Militarization of Police

Minneapolis' Mayor Wants to End 'Warrior' Training That Teaches Cops to Treat Us All Like Threats

The local police union promises to defy him.

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has had enough of with the militarized "warrior cop" who treats every interaction with citizens as though we're a potential threat. So this month he announced that the city was going to ban police participation in "warrior-style" training that fosters paranoid overreactions and makes it more likely that innocent people will be shot.

In response, the Minneapolis Police Union has declared that Frey's order is unlawful and is partnering with a national organization to give officers this forbidden training for free.

It's not hard to understand why Frey would want to put the brakes on the warrior-cop mentality. This past weekend, Connecticut officials released surveillance video of two officers opening fire on an unarmed couple's car in New Haven as the man exits the automobile with his hands up. And that's just one recent example. A skim through our police coverage at Reason will net you story after story of officers choosing to shoot or punch or Tase people for the slightest of provocations. Even complying with police orders might not be enough to protect you, as the young man in New Haven discovered.

Fortunately, he wasn't injured. Others have not been so lucky. In March, North Carolina police shot and killed a man who appeared to be following their orders to put down a gun. In 2017, jurors in Arizona acquitted a Mesa officer who shot and killed a man who was attempting to follow the officer's orders to crawl down a hallway.

In the Minneapolis area Frey represents, Philando Castile's fatal shooting at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer became a national news story. Castile was abruptly shot and killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez at a traffic stop after telling the officer he had a gun (which he had a permit to carry). Yanez was ultimately acquitted of any charges for the shooting.

Yanez had taken 20 hours of training in a program called "The Bulletproof Warror"—the kind of program Frey wants to stop. It encouraged the officer to treat all encounters as potential threats to his safety. By contrast, Yanez received all of two hours of training in de-escalation tactics.

The "warrior cop" mentality has also led to the use of violent, dangerous SWAT raids to execute basic search warrants in situations where they're not called for, often in the perpetuation of the drug war. This mimicking of "shock and awe" military-style raid tactics have led to innocent people—even children—hurt or killed.

And then, when the justice system attempts to hold officers responsible for these deadly overreactions, the training itself is invoked in court to justify these actions. One psychologist who teaches officers to see every encounter as a potential threat then presents himself as an expert witness on the stand, where he tells juries that it was reasonable for cops to fear for their lives regardless of whatever actions the citizens around them were taking. Yes, even if it turns out they're unarmed and completely innocent of any criminal behavior.

So Frey should be commended for trying to bring about an end to this sort of training. But the Minneapolis Police Union doesn't agree. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the police union, was undeterred on Wednesday, saying in an interview that he consulted with the union's attorneys, who said Frey's directive was unlawful. Kroll also defended the training, saying, "It's not about killing, it's about surviving."

Frey said in a statement that the city attorney's office was consulted during the drafting of the policy, and, "They are confident in its legal position."

Frey says that any officer taking this training in violation of the city's policy will be disciplined.

On Friday it looked like the two sides had come to an agreement, and Frey said that the union had "come around" and accepted the ban. But the union then put out a statement that said they had not come to such an agreement, and that the mayor and city had in fact agreed that no officer would be punished for going to any sort of off-duty training.

It's not entirely clear how Minneapolis could stop police officers from taking these courses on their own time, as long as they're not using any city resources and they're not getting paid for doing so, but perhaps we'll see.

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  1. What police really need is racial sensitivity training. Too many cops — especially white ones — terrorize neighborhoods of color, putting bullets in black bodies for no reason whatsoever.

    Perhaps a mandatory African American Studies class could be a prerequisite for joining the police force in Minneapolis. Or any other city.

    #BlackLivesMatter
    #HandsUpDontShoot

    1. Yeah, that’s the problem. They just haven’t been told how racist they are enough times. A few more and everything should be fine.

  2. lAnother Minneapolis cop (A Somali Import) shot and killed an Australian Yoga Instructor for the crime of approaching his vehicle.

    He’s on trial right now.

    1. It was a two officer squad car. He shot the woman trough the driver’s side door, from the passenger seat.

      Think about that for a minute.

      It’s an awkward shooting position and he could have ended up killing his partner instead of the woman.

  3. Seems like it would be interesting evidence at the trial of a warrior cop to show he had taken training that the city forbid, especially when the city could drag in that same expert witness to illustrate why the city had forbid it.

    Some concealed carriers worry about modifying their carry weapons for a lighter trigger pull. Some fret over loading with hollow points. It would be fantastic if cops had to sweat warrior training.

    1. I’m not sure why forbidding the cops from taking the training on their own is a legal issue. There’s nothing unusual about municipal employees being disciplined for off-the-clock behavior.

      1. If a civilian took courses on how to treat everybody as an imminent lethal threat and was involved in a self-defense shooting at a gas station, you can bet your bottom dollar that would come out in court and beforehand as a ton of press leaks.

        If a cop attended KKK meetings on his own, you can bet that would come out when he shot someone, no matter how justified.

        If the city forbids certain activities, like KKK meetings or warrior training, you can bet that would come out.

  4. If I were in charge, part of police training would be instruction that their lives aren’t the most important thing and that by signing up for this job they are accepting that they will be exposing themselves to danger in order to protect other people. The most important thing is not that they go home safely to their families every night. The most important thing is that they don’t harm innocent people. Even if that means taking the chance of getting shot rather than taking immediate action when they are not sure of the situation.
    Better that 10 cops get shot by bad guys than 1 innocent person gets shot by a cop.

    1. Your comment illustrates why it’s inappropriate for police to be unionized. You’re speaking of policing as a Calling for which personal sacrifice might be required. From the unionist perspective, policing is a Job, the position is an employer-employee relationship, and the use of deadly force upon feeling threatened is a workplace safety issue, not a moral or ethical one.

