Do the hard things

There’s an old saying about easy times making soft people. That’s where we are right now and it all stems from our fear of challenge. Remember, the acronym FAIL: First Attempt In Learning. Nothing worth having comes easily. (Getty Images)

 

By Warren Wilson | Police1.com


 

“I’m sure you can do it.”

Those life-changing words came from Lynn Givens of Rangemaster Firearms Training Services. I’d asked her if she would be willing to allow my then 16-year-old daughter into her ladies’ only class that following Sunday. She agreed but asked why I’d never taken the Rangemaster Instructor Development course that was also that weekend.

For the uninitiated, Tom Givens, founder and lead instructor of Rangemaster Firearm Training Services, is a legend in the firearms training community and had been teaching his excellent instructor development class for nearly two decades at that point. He also spent a fair amount of time reviewing classes and writing magazine articles. I don’t remember my answer, but the truth is I had/have a debilitating fear of public speaking. I allowed that phobia to hold me back from participating in some very joyful activities like teaching. The next thing I knew I was enrolled.

I decided to review the class for “Police Marksman” magazine. There I was, about to take my first instructor development class from one of the legends and write a review about it. I was nervous to say the least. The anxiety I felt for much of those three days was replaced by the elation of knowing I’d begun my journey to conquer a phobia.

Soon after, I took the Oklahoma Basic Peace Officer Instructor Development class and then the state’s difficult and arduous Firearms Instructor Development program. There is little in life that brings me such comfort and peace as does teaching. I would never have been able to become a teacher if I had not done something that was difficult for me. And it was truly difficult. Not a lot of life-enhancing activities happen in your comfort zone. What else can we apply the “do hard stuff” principle to?

1. ADVANCE

How many officers do we know who would make great supervisors but fear taking the promotion test? Is that officer you? How many supervisors do we know who have no business in a position of leadership but are there because they had the courage to try? The same can be said of detectives, SWAT, K-9, field training officers, and – of course – instructors.

Your organization needs the best people in these positions. Don’t let a fear of failure keep you from making your agency better. 

2. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR EDUCATION

In “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” General James Mattis writes, “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.” That might seem a little harsh, but it’s true.

There are thousands of laws that affect law enforcement. Human behavior is so complex that mental health professionals have difficulty predicting criminal behavior. These are just two of the many skills we can learn more about on our own. Also, your brain loves reading, even if you don’t. Readers have better recall and quicker decision-making abilities.     

3. SPEAK UP

The easiest thing to do when we see unethical actions is to ignore them. That can mean an inappropriate comment all the way up to a civil rights violation made by a colleague.

If you do not stand up and do the hard thing in those cases, you are nothing more than a co-conspirator. This principle is just as difficult for leadership.

One of my former chiefs had to stand up to a few members of the city council sometime back. They were discussing passing an ordinance that the police department would have been responsible for enforcing. It was a very hot topic at the time and would have undoubtedly ended up in officers being required to use force on the citizenry. After careful deliberation, he told the council we would not be enforcing that new ordinance if passed, and the reasons why. He took some heat for it, but he also received a tremendous amount of support from the public.

CRISIS OF COMFORT

According to author Michael Easter, we are experiencing a comfort crisis in this country. I agree and believe it’s negatively affecting our profession. There’s an old saying about easy times making soft people. That’s where we are right now and it all stems from our fear of challenge. We should seek challenges, accept our failures and revel in our successes. Remember, the acronym FAIL: First Attempt In Learning. Nothing worth having comes easily. Now get out there and do something hard.  

NEXT: 6 strategies for leadership in everyday life

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Quiet presence: Strengthening first responder empathy

By Dr. David Black and Dr. Robin Black for Police1.com

Empathic leaders and first responders are trusted by those around them – their colleagues, their subordinates, the community members they serve – and are able to draw upon that trust to serve more effectively. But how do you develop that empathy and, as a result, trust? When you approach others with an open mind and a listening ear, you can increase your capacity to understand those around you and deepen your relationships, leading to better public safety results.

Empathy can be a tactical tool, a relational tool and a wellness tool. When someone is in crisis, empathy can help you de-escalate. When people feel helpless or vulnerable, empathy can help you address their needs. When community members want to feel heard, empathy builds the trust necessary to foster fruitful conversations. When colleagues require support, empathy allows you to respond with understanding. While virtually all first responders exhibit empathy in some capacity due to the nature of the job, the way we listen to, understand and relate to others is something we can always improve upon, especially as leaders in our agencies and communities.

