How "brave" should we expect Peace Officers to be?

How "brave" should we expect Peace Officers to be?

This is a discussion on How "brave" should we expect Peace Officers to be? within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I've been meaning to post something about this disturbing article for a while, but struggled with how to not have it devolve into a police-bashing ...

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Thread: How "brave" should we expect Peace Officers to be?

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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    How "brave" should we expect Peace Officers to be?

    I've been meaning to post something about this disturbing article for a while, but struggled with how to not have it devolve into a police-bashing thread. So, here goes...

    This article states that there is body-cam evidence of a veteran police officer (he was even a trainer for rookies) failing to engage the Las Vegas shooter, due to what can only be called cowardice:

    Las Vegas cop 'terrified with fear' as gunman murdered dozens, body camera footage shows | Fox News

    While it may not be a "pattern," there are unfortunately several instances of similar inaction from police officers during mass shooting events. We have the "coward of Broward," the Pulse nightclub (where officers waited to form a team before entering), and of course the Columbine shooting (where the blame was placed on "procedure"). You get the idea.

    Given that green 18-year old privates in the military are expected to "close with and destroy the enemy" and can face severe punishments under UCMJ (dereliction of duty, cowardice, etc) for failing to do so, I pose the question here:

    How "brave" should we expect our peace officers to be?

    Of course, training can only go so far, and none of us really know how we will react when the bullets are real. That said, there needs to be some expectation of what action is required in such events.

    What disturbs me even more, are the excuses made by some in the policing/training community in the article. Sorry, but cowardice in the face of citizens getting murdered should, at the very least, result in dismissal from service, forfeiture of all pay and benefits (including pension), and a lifetime ban on any future uniformed service...IMHO. Possible criminal charges (such as manslaughter) should be on the table as well.

    We have a lot of veteran military and/or police officers here. Thoughts?
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    Let me say up front that I am a big LE supporter and I think most of them are real, everyday heroes that deserve our respect and cooperation.

    "Brave" is a pretty relative term. LE is not even in the top ten of most dangerous jobs. It comes in around 15th or 16th. So let's reframe the question: Should loggers (the most dangerous job) stay away from trees and saws because they lack bravery? Should aircrew stay away from airplanes? Should firemen cower in the face of flames?

    "Sworn" officers have a duty to act in defense of others. SCOTUS has said they can't be held responsible for failing to protect someone, but their oath says they have a duty to try. They have vests, hi-cap pistols, training and backup. If they are not going to be "brave," what good are they? Are they just to give out traffic tickets and trample on our rights while playing it safe? I don't want my tax dollars to support that.

    I say that if a LEO is not going to be brave, and good with his equipment, he should find a new line of work. I'm not saying he should be foolish and throw his life away, but he should be willing to face the fire without hesitation. Too many of his LE forebears have exhibited monumental acts of bravery. A LEO who is not willing to act dishonors them.
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    There is an element of perception that we cannot see in every failure to engage. Police officers are not military, and they did not sign up for war. That being said, there is a certain level of engagement necessary in the performance of duty, but by no means is it necessary for an officer to simply offer himself up as fodder for a shooter. An officer with a handgun engaging a shooter with a rifle at 50+ yards generally speaking is an act of folly. Yes, there will be exceptions, but . . . where do we draw the line on commitment?? I have no answers, but do see the requirement for the question to be asked individually rather than answered in a general this is how it must be done policy statement.
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    I would not expect anyone, LEO, servicemember, etc., to make a foolhardy, suicidal attempt to engage anyone. Another life recklessly lost gains nothing.

    Having said that, I do not consider an LEO taking on a shooter armed with an AR/AK as necessarily foolhardy. Admittedly not the optimum scenario, but it has long been shown that these shooters most often stop their attacks when engaged in any manner. But I don't think anyone expects the first LEO on scene to engage in a standing shootout on Main Street at high noon.

    Standing by and waiting for the cavalry to arrive is not an option anymore. Those who take an oath to protect and serve but feel they could not engage without backup may wish to consider another career.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10thmtn View Post
    I've been meaning to post something about this disturbing article for a while, but struggled with how to not have it devolve into a police-bashing thread. So, here goes...

    This article states that there is body-cam evidence of a veteran police officer (he was even a trainer for rookies) failing to engage the Las Vegas shooter, due to what can only be called cowardice:

    Las Vegas cop 'terrified with fear' as gunman murdered dozens, body camera footage shows | Fox News

    While it may not be a "pattern," there are unfortunately several instances of similar inaction from police officers during mass shooting events. We have the "coward of Broward," the Pulse nightclub (where officers waited to form a team before entering), and of course the Columbine shooting (where the blame was placed on "procedure"). You get the idea.

    Given that green 18-year old privates in the military are expected to "close with and destroy the enemy" and can face severe punishments under UCMJ (dereliction of duty, cowardice, etc) for failing to do so, I pose the question here:

    How "brave" should we expect our peace officers to be?