      1. Government employees should be banned from forming unions in the first place. You are right in that it is highly inappropriate for police to have unions. Especially unions that help shield them from being held accountable for crimes they commit.

        1. I don’t care if they form unions because I’m libertarian and libertarians generally allow people to do things like form groups even if we don’t agree with the purpose of the group and as long as the group doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. What I don’t want is for unions to have legal protections because I’m libertarian and I think everyone should be equal under the law. If the government hadn’t given so many protections to unions, they wouldn’t have anywhere near the power they enjoy now and would probably had died a slow but painless death once they weren’t needed.

  5. It’ll become, or already has in some locations, a self- fulfilling prophecy: act like an occupying army, and the people start treating you like an occupying army.

    1. I wonder how long it will take and what the trigger will be?

      Any thoughts, commentariat?

  6. Nearly every police encounter with a civilian could, in fact, be a life threatening situation to the cop. We don’t want to admit this. The odds of an arbitrary encounter being life threatening to a cop are statistically very, very low. But the severity of consequences to the cop, if it is one of the few, could be their death. And it can happen quick. One can’t ignore the risk of low frequency occurrences if the severity of them is that you’re dead. This is a very unfortunate reality of being a cop. The game theoretic rational response is to expect the worst and unexpected until its clear there isn’t a threat. This makes life riskier for the rest of us. I don’t like most cops. And there’s no question individual cops and entire forces don’t overstep the lines or overreact. But we should recognize they are in a near impossible situation.

    1. Cops need to recognize that assuming that risk is part of the job, and that they have no right to push that risk off onto the public by firing upon perceived threat rather than in response to attack. If they don’t like that deal, then they need to seek other employment. I don’t see what “impossible situation” they’re in. There are much more dangerous jobs on which people in other professions put themselves at risk of death every day.

    2. I have no problem admitting that. I don’t want cops to ignore the risk. I want them to accept it as part of the job. The standard for when it is acceptable for police to use deadly force should be no different from that applied to anyone else. Or higher if anything.

    3. Nearly every police encounter with a civilian could, in fact, be a life threatening situation to the civilian.

      1. Or their dog.

        They never shoot cats. Speciesists!

        1. They never shoot cats. Speciesists!

          More of a combination of fast cats smart enough to run the other way, and cop’s notoriously poor aim.

        2. The ATF has been known to stomp cats to death.

      2. To update a saying of Samuel Clemens: “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while he is in an encounter with the police.”

        1. “I can think of no state of human misery that could not be made instantly worse by the arrival on the scene of a policeman.” – Brendan Behan.

    4. But we should recognize they are in a near impossible situation.

      Quit.

    5. Nearly every police encounter with a civilian could, in fact, be a life threatening situation to the cop.

      Nearly every police encounter with a mundane could, in fact, be a life threatening situation to the mundane. One of the two civilians in the encounter might possibly be armed and dangerous, the other 100% certainly is. Guess who has the most to fear from the encounter?

    6. The game theory rational response is to expect the worst until its clear there isn’t a threat if and only if it’s a single-iteration game. In a multi-iteration game, the rational game theorist must incorporate the opponent’s reaction.

      As history has clearly shown, the cop over-reacting as if every minor interaction is a life-and-death threat antagonizes the citizens with whom he/she interacts and increases the risk at the next interaction.

      This is not a “near impossible situation”. It is a situation that policemen have been in for millennia. It’s a situation that police in many cities across the US were in for about two centuries before the current wave of militarization of the police. It’s not an easy situation but it’s a long, long way from impossible.

  7. “Frey says that any officer taking this training in violating of the city’s policy will be disciplined.”

    You mean ordered to take more training?

    1. “And if you do it again, why, we’ll…we’ll train you some more!”

    2. A sternly worded reprimand will be place in their file.

      1. Which the arbitrator will consider excessive, and order the letter and all reference to it to be destroyed and any reference to it in the future prohibited, except by the union when complaining about the oppressiveness of management.

    3. For a first offense? How about an off-the-record talking to?

      1. A verbal warning prefaced by “I am required by policy to say…”

  8. It’s about surviving. But you can’t just survive at any cost. Even if you are LEO.

  9. How about scaling cop pay inversely with how much armament they choose to carry on the job? Deal with the public in short sleeves and maybe a baton? Get 200% of median pay. Go out in public suited and armed like a Navy SEAL storming Bin Laden’s B&B? Get a paycheck discounted to 30% of median.

  10. Dress up like warriors, play like warriors, get the tools of warriors, be told you’re warriors… every civilian looks like a barbarian.

    SHOCKING

  11. Ending drug prohibition would solve a lot of the problem.

  12. It is well past time cops were disarmed. They have proven they as a group are unable to handle the responsibility of the privilege of being armed while working for the tax payers.

    Citizens should be armed, not government employees.

  13. It’s not about killing, it’s about surviving.
    -Lt Bob Kroll

    Oh the irony!

  14. […] see if there are ways to make the job safer. Particularly we don’t want police to resort to “warrior” training that encourages them to see all interactions with citizens as threats to their lives and respond […]

  15. […] see if there are ways to make the job safer. Particularly we don’t want police to resort to “warrior” training that encourages them to see all interactions with citizens as threats to their lives and respond […]

  16. […] see if there are ways to make the job safer. Particularly we don’t want police to resort to “warrior” training that encourages them to see all interactions with citizens as threats to their lives and respond […]

  17. […] see if there are ways to make the job safer. Particularly we don’t want police to resort to “warrior” training that encourages them to see all interactions with citizens as threats to their lives and respond […]

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