The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer


published July 2015
Why cops kill
magazine cover

The ongoing rash of police using deadly force against minority citizens has triggered a search for a universal cause—most commonly identified as racism. Such soul searching is understandable, especially in light of the racist e-mails uncovered in the Ferguson, Mo., police department by the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

To whatever extent prejudice still percolates in the minds of a few cops in a handful of pockets of American society (nothing like 50 years ago), it does not explain the many interactions between white police and minority citizens that unfold without incident every year or the thousands of cases of assaults on police that do not end in police deaths (49,851 in 2013, according to the FBI). What in the brains of cops or citizens leads either group to erupt in violence?

An answer may be found deep inside the brain, where a neural network stitches together three structures into what neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp calls the rage circuit: (1) the periaqueductal gray (it coordinates incoming stimuli and outgoing motor responses); (2) the hypothalamus (it regulates the release of adrenaline and testosterone as related to motivation and emotion); and (3) the amygdala (associated with automatic emotional responses, especially fear, it lights up in response to an angry face; patients with damage to this area have difficultly assessing emotions in others). When Panksepp electrically stimulated the rage circuit of a cat, it leaped toward his head with claws and fangs bared. Humans similarly stimulated reported feeling uncontrollable anger.

The rage circuit is surrounded and modulated by the cerebral cortex, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex, wherein decisions are made about how you should respond to a particular stimulus— whether to act impulsively or show restraint. In her 1998 book Guilty by Reason of Insanity, psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis notes that when a cat’s cortex is surgically detached from the lower areas of its brain, it responds to mildly annoying stimuli with ferocity and violence, not unlike a convicted killer improbably named Lucky, who had lesions between his cortical regions and the rest of his brain. Lewis suspects that Lucky’s lesions were responsible for his savage stabbing of a store clerk.

In healthy brains and under normal circumstances, cortical self-control usually trumps emotional impulses. In certain conditions that call for strong emotions, such as when you feel threatened with bodily injury or death, it is prudent for the rage circuit to override the cortex, as in a case of a woman named Susan described by evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss in his 2005 book The Murderer Next Door. As her cocaine-fueled abusive husband advanced on her with a hunting knife screaming, “Die, bitch!” Susan kneed him in the groin and grabbed the knife. What happened next is what sociologist Randall Collins calls a “forward panic”—an explosion of violence akin to the wartime massacres at Nanking and My Lai and the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. “I stabbed him in the head and I stabbed him in the neck and I stabbed him in the chest and I stabbed him in the stomach,” Susan testified at her murder trial, explaining the 193 stab wounds resulting from her uncontrollable urge to avenge her abuse. Such emotions evolved as an adaptation to threats, especially when there is not time to compute the odds of an outcome. Fear causes us to pull back and retreat from risks. Anger leads us to strike out and defend ourselves against predators or bullies.
A charitable explanation for why cops kill is that certain actions by suspects (running away, or resisting arrest, or reaching into the squad car to grab a gun) may trigger the rage circuit to fire with such intensity as to override all cortical selfcontrol. This may be especially the case if the officer is modified by training and experience to look for danger or biased by racial profiling leading to negative expectations of certain citizens’ behavior.

Future police training should include putting cops in threatening situations and giving them techniques for diffusing the outcome. In their 2011 book Willpower, Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney describe methods for suppressing such impulses. In turn, citizens should remember that cops are working to protect us from threats to our security.

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32 Comments to “Outrageous”

  1. Hans Ditrich Says:

    The brain is certainly involved in all actions (what else). However, reducing overly violent behaviour of cops to a mere brain malfunctioning seems an undue mechanistic simplification. Police officers are not Pawlow’s dogs. Many other factors, esp. organizational culture (militarization) and peer pressures influence policing. The job is clearly “to serve and protect” but the practical training is still more combat shooting and not deescalation strategies. And – one rotten apple can foul the barrel, even if the vast majority of cops does a good job under hard circumstances.

  2. Rock Cowles Says:

    I am shocked and appalled at the heavy irrational liberal bias of this article and the lack of scientific substantiation. Vastly inferior reporting if you must call it that.

    Unsubscribe big time.

  3. Tzindaro Says:

    One factor seldom mentioned is that steroid use is rampant among cops. Most urban cops in America, especially the younger ones, those who are still out on the streets and in contact with the public, are on steroids. They use steroids because they think they need extra muscle in a fight, but they ignore that steroids alsao increase agresiveness and cloud judgement.