EMPATHY AS A FIRST RESPONDER

First responders, and law enforcement specifically, are taught the importance of “command presence” for scene control, to support personnel safety, and to garner respect from community members and personnel alike. Command presence is a useful tool but isn’t necessarily the best posture to adopt in every situation. At some scenes of tragedy, trauma or conflict, command presence is not beneficial, but has the potential to make the situation worse. While command presence does what it says – commands necessary attention and respect – a “quiet presence” allows for active listening, develops trust and relationships, and supports the confidence of those around you.

With command presence, emotions are understandably withdrawn, and the physical self takes precedence. In contrast, a quiet presence allows the physical self to take a backseat, providing space to listen without judgment or attempts to exert control. In the proper setting, interacting with your community and your colleagues from a place of empathy allows you to be a listener, a supporter and an encourager, creating positive interactions and a safe place for sharing and feedback.

Empathy can aid in communication and relationship-building with key people, including victims, family members and witnesses. Because first responders are required to assist all members of their community, individuals who listen and understand perspectives across cultural boundaries are well-trusted. With victims, family members and witnesses, first responders can build confidence in times of vulnerability, allowing them to share critical information with those who can help. Empathy can also help you avoid damaging interactions that lead to the destruction of trust. Instead, approaching these interactions with open-mindedness and a calm demeanor – a quiet presence – can help you create a bond of trust.

EMPATHY AS A LEADER

Leading with empathy doesn’t mean being “soft.” The foundation for empathy is connecting with others. Leaders who spend time developing good relationships with their employees on the basis of empathy encourage greater productivity and a healthier work environment. Empathy plays an important role in allowing you to recognize the importance of your decisions and take into account multiple perspectives before choosing a course of action. Leading with empathy requires demonstrating an understanding of employees and their needs, experiences and responsibilities. Strong and empathic leaders foster well-being in their personnel because of this understanding and how they factor it into decision-making. This is particularly important in public safety where wellness is often stigmatized or ignored altogether.

Internal leadership isn’t the only place empathy is required. Public safety leaders must also lead externally within the community. As a result, leaders should take steps to remain in touch with what community members see and hear, think and feel, and how they respond (or desire for you to respond) to pain points and community goals. To operate effectively and successfully, public safety agencies must be a trusted entity within the community. Empathy builds trust, demonstrates commitment, and improves two-way communication and collaboration, allowing you to better address the needs and problems of the people you serve.

WHY EMPATHY MATTERS

Empathy matters because people matter. As first responders, you know that your primary responsibility is to preserve life and protect the people of your community. Developing your empathy skills will allow you to build better relationships with those inside and outside of your organization, creating a healthier culture and safer operations. Not only that, but when leaders and first responders alike demonstrate empathy, it can address key challenges facing your agency, including in areas such as recruitment and retention, community trust and engagement, wellness, and agency culture. As we grow in our understanding of others, we can better serve them and see better outcomes across our communities.

NEXT: 6 things police leaders must do to improve officer wellness in 2022


About the authors
Dr. David Black is the Founder and President of Cordico, and a member of the Board of Directors for Lexipol, which serves more than 2 million public safety professionals in 8,100 agencies and municipalities across the United States. Dr. Black is a Board Member of the National Sheriffs’ Association Psychological Services Group, serves as the Chief Psychologist of the California Police Chiefs’ Association Officer Wellness Committee, serves as an Advisory Board Member for the National Policing Institute’s Center for Targeted Violence Prevention, serves on the IACP Police Psychological Services Ethics Committee, and serves on the National Fraternal Order of Police Officer Wellness Committee. Dr. Black has been serving law enforcement since 2002.

Dr. Robin Black serves as Executive Director of Cordico, where she creates wellness programs, training and coaching for individuals and teams working in high stress professions. Dr. Black has developed emotional intelligence, global leadership, personality, and resilience training and programs for organizations spanning public and private sectors, including consumer goods, financial services, government, information technology, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and transportation. Dr. Black worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly two decades and has worked extensively with first responders in support of Executive Leadership, Tactical and Targeting, Crisis Negotiation, Interview and Interrogation, and Incident Command teams.

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Police & the Press Webinar: Strategies for Navigating Today’s Complex Interactions

Tuesday, June 28 | Noon Central Time

The changing definition of “journalist.” The ubiquity of cell phone cameras. State legislation extending protections to reporters. All these factors have made police/press interaction inherently more complex. 

And with complexity comes risk. An officer may violate a journalist’s First or Fourth Amendment rights. A journalist may jeopardize safety of themselves or others. Confrontations between officers and members of the press may spiral out of control, further eroding police/community trust.

This webinar will use videos, examples and audience questions to tackle some of the most vexing situations officers face with journalists. Attendees will gain confidence in how to navigate these sensitive situations in a way that protects everyone’s rights without jeopardizing scene control and safety. 

