Forget Sheepdogs, Policing Is About Guardians and Warriors
Aug. 4, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — We were talking about sheepdogs and pack mentality, based on the essay, On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs, by David Grossman. Part of the problem, as I noted, was pack behavior to defend other so-called sheepdogs. Scott Greenfield touched on this the other day, with his “What The Other Cops Said About Sam DuBose’s Murder” post.
Scott pointed out that some of the so-called facts presented by Officer Tensing’s fellow officers were, let us say, a little shy of being entirely truthful. OK, they were a lot shy of the truthful mark. Now two additional officers have been suspended as their body cameras show the process in which an apparently false narrative developed.
This is not unusual behavior. We see it on a regular basis, but rarely so clearly as in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. There, an officer was on trial for beating a handcuffed prisoner, violating his civil rights, and obstructing justice. The field training officer kept his mouth shut after he initially lied about the beating, both to his own department and to the FBI. The officer on trial testified that he “thought” that the prisoner was resisting, even though he was handcuffed. The officer, Brett Russell, was convicted on Thursday, July 30, 2015. He was immediately taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.
We’ve seen it in other places too. Former officer Jeffrey Lehrmann pleaded guilty to lying to cover up a bad police shooting in New Orleans. The John Geer killing in Fairfax County, Virginia. When Miami Beach police fired 116 rounds at Raymond Herisse and killed him, and three days later an unfired gun is “discovered” in the car. The police killing of Jermaine McBean, in Oakland Park, Florida, full of police mistakes lies. The case in Gardena, California, where not only did the tape not match what the police reported, but their chief maintained that “our position is that everybody who needed to see the videos has had the opportunity to do so.”
Who are you going to believe? Us (the police) or your lying eyes (the tape)?
We’ve seen the pack behavior in other ways too. When the New York mayor didn’t offer NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo the level of support that the police felt he was entitled to, the police union boss blasted him, and the majority of the force turned their back on the mayor. Literally. In Albuquerque, when a District Attorney dared to charge police officers with murder for shooting a homeless man on tape, the police refused to cooperate with the DA’s office on other officer-involved shootings and accused the DA of misconduct. The New Mexico Attorney General cleared the DA, but noted unprofessional conduct by the police in the matter.
Either play ball with us, or we’ll come after you next.
All of this points to pack or mob behavior. You used to be able to see it at PoliceOne, until they closed off their comments to only verified police officers, so they could express their deepest feelings without the prying eyes of outsiders.
So what do we do?
Well, as a comment (h/t: DaveL) wisely noted, there are two types of sheepdogs, just as I have noted that there are two types of cops. The sheepdogs are either a “livestock guardian,” who will defend their sheep to the death, or a “herding” dog, who drives the sheep where he wants them to go. The sheep trust the former and fear the latter.
There are also two types of police, either a guardian type that protects his or her citizens, or the warrior, who controls those in his environment. I can tell you what type of police officer we need, and which we do not, and I speak from experience. I was a warrior, but not as a police officer. When I was a warrior, I jumped out of perfectly good aircraft, carried 80- to 100-pound rucksacks, and trained on how to kill people and destroy things if my government decided I should do so in some foreign land.
When I was a police officer, I was employed to be a guardian for the people. I took that role very seriously; I was there to protect people, to keep them from harm and to catch those who harmed them. I was not supposed to use force, much less kill someone, unless there were no other options: where a lesser amount of force would not work.
I was fortunate that I never had to shoot someone, even though there were several times where I would have been justified to do so. Each time there something that happened that caused the other person to drop the knife, or baseball bat, or to surrender.
There were multiple times where I or officers with me had to use force, but an officer who is a guardian stops using that force when they have the offender under control. That’s what we did. An officer who views himself as a warrior does not necessarily see the need to limit his use of force.
Today, for many reasons, there are fewer guardians and more warriors. To return to Grossman’s example, if a police officer claims to be a sheepdog—ask him which type of sheepdog, a livestock guardian or a herding dog. His answer will be instructive.