No, this post isn’t about gangbangers, my favorite newspaper, or the NBA Finals. It’s about the most perceptive thing I’ve read about the McKinney, TX swimming pool mishigas. It was written by a former cop named Seth Stoughton:
The two officers in this brief video represent two different policing styles, two different mindsets that officers use as they interact with civilians: the Guardian and the Warrior. As a former police officer and current policing scholar, I know that an officer’s mindset has tremendous impact on police/civilian encounters. I’ve described the Guardian and Warrior mindsets at some length here and here; for now, suffice to say that the right mindset can de-escalate tense situations, induce compliance, and increase community trust over the long-term. The kids interacting with the first officer were excited, but not upset; they remained cooperative. Had they gone home at that moment, they’d have a story for their friends and family, but it would be a story that happened to have the police in it rather than being a story about the police.
The wrong mindset, on the other hand, can exacerbate a tense encounter, produce resistance, and lead to entirely avoidable violence. It can, and has, caused longterm damage to police/community relations. We shouldn’t be surprised that the kids Corporal Casebolt was yelling at weren’t eager to do what he was ordering them to do—no one likes being cursed at and disrespected in front of their peers, and people of all ages, especially teenagers, resent being treated unjustly. That resentment can lead to resistance, and Police Warriors—taught to exercise unquestioned command over a scene—overcome resistance by using force.
I think he sums up the two types and styles of policing quite neatly. Unfortunately, there are too many heavily armed police warriors on the street nowadays and too few guardians. It even reminds me of the granddaddy of quality teevee dramas, Hill Street Blues, where guardian Frank Furillo spent much of his time fending off the warrior tendencies of the tact squad commander, Howard Hunter. I’m not sure if that was art imitating life or vice versa but it *was* a major digression…
In my time as a New Orleans neighborhood leader, our district was blessed with police guardian leadership for many years. One former commander wanted people to report rude cops to him so he could straighten them out. It was usually young patrol officers treating civilians as if they were criminals. That’s an occupational hazard and unless the command structure is on their toes, it leads to the sort of bad policing that we’re seeing far too much of.
Reflexive defense of the police is inexcusable when it involves an armed cop sitting on a fourteen year old girl in a bikini. Everyone with a lick of sense knows that wouldn’t have happened with some blond white chick, which explains why Fox News meathead Sean Hannity is defending the indefensible once again. I’m convinced that he was dropped on his head when he was an infant.
There has been some excellent writing about the McKinney incident thus far this week. I’d like to give a shout-out to two pieces in particular. First, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie whose piece about the history of segregated public pools placed it in a broader context. Second, Salon’s Brittney Cooper nails how race and gender affect public and police perception in a piece aptly titled: America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about “one bad apple.” Anyone who thinks that African-Americans have a monopoly on mouthy teenage girls doesn’t get out very much.
The only way past this problem of police violence is for more police forces to adopt the guardian model of policing and to consign the warrior model to the proverbial ash heap of history where it belongs.
Writing this post gave me an earworm and, mercifully, it doesn’t involve the Osmonds: