Use Of Force Experts

Ain't we lucky?


We have an abundance of use of force experts in this country. People who have never had even one minute of formal training on use of force, much less faced an armed assailant, have no problem passing judgment on what actions police should have taken in any given situation. These "experts" never let a lack of information or knowledge regarding the facts of a case get in the way of an opinion. Leading the league in this category are journalists and politicians.


Print journalists realize that juicy headlines sell newspapers and get clicks on a website, just as broadcast journalists know that slanted inflammatory viewpoints are key to job security through higher ratings. Politicians feed off this chum line and react accordingly, willing to throw anyone under the bus to appease those who will inevitably protest even though protestors, too, are equally lacking in knowledge or information. Acts of destruction and mayhem replace rule of law and due process, with those destroying a city often not even from the locale they ruin. I'm still puzzled how smashing the window of a liquor store and stealing booze equates to justice, or how compensation is gained through burglarizing a department store for a new pair of athletic shoes or a flat screen television.


Just as baseball uses RBIs (runs batted in) as an indicator of a player's capabilities with runners in scoring position, journalists and politicians bat around an identical acronym as a barometer of success: race baiting innuendos. Nothing sells viewership or copy, or garners votes, better than a nice big plate of defamation based on nothing more than conjecture. Rule Number One in journalism and politics when dealing with use of force issues: All law enforcement officers are racist and all police uses of force are based on race. If the officer is the same race as the suspect, refer to Rule Two: Policing is a racist institution, therefore, all cops are racist (back to Rule One).


Difficult to believe, but there are journalists and politicians who preach that policing evolved from 18th & 19th century slave patrols, and that current day law enforcement is based on practices implemented over two hundred years ago in the southern states. As if, in the thousands of years of history of man enslaving man on every continent throughout every civilization, no Greek, Roman or African slave owner ever pursued an escaped slave. Everything I've ever studied about our system of justice held that it was based on the Magna Carta and English common law, and that those principles, in turn, were the foundation for law enforcement agencies formed in the 19th century in places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia (cities, coincidentally, not located in southern states). Those prelusive organizations were based somewhat on Sir Robert Peel's police model that introduced bobbies to the streets of London in the 1820's.


Never let facts get in the way of a good story, or, in this case, a ridiculous assertion.


Here's what untrained use of force "experts" do not know: Police officers in this country are incredibly well-trained in use of force continuum, policy, techniques, and acceptable versus unacceptable actions, reactions and inactions. These practices are based on decades of experience garnered through confrontations with violent criminals who have murdered and attempted to murder law enforcement officers, and other incidents where suspects have claimed to be armed and through their behavior initiated responses from law enforcement which resulted in use of force.


Journalists showing a thirty second clip of officers using force on someone, without concern for any other available information, and particularly with no concern for what occurred in the moments prior to the use of force, are not only intentionally inflaming a situation, they are doing so to support the usual narrative of racist policing. And politicians, always on the lookout for votes, are quick to jump on the bandwagon.


Cops make mistakes and every once in a while there is going to be a use of force that is questionable, especially in situations where life and death decisions must be made in the blink of an eye. That is inevitable. But drawing conclusions without facts, and in particular race baiting for the sake of monetary gain, is unacceptable. Just as journalists and politicians call for law enforcement reform, so too should they impart the same scrutiny to their professions.

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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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