You’ll Learn:

  • Key points your agency policy should cover regarding police/press interaction and the right to record
  • Developing legal trends in restricting police/press interaction
  • Strategies for reacting to First Amendment audits
  • Lessons from the civil protests of 2020 and 2021
  • Tactics that empower officers to safely and constitutionally interact with journalists

Register today. 

Registration is free. Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you a recording after the event.

Questions? Contact us.

Presented by:

 

Mickey H. Osterreicher
General Counsel
National Press Photographers Association
Reserve Deputy Sheriff
Erie County (NY) Sheriff’s Office

 

Michael Commander (Ret.)
Los Angeles County
Sheriff’s Department
International Law Enforcement Consultant 



 

Michael Ranalli
Chief (Ret.) 
Glenville (NY) Police
Department
Program Manager, Lexipol

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Creative Recruit Pursuits: How PDs Are Attracting Officers

Story By Joe Vince for Police1.com

The billboard went up near City Hall in mid-March. The centerpiece of the sign included two female police officers framed by high rises. “Join Us In Louisville Laterals Welcome” the billboard’s police recruitment pitch proclaimed in white and yellow letters.

Except the billboard’s location wasn’t Louisville or a surrounding Kentucky community. It was in Atlanta, and one of the women featured on it was the city’s former police chief, Erica Shields, who is Louisville’s current chief.

“The pay that she’s putting out there for laterals, these guys are going to get a raise if they go there,” Lt. Kevin Knapp, president of the city’s police union, told  told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding that the Louisville Police Department was offering an $8,000 hiring bonus and $3,000 to relocate. “I don’t know if she’s got billboards in other cities, but I’m not surprised that she would start here. The people that work here enjoyed working for her.”

Not so long ago, such a tactic to attract job applicants might be considered rare or an outlier. But as departments compete with each other to recruit officers from a candidate pool that has shrunk over the past few years, some agencies are trying aggressive and creative approaches to fill their ranks.

“We’re getting more creative with our approaches,” says Capt. Paul Hrebenak, the director of Police Officer Employment Opportunities in the Recruiting Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. “If you go to a job fair… are you really attracting or missing a segment of the population?”

Like the Louisville Police Department, D.C. Metro has taken its recruitment advertising on the road. In New York City, signs have begun popping up in subway cars earlier this year. Unlike Louisville, though, these ads target an unorthodox group of potential applicants.

“Join Us,” read the mass transit signage, which also displays a D.C. Metro insignia. “Gamers • Foodies • Techies • Influencers.”

“That’s why you may have seen our ads in the New York subways… The idea is we’re going to value your whole person,” says Hrebenak. “I think that message resonates with a younger generation.”

That tailored, focused strategy is part of an effort to appeal to a younger generation of potential officers who might have different views about careers—law enforcement or otherwise—than past generations.

“We’re seeing our workforce is not so single-minded,” says Hrebenak. “Even my generation—which I’m Generation X—and generations before me, there was this kind of mindset that you go to school for what you want to do, then you leave and join a place and work there until you retire. If you’re in law enforcement, maybe I switch agencies once or twice in my career, that’s it.

I’m a police officer. Now we’re seeing people come to law enforcement from other careers.”

And it appears these measures are getting results.

“I think the response has been positive,” he says. “We’re seen an increase of people coming down from the New York and New Jersey area… We’ve also seen (more) women applicants.”

Hunting—or what some might call poaching—for candidates in other jurisdictions might be fraught with bad feelings and backlash. But Hrebenak hasn’t seen a detrimental effect.

“It’s not like the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story. We’re not snapping our fingers at each other,” he says. “I think everyone knows how hard it is to recruit… There might be some ill-will, but I don’t think it’s anything that would cause a rift between agencies.”

The Baltimore County Police Department also has set its sights on possible candidates who might not fit the traditional picture of a law enforcement officer, says Capt. Paul G. Borowski, who has been the department’s commander of employment since 2018. In the past, the agency would have focused primarily on candidates set on a career in law enforcement, the kind of candidates already likely to apply for openings. But with the current limited applicant pool, Borowski said the department is trying to raise awareness of job opportunities among individuals who might still be deciding on a career path.

One of the department’s aggressive approaches to lure candidates is a financial one. A new Baltimore County Police Department hire can now expect a generous $10,000 signing bonus and $3,000 to relocate. And Borowski says he’s seen two benefits from the bonus: It gets applicants in the door, and it keeps them motivated throughout the process.

“The academy class we have in there now is the first class that will be the recipient of the bonus, which happened to be our largest academy class since 2007,” says Borowski, who adds the goal is to bring staffing back up to 2012 and 2013 levels. “We’re proud of it because we don’t know specifically, outside of taking a survey, if that hiring bonus motivated each and every one of them to sign up—I’m going to say it didn’t—but it definitely motivated some of them.”

