fall back on their training. If their training is biased to react with force, deadly or otherwise, then we should not be overly surprised when they do.

The sad facts are that in 2014 police across America shot and killed 1114 people, of whom over 600 were un-armed, which is different to innocent. In the same year less than 70 police officers were killed 'feloniously' (according to FBI figures) which apparently includes deaths in car crashes during pursuit.

Surely what is true for them is true for us. More so as we do not have the luxury of calling for back up when it looks like it is going wrong. As I have heard Iain ask in the past, does our training include enough de-escalation and are we prepared for the deep pyschological trauma of inflicting violence on another human being?

That being a police officer is a difficult and dangeous job is not in question. What is in question is a training syllabus that in trying to, rightly, protect the officers puts the public in danger. My point for this forum is that this may have implications for civilian self protection training. i.e. if I had spent more time on my conflict resoution trainging rather than my roundhouse I might not have put that guy in a wheelchair.

Stevenson's picture

What an excellent post. It poses really good questions.

A question Rory Miller likes to ask those who critise what someone does in a stressful situation - 'What would you have done?'. And more generally when people criticise "What would you do?" It is easy to criticise, not so easy to think of better alternatives.

I don't know if this was posted here but here is a black preacher, one of the most outspoken critics of the police, undergoing scenario training:

However, this does not really address your central point: what kind of training do you want police to fall back on? What kind training should we fall back on?

In our case, we surely have enough skills at conflict resolution in the normal course of our lives - even if it is try and pacify a recalcitrant teenage daughter. What should be part of training is to know when is the right time to be physical - always a last resort - but in terms of self-defense when it is clear a confrontation is going to become physical and there is no way out. That's when the stakes are highest. All the other training is largely for the fun of it - it's interesting and enjoyable. It may be realistic in one sense, but in another very unlikely to be required.

But we aren't just looking at conflict resolution - we also look at protection against predation. That is where some is looking to take something from you and is most relevant for women. Sometimes conflict seeks you out, and some training can dramtically improve your chances of making it out.

My big thing in studying martial arts is context. What context am I likely to find myself in where physical action is required? For me personally, I suspect it will be intervention. For a young man I suspect it will be monkey dance type confrontation. For a woman it will most likely be predatory violence (mugging, sexual assault etc). So with this in mind, I think about that when training. Restraint techniques I concentrate pretty hard on, because it's the most likely use of force me - but I need to be able to strike in case things go wrong.

And, we need to learn all techniques in order to be able to pass them on - we have responsibility to the art to do that. If we only look at grappling, striking will die out, and vice versa. So even if your mind set and context is for intervening, you should be able to show someone who is likely to encounter a roundhouse what to do about it.

Finally, another quote from Rory Miller: "If you are good person, you will generally make the right choices". What he means by that, is if you are not looking to show anyone who's boss, if physical violence is really your last resort, if you are not wanting to teach anyone a lesson, you don't want to harm anyone unless you have to, then you should have confidence that should the time come you will choose the right course of action. I think if your context is likely to be descalation, for example, you are prison officer, a teacher, a bouncer, or even police officer then yes you should also work at your de-escaltion skills - as well.

mosul's picture

Thanks for your reply. Great clip.

I feel it under-scores my central point, if you only have a hammer... They have given the Pastor one answer, a gun, and then put him in a stressful situation. Fox might have developed their argument by then showing how a TRAINED police officer resolved all three situations without anyone getting shot. This appears to attempt to justify that experienced and trained officers react in the same way as scared members of the public. It also rather horrifyingly seems to lack another officer being appalled / amused at the lack of professionalism that led to a member of the public being "shot". 

This clip also underlines another key point that the Prof makes about police training. The conflict resolution is almost entirely delivered to seated officers in a classroom environment. As opposed to the scenario based training, very well demonstrated here, that they recieve for force response. Which again comes back to our training methods, do we talk about avoidance strategies and then hand out the sparing mits?

I totally agree about context. Makes gradings a bit of a bugger though!

I also commend you on raising the issue of 'the art' as seperate from its practical, context based application. I remember being told that a black belt simply meant that you had learned enough to start asking questions, not that you had all the answers.

mosul's picture

Sorry forgot to add

The last Rory Miller quote is true as far as it goes. I am sure that the Pastor would find a que of people willing to testify that he is a good person, probably including the officers he met that day and even the Fox journalists. But his 'training' that day; "heres your weapon" left him only limited responses. Good people will make bad judgements if they do not have options available.