    The first thing to do in any case of a cop drawing his gun or striking a suspect, regardless of circumstances, should be to immediately test the cop for steroid use. There is no reasonable objection to doing this, but you can bet the police unions would be strongly opposed to this move.

    And so would the liberals. They want to put the blame on racism, not steroid use by cops. Blaming acism better suits the liberal agenda. So things will go on as they are.

  4. Peter Says:

    Catastrophe theory of years ago taught that to decrease the danger of an attack (by a dog, or a violent person say), you needed to decrease anger and increase fear in the attacker. So training should not only concentrate on tolerance, but emphasise the fear of consequences that will arise if violence is employed.

  5. Bill Morgan Says:

    How can MS so miss the main point of what’s wrong with the Police? Read The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko (2014). We are rapidly becoming a Police State, if we are not already one. Wake up America and smell the coffee!

    Of course the MS defenders will say that the Militarization of the Police is just a conspiracy theory that is not substantiated with facts. Yes, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell to you if you believe this is not happening before our very eyes.

  6. Terry Says:

    Agree with Bill Morgan that Radley Balko’s book describes a very significant factor in the rise of police violence. I cannot recommend it too highly – it will open your eyes. And it will dispel any thoughts you might have that the current Admin is any better than previous administrations since the budgets keep rising. The militarization of the police greatly increases the ‘us vs them’ mentality that makes a toxic police culture.

    This article is directed at the internal workings of individual people, not the culture in which they are working. Human nature has not changed even though police violence seems to have increased (or has it merely been more thoroughly reported?). So while the article is useful, it doesn’t really get at the current societal problem.

  7. Dex Says:

    Tzindaro, there are no studies linking steroid use with levels of increased aggression in the user. ‘Roid rage is an urban myth.

    Those of you suggesting there is a liberal bias to the article may just be suffering from cognitive dissonance. I found it to be even-handed and well researched.

  8. M. Thomas Frederiksen Says:

    While the article is an interesting look into the architecture of the wetware, it doesn’t explain why American police kill so many people. The homicide rate among the general public is 5 per 100,000, while it’s 145 per 100,000 among the police. Why is that? This is also many multiples of the police homicide rate in other countries. Why is that?

  9. Dan Vignau Says:

    One issue is that the police spend time at the firing range and learn to quickly shoot without thinking. There have been several instances discovered in which the perp to shoot is black, but the ones not to shoot are white.

  10. V. Balest Says:

    I found most of the replies highly informative. I had not considered the steroid issue, but it is intriguing. May I share a story with you. I recently was bidding for a golf club on Ebay. After about a day of being the sole bidder within maybe 5 hours of bid closing, another golfer placed a slightly higher bid. The really interesting thing was my instincts and reactions to seeing the threat of this other bidder. I really wanted that putter. I was prepared to do just about whatever it would take monetarily to win that bid. One idea ran through my head– ho dare this guy think he can out bid me on this– I have and am willing to commit the resources that are necessary to win this bid. I nearly crossed over to the side of unreason. just how much was I willing to pay for a used golf club? I did win that bid, but upon reflection I could not but compare my reaction to the militarized policemen, upon perceiving a threat, use the full power of their training and militarized assets to squash anyone who dare challenge them. Little doubt in my mind that these policemen are thinking to themselves, “who does this guy think he is to question my authority and my power– I can crush him at any time, and I can doctor the official reports to justify my behavior.” No matter what the root causes, it all boils down to fairly-crafted laws and the unbiased adherence to and the proper administration of the rule of law, with the recognition that NO MAN is above the law.

  11. john brokx Says:

    What about fear? I see racism, anger, and steroids mentioned but nothing about fear. …other than it causes us to pull back and retreat from risks.

    I received training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA.

    During self-defense training, great emphasis was placed on always maintaining control of our weapons during an attack so that it could not be used against us or the public.

    We were also taught, and it was demonstrated, just how fast an attacker could close a distance of 30-50 feet and rip a weapon out of its holster or pulled right out of our hands. It was astonishing!

    Additionally, we were taught how inaccurate a pistol was even at close range when engaged in a gunfight or other physical violence. Sometimes dozens of rounds are expended with only a couple of hits. …hits that don’t always stop an attacker…especially one pumped-up on drugs.

    Finally, we were taught to shoot-to-stop. Not to shoot in the arm or the leg. That’s the stuff movies are made of. We were taught to shoot at the torso.

    Now imagine you’re a policman and you’ve just told a six-foot-four, 280 pound, man-boy to get out of the street.