A new hiring landscape

Before 2020, departments around the country were already struggling to fill staffing shortages. That was exacerbated during the pandemic, especially as public sentiment concerning police and law enforcement turned following the death of George Floyd. But the pandemic’s effects haven’t simply disrupted the law enforcement job market, it radically transformed the country’s entire job market.

Historically, police departments had truly only competed with other public safety agencies when it came to job candidates. Because of where their agencies are located on the Eastern Seaboard, Borowski and Hrebenak admit that their organizations have competed with other departments in the surrounding area for officers. In the current pandemic employment landscape, however, industries across the board are struggling to fill positions, and that has expanded the job options for candidates on the market, says Borowski.

“We’re not just competing with other police departments, we’re competing with just about every other private sector job that has openings as well,” he says. “Because it seems like everywhere it’s ‘help wanted,’ and we’re no different. We need to fill our ranks.”

“It’s just a different labor market for everybody, not just for law enforcement… Every field is having issues with staffing and hiring,” adds Hrebenak. “It’s become acute for a lot of departments who may have had a hiring freeze and now are trying to ramp up hiring. It’s caused everyone to look at how we engage and how we get people.”

Both police recruiters are quick to push back against criticism that deepening the candidate pool to fill desperately needed positions leads to lower standards. While standards might change and evolve, the duties of a police officer are too critical to allow for standards to be diminished, says Borowski.

Tooting your own horn

Out-of-town ads and generous hiring bonuses are the types of moves that can garner attention and headlines. But Hrebenak and Borowski point to smaller, less-flashier efforts as being essential to driving their departments’ recruitment engines. For instance, using social media and other platforms to take control of their agencies’ narratives and not hiding the lights of their accomplishments and achievements under bushels.

“I think the humble brag has always been a part of (recruiting). You have to sell your department,” says Hrebenak. “But you have to refocus on how we’re doing that selling.”

Pulling back the curtain for the public also has allowed the Baltimore County Police Department to show a different side of itself to potential applicants by shining a spotlight on career opportunities that extend past simply working on patrol, says Borowski. He points to the head of the department’s helicopter division, who joined at 18 without previous aviation experience and worked his way to running the unit.

Another way they’ve tried to reach previously underserved groups of potential candidates has been through the return of community events. At the height of the pandemic, in-person events were shut down, closing off an opportunity for departments to tell their story in a relaxed setting. As the country begun to fully open again, Hrebenak says they’ve been eager to sponsor events.

Last year, the department held four community events, and this year six events have been scheduled, with one set for May. “I don’t think job fairs are where it’s at now, and these community events are a better bang for your buck,” he says.

Borowski says returning to face-to-face interactions with a possible future Baltimore County police officer plays to his strengths when it comes to selling the department he’s proud to serve on. “I can put a recruitment spin on anything.”

‘Be human’

As disruptive as the past few years have been, the change in law enforcement hiring has reinforced a philosophy that Hrebenak says is essential for any recruiter: always be reviewing your process and don’t be afraid to adapt. Staff shortages might be the current mother of employment invention, but practicing continual assessment even during flush times gives an agency a better chance of saying head of hiring curves instead of playing catch-up from behind.

“For a long time we’ve had the idea that people would be beating down our doors, and we’d have more applicants than we needed,” he says. “We’re not necessarily seeing people not come to MPD because they want to go to Montgomery County or (Prince George’s) County. We’re seeing people saying it’s not that I don’t want to be a police officer, it’s just that I got an offer from a financial firm to work for them that’s more money and I want to try that out first. That’s a different dynamic than we’ve ever had in the past with hiring.”

One of the biggest pieces of advice Borowski gives police recruiters could apply to any person tasked with drawing talented people to an organization.

“Be human, I say that in every part of our job we’re human beings, and if you treat applicants like human beings, as simple as talking to someone, making an initial contact by phone to hear a voice, that has been so beneficial to us because we get into a rut of we’ve got a hundred applicants, let’s send them a boilerplate email. But think of the value of being that applicant and getting a phone call from someone from the police department. Then you start to buy into the fact that maybe I want to go to this department.” 

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Investigating Trends in Catalytic Converter Thefts

From Police1.com

Download this week’s episode on Apple PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSpotify or via RSS feed.

Catalytic converter thefts have soared in recent years, thanks largely to the spiking prices of precious metals contained within them. This sudden rise has created an urgent need for police to find ways to deter thefts.

To help law enforcement agencies address the crisis, CARFAX for Police compiled a Catalytic Converter Replacement Report that identifies the most-targeted vehicles nationally, regionally and by state. In addition to the report, CARFAX for Police is hosting a free digital event for law enforcement on Tuesday, June 7 at 1 p.m. ET on Investigating Trends: Catalytic Converter Theft.

