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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“Why” our badge is so heavy

I recently went with the girlfriend over to a social gathering of non law enforcement party go-er’s.  These were long time friends and co-workers of her’s.  Knowing that my girlfriend has no clue what it is like to wear a badge, it was completely foreign to her “why” I made my introductions to her friends slowly and methodically.  At one point she even accused me of “standing like a cop.”  When I asked her what that meant, she said, “I don’t know but you just look scary.” 

I took an evaluation of myself and the way I was standing and I had to really think about it.  I was standing in the corner, so nobody could be behind me (Officer safety first), my arms were folded width wise in front of me resting on my stomach and I was sizing up the party go-ers in the crowd.  Looking at and evaluating everyone.  Checking tattoo’s, clothing, bulges, intoxication levels, etc..etc..  I sized up what I was wearing; blue jeans, athletic t-shirt, running shoes, work watch on wrist, cleanly shaven…you know, the poster child for a Police Officer off duty. 

“Why do you stand like that?”, the girlfriend fires off.  So I took the time to explain to her all the reasons I had for being a social stand-off.  So I started with the lack of knowledge of the group of people at this particular event and the implications/repercussions for me as a Law Enforcement Officer.  She of course advised me that “they are not druggies.”, in which I replied, “Would you bet my job on it?”  I had to explain to her that not knowing these people had serious potential to become a huge problem for me.  It’s not as if we are in public place where I have no control over certain possessions and my involvement around those possessions.  No, this was someone’s house that while, not intimately known, my girlfriend is well versed with and associates.  Can you imagine trying to explain to your supervisors why you were at a party where illegal substances were being used?  Not saying that was the case in this instance, and in-fact I can say there wasn’t, however, the scenario is a real potential.

The freedom and liberties of the average person that is not a Law Enforcement Officer is the ability to remain gullible.  Our training and experience makes it so we have no valid excuse.  Imagine your Lieutenant asking you, “So why were you hanging out with a wanted felon?”  I guess you can play the, “I didn’t know he was.”, but how far is that going to get you?  Days off maybe?  Internal Affairs investigation?  Fired?  Bad reputation?

Normal social conforms for an Officer is so much greater than the average person.  There is so much risk and responsibility involved.  If someone is smoking marijuana, you can’t stay.  Why would you?  As a person growing in this day and age, marijuana is perceived as a little above a cigarette.  It’s “no big deal” to most people now.  But something as minor as a “no big deal” to them, can cost you your livelihood.

Now take all of your fears and worries aside and say no one has or is doing anything illegal.  Do you tell them you are a “Cop?” If you don’t, give your girlfriend a glass of wine and she will.  Even after telling her NOT to say anything.  Now once that information has been let out, there’s no way to put that cat back into the bag.  “My brother got a speeding ticket. Can you write off tickets for me?”  “Most cops I know are assholes.”  “Did you ever break the law?” – The questions just keep coming.  It’s funny, a show that debuted in 1952 still has a clip that carries the same weight to social events today.  Ever watched that infamous Joe Friday clip “What it means to be a cop?”  That clip hits home to this very day.  But the average person doesn’t realize it.  If you haven’t seen it, I advise you to youtube it.  Joe kills it.  There is a reason L.A.P.D. buried that man with full honors.

Now you take all these awkward social missteps that Law Enforcement have to navigate in their home life, then you add it to the stress of having to deal with the on the job stress of knowing and retaining thousands of laws, policies, case laws, etc..etc., it’s enough to drive anyone to insanity.  Well anyone except the hundreds of thousands of us that are doing it every single day for a low-adequate pay with decent benefits.  So the next time you run into a “Cop” at a party, do him/her a favor and talk about something interesting besides his/her job. – Thanks..

Stay safe all.. and when a Police Officer tells you something, please listen and do it.  They don’t know you or your intentions.

– Frank Three

https://youtu.be/IMc3RS_afSE
Joe Friday Clip

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