Showing restraint in judgment

Showing restraint is an integral part of being a Law Enforcement Officer.  Not only physical and emotional restraint, but judgment as well.

Our job is hard enough.  We are evaluated and judged on the split second decision we make.  Sometimes instinctive, sometimes reactive, sometimes malicious.  One thing you can guarantee, it will always be judged.  Whether that is by your peers or by a court of law.

The one thing where I feel we should show more restraint is when we pre-judge our peers is when it comes to an open investigation and when we do not have all the facts.

Being prejudice without all the facts is dangerous.  It invokes presumed emotions.

As Officers we have a duty to not be prejudice as it could affect our judgement.  It’s not supposed to matter if a convict had done it before.  It only adds to your case when it’s coupled with other facts to prove that he is guilty, or enough probable cause exists for the arrest.  But that’s not always what occurs is it?

It appears we didn’t learn much from Wilson vs Brown.  Here we are again basing our thoughts and outcomes without all the facts.  Well if you don’t already know, I am referring to Slager vs White.

Right now as I write this article a portion of the black community is near militant.  They are divided amongst racial lines that were wrongfully drawn between Law Enforcement and the community.  People are so emotionally committed and charged by this that they are driven from their normal routine lives to make their opinions heard.  Their opinions are not fact based but biased to prove that not only is Law Enforcement targeting black citizens, but circumvent our court system by demanding swift justice.  They and some of you have already judged this Officer.  You may be right, who knows.  I guess it is a 50/50 guess, right?

Topics like, “Good shoot vs Bad shoot” riddles Facebook and the Law Enforcement community.  We need to get away from that.

I get it, you want to talk about it, sure.  Talk about it.  Topics like, “What dropped on the ground in the video?”, “Is this the only video?”, “How many seconds between him being engaged with the Officer and the first shot?”, should be what we are discussing.  What if this was the 3rd time this person had engaged this Officer in a fist fight only to run and retreat and then reengage?  I am even ok with comments of, “It looks bad” because I have never seen even a justified shooting “look good.”

What we need to do is show restraint.  An independent agency is investigating this incident and they have already charged the Officer with murder.  Jumping to conclusions is unfair for us to do to a convict and it most certainly still applies to a former Officer who is protected by the same rights.  “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Tell me your thoughts..

– Frank Three

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A Rookie’s Wisdom

I was recently asked to provide some insights from the perspective of a rookie currently enduring the rigors and successes of a California police academy. As such, I will give the obligatory disclaimer that none of my views necessarily reflect those of my department or academy.

Here it goes.

First some background. After working for years in customer service, having gone a small stint in the military, and earned a few college degrees, I decided to follow some good advice and make my way into law enforcement. I didn’t go into it pursuing a lifelong dream or a desire to chase bad guys, guns blazing. I went into it because I am good at talking to strangers, have a profound sense of justice, and  have been told I’d be good at it. I decided to go on a few ride alongs and then I was hooked! After distributing the finer points of my work life and personal history to agency after agency, I was picked up for a corrections job at a local Sheriffs Department while waiting for a patrol position to open up at that same department.

Having gotten my feet wet in corrections for close to a year, I was blessed to be chosen for the academy sponsorship I had applied for. So here I was, about to undergo yet another substantial learning curve and yet finally have a chance to pursue my true career. It was an exciting time!

Then Ferguson happened. Then New York happened. Oh, let me back track a little bit. I am one of a few black recruits in my Academy and should I survive it and FTO, I will be the only black male deputy in my department (that I know of.) That being said, my perspective, much like my mind and body, have undergone some substantial changes in the last several months to a year.

When I was young, my parents taught me to have proper respect for authorities and how to properly conduct myself when dealing with law enforcement. That said, there was always an underlying mistrust there. Add to that, the more generalized or popularized perspective of black LEO’s is overwhelmingly negative, being seen as sellouts or traitors. Though I have had the undoubted support of my parents, this career path was not the first they would have chosen for me. That didn’t stop me however. I wanted to go out and help. I wanted a chance to change the image of black men and of cops in the minds of the public. Then came Ferguson. Then came New York.

The academy alone is tough by design as is FTO. There hasn’t been one week where I haven’t questioned my choice on some level. Questions such as whether I am strong enough, patient enough, young enough (I’m in my mid 30s BTW), or good enough. There hasn’t been one easy week. There hasn’t been a time when I believed this career couldn’t take me away from my family or take my family away from me somehow. There hasn’t been a time since I started the Academy, that the events from out East haven’t made everything more complicated.

All of the above surely begs the question, what then, are my views on said events as a rookie (a pre-rookie really,) who is black? The quotable I suppose would be this:

The mantra “black lives matter” is absolutely true. The underlying implication that “black lives matter more than others,” carried about by rabble rousers and divisive politicians, is absolutely untrue. The more accurate mantra of “all lives matter” is much more preferable in my opinion. Everyone is entitled to a level of respect but no one should ever expect more than they are willing to show to others. This is a lesson I learned long before going into law enforcement but it has been reinforced by seeing what life is like on the other side of the badge.