    Instead of complying with your command he suddenly hits you in the face through the window of your vehicle and starts wrestling you for your gun. Would you not be terrified? Who would expect such behavior?

    Your job is to protect the public. The attacker runs. You give chase and order him to stop. Instead of the attacker continuing to run away or complying with your order to stop, he suddenly turns and charges you.

    You’ve already struggled with this guy a few seconds ago. And, he has punched you in the face (you were lucky to have not been knocked unconscious). Are you going to grapple with this guy for a second time and take a chance at having your gun taken from you? Or, do you shoot to stop?

    You only have a second or two to make the decision. This individual has already shown a complete contempt for authority. Can you back up fast enough to put distance between you and him?

    Or, do you shoot to stop?

    Would you not be scared? Of course you would…you’d be terrified.

    I have read a couple of articles since the Michael Brown shooting about local black leaders who, once they had gone along on a ride with the police, have changed their opinions on whether cops are just racists who hunt down black men to shoot them in the back of the head even when they were trying to surrender for no reason at all.

    Now imagine all of the above if you are a woman police officer.

    If the public thinks the police should try and physically take down a criminal then the standards for police recruitment need to be changed.

    Just like in the old days officers had to meet certain height and weight requirements. Maybe we need to go back to these standards…that is, if you think its easy to wrestle with criminals.

  12. Mike V. Says:

    “citizens should remember that cops are working to protect us from threats to our security”

    In fact, cops are working to protect private property and the status quo, as they always have been.

  13. Hypatia Says:

    I strongly object to equating the atrocities of Nanking and especially My Lai to individual atrocities of beserk American police officers toward often innocent or compliant black citizens!!

    Certainly there is a link. It is called “dehumanizing the Other”. Arrogant colonial powers (including the US) long subjugated and exploited Stone Age a well as more advanced societies, which had their own religions and cultures.
    The fate of our Native Americans is close to home.

    But I contend there is a vast difference between a systematic campaign of terror such as Nanking and a smaller but equal atrocity such as My Lai/ (BTW, My Lai was far frm the only such American atrocity. I am no fan of the Jew/Israel-hating BBC, but this link

    lists some of them, as does

    My point is that a sudden rage as described in “Outrageous” is a brief one-time atrocity, whereas military atrocities
    are politically motivated, planned in advance, last much longer, and cannot be checked by outside forces like a cop-on-black encounter.

    There would be far fewer cop-on-black atrocities if police departments hired, screened, and especially TRAINED officers to understand the mechanics of rage. Fortunately some large urban departments are starting to sniff around the idea, though it will be a long time hitting the streets. But small, rural, often Fundamentalist Christian police departments have neither the budget nor the know-how nor, alas, often the motivation to train their officers.

  14. Trish Says:

    The mention of “Susan”, 193 stab wounds & cocaine made me think immediately of Susan Wright, look up “The Murderer Next Door” on Google Books, and confirm the book discussed Susan Wright.

    Having watched her trial and her appeal, I was surprised that the author David M. Buss bought the claim that Jeff Wright was an abusive husband. Susan Wright and her defense claimed that Susan was conditioned by abuse to hide the evidence of the abuse. But her first example was that she described was lying about an injury to her arm at an ER – but it was when they had only known each other for TWO WEEKS. How did he manage in 2 weeks to beat, degrade and control her to the point where she would tell a lie to someone treating her for an injury?

    She describes most of the alleged abuse centering on how everything in the house had to be “perfect” – which set off my suspicion. It sounded to me like Susan likes perfection so much she thinks it’s an excuse for being demanding, so she used it as support for the he-was-abusive claim.

    Of all the photos of Susan Wright submitted into evidence, not one showed a single bruise. And this was a woman who lived in a warm climate, Texas, and wore a lot of clothing that, appropriate for that climate, showed a lot of skin.

    Not only did Susan Wright lure her victim into the bedroom lit with the candles, and tie him to the bed naked before she began stabbing but when her young son knocked on the bedroom door asking about the noise, she threw on a bathrobe to hide the blood-stained night gown and put the child back into bed. Then she returned to stabbing his father to death.

    Before the murder, she’d asked Jeff to dig a hole in the yard for a fountain – which is where she put his body. Premeditation much? Then, for the first and only time, she reported to police that he’d abused her – and their kids. She showed the wounds that resulted from her stabbing him as evidence of his abusing her.

    She told people, including his family, that they’d had a fight and he’d stormed off.

    It seems to me our society, thanks in no small part to defense attorneys and defense psychologists, conflate the concept of “the alleged victim never reported to the police” and “there is no evidence to show to a jury”. Well, a murder is usually not reported to police by the victim, and yet police manage to find plenty of evidence. And unlike domestic violence, a murder is a single event, not an ongoing pattern of behavior that can last for decades. In trial, the “evidence” the defense offers is psychologists who are tasked with explaining love gone wrong to jurors, as if they could not be expected to have life experience of failed romance.

    I’m baffled by the phenomenon of “snapping”. If it’s in the heat-of-a-struggle, would that not be “self defense”? But the first example in American popular consciousness was “The Burning Bed” – a guy killed while asleep. So, if it doesn’t match self defense during a violent battle, and it’s cumulative, why would not the injuries, insults and indignities inspire the woman to run away? If the guy is asleep, or tied down, or unsuspecting (as in Bob Seaman, stabbed in the back by his wife Nancy), why not attempt to escape?

    We now have police who are trained to take domestic violence seriously to the point where if it’s a domestic violence call, “someone’s leaving in handcuffs”. We have domestic violence shelters. We have books and magazine articles and talk show segments. We have psychologists who claim this as their specialty – who are qualified by courts as experts in domestic violence. So what is the point of having psychologists or sociologists study domestic violence, disseminating information about domestic violence, providing places for women who wish to escape if after society offers all of this, women still get a pass in her murder trial after getting a drop on the guy?


    Now for the main question: ‘Why Cops Kill”

    1. I don’t know if the answer is to be found by stimulating artificially isolated circuits in animal brains.

    2. John brokx seems to possibly give an answer, but not in the way that he thinks. His description of his training makes it sound to me like his teachers are encouraging the trainees to see members of the public in the most fearful possible light: ‘imagine you’ve just told a six-foot-four 280 man-boy to get out of the street”.

    Now imagine that you, as a member of the public, run into a cop who has just returned from training where he’s learned that he might suddenly have to defend his own life at any moment! That he must protect his extremely dangerous weapon from falling into anyone else’s hands! That a weapon could be taken from him This Fast! (Ignoring the fact that most citizens don’t have the training to capture weapons rapidly that the instructor at this seminar has). I don’t know about other readers, but this scenario scares me.

  15. Mike A Says:

    John Brokx. Imagine if you are an obese teenager, lacking athletic speed and a police car quickly backs into you. You luckily moved enough to avert a collision. (Results: Fear)

    Then the police officer pulls up beside you and shouts obscenities and starts to reach for his gun. (Fear increases – risk assessment – must defend myself).

    The teenager reaches into the police car to contain the situation – to protect his life from a raged man.

    I bring up this scenario because this description of this event, in fact, is historically accurate and explains much of the behavior of Michael Brown. Besides, Mr. Blokx, it counters your extremely one-sided description of this event and I want to remind you that an unarmed teenager facing an armed police officer, in rage, also must make decisions upon “fear.” We all know, as human beings, to not trust the behavior of another human being that is “in rage,” especially if this other person is armed with deadly weapons.

    Mr. Brokx, your one sided description shows that you have an agenda based upon your identification with police. So your writing here did the opposite of your purpose, it shows that you see the world in the eyes of your clan (police) in conflict against the other clan (scary big black guys).

  16. tpaine Says:

    Increased interactions with law enforcement may lead to an increase in violent outcomes. Increased interactions due to the war on drugs, where there is no victim but the “state”, may lead to an increase in violent outcomes. Maybe if our society as a whole altered it’s prohibitions on “sin” crimes (where the state is the victim) then the enforcement community would have less interactions with the public. Less interactions with law enforcement may lead to a decrease in these violent outcomes. Prohibitions are often a failure because they incentivize the wrong behaviour.

  17. Jim Fisher Says:

    Rock: To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Science is true whether you like it or not.”

  18. Trish Says:

    I forgot to mention, in discussing Susan Wright, that at her trial, the only evidence of Jeff Wright having used cocaine was a single incident at a party, which made Susan angry and they left the party separately. Jeff was pulled over on the way home, due to a call to the police about a driver under the influence. Huh.

    I think tpaine has a point, too. I remember a crime a few years ago, when a couple and one of their kids were found dead, and the younger two kids were missing. The adults had a small amount of amphetamine in their systems, so the media went all out with the Drug Crime theory. Perhaps these parents had interactions with dangerous people in order to get the drugs, or they owed scary drug people money.

    Turned out, the crime had nothing to do with drugs, it was a pedophile kidnapping the kids for entirely other purposes. But nobody ever retracts the Drug Crime claim. This kind of thing increases the appearance of drugs causing problems they didn’t actually cause, & drugs being linked to awful violence.