In this episode of Policing Matters, host Jim Dudley speaks with veteran police officers Lt. Michael Ledoux (Ret.), director of business development at CARFAX for Police and IACP Vehicle Crimes Committee member, and Sr. Trooper Robert Ivey, a criminal investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence, Florida Highlight Patrol, about their experiences investigating catalytic converter thefts.

This episode of the Policing Matters Podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership Program at the University of San Diego. Learn how this nationally ranked online program can help you be a force for change at sandiego.edu/police1.

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Doing it Right: Successful Advancement of Law Enforcement Technology

mprovements in law enforcement technology can save lives, protect officers, and make operations more efficient, but how do we ensure technological advancements are deployed successfully?

Join the National Law Enforcement Museum virtually on June 29 at 2pm Eastern for a conversation that will consider the effectiveness of new technology, the accountability for ethical implementation, and the community engagement needed to educate the public about law enforcement responsibility. By pursuing better training and communication about new technology, we can support safer communities for everyone.

Registration is free.

Moderator:

  • Jim Burch, President, National Policing Institute

Opening remarks:

  • Hoan Ton-That, CEO-Founder, Clearview AI

Panelists:

  • Det. Sgt. John Kadner, Cascade County (MT) Sheriff’s Office
  • Ganesha Martin, VP of Community Affairs and Public Policy, Mark 43
  • Roger Rodriguez, NYPD Detective (Ret.), and VP of Market Development, Clearview AI
Sponsored by

 

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Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Traffic Stop Extended, but Detention Was Lawful

confidential informant told detectives about the sale of heroin at a residence in Kentwood, Michigan. When detectives were watching the home, they saw Dante Whitley leave with a large wad of cash he appeared to be counting. Whitley drove to a house down the street, where he had an interaction lasting less than 30 seconds with another man. Detectives then watched Whitley drive to a Family Dollar store, enter and leave without any apparent purchases. Whitely then took a black bag out of the passenger side of the car, placed it in the trunk and drove to a liquor store. He entered the store empty-handed and came out empty-handed.

The detectives then called for a patrol officer to stop Whitley for failing to come to a standstill before exiting a private driveway onto a public street. During the traffic stop, the patrol officer noticed a digital scale sitting in plain view on Whitley’s lap, as well as marijuana fragments on the dashboard (Michigan law allows possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana). The officer asked Whitley to get out of the car and he initially refused. A detective approached the passenger side to try to persuade Whitley to get out. Whitley complied after his mother arrived approximately 20 minutes after the initial stop. The officer arrested Whitley for “hindering” and “opposing” the officers’ investigation.

After Whitley was arrested, a drug detector dog conducted an exterior sniff. When the dog gave a positive final response to the odor of controlled substances, the officers searched the car. They found a Glock 19 with an extended magazine under the driver’s seat, along with a handgun magazine, digital scale and $7,600 in cash in the center console and on Whitley’s person. They also discovered approximately a pound and a half of marijuana in the black bag in the trunk. Whitley told the officers he knew the gun was under the seat and that his fingerprints would be on the gun and ammunition. He also stated that he takes “donations” in exchange for marijuana.

Whitley was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. After the trial court denied Whitley’s motion to suppress, he entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the denial of his suppression motion.

Whitley claimed the officers unlawfully extended the proper duration and scope of the traffic stop. In Rodriguez v. United States (575 U.S. 348 (2015)), the Supreme Court held a stop may “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the initial purpose of the stop. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed.” The court observed that after the officer saw the scale and walked back to confer with the detective, “Whitley’s detention objectively exceeded the relevant scope of the traffic stop because it was now entirely focused on Whitley’s scale.”

Just now, clever officers might be thinking about Supreme Court rulings that officers may order the driver and any passengers to get out of the car until the traffic stop is over (Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997); Pennsylvania v. Mimms (434 U.S. 106 (1977) (per curiam)). Note: a handful of states have rejected the Mimms/Wilson rule on state constitutional grounds. For example, see Commonwealth v. Gonsalves (711 N.E.2d 108 (Mass. 1999)), rejecting Mimms/Wilson); State v. Caron (586 A.2d 1127 (Vt. 1990)), upholding an exit order on the basis that police had reasonable suspicion the person stopped was armed and dangerous; and State v. Kim (711 P.2d 1291 (Haw. 1985)), rejecting Mimms.

The Whitley court acknowledged that “although in other contexts officers may require an individual to exit a vehicle as a safety precaution, such safety measures taken to facilitate a different investigation are not tasks incident to the initial stop.” The court held that “it is still a detour that requires independent reasonable suspicion” to order Whitley out of the car. Thus, the next question is whether the officers had reasonable suspicion of a crime outside of the traffic violation.

The court held the officers abandoned the lawful traffic stop after the patrol officer saw the scale, making it the focus of questioning. Nonetheless, the officers collectively had reasonable suspicion to continue lawfully detaining Whitley. In addition to the scale and apparent marijuana residue on the dashboard, the officers observed Whitley entering and leaving a suspected drug house, counting a fat wad of cash, making short stops and moving the black bag from the seat to the trunk.

 

About the Author

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys.

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Law Enforcement Leaders: Here’s why you need to tell local media to not name the killer

Law enforcement personnel stand outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

 

Research shows the contagion effect is real and news media coverage is impacting the decisions of potential killers.

 

By Katherine Schweit for Police1.com

The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas – with all the facts still pouring in – will be remembered for years to come. 

With emotions running high, I implore all of us to keep a calm head about our conduct when it comes to sharing information about the shooter, including his name.

Right now, word is spreading that the shooter possibly posted his intent to do this shooting – a clear cry for help that law enforcement officials see time and time again. We call this “leakage,” and those are the signs we all need to look for to stop the next shooter. 

Posting and reposting these details, looking to place blame or explain what cannot be explained may make us all feel better for a few minutes, but I implore you to slow down tonight. Look to others who might be leaking their intent. 

One of the critical aspects of these shooters is their desire to be famous. And when you tweet and re-tweet a killer’s picture, his guns and his writings, the internet sucks that information in, never to relinquish it again. One of the Columbine killers’ names evidenced 1.7 million hits. Don’t be one of those hits for this killer. Don’t give him – and those who will admire him – the fame they seek. 

Just last week I was in Ocean City, Maryland, and a few weeks ago in Springfield, Illinois, talking about the contagion factor. In the two weeks after a shooting, there will be three more. We have the research. We need to act on it. 

About a decade ago, researchers began looking into the contagion or copycat effect to determine if coverage of one shooting prompts another to strike. Research shows news media coverage is impacting the decisions of potential killers. 

Researchers at Northeastern Illinois and Arizona State universities released a study finding a contagion “effect lasting approximately 13 days” after a mass shooting. In 2017, our FBI behavioral experts – who are always reviewing the why factor for killers – began stressing that law enforcement should minimize the use of photos and the shooters’ names and details of their plans. Another researcher said, “Our findings consistently suggest a positive and statistically significant effect of coverage on the number of subsequent shootings, lasting for 4-10 days.” Social media research is thinner but the impact is likely the same.

It’s early and the next few days will give us so many more details. But right now, as professionals, we need to keep our emotions in check enough to not name the killers, not post their photos, nor detail what we learn. The next killer is out there watching how collectively we give this one his fame.

NEXT: Read an excerpt from Katherine Schweit’s recent book, “Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis”


About the author

Katherine Schweit is an author, attorney, former Chicago prosecutor and career Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent who helped jail bank robbers, kidnappers, and domestic terrorists, while working daily with local police investigating and responding to mass casualty and active shooter incidents.

A native of Detroit, Ms. Schweit earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University. She earned a law degree at DePaul University and joined the Cook County prosecutor’s office as an assistant state’s attorney. She is the author of “Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis” and “A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013.”

She runs Schweit Consulting LLC, providing leadership counseling, security advice and safety training to hospitals, businesses, religious organizations, educators and government clients. Follow her on Twitter.

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A “Hunch” and Intuition are Different. For Cops, That Makes a Difference.

 

By Robin Kipling for Calibre Press Calibrepress.com

Intuition and instinct are two different things. As a cop, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two. Throughout my career I’ve heard officers use one or the other in the wrong context which can result in investigatory and legal problems, among others. My hope is that this article helps avoid that.

Before I begin, I’ll make clear that I am not a psychologist, medical doctor or career-long human factors expert. I have, however, put time into understanding what these terms actually mean and how they apply in the context of law enforcement. Here’s what I’ve found:

My Meriam-Webster Dictionary app defines instinct as “a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reasoning; behavior that is meditated by actions below the conscious level.”

If you analyze the language that we commonly use to justify our actions, you will notice that some key phrases and concepts in this definition can be problematic such as “responding without reasoning,” “actions below the conscious level” and “inheritable and unalterable tendency.” All imply that our actions are carried out without thought or reason.

Yet when police officers are asked to justify and articulate the kinds of actions we are frequently scrutinized for—actions usually involving the escalation of force or stopping a citizen on the street to question them based on perceived suspicious behavior—the details of our justifications and reasoning are not immediately available to us, so we answer, “instinct” or “a cop hunch.”

