VIPER ONE SIX: The challenge of policing today in America

Dave Shearman
Dave Shearman

In the wake of the George Floyd incident and the terrorist-led rioting and violence, the irrational topic of defunding the police has made headlines in the past few days as mobs of the spoiled rotten generation took to the streets to rant and rave and jump up in down in hissy fits for not being able to do what they want to do in life.

Simultaneously, there have been calls for additional police oversight, police reform, the discontinued use of the so-called choke hold, the establishment of a national use of force database, the tracking and firing of so-called problem officers, and, in the true fashion of seizing the moment, the Democrat-led House of Representatives showcasing the unrealistic Justice in Policing Act of 2020 Bill.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 Bill is nothing more than an assault against police and an attempt to institute unnecessary scrutiny, reporting and oversight on an already highly scrutinized profession. There is not a single sentence in the bill that attempts to positively impact, enhance or support the police such as providing for additional training and equipment and additional funding for hiring more officers.

Many of the issues written into the bill are already in existence such as the establishment of a national database to track use of force incidents. As a matter of fact, in January 2019, the FBI launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection database where law enforcement agencies use the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) to input such data.

Regarding the banning of the use of the choke hold. I’m not sure why this technique is even being talked about as it was not used in the George Floyd arrest nor any others in recent memory. Moreover, what I don’t understand regarding the calls for banning this technique is that, to my knowledge, the choke hold has not been taught by any law enforcement academy or approved by any state Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) for decades. To my knowledge this technique was used in the 1970s and has not seen the light of day since. What exactly is the choke hold anyways? It was a former lethal force technique taught decades ago whereby an officer placed his forearm directly across the windpipe and applied pressure rearward to control violent and potentially lethal encounters. Obviously, this technique would cut off the supply of air to a person and was potentially lethal. But then again, it was supposed to be used as a last resort.

What took its place is the modified carotid technique which, when applied correctly, does not obstruct the airway but temporarily renders a suspect unconscious by temporarily reducing the blood flow to the brain. In 1989, when I was in the LAPD police academy, we were told over and over that the choke hold is not an approved technique, whatsoever, and to use the modified carotid control technique. The application of this lethal force technique is to apply pressure to the carotid artery located on either side of a suspect’s neck by laterally positioning the officers forearm on the side of a suspect’s neck – not across the windpipe. Being that this technique can be lethal it is labeled as such in the use of force model and is to be only used as a last resort in order to stop a lethal attack on the officer.

Now to the issue of defunding or dismantling the police. This is so reckless and irresponsible it hardly even deserves conversation time. Except for the fact that if rational adult citizens don’t fight against this juvenile and childish idea then the lunatics, which there appears to be a growing number in this country, will get their way and pass into law these types of insane measures.

What needs to happen is exactly the opposite. There needs to be substantially more funding allocated to the police so that it can be used in the areas of additional training, the hiring of additional police officers and increases in salaries nationwide. Police officers receive their minimum state mandated academy training which is the total number of hours of training required to graduate and be employed as a police officer. After that, the much-needed in-service training is all too often few and far between due to the associated costs and the lack of personnel. Police department budgets are very tight and training, although vitally important, does not always rank highest in terms of overall departmental priorities.

More specifically, the frequency of training needs to increase from annually or semi-annually to quarterly or monthly so that officers can develop muscle memory of the many different less-than-lethal control techniques available to them. When officers only attend structured training maybe twice per year in defensive tactics, ground grappling, control techniques, use of force, law, de-escalation, tactical shooting, crowd control, issues related to mentally unstable persons as well as many other topics, it is readily apparent that developing proficiency in this broad spectrum of critical skills is unachievable. By increasing the frequency of dedicated and structured training we positively impact and support law enforcement as they carry out their ever increasingly violent and demanding jobs but this requires a significant increase in funding. It also demands the hiring of more personnel to fill the patrol duties of officers who are attending mandated training.

As to the issue of increasing salaries. I believe substantial increases in the salaries of police officers nationwide is desperately needed. Many police officers have to work two and three part-time jobs just to make ends meet. When I was a county police officer in the South, I was paid $9.75 per hour and although that was a few years ago, it’s not too far off even today. When I was an officer on the LAPD, I had to work off-duty on my days off to make ends meet for my family. This is wholly unacceptable because police officers need to concentrate on their jobs in order to be proficient in their many duties. Their much-needed days off need to be spent with their families and not standing guard at a local convenience store.

Lastly, everyone needs to understand that the majority of police officers are decent, committed, dedicated, selfless, caring, law-abiding and imperfect people who try very hard each and every day to carry out their very difficult job in as professional a manner as possible. They are not perfect, just as all humans are not. Officers don’t want bad cops in their ranks as it tarnishes their own hard work. Officers do want more training and have been saying so for years. They don’t seek to arbitrarily use force and only use it when necessary because, frankly, it just isn’t something an officer wants to do and most of the time the officer gets hurt in the application of the force anyway. But the reality is, that it is getting more and more necessary as we continue to ask our officers to do all the dirty work in society so we don’t have to.

We want our officers to deal with violent offenders but only in a manner that is palatable to our delicate senses. We don’t mind if cops get hurt or killed but violent offenders who fight and resist arrest are always to be treated with kid gloves. We want our police officers to place themselves in harm’s way, save and protect lives and property, act as marital counselors, be psychiatrists and mental health professionals, be experts in martial arts, never use their weapon in the line of duty or use any kind of lethal force all while dealing with the underbelly of society. Supermen and Superwomen is what we want and we don’t want to see or hear how they keep us safe at night in our homes, in our work spaces and everywhere in between.

Viper One Six – Out.

Dave Shearman, author of the book “Outside The Wire In Blue,” is a former police officer in Los Angeles.