    I also have to wonder, if drugs were so harmful, why our government keeps piling on extra, life-shattering consequences like No College Grants/Loans, No HUD housing for me or my family members, Lifelong Felony Record, Civil Forfeiture even without a conviction at trial, the very accusation being useful to the other side in custody disputes….

  19. john brokx Says:

    Mike A…no agenda. My point of view is from actual experience. If it supports the point of view of some law enforcement personnel…so what? The police haven’t been given much of an opportunity to tell their side of the story in the media.

    Most of the other opinions in the comments are, apparently, based on someone else’s writings (newspaper articles, text books, professional publications, movies, etc.).

    The purpose of being a skeptic is to have a discussion of all sides in order to come to a reasonable conclusion. This story and the accompanying comments only discuss race and rage.

    I contend that FEAR is the strongest motivator. All police men and women want to go home to their families at the end of their shifts.

    Trish, I did not have a constant fear of the general public as you suggested. An officer couldn’t make it through a shift if they were pumped up from fear all night. As they say, a policeman’s job is hours of boredom accentuated with seconds of sheer terror.

    In my experience, the biggest cause of fear was when a suspect would resist arrest.

    It didn’t matter if they were small or large. Once a suspect began to resist arrest the adrenaline would start pumping because no one could tell which way things were going to go. I never experienced rage. But a couple of times I was very scared. I was only in a law enforcement position for about a year and a half before being promoted to a desk job.

    Mike A. How could someone outside of a vehicle see if someone inside a vehicle is pulling a weapon? What kind of vehicle was it? I thought I read or maybe I saw a video that showed Darren Wilson was in an SUV type of police vehicle. That kind of vehicle sits pretty high.

    How close was Michael Brown to the window of the vehicle that he could see the officer pulling his weapon?

    If Michael Brown could see the officer pulling his weapon then could it be that he moved too close to the officer and the officer felt threatened?

    Further, you state that your scenario is historically accurate. How do you know that Michael Brown saw the officer reach for his gun in a rage if he was killed seconds later?

    Moreover, if you were outside a police vehicle and you thought he was pulling his weapon, wouldn’t the normal response for anyone fearing for his or her life to run? …put as much distance between you and the cop as possible.

    Since when has the public deemed it okay to “contain a situation” with a policeman as suggested by Mike A?

    If I was afraid of losing my life to a raging policeman I would yell and run my ass off (athletic or otherwise) and try to go where there were a lot of people…not reach through a window to try and contain the situation.

    If Michael Brown thought he could contain the situation it may give you some insight as to his thinking. He’s pretty big (no HUGE) so he probably thought he could easily overpower Darren Wilson. I mean, he had already bullied a store owner minutes before.

    I teach my daughters to go to a well lit area if a police officer tries to pull them over at night. I tell them to go to a gas station or 24-hour market…someplace where someone will see their interaction with the police.

    I also tell them to make sure a police officer can see their hands at all times if they are pulled over.

    Other then that it is only common sense to follow a police officer’s commands.

    In most of the cases where suspects get shot, they resisted arrest and/or made a furtive move when an officer was attempting to stop and question them.

    I understand that some officers are complete assholes but it appears that somewhere along the last 30 or so years young people must have been taught that you can completely ignore a police officer when he talks to you and just do whatever you want without consequence.

  20. john brokx Says:

    Jim Fisher: Science fact one year is science fiction a few years later. Even some of Einstein’s theories have been disproven.

  21. Rich Says:

    “Now, let me see if I have this right.
    There’s no guidance or discipline in the home.
    The family situation is so unstable, ‘Junior’ doesn’t even know where or to whom to send a father’s Day card.
    Junior gets dumped into the education system where he is socially promoted because the overwhelmed school district can’t deal with the undisciplined whelp.
    Junior’s major formative influences are ‘gangsta’ rap videos and a corresponding peer group of gangsta wannabes.
    At age 18, Junior is turned loose on society carrying a bad attitude, a broken compass and little respect for authority.
    Junior gets himself in big trouble with the law and meets dire consequences.
    Then, the situation diagnosis is that the police need more training and understanding?
    Pardon me for asking, but do you really believe this B.S. ?”

  22. Trish Says:

    John Brokx,

    I didn’t mean to suggest you spend your entire shift in fear. I specifically framed my comment as right after a police officer returns from such training. But that’s not to say I am unconcerned about the ramping up of fear in our society.

