When I was a patrol sergeant, one of my officers
received a call for a "mental case" in the middle of
the street attacking passing motorists. The primary
officer and two back-up officers arrived
simultaneously, and they observed a woman, of
considerable size, rushing up to passing cars and
pounding her fists against the vehicles.
When the officers approached her, she grabbed one
of the officers by the lapels of his coat, and she
literally threw him across the hood of his police car.
When I arrived seconds later, I saw the woman
surrounded by the three officers. The officers were
not hitting her with sticks or making any attempt to
grab her. Instead, every time she'd lunge at one of
the officers, he'd move and another officer would
attract her attention. It was quite a sight watching
the officers duck and weave as the woman
repeatedly tried to grab onto them.
What was immediately obvious to me, as well as to
the officers, was that she was tiring. Almost as
quickly as it began, the street dance ended when
the woman collapsed onto the pavement. The
officers rushed in and quickly handcuffed her. While
it was not apparent that the woman was in any
physiological distress, she was immediately
transported to the hospital for an emergency
Sadly, the woman died on the way to the hospital.
The autopsy would reveal her cause of death to be
cocaine intoxication. Incredibly, the level of cocaine
was so high that it should have precluded exertion
of any physical activity let alone attacking cars and
police officers. According to the medical, her fate
was sealed before she went on her rampage.
One can only imagine the criticism and assumptions
which would have been immediately leveled at the
officers had they struck or otherwise applied the
force necessary to put that wild woman down. In
this particular case, she was unarmed, contained,
and she was no threat to others or to the officers
as long as they kept out of her way. Some men
might think it embarrassing to have a woman chase
them in circles in front of an audience. In this case,
one member of the audience was appreciative of the
officers' actions. One of the motorists who was
attacked approached me, and he complimented the
officers for the restraint they showed -- especially
following the assault on the first officer.
Today, police officers are being watched closer than
ever before. You should never let this fact prevent
you from applying force when necessary to protect
yourself or others; however, you should remain
mindful of the responsibilities you assume when you
Police departments have been placed in a pretty
tight spot. The Top Cops are only top cops
because of their political connections, and the
politicians they work for are super sensitive to bad
press. When it comes to money, it's always easier
to settle litigation with other people's money -- in
this case the taxpayers' -- and move on.
Now, you might think that as long as you follow
your departmental guidelines for use of force, you'll
be okay. In most instances, you'll be correct in that
assumption. However, many factors, or questions,
can come into play anytime force is used. Some of
these questions could include: Who is the person
upon which the force was exerted? Can your use of
force be placed into a politically correct context?
Does your past record regarding frequency of your
use of force make you more vulnerable to
exaggeration and embellishment? Of course, there
will be some reasonable standards applied as well.
While any use of force should be viewed solely in
relation to reasonable standards, you'll learn that,
when it comes to police officers, reasonable
standards are okay as long as there are not more
pressing social or political circumstances present.
When you use physical force, you'll potentially face
two groups of critics. The first group is comprised
of people who have never been in a fight since
grade school...if then. They'll view themselves as
intellectually superior, and they'll boast their
educational achievements as evidence of that
superiority. The second group will be comprised of
the less achievement oriented segment of
society...sometimes referred to as criminals. The
second group will often display their underestimated
intelligence by their clever and total manipulation of
the first group.
When you use force, your department will have a
process to review the appropriateness of your
actions. The level of the force used, and its
outcome will determine the extent of the review.
The use of deadly force will obviously receive the
most extensive and rigorous review as it should.
Whatever level of force you use, you may well be
subjected to review by people who have very little
understanding of force and its application. Today,
there are quite a few police officers in supervisory
and command positions who possess very little, if
any, personal experience in applying force. Some,
outside of training, have never put handcuffs on a
Not to worry. You have the ability to use your brain
when it comes to your decision to use force:
Your decision to use force should always be based
on the reasonable need for force, and your
reasoned consideration of the effect on the person
who is the recipient of the force. However, as you
begin your police career, you have more to consider
than previous generations of police officers.
You should always attempt to resolve situations
without the use of force, but you'll soon learn that
a lot of people have no appreciation for your conflict
resolution skills. If you do become a police officer,
get use to the fact that you will, on occasion, be
required to exercise physical force to make people
comply with the laws you're sworn to enforce.
No matter how much training you receive, you must
remember that everybody else, no matter what
their profession; occupation, or life experience may
be, will have a better understanding of your job
than you do. When it comes to a police officer's
use of force, the experts will come out of the
...media and litigation
Use of force by police officers is, and should be, a
serious concern of citizens in any free society.
Today, that concern, or I should say...interest, has
been increased dramatically through media and
More than ever before, the "experts" have
tremendous support from the media and lawyers.
The media's purpose is news and ratings, and the
lawyers...well, money...what else?
"You should always attempt to resolve
situations without the use of force, but you'll
soon learn that a lot of people have no
appreciation for your conflict resolution skills."
~ Barry M. Baker
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker