I’m going to be writing more about police reform and gun control later today, but first I wanted to understand how police /should/ approach someone when they say, “I’m carrying a concealed weapon and I have a permit.” Obviously, that’s a moment in which a police officer might quickly escalate or even (as seems to have happened in the Castile killing) panic, but that’s not optimal.
Without asking him to weigh in on Castile, I turned to Lou Hayes, a police officer in my general area of Chicagoland and a member of the area’s SWAT team too. We disagree on many things, but I’ve routinely found his insights into police reform to be incredibly perceptive and important.
Here’s what he said (published in full with his permission):
America is an armed society – both legally and illegally armed. Do our law enforcement officers receive the appropriate training to police this armed society? I say no.
The message on Second Amendment rights within policing is somewhat conflicted. On one hand, most cops (my own experiences) are pro-2ndA. On the other, cops are programmed to shoot people (and targets) who are holding guns. In police training across the country, the “gun” is the most frequent stimulus prompting officers to shoot…whether in scenario training or marksmanship drills.
I can’t answer the questions, “what’s the proper protocol for investigating a man with a gun call?” or “How should a cop interact with a concealed carry permit holder?” There are no such checklists. Checklists, in these circumstances, should be shunned at all costs.
But we do need to give guidance to our police officers in how to THINK through the various situations that can arise. Only the quick thinking cop can truly navigate these complex situations that balance safety, Constitutional rights, and the enforcement of laws (gun or other).
Did someone call 911 on: A man with gun-in-hand in a public park? A grocery store customer whose shirt rode up, exposing a holstered pistol? A man eating in a restaurant whose ankle holster can be seen from across the room? A gun-owning homeowner scaring off a would-be home invader?
Are we talking about a police officer seeing a bulge (or “imprinting”) through a tight shirt? A heavy pocket? A driver of a car who self-reports as being an armed security guard? A concealed carry license holder? An off-duty cop? Finding a hidden gun while searching a car on a traffic stop?
In order for a gun to be a legitimate threat against a police officer, it must be: 1. Present and accessible. 2. By a person who intends to do harm to the officer.
How do police officers determine the INTENTIONS of the (armed) person? Body language? Behavioral clusters? Facial expressions? Words spoken?
How do police officers employ the safest strategies and tactics? How do they control their own approach, body language, tone, attitude, posture, positioning, and social skills to ensure their commands or requests are not only clear, firm, and unmistakeable…but also provide for the best chances of understanding and compliance?
One thing I firmly hold is that people respond better to cool and collected than loud and panicked. As police officers, we also do our best thinking when we slow down, remain calm ourselves, hunt for information, process that data, and make informed decisions.
But first, maybe we have to reprogram ourselves and our training to match reality: not everyone is trying to kill me.
Thanks Lou. You can learn more about his work at The Virtus Group