    In some ways it doesn’t matter whether an officer experiences fear or rage, since fear can also provoke a person to behave in an excessively violent way (An example that comes to mind of fear inspiring violence is a homeowner who mistook a trick or treater for a threat, and shot to death an exchange student on his lawn.)

    And as I reflect, I am even more concern that the training you described is all pumped up and fear based, and you didn’t make a single mention of training on how to de-escalate a tense or potentially violent situation. I would think this would be a very useful skill for anyone who deals with the public. I know employees in my local public library are given such training to deal with someone whose behavior looks to be threatening to staff or other patrons.

    I am also concerned about the idea that ordinary citizens should be expected by police to behave in particular ways – keep hands visible and do whatever the officer says – when encountering police in a situation in which it’s not an officer showing up to arrest the person in question. This shows such a mistrust of members of the general public that it actually kind of shocks me. Are ordinary citizens going about our business really supposed to give police officer specific behavioral cues that we are harmless – and what if actual criminals decided to use such behavioral cues to their advantage?

    Some very disturbing questions.

  23. Dan Lynch Says:

    Fascinating comments from differing viewpoints but I read this essay as a description of how the human brain works in some specific situations of fear/threat/rage. We are animals (purposefully moving under our own power) in a crowded society managed by seriously imperfect brains in a vast dance we call “civilization.” I’m not surprised that it doesn’t always work out for the best.

  24. john brokx Says:

    Trish. I was thinking about why I never experienced rage. I think that once I started getting scared my training kicked in and I responded as necessary to the situation. Luckily the few times I dealt with extremely nervous/jumpy suspects all turned out well…otherwise I probably would have been the one hurtin’because they were all stronger than me and shooting them was never first on my mind.

    Trish, in order to alleviate any further concern you might have about my law enforcement training and how to diffuse a tense situation I would like to inform you that we did receive training on a system which, back thirty years ago, was called “Verbal Judo.” I don’t know if the professor that created the training films still does this but it has served me well.

    Trish. Are you serious? I mean about being concerned with the idea that ordinary citizens should be expected by police to behave in particular ways? I think that people used to call that manners…politeness…just plain old respect for authority.

    For more information on how to behave when pulled over by the police that was provided as a public service announement by that renowned sociologist, Chris Rock, I direct you to his video located here:

    If anyone is still disturbed by the police training I received 30 years ago, please go to your local police or sheriffs department and ask for a ride along. Get to know your local officers. Find out more about their training. Many times they have community meetings. Or, you could set up a meeting. Good luck and beware, you may change your ideas about police officers.

  25. Bill Thomas Says:

    How can so many people miss Bill Morgan’s on target comments. We are rapidly becoming a Police State. Get informed. Read the facts.

    The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko

    We are losing our civil rights day by day. If the Government suspects you might be a Terrorist, you can be put in prison indefinitely without trial. Check it out. It’s now the law!

  26. Mike A Says:

    John Brokx said: “The purpose of being a skeptic is to have a discussion of all sides in order to come to a reasonable conclusion.”

    That is why I gave the other side.

    John Brokx said: “Mike A…no agenda. My point of view is from actual experience. If it supports the point of view of some law enforcement personnel…so what? The police haven’t been given much of an opportunity to tell their side of the story in the media.”

    “Actual experience”?: Mr. Blokx, you were not there in Ferguson.

    John Brokx said: “The police haven’t been given much of an opportunity to tell their side of the story in the media”?:

    Huh, After the Michael Brown killing, the Ferguson police department, its chief, and police apologists (like Mr. Brokx) continually had massive air time and print space to control the public relations in Darren Wilson’s and the Ferguson police department’s favor.

  27. Trish Says:

    John Brokx,

    Chris Rock’s advice? Well, can’t hurt to inject a little humor into a discussion about things that make people fearful.

    I’ve given much thought to your comments, and I still find them disturbing. While I’m glad you did have some training in de-escalating, you didn’t mention that training until I brought up the lack of mention of such. Your initial description was all about the fearful aspects of interactions with a member or members of the public.

    I have to ask if you seriously think I was talking about being intentionally disrespectful of police. I’m thinking that it should be enough that I am in the process of peacefully going about my business, and find it surprising there might be police officers who cross my path and find it – disturbing? disrespectful? – that my hands don’t become immediately visible at the sight of a police officer. I’m sitting here wondering at what point am I supposed to take my hands out of my pockets? Do I do it the minute I notice someone in a police uniform or do I wait until they speak to me? I’m not saying this to be flip. I’ve seen on TV cops directing people to show their hands or empty their pockets, but this was never in the context of a police officer crossing paths with a person going about their business.

