Friday, September 26, 2014

Presume Compliance - Miller, Hunt, Crawford

In the world of Down syndrome, we talk about "presuming competence" (hey, go buy a shirt!). That instead of "awareness," we'd like to see a shift to a general presumption of competence first. More on this in pieces to come.

I've been working, though, on ways of re-describing the strategic problems with police procedure as it feeds the cult of compliance. Police operate on a presuming non-compliance basis, so as soon as they get any evidence to confirm that presumption, they too often strike.

What would "presume compliance" policing look like? How dangerous would it be? I keep thinking that to roll back the proto-police state, we have to ask police to assume more risk, and that's going to be a very hard argument to make.

Here are three stories, though, of when presuming non-compliance leads to fatalities.

On Saturday a deaf man was shot and killed by Florida deputies, allegedly because he didn't comply with commands quickly enough. Here's the story:
Hernandez, 35, fired his service weapon, killing Miller, because he perceived a threat, a sheriff's office spokesman said.
The sheriff's office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the shooting, and would not release further details.
Miller's 25-year-old son witnessed his father's death. He told the Ledger that his dad, who only had two percent of his hearing, was further impaired because his hearing aid was broken at the time. He denies that his father was a threat.
“I kept telling them that he can't hear them,” the 25-year-old, who's also named Edward Miller, told the Ledger. “I kept telling them he can't understand them.”
The son told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that Hernandez shot his father six times while his dad sat inside a vehicle in the tow yard.
Meanwhile, there's John Crawford. The surveillance video of his death has gone viral just as the Grand Jury has declined to convict the officers that shot him. Attention has rightly focused on the 911 call in which Ronald Ritchie told police Crawford was waving the gun around, including at children.

Crawford wasn't. He was on the phone, distracted by the call, and likely didn't hear the police until just seconds before they shot him to death.

Then there was Darrien Hunt, the man with a sword shot in Utah as he ran away. Most recent reports think he was cosplaying from . The Guardian says [my emphasis]:
Attention was swiftly drawn online to Hunt’s remarkable resemblance as he walked around on the morning of 10 September to Mugen, a swordsman character in the short-lived Japanese anime series Samurai Champloo. The Comic Con convention had also taken place in Salt Lake City, about 35 miles to the north, the weekend before the shooting.
Hunt’s aunt, Cindy Moss, previously told the Guardian that a witness to the confrontation with police had told the family that Hunt “had his earbuds in, and was kind of doing spins and stuff, like pretending he’s a samurai”.
These three stories are obviously very different. Miller was white, Hunt mixed race but appeared black, and Crawford black. Crawford had a fake gun and a lying 911 call (which is probably criminal in Ohio, I'm told). Hunt had a sword and was acting "weird." Miller had been shouting a lot and that was interpreted as anger, rather than hearing loss.

The differences matter and what I am about to say does not erase them.

These are also the same story. A man with a permanent or temporary hearing impairment - deaf, phone, earbuds - gets the attention of the police, doesn't respond to verbal commands quickly, and so the presumption of non-compliance leads to death.

Being deaf in front of the cops is dangerous. That's long been clear. But just as we all move in and sometimes out of different stages of disability, putting on earbuds or listening to a phone call also renders you less likely to process verbal commands, functioning like hearing loss in terms of creating a vulnerability to a trigger-happy law enforcement officer.

The only solution that I can see is to change the strategic approach on a fundamental level to "presume compliance."

10 comments:

Don said...

I think we - and "we" here means the cops have to buy into doing this or be forced into it - could accomplish the same thing and solve other problems if cops moved into a headspace where it's ever okay to de-escalate/back-off from a situation. Every case lately where I have seen video from an officer or officers shooting someone there's been one thing in common: the officers never take a step back or back down off a situation.

Until that's something required of them I don't see how we ever solve this excessive force situation and lack of culpability. Feeling in danger of your life is a get out of charges free card for officers and it's near impossible to ever prove someone didn't. The closest we come is like the recent dashcam video that showed an officer leaping right to deadly force in a situation no reasonable person would. But if that citizen had leaned towards the officer instead of towards the car, no matter how innocent the motion, it would have been shrugged off.

In fairness to the cops, this is cutting across civilian society too with things like stand your ground. I sat in on an armed security guard training a decade ago, and one of the topics covered in detail was what was then a duty to retreat. I didn't matter who started that screaming match, who was escalating it, whatever. Before you unholstered your weapon you had to make a good faith effort to back off the situation and avoid that physical conflict if it was remotely possible.

When was the last time we saw one of these situations where that seemed to have happened? Departments seem to need to continually revisit their no high-speed-chase policies, formed because we know that the cost of those is almost always higher than the repercussions of letting someone escape and be captured later. We can't get officers not to listen to their adrenaline in those circumstances, of course we have a hard time stopping them from shooting people when they rush up into close proximity with folks and aren't trained to back down rather than kill.

Don said...

