Kudos to Our Police

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Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Use of Force Model from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

On July 7, two Bellingham police officers confronted a homeless man with a knife outside a McDonald's restaurant on Bakerview Rd. You can read the Herald article on this incident here. In many communites in the U.S., that man would now be lying in a morgue, a victim of bad police training and a "shoot first" mentality.  Instead, after some initial success calming the individual, he was hit with bean bags and a taser before being taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation. Charges are pending [against the individual], but the police officers ended their shift without the terrible burden of having killed someone. The infotainment industry had to move to other stories to keep their ratings. Police doing the right thing is not nooze for them.

This is the way it is supposed to work. Our police are trained to de-escalate confrontations by speaking first and using graduated force if at all possible. Having spent almost seven years as a volunteer with the Bellingham Police, I can tell you that our police receive a good deal of training. Moreover, the culture is not them vs. us (public vs. police). The culture I encountered was evident in the everyday conversations I heard in the halls and offices of the police department building where employees let their guard down and I moved freely. The public was not viewed as the enemy.

We need a good police force. I think we have one, but I have not hesitated to voice my concern if I think they are doing things that will undermine the trust they must maintain with the community.  That is why I questioned some aspects of the police response to the so-called "riot" of October 2013.  That is the reason I protested the acquisition of the intrusive and questionably reliable software (Intrado) the department wanted to purchase in 2014.   I have spoken to our police chief about these topics on many occasions and found him open to considering options, although we do not always argree.

Our police have a difficult job given our location, where impoverished and desperate people bounce off the border to the north, land in our city and turn to drugs and pandhandling.  The proximity of several First Nation tribes, a large group of young university students, Hispanic workers, and immigrants from throughout the world can easily produce mis-communication based on cultural or language differences.  By using some form of the Use of Force Model (the one pictured above is used by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) all police agencies can substantially reduce fatal outcomes to armed confrontations.  It works.

Walter Haugen  //  Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 2:31 pm

Careful Dick. You might get flack from law enforcement for this - even though you are on their side! I made a similar much-shorter comment (“at least they didn’t shoot to kill”) after the Herald story and was immediately castigated by TWO people in law enforcement, one from the Sheriff’s Department and one from Homeland Security. They were both quite arrogant and abusive. The gist of their complaint was that they maintained a police officer - or LEO as they call them - will NEVER shoot to kill. This is patently false, but they continued to maintain it anyway. The Homeland Security officer even went so far as to dehumanize by using the pat phrase, “shoot to stop the threat, not shoot to stop the person.” Neither one could see how dehumanizing this is, nor the rationale of dehumanizing a person in order to allow the officer to salve his/her conscience.

The tendency of law enforcement to come down on anyone who does not cower to their arrogant abuse of power and dehumanizing tactics is why law enforcement has an image problem. (And why citizens are succeeding more and more in civil lawsuits!) My pitiful posts are microcosmic in comparison to the damage law enforcement does to themselves every day. It just takes one traffic stop or one stop-and-question to convince a citizen that the police need to have tight checks on their behavior.


Dick Conoboy  //  Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 2:58 pm

Walter,

I sent a link to the article to Chief Cook who responded that he appreciated the personal insight I brought to the article.  I cannot see how any reader of this piece could consider it an attack of any kind on our police department.

I rechecked the Herald article and found only two comments, one of which was from the individual detained who said, “no not good. i was hit with 10 bean bags and hit with 6 tazer gun darts. i was i threat to no one.”  Did they take your comment and the others from the sheriff’s office and Homeland Security down?


Walter Haugen  //  Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 3:26 pm

Dick - I was referring to the earlier incident where someone punched a bike officer and he tased him instead of shooting him, although I did repeat my comment, “At least he didn’t shoot to kill,” in the incident to which you referred in your article. Here is the link to that Herald article on June 22nd. The law enforcement types who took issue with me were Bonnie Giles (Sheriff’s Dept.) and Douglas Lippert (Homeland Security Investigations). + Link

You missed my point. Even when you write an article praising the police for their restraint, you stand a risk of one of them castigating you for not giving them MORE kudos. In other words, they are like bad husbands who need constant reinforcement and will not brook even one incident of a a seeming semi-reproach.

Meanwhile, they keep shooting themselves in the foot on a daily basis and then wonder why the public doesn’t trust them anymore.


Dick Conoboy  //  Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 6:22 pm

Walter, thanks for the attempt to clarify, however, I don’t see any comment from you or the police on the second article from the Herald on 22 June.


Walter Haugen  //  Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 10:19 pm

Dick - I cannot explain it. There are 24 comments. First there is my comment, then 23 comments in reply. I cut and pasted them into MS Word but it ran to 6 pages, so I am not going to subject anyone to a lengthy reply here. My point is that even if you do a column on how the Bellingham Police get it right, you still run the risk of law enforcement coming down on you for not bowing and scraping enough. We need to keep a lid on the police. In the long term, it benefits them too. It is kind of like setting limits for your teenagers so they know the boundaries. Except these teenagers have dangerous weapons on their persons at all times and when they shoot you, they get a vacation - euphemistically called “administrative leave.” As Johnny Cochran said many years ago, “Who is the most powerful person in the justice system? It is not the judge. It is not the prosecutor. It is the policeman. He can take your liberty. He can take your life.”


Dick Conoboy  //  Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 7:44 am

Walter,

The Herald is allowing me to view 5 comments.  Must have something to do with the Facebook interface that I will not use.  That is why I no longer comment on Herald articles. 

I have lived all over the world and in a dozen or so places in the US.  I have seen good and bad police forces.  We have one of the best.  I have never had the slightest feeling that anyone in the Bellingham PD was about to berate me for not scraping and bowing.


Kudos to Our Police

Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Bellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.

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