I also believe that 99.99999% of police officers enter the job for good reasons and are honourable and decent people. I suppose what I am really driving at here is that the vast majority of us good people will, hopefully, hever have to use our contact skills. Police officers are good people who will daily find themselves in a bad situation, their training will dictate their response and we ought to learn from the sad statistics above; ensuring that our training protects not only our students but the drunks, the con-artists and the overly-amarous they will meet in stressful situations. 

Self Protection teachers have a duty of care to the wider public to ensure their students have a full toolkit, and students have a responsibility to select the right tool for the job.  

Stevenson's picture

Good people will make bad judgements if they do not have options available.

Ah ha! I did not say "judgements" I said "choices". Or rather Rory Miller did. Purely from a moral point of view, you can say that a 'good' person not looking to take something violently, or impose their status on someone, when faced with a confrontation will do all the things that are reasonable and lawful (if not necessarily effective).

It doesn't address your point about whether police officers should be given training to deal with confrontations more effecitively, but it does speak to your point as a martial artist and whether your training should involve deeper levels of deescalation. The duty of a police officer is that he HAS to be involved in the confrontation, that's his job. He has to go towards trouble, whereas we just need to be able to identify it and avoid it. The only issue is if we feel that the context we are most likely going to face is some sort of intervention - if that's the case (as it is for me) - then yes, I think extra training or focussing your training around that context is important. I've sought to do that.

The other point, and I have spoken to Rory personally about this, is that in the US, people are commonly armed. So the police automatically presume someone is armed by default. I can't help but feel that you have a strong point that training should include better more senstive handling of suspects they are attempting to arrest, but a general rule is, if a cop is trying to arrest you, and he is worried you might be armed, to exactly WTF he tells you to do. Don't argue, don't shout, don't look agressive, don't scare him. He is trying to get control of the situation and he doesn't know what other dangers there might be. He has shown us video that rather horrifically underlines this point.

I agree, self-protection, a subtley different form of self-defense, should include understanding context, appropirate responses, and some scenario training. Unfortunately, those who most need it often find it the most daunting and uncomfortable.

Matt Baran
Matt Baran's picture

1.  In response to your main point - that self-defense training should include de-escalation practice - I agree completely.  However, I think there's a difference between skills in a classroom and skills in scenario learning.  I think what Stevenson said about "we surely have enough skills at conflict resolution in the normal course of our lives..." applies to classroom learning.  We already know how to talk to people, we know what makes us angry, we know how to influence a situation, etc.  What we need to practice is assessing situations in real-time and making effective de-escalation decisions in a matter of seconds, while maintaining the awareness to go physical if we have to.  This would be the essence of good scenario training.

2. In response to the idea that the ratio of deadly force training to "conflict resolution" training impacts the amount of deadly force used in the field; I think this argument ignores an important difference between police training and martial arts training.  Martial artists train day in and day out in case we ever face violent conflict, at which point we hope our training will come through and give us an edge in successfully navigating a stressful situation.  Police train at the academy and in refresher courses, then spend eight hours a day, every day, dealing with violent conflict as their job.  Since police actually go out in the field and experience conflict resolution daily, I think their experience and the culture of their department will influence decisions far more than the original training.

3.  In response to mosul's comments "...showing how a TRAINED police officer resolved all three situations without anyone getting shot..." and " The conflict resolution is almost entirely delivered to seated officers in a classroom environment. As opposed to the scenario based training, very well demonstrated here, that they recieve for force response."  I interpreted the video quite differently.  In each scenario, I saw the low levels of the force continuum (presence, verbal commands) attempted and failed, and a rapid escalation by the suspect into the highest levels force.  This means that de-escalation was on the table as a solution, but the situation did not allow the time or circumstances for successful de-escalation even for a trained officer.  These scenarios appear to have been designed to demonstrate to the pastor that not all situations can be de-escalated and resolved without physical force.  Presumably, the police would also practice scenarios where the suspect complies with commands and submits to arrest, search, questioning, etc.


P.S. The link to the referenced BBC show: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02r6snh