    Of course, training can only go so far, and none of us really know how we will react when the bullets are real. That said, there needs to be some expectation of what action is required in such events.

    What disturbs me even more, are the excuses made by some in the policing/training community in the article. Sorry, but cowardice in the face of citizens getting murdered should, at the very least, result in dismissal from service, forfeiture of all pay and benefits (including pension), and a lifetime ban on any future uniformed service...IMHO. Possible criminal charges (such as manslaughter) should be on the table as well.

    We have a lot of veteran military and/or police officers here. Thoughts?

    If given due process, and there is a hearing and the individuals are found to guilty of cowardice than thats one thing. Trial by social justice warriors and opinion should never be an option. However, if one is rather unconsciously incompetent then that actually rests on the department. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of departments are still teaching to wait for other officers to show up before you go in. That could be a training issue, and rests more with the department.

    Now there is a final side to this that is very applicable, no matter what department policy is if kids are dieng in school, officer should have the common sense to go directly at the threat no matter what and put his body in front of the kids to stop to provide extra moments for back up to arrive possible sacrificing his/her own life. That is a hard pill for anyone to swallow. However, I do believe that in todays job is necessary. These incidents need to be treated more like a near amubush in which they need go right in and directly engage. Every time the gun of the shooter goes off that is another child loosing their life.

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    Personally, I believe that most instances of "cowardice" involving LEOs are actually issues of poor hiring standards and poor training.

    I have personally known two officers who, IMO needlessly died in the line of duty because of those two factors. Neither, IMO had the temperament or training to make good decisions necessary when their moments of truth arrived.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob99VMI04 View Post
    If given due process, and there is a hearing and the individuals are found to guilty of cowardice than thats one thing. Trial by social justice warriors and opinion should never be an option. However, if one is rather unconsciously incompetent then that actually rests on the department. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of departments are still teaching to wait for other officers to show up before you go in. That could be a training issue, and rests more with the department.

    Now there is a final side to this that is very applicable, no matter what department policy is if kids are dieng in school, officer should have the common sense to go directly at the threat no matter what and put his body in front of the kids to stop to provide extra moments for back up to arrive possible sacrificing his/her own life. That is a hard pill for anyone to swallow. However, I do believe that in todays job is necessary. These incidents need to be treated more like a near amubush in which they need go right in and directly engage. Every time the gun of the shooter goes off that is another child loosing their life.
    I agree that due process is important. I wish that were happening when officers are apparently not performing their duties. All too often they retire with pay, resign and end up in another department, etc. Seldom, absent huge media pushes, are they prosecuted or stripped of their POST certification. Until that happens people's perception, which is growing, that all too many in the US are above the law will continue.
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    Yes. What @OldVet said.

    This is a difficult and extremely complicated question. I will say that, based on my observations, it is an individual question that can only be answered by anyone who ever faces such a situation. There are also issues of, for want of a better word, venue.

    Some individuals seem not to even notice the danger until it affects a critical, subconscious part of their being. For instance, some become hesitant to take the risk in vertical rescue situations involving great heights. Others are not intimidated by fire. Others are not concerned by swift-flowing water. Still other are not concerned about whizzing bullets. Not being concerned about one threat does not mean one will not be concerned by another.

    But maybe all that is not really the crux of the issue. I had a Hospice patient who was a Medal of Honor recipient in Korea. Though wounded, he had almost singlehandedly beaten back an assault and pulled his wounded comrades to safety. He told me it was the oddest experience of his life. He did not think he had done anything out of the ordinary. As best he remembered he was terrified, but at the same time there was something inside that kept him calm and focused on what had to be done. He said he felt himself, "Moving almost as if in slow motion, like I wasn't really there." He said he had no fear of losing his own life at the time, only later as others told him what they had watched him do and as he thought of his family, did the fear catch up with him. Under no amount of encouragement did he ever admit to being a hero.

    That kind of person will react to a different threat in a completely different way on another day. But ideally, if we could bottle whatever it is that makes a man or woman almost "superhuman" when the need arises, we would have a solution for everyone. And then we wouldn't need to scratch our heads and wonder why some do the extraordinary, while others do the unbelievable.

    I do think training can make a huge difference in how officers react in critical situations. I may post about the conversations my friend, who was a Navy SEAL, and I had about a similar subject, but I need to condense and arrange it in my head first.
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    That's a tough question. It seems clear that a police officer has a duty to risk his life in defense of the public, under some circumstances. But, they're not military, they're civilians, and they're not prepared by their departments to "close with and destroy the enemy," in tactics, equipment, experience, legal protection or mindset. Frankly, I don't know if the people would accept police departments that were prepared so. The military can be military, they do their work elsewhere. There are something like a million sworn officers in the US, and if we got to the point where even half of them were aggressive enough for a really heavy situation, it would bring a host of other problems with it.