I think we - and "we" here means the cops have to buy into doing this or be forced into it - could accomplish the same thing and solve other problems if cops moved into a headspace where it's ever okay to de-escalate/back-off from a situation. Every case lately where I have seen video from an officer or officers shooting someone there's been one thing in common: the officers never take a step back or back down off a situation.

Until that's something required of them I don't see how we ever solve this excessive force situation and lack of culpability. Feeling in danger of your life is a get out of charges free card for officers and it's near impossible to ever prove someone didn't. The closest we come is like the recent dashcam video that showed an officer leaping right to deadly force in a situation no reasonable person would. But if that citizen had leaned towards the officer instead of towards the car, no matter how innocent the motion, it would have been shrugged off.

In fairness to the cops, this is cutting across civilian society too with things like stand your ground. I sat in on an armed security guard training a decade ago, and one of the topics covered in detail was what was then a duty to retreat. I didn't matter who started that screaming match, who was escalating it, whatever. Before you unholstered your weapon you had to make a good faith effort to back off the situation and avoid that physical conflict if it was remotely possible.

When was the last time we saw one of these situations where that seemed to have happened? Departments seem to need to continually revisit their no high-speed-chase policies, formed because we know that the cost of those is almost always higher than the repercussions of letting someone escape and be captured later. We can't get officers not to listen to their adrenaline in those circumstances, of course we have a hard time stopping them from shooting people when they rush up into close proximity with folks and aren't trained to back down rather than kill.

David Perry said...

Thanks Don, good comment. There's much in police training on this. Shock and awe now instead of always choosing the most minor escalation possible.

The Illinois Model said...

There is talk of "presumed compliance" in police circles. But not in the way you bring it up. (Look up Wally Rolniak.)

I'm not a supporter of blanket presumed compliance, as you describe it. How about a compromise and get cops to see things as Risk Managers? We teach three basic factors to risk (to cops): Urgency/Time; Probability/Frequency; Severity/Consequences.

One of the worst ways cops think is by letting the rarest of possibilities interfere overtake probabilities.

And to Don: More cops need to embrace the "stabilize" or avoidance of confrontation mindset.

cop Lou

David Perry said...

Lou,

I'm totally comfortable with risk management. The question is how we get there given the presumption of non-compliance that seems to be prevalent, in which police assume that the greatest possible risk is the one they always have to be ready to respond to, no matter how likely that is of actually happening.

So can a calm middle road position actually shift behaviors, do you think?

The Illinois Model said...

On a related note: there are PDs/dispatch centers that have technology/systems in place to make note of these sorts of disabilities. Officers (including at citizen request) can enter information attached to name, license plate, address, etc that includes information about Autism, Alzheimer's, blind, deaf, mental illness, etc. These "alerts" give officers a heads-up to potential communication/compliance issues. These systems need to be utilized to their fullest extent - without outcry re HIPPA/privacy. It's a fair tradeoff.

David Perry said...

That's fine, but my point about earbuds functioning like genetic hearing loss is that this isn't limited to people with pre-existing or known disabilities.

The Illinois Model said...

No doubt some of these tragedies are the result of police officers acting too quickly. I don't know enough about any of the cases you cite to weigh in on whether they were even slightly avoidable or not.

There is a reason the SCOTUS refutes overly optimistic idea of "20/20 hindsight". The sword cuts both ways...both in the favor of and in the detriment of police officers. A topic that must be kept at the forefront is that of the difference between factual correctness and reasonable belief. There will always be ugly unfortunate cases where factual incorrectness leads to heart-wrenching tragedy.

Of course disabled persons are cursed with the highest chances of being the persons at the forefront of these tragedies. In its most raw and pure sense, that's what makes a DISability...the fact that it's a DISadvantage. Otherwise it'd be called "different."

David Perry said...

I totally disagree with you here, Lou. That language is predicated on an idea of normality not some universal law.

Decisions we make PLACE people at disadvantages by demanding instant compliance and reacting to non-compliance with violence.

When the police shot a woman with psychiatric disability holding a black power drill, claiming it was an uzi, and claiming she would kill her family, it's hard to fault police there for shooting her.

That's not the case here.

The Illinois Model said...

I'm not giving blanket support for any of the officers in any of these diverse cases. But officers do not always have the luxury to slow down and gather the information or process the information. A default of giving subjects of these calls the benefit of the doubt can lead to even worse disaster.

In a general sense: SOMEtimes, officers have to react with limited information to stop what they (reasonably) believe is an immediate and/or imminent danger.

Also in a general sense: SOMEtimes, instant compliance or immediate force are the only reasonable options to stop what is (or is perceived as) immediate/imminent danger. And that sucks for those people with earbuds. Or disability. In cases with progressive-thinking, ethical, lawful police actions.

Also in a general sense: I critique that many times officers are not slowing down to gather/process info when they should; they are acting too quickly with limited info and compressing the time to make decisions.