Instinct or a cop hunch should never be used to justify our reasoning for the escalation of force because reasoning, according to the definition, is not present in either of these two concepts.

A flinch response to a punch or quickly removing your hand from a hot burner are both examples of instinctual behavior. Your brain, operating at a subconscious level, has ordered your body to respond in order to protect itself from harm.

But when a tactical team leader decides that the team must enter a suite immediately to end a volatile and dangerous unfolding situation, as opposed to remaining outside and continuing negotiations, that decision is not instinct. This is not a cop hunch.  This decision is the result of an incredibly complex cognitive process that needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

If a police officer is making a decision to escalate force that cannot be explained by logic and reasoning at the rational level of thinking—that is, decisions made in the frontal cortex of your brain where our highest level of thinking and problem solving is done—then I suggest that those actions are intuition, not instinct.

Meriam-Webster defines intuition as “the power or faculty of attaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.”

The most accurate definition of intuition I’ve heard in layman’s terms was shared by Psychologist Seymour Epstein who explained, “Intuition is something that you have learned, without realizing you have learned it.”

What this means is that we probably have valid reasons for the actions we take and the decisions we make, we just have to deeply consider why and discuss it with each other.

John Ratey is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Harvard University and in his book A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention and the Four Theaters of the Brain he describes this incredibly complex cognitive process occurring in your brain at any given time, which I’ll try to summarize.

Neural networks begin forming before birth and are constantly being reinforced throughout your entire life. Your perceptions and experiences all have a significant impact. Each time you make a decision or take action based on your experiences you are subconsciously accessing a group of neurons that have formed together. Ratey estimates there are 100 million such groups in the brain all containing from 50-10,000 neurons.

All of these neural associations are the product of experiences and are formed to enable us to function properly and most importantly, survive. All of these millions of neurons are firing full tilt in every cop’s brain during a stressful encounter where critical decisions need to be made.

When you act in a certain way, there are numerous valid reasons at the subconscious level why you are acting as you are. We need to do better at identifying them.

We need to debrief incidents properly and identify why our intuition told us that this action needed to be taken now. What have I learned here without realizing I have learned it?

Please keep in mind, this goes deeper than the simple notion of articulable cause for detention. For example, if you are patrolling an area where high level of crimes have been reported, or if you see a person skulking around with no purpose at zero dark thirty and he is evading the police, your decision to want to talk to, identify and query him as to his activities is a decision that is made at a rational level.

Intuition goes deeper than that.

Is there a look in the person’s eyes that you have learned long ago, through many different experiences and that you can’t quite put your finger on, but tells you he is lying? Is he positioning his body in the same way as someone who took a swing at you last year? Is his voice during negotiations the same tone and insincerity of a previous experiences of a suspect who was stalling for time, had no intention of complying and/or was formulating a plan of attack that caused you to feel if you don’t act now, the situation will worsen. Something in all those firing neurons has relayed to you the belief that this guy is using time to his own tactical advantage and counter measures need to be taken.

I encourage all of you readers to recognize and appreciate this incredibly complex process going on in your brain at all times and do it justice by accessing the actual reason why you are doing what you are doing.

As an exercise, post incident, have a discussion with your teammates or your partner and list no less than 10 reasons why you felt your course of action was justified. What are the things that you have learned in the past that you didn’t realize you’ve learned, but which are weighing heavily in your decision making.

These feeling are intuitive, not instinctual or a cop hunch. They are the truth. And they are valid and need to be expressed and developed.

They need to be discussed and brought into the conscious realm.

About the author:

Robin is the author of: The Active Killer Fallacy: A Tactical Training Primer for Police Officers, a 24-year police veteran, a former tactical operator and close quarters tactics trainer, court declared use of force subject matter expert and the founder of Kipling Consulting Group.

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Are law enforcement officers unknowingly breaking the law by using consumer messaging apps?

While consumer apps provide immediate connection and a user-friendly platform, they pose significant risks to officers and their employers. (Getty Images)

 

By Jeff Halstead for Police1.com

More than 80% of first responders said that interoperability – the ability to communicate with other agencies across differing technologies – is of “critical” or “somewhat” concern, according to a November 2021 survey by Verizon.

Despite the pervasive presence and accessibility public messaging apps to enable interoperability, the use of these consumer programs among police and first responders poses significant workplace and legal risks. And unfortunately, an overwhelming number of public safety employees use consumer apps, along with SMS texting, for work-related communications – breaking the law while doing so without realizing it.

Contrary to promises of secure messaging and data storage, public messaging apps – WhatsApp, GroupMe, Signal and SMS texting alike – are not designed to exchange intelligence shared among officers, and do not offer fully encrypted communication. Sharing critical details on crime, or even, emergencies that first responders address, creates the risk of information leaks, eventually exposing first responders and officers to unforeseen challenges or legal reprimand.