    I hear you, but I think it's a big ask to expect cops to be Marines.
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    Quote Originally Posted by maxwell97 View Post
    That's a tough question. It seems clear that a police officer has a duty to risk his life in defense of the public, under some circumstances. But, they're not military, they're civilians, and they're not prepared by their departments to "close with and destroy the enemy," in tactics, equipment, experience, legal protection or mindset. Frankly, I don't know if the people would accept police departments that were prepared so. The military can be military, they do their work elsewhere. There are something like a million sworn officers in the US, and if we got to the point where even half of them were aggressive enough for a really heavy situation, it would bring a host of other problems with it.

    I hear you, but I think it's a big ask to expect cops to be Marines.
    Funny, the defense of inaction is often that they are civilians and not Marines. Problem is they keep telling us that they re NOT civilians and that we all who are not POST-certified are civilians. They need to get their heads and stories straight. Are they civilians or not? Again, all too often we see privileges afforded to sworn peace officers that are neither lawful nor appropriate and most are more than happy to take them. When pressed on issues where they failed to fulfill their oaths the responses vary but essentially come to nothing meaningful.

    One Caveat, I provide pro bono training to my local Sheriffs office quarterly and have for nearly a decade on topics on which I am an expert. I support my local Sheriff because I have seen the department be honorable and therefore am happy as a citizen to support them. My local municipal department does not get any support from me because they a) already know everything and b) are never wrong. They therefore neither need nor deserve my help. The take away for me is that they are all humans and citizens and we must treat them as both.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob99VMI04 View Post
    If given due process, and there is a hearing and the individuals are found to guilty of cowardice than thats one thing. Trial by social justice warriors and opinion should never be an option. However, if one is rather unconsciously incompetent then that actually rests on the department.
    One issue that has always bothered me is "out of the arena" judgments. Asking a jury of "peers" to consider the issue of which decision was ultimately right or wrong is one thing. To ask a jury whose members have never faced life or death situations is quite another. I even see it on gun boards. We examine a video of a situation and pass judgment on someone. I have been present at a number of situations when the bullets flew and my perception, even having been standing next to an officer, was completely different from theirs. In at least one situation, had I had a weapon, it would have been drawn and fired sooner than the officers actually did. It is remarkable how little time one has to determine how to respond in real life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldChap View Post
    One issue that has always bothered me is "out of the arena" judgments. Asking a jury of "peers" to consider the issue of which decision was ultimately right or wrong is one thing. To ask a jury whose members have never faced life or death situations is quite another. I even see it on gun boards. We examine a video of a situation and pass judgment on someone. I have been present at a number of situations when the bullets flew and my perception, even having been standing next to an officer, was completely different from theirs. In at least one situation, had I had a weapon, it would have been drawn and fired sooner than the officers actually did. It is remarkable how little time one has to determine how to respond in real life.
    I understand split second decisions. How was the officer in FL standing outside the school for 4 minutes hiding behind a pillar in that category? How about his Captain when she failed to act for nearly 10 minutes and was not in direct harm nor would she have made the entrance into the school in that category? How long did the officer in Las Vegas stand in fear at the door without acting? Second guessing split second decisions is always fraught with huge challenges and you are right all too many make cavalier statements and assertions. IN the OP's post the questions focused on the Las Vegas officers inaction. I think that is the context in which we should place our thoughts and answers.
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    @PPS1980 I agree. Some actions are quite easy to judge after-the-fact, such as Las Vegas, or Parkland. My point being that those situations don't require a jury decision. They are clear cut. Other situations, not so much. And one problem we have is applying broad brush solutions to every problem. That approach simply won't work in the huge majority of situations officers face, and are called into question about, every day.

    Seemingly what we need, is police officers who are selected and trained to the level of fierceness and precision of execution of elite special forces, with the gentleness and kindness of a pastor, and the wisdom of Solomon. If we only needed two or three thousand officers like that for the whole of America, we'd be in business.

    And no, I have no wish to cover over the inaction in clear-cut cases such as the OP described. In fact, I have often stated that officers who act thus should be stripped of the authority given them and seek employment elsewhere.
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    Although people always talk about how LEO's risk their lives daily to protect citizens, the reality is that most will never have to muster up the courage to put themselves in a situation like this. Yes there are 18 year old privates who see combat, but not all are as courageous as you hope they would be. Its also a little bit of a different situation. Being at a school where you have the option of staying outside where you are relatively safe is much different from being in a firefight in Fallujah where you are there whether you want to be or not, and the only way to survive is to win the fight.

    Id be curious to see if there is a psychological difference between deciding to intervene with a mass murderer, vs someone like an armed robber who shot the cashier at the convenience store that he robbed.

    SCOTUS has already ruled that LEO's have no obligation to protect citizens, so Im not really sure how much you can hold them accountable, regardless of how much you may want to. I dont think they should ever be able to serve in any sort of public safety role again though.
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    I have witnessed a man who was an excellent athlete for four years on an athletic scholarship in college and excelled in every military training situation fail miserably under duress. I have witnessed a man who barely made it through training perform admirably under duress. Nobody knows how they will perform until their "come to Jesus" moment occurs. There is no guarantee they will react the same way the next time. Training helps, but is no guarantee of performance.
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