    You see it as a sign of respect for authority that a member of the public keep their hands visible and be prepared to do what an officer tells them to do. I would see it as a sign of respect by a police officer to not expect a grown woman to make a point of making her hands visible and prepare to be told what to do in the course of going about peaceable business.

    You suggest that I might change my mind about police officers if I went on a ride along, or ask about the training of the police in my area. I don’t doubt that such meetings would be welcomed by those officers and might even be congenial interactions. But how would that address my concerns that in interactions with the public in other situations? Does it not trouble you that a law abiding citizen sees a growing disconnect between police and citizens of a sort that might be increasing fear and ill ease of both police and those citizens they cross paths with?

    Let me give you an example of the kind of change in police procedure I have observed and find troubling. I’ve been attending a street art sale for a number of years. Usually a police officer comes thru a few times during the evening on foot, which I’ve thought was a great thing, as I have things for sale I would hate to see destroyed or stolen. This year, they’ve been wearing bullet proof vests. It’s not like bullet proof vests are such a new thing that it would be a novelty to wear them. And it’s not like the neighborhood that hosts the art walk has had increased – or any – situations in which a bullet proof vest would be useful. To this law abiding citizen, it’s like putting up a barrier between the police and the people on the street.

  28. Trish Says:

    P.S. Not only does Verbal Judo still exist, but there are apparently books, videos and seminars.

  29. john brokx Says:

    Mike A: How can I respond to that? Did you watch any TV during that time. It was a months-long bashing of cops. They are still bashing the cops from NYC to Baltimore, Maryland.

    Trish: I’m glad to see that Verbal Judo is still being taught. As I recall the professor (Dr. George Thompson as I now see in a Google search) gave a presentation, some hands-on exercises, and we were referred to the library to watch about a dozen more of his VHS videos that were available on our free time.

    Trish: I’d love to respond to your other comments but it is exhausting and I don’t think it will resolve anything for you.

    I’ve had more than a dozen encounters with the police in my life and, I’ve never really had any problems because I have always been polite except one time when I refused to sign a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign..the cop lied. I went to court. The judge sided with the officer. I never took another case to traffic court again. I figured it was pointless.

    I don’t know how old the commenters are in this article but I keep hearing about the police becoming more militarized.

    Does anyone remember why this escalation of military equipment started occuring?

    It was back in the 80’s with the drug wars in Florida. The drug dealers had Uzi’s, Mac 10’s, semiautomatic pistols with multiple clips.

    What did the police have? Six-shot revolvers (same as me). They didn’t stand a chance in a simple traffic stop, much less, in a drug raid. The drug dealers sprayed bullets like a garden hose while the police were just trying to get off a few shots.

    What is wrong with the police having an armored car? What if you were caught in a cross fire and you were laying out in the street bleeding but the police couldn’t get to you because bad guys were shooting at them.

    With an armored vehicle you just simply drive between the gunfire and the wounded person to block their bullets. You’re loaded into the vehicle and raced to a hospital.

    This escalation of military equipment has always been going on. The military and police have always been late to the scene with the newest or best equipment.

    Why? Because civilians could buy the new more powerful and better weapons as soon as they went into production.

    At the Battle of Little Big Horn the Souix Indians had the latest edition of the lever-action multiple shot rifles (Winchester or Henry rifles). The cavalry had single shot Springfield rifles. (There may have been one unit that had similar lever action rifles but not Custer’s unit.)

    During Prohibition the mob had the Thompson machine guns before the police got them.

    Remember the shoot-out in Beverly Hills by those two guys wrapped in bullet proof clotes and shooting fully automatic machine guns? The police had to go to a local gunshop which let the police borrow several of their semi-automatic rifles so they could stop those guys who were spraying the whole area with bullets. That shop went out of business – too many California State gun laws was one of the reasons given.

    The escalation in the use of military equipment by police forces is only in relation to the newest equipment or techniques being used by criminals…drug dealers, of course, having the most money and being able to buy the very best in armaments.

    If you were a policmen wouldn’t you want the very best equipment available?

    Even military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq would have their family members buy the latest equipment and send it to them because the Army hadn’t gotten around to (or couldn’t afford) supplying them with it.

    The only time anyone needs to have any concern is when they take law abiding citizens guns away.

    I heard some stats the other night. It may have even been Michael Shermer who said it but even with all the violence in our society people have never been as safe. The number of deaths per thousand (or million) has never been this low at anytime in history…according to the news story.