As a person of color in law enforcement, walking the thin blue line becomes all the more precarious when people try to draw black and white ones on either side. This is exacerbated by  politicians who use the situations mentioned as a political asterisk in their career and a blood thirsty news media desperately looking to inflate their ratings. As a result of this irresponsible behavior, my brothers and sisters of both badge and ethnicity are left feeling disenfranchised by the very same lip service that purports to be looking out for us.

So what am I to do in a nation increasingly hostile to law enforcement? How do I do my part to quell the artificially and unnecessarily stoked fires of racism? I do what I have always done in my life, when an insurmountable challenge is before me.

I carry on, I don’t quit, and I trust God.

This “law enforcement Vietnam” as someone aptly put it, will pass some day. I plan to use this baptism by fire to make me a better officer and member of the community I am working to serve. I plan to prove the haters wrong and change some lives for the better.

– Academy 1 Bravo

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Dealing with it

Have you ever dealt with it?  Some of you may be reading this and may be asking yourself, “What the heck is he talking about?”  Well, I am talking about severe traumatic incidents.

As a Law Enforcement Officer, we deal with sever traumatic incidents routinely and I hate using that word, but it is unfortunately on a routine basis that we have to deal with this stuff.  Now I am not trying to say Law Enforcement is the only one dealing with stuff, but, I would like to share to some of you incidents that have occurred to me throughout my time in Law Enforcement and how it still effects me to this day.

To set this one up I am going to have to travel back a generation.  Unfortunately for me, I am one of those Officers that had several generations worth of Law Enforcement in the family tree.  However, I will only have to go back one to set this up.

My father was an Officer of 30+ years of service.  Well one day back in his patrol days, a mid air collision occurred between two passenger airplanes.  No we are not talking about just a small aircraft, but a small aircraft and a large jetliner.  To make things worse, both of these aircraft fell out of the sky into a housing track near his reporting district (area he worked).  He was one of many first responders that drove into that horrific traumatic incident.  I will contest anyone who would say they did not earn their full yearly paycheck on that day alone.  I won’t go into a lot of the gory details described to me years later after going to him to confide in him for my own traumatic incident, but instead I will tell you my memories of it as a child.

I can remember my mom picking me up from Elementary school and driving us home to have my mother tell me, “Shh.. Your father is sleeping”, as I entered the house.  I used to get so excited coming home from school because I had a really awesome “He-man” play set and it was always the first thing I ran to when going in the house.  My bedroom was adjacent to my parents so I knew I had to be extra quiet if I where going to play in my room.  One of those days I can remember walking into my bedroom and hearing my father screaming next door.  Well it didn’t even sound like screaming now that I think of it but more of ugly growls and snorts while tossing and turning in his bed which lead up to a loud yell.  I heard my mother enter their bedroom and ask my father, “Was it the plane crash again?”  In which my father, who sounded like he just ran a marathon would answer her, “Yes.”  While this didn’t happen daily, I will say it was quite the common event in my childhood and outlasted “He-man”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Saved by the Bell” and ran all the way up until I left the house.

So, now, fast forward many years until later when I became an Officer doing the same job as my father before me.  I was a cocky, arrogant, little cuss.  Not in a real obvious way, but in the way where I thought I could handle anything.  I had a heart of ice and was able to deal with anything.  Gunshot victim with half their arm blown off and all the gruesome little parts barely hanging onto the skin.  Traffic accident victims with brain matter scattered all over the floor while eating an egg breakfast burrito.  I was ok with all of it.  Nothing seemed to bother me, or so I thought..

One event filled day brought me to my knees.  I got a call of a five year old boy who had drowned.  While at that call the young helpless victim was lying there lifeless wearing the same “Sponge Bob Square Pants” t-shirt my five year old was wearing that night I left him to go to work.  It immediately hit me and when I say “it”, I mean that feeling of grief and sorrow that you just cannot hide.  I kicked the door closed behind me where I was at because I didn’t want anyone to see that I had completely lost it.  I kept telling myself, “Get a hold of yourself.  There is time for this **** later.”  After about a minute or two of gathering myself I was able to pull myself together long enough to finish up my day.  The ride home was a completely different story.  I cried the entire way home.  All the calls I had been to.  Everything I have seen.  All flashing up now and just as vivid as the day they occurred.  A gate had been opened and there was no stopping it.  All of those suppressed emotions just bubbled up and bubbled over onto the floor.

There was only two people that came to mind when wondering how to cope with this.  So I went to my father and asked him, “How do you deal with this?”  That was the first time I had ever seen my father’s eyes turn glossy and said, “..because people need you to.  Well I wish I could sit here and write you all of you and say that my father’s advice helped, but it did not.  I understood it, but it did not make it all go away.  Instead I went on in my career “Dealing with it” on the calls, and getting hit by it emotionally after I punched off the clock.

I will say a few years later I did turn to the second person I knew to help me through these times and that has helped tremendously, but perhaps I will save that for another time..

God bless all of you..  Hug your loved ones tight..  To all of our military and first responders out there, stay safe.

– Frank Three

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