Below we look more closely at the importance of eliminating consumer apps in law enforcement.

RISKS POSED BY PUBLIC COMMUNICATION APPS

Conventional messaging software has made strides in enhancing communication security to offer stringently encrypted messaging. However, these apps are tailored for general users and don’t offer the extent of security or information tracking required for exchanges between first responders and government agencies.

Messages sent using SMS or consumer application services are public once remitted and are not tracked when forwarded to further recipients. The lack of external tracking of shared messages opens the possibility of and has previously led to, classified information falling into the hands of media before responders could take action. The unrestricted flow of sensitive information, in turn, exposes victims, associated individuals and responders to risks. This pitfall regarding the tracking of message transfers leaves first responders liable for harm and grievances caused due to mismanagement of critical information.

Claims of end-to-end encryption have recently taken center stage in conversations on messaging apps. However, programs developed for consumers do not aim to offer security warranted by intelligence shared among first responders. This inadequate protection allows those with malicious intent to breach past safeguards and steal classified data.

Many public messaging applications further let users permanently delete shared messages as a push to offer appealing features. While the cornerstone of effective law enforcement is the ability to share intelligence swiftly, agencies must keep archived copies of all conversations related to work. Hence, deleting messages related to work means the officers are infringing public records retention laws.

THE USE OF PUBLIC COMMUNICATION APPLICATIONS EXPOSES RESPONDERS TO LEGAL LIABILITY

Conversations among police officers on work-related matters are categorized as evidence and required to be entered into public records. Deleting shared messages is outlined as the destruction of evidence or even interference with judicial proceedings and is a crime. Conventional apps allow the ability to delete shared messages, they violate federal and state-level public records laws and are not compliant with Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

For example, the Texas Senate Bill 944 mandates that any public information on a privately owned device, including SMS, shall be forwarded or transferred to the governmental body or a governmental body server to be preserved, which would not be feasible if the information was compromised through a consumer messaging app. In Indiana, text messages are also considered public records and carry with them a three-year retention cycle. Additionally, Florida Public Records Law defines “public records” as all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings and all other forms of communication. As these laws are broad and all-encompassing, it’s imperative that officers use secure and encrypted apps that offer guaranteed retention of all communications.

Officers also run into issues with the ability to delete conversations and the lack of self-auditing features that these platforms provide. These results can prevent agencies from complying with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Hence, under scrutiny, agencies that rely on consumer messaging apps at work open themselves to the chance of legal proceedings against them. Namely, if intelligence is misplaced or lost during a crisis, the use of non-compliant apps can hold grave consequences.

These platforms can pose repercussions beyond the jurisdiction of federal and state-level public records laws. If an app’s security measures do not securely restrict messages, grievances caused due to sensitive intelligence reaching the hands of individuals outside of the agency are also grounds for legal proceedings.

WHY SECURE AND COMPLIANT MESSAGING APPS ARE IMPERATIVE FOR FIRST RESPONDERS

The best rule for agencies to follow is to limit all work communications to dedicated, compliant and secure platforms, and avoid utilizing any consumer messaging platform. Without the usage of compliant apps, agencies are without the technology needed to lawfully and safely perform their tasks. Luckily, more technologies that fit this mold are in the market for agencies to explore and find the right fit for their department.

While the punishments for misplacing intelligence through consumer apps differ in each state, officers commit a crime each time they knowingly use these apps/platforms and conceal, destroy, or delete evidentiary conversations, which can lead to termination from duty. In addition, the use of compromised apps leads to security risks for officers as approaching a scene without proper equipment and intelligence would.

CONCLUSION

The nature of first responders’ work calls for swift, real-time exchange of information, which is easily available with consumer messaging apps. While they provide immediate connection and a user-friendly platform, they pose significant risks to officers and their employers.

The onus lies on law enforcement departments to invest in their teams, providing consolidated training around messaging apps along with messaging solutions that align with the training. Ensuring compliance of their workplace messaging shields agencies from legal proceedings and protects sensitive information within their organizations so officers can perform their work unhindered.


About the author

Jeff Halstead dedicated nearly 30 years of service to law enforcement and corresponding local communities. For more than two decades, Halstead worked for the Phoenix Police Department, departing as Homeland Security Commander (Fusion Center) to join the Fort Worth Police Department. As chief of police in Fort Worth, he faced many national and global crisis incidents before retiring in 2015. He went on to found and create Evertel, a secure and compliant mobile communication platform for first responders and government entities, to solve the communication disparities he witnessed firsthand as a first responder and law enforcement agency leader.

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Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.