  30. john brokx Says:

    Here is an incident that happened last night. It encompasses just about everything I stated above.

    A male and a female cop approach a guy who was breaking windows with his skateboard. A struggle ensued. The suspect was tazed and still continued to resist. Then the suspect grabbed the tazer from the officer’s hands and tazed the officer in the leg. Finally, the suspect was shot by the other officer.

    It is not clear if the suspect is black. If the suspect is other than black, the story will disappear. If he is black we will hear about it for the next three days.

    …rage or just a steady escalation of force used in order to detain someone who was displaying extremely irrational behavior?

    Cops are almost always called to a scene to encounter the most irrational and the most dangerous among us. They are constantly exposed to society’s worst residents.

    It is so much easier for us to sit at home (or in a laboratory) and surmise what caused an officer to do something or what the officers should have done.

    I can tell from the comments above that none of you has recently struggled, grappled, wrestled, or fist-fought with anyone recently, if ever. If you had, your comments would be different. Some of the strongest proponents of law enforcement are people who have been victims of crime. It comes as a great shock to some people when they suddenly realize that not everyone in society is reasonable and will respond affirmatively to pleasant dialogue. …same as the international scene.

    I am inclined to believe that 97% of the police are good people. I am inclined to believe that this media blitz against police and the racism charges is contrived and that it is only a move by the Federal government to gain more control of local police departments.

    The more a lie is repeated the more people believe it. The bigger the lie, the stronger the belief.

    For those of you who are concerned about the militarization of the police might better be concerned by the control of local police by the Federal government.

    Federal funding of police departments is a form of contol, albeit economically. It is my understanding that police departments receive federal funding based on drug arrests. This is the cause of our jails being filled to overflowing with, in most cases, drug offenders. …non-violent, recreational users.

    I believe in the legalization of ALL drugs. People say that children will then have access to drugs. They already do have access…as my daughter says, “down to the sixth grade.”

    Most people tire of drugs and recognize that they really are unhealthy for you. Others who continue to abuse themselves could seek help which could be paid for by tax money (as long as the taxes aren’t so high as to drive the sale of drugs back into the black market).

    Centralized control of local police by the Federal government would be the most dangerous step towards a police state.

    Imagine, what would happen if someone in Washington was micro-managing every police department in the U.S. This actually goes on right now. Federal employees who don’t get in line with the current administration have their careers sidelined. Good, honest, career employees who are just trying to follow law and do a good job are shoved to the side for following the law.

    If they blow the whistle they are persecuted, in some cases, to the point of complete economic collapse while defending themselves in court over a period of several years.

    Right now you can vote a sheriff into office who has similar beliefs on law enforcement as you. If Federal control takes over all shots will be called from Wash D.C.

    This is the same way the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was fought. If an Army patrol encountered a sniper, they had to call a lawyer in Wash D.C.; describe the situation; and wait (while being pinned down from rifle fire) for an answer before they could take action.

    There may be some good benefits from centralization but, I am inclined to believe, they would be outweighed by the bad (controlling) benefits because government officials will ALWAYS eventually abuse power if given an opportunity.

  31. Mike A Says:

    John Brokx said to me: “How can I respond to that? Did you watch any TV during that time. It was a months-long bashing of cops. They are still bashing the cops from NYC to Baltimore, Maryland.”

    Mr. Brokx, I watched the news and read much about the shooting of Michael Brown during that time. I did not see or read anything like a “months-long bashing of cops.” There were some uncomfortable “facts” about certain cops. Many of these uncomfortable facts were highly evidence based, especially by video recording, and difficult for a police apologist, like you, to refute.

  32. john brokx Says:

    Mike A: So then you didn’t see the whole “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” campaign? It was predicated on the lie that Michael Brown had his hands up in the air and was trying to surrender when Darren Wilson shot him in the back of the head for no reason at all.

    The news reports I saw even enhanced this lie by saying that police were hunting down young black men in the ghettos and shooting them in the back of the head for no reason at all even when they had their hands in the air and were surrendering.

    Sports figures and even members of Congress raised their hands as a rallying cry for people who were tired, as they claimed, of police violence against blacks.

    Michael Brown was killed in August 2014 and the campaign went on even as late as February 2015, when, at the Grammy’s, Pharrell Williams made the hands up gesture while singing his song Happy.

    Three autopsies (local gov’t, private, Federal) proved that it was a lie.

    That looks like six months of bashing to me. But, then, that was only one campaign.,_don%27t_shoot

    It was determined to be a justified shooting.

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