Over my lifetime Police Officers have gone from a couple of weeks of training to over six months of academy time, and another six months or more of probation before they "graduate" to operate on their own. It sounds like a good plan but unfortunately, academies can't anticipate every single scenario. By the time their instruction is finished, most officers are scared to think and act on their own.
Officers are mainly taught to follow orders and "cover your ass" (CYA). Thinking and acting on their own is discouraged. Making decisions is best left to management if you want to keep your job. Cops (and feds) are taught NOT to make independent judgments but rather to wait for a superior to do the thinking. Rookies quickly learn that it's the only way to stay our of trouble.
Law enforcement is producing "RoboCops" with master degrees in CYA. Most don't have common sense or the desire to act independently. "Street" cops and agents are rewarded for not making decisions and punished for making them. Their job is too sometimes, pass information up the chain, but as you will see, most are afraid to even do that in the current environment. There is a regulation or SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for every situation and nothing will get an officer in trouble quicker than thinking for himself and making independent judgments in a crisis.
The recent officer involved shooting of a West Point graduate at a Costco in a Las Vegas suburb is a prime example of what happens when common sense and independent decision making is "trained out" of law enforcement officers and agents.
Listen to this 22 minute audio tape of a "person with a firearm" (413) in Summerlin, an affluent suburb of Las Vegas, near Red Rock State Park. www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/aug/02/pol
Street officers with the Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. are well aware that there are over a million people in the metro area. There are hundreds of off duty law enforcement officers and thousands of licensed carriers of concealed handguns out and about at any given time. Both are allowed to carry concealed handguns in practically all businesses in Nevada, including casinos, bars, restaurants and non government businesses that are open to the general public.
Shortly after the initial information is dispatched, responding officers receive an update that the 413 is "acting erratic, throwing merchandise around and possible high" (on unknown drugs). In addition to the patrol units, A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and a Police Helicopter were initially dispatched to the 413 call, per department policy.
Approximately 3 minutes after the initial call, a supervisor tells dispatch to send "medical" to stand by near the Costco. More patrol units clear and say they are responding to the Costco running "code" (lights and siren). Another supervisor radios the responding units to turn off the sirens when they get close to the area, "Lets not get this guy any more excited than he already is."
We are only 3 minutes into the call and look what has happened. Supervisors are "checking off all the boxes" and assuming the worst as they have been trained to do. Metro receives over a million calls for service a year, thousands for persons with a gun (413). But the northwest sector of Las Vegas has the lowest crime rate in the Department so this type call is not a routine occurrence.
Less than four minutes after the initial call, the dispatcher gives responding units a description of the 413, including a "9mm tucked to the rear of his pants". Dispatch then asks medical where they should stage and are told "at the nearest intersection to that Costco" by a responding supervisor and again officers are told to shut down code when they get close so as not to "spook" this guy.
A supervisor then requests more units be dispatched to "shut down the parking lot so nobody goes in or out of there". A responding officer then asks" Where is the CP (Command Post) going to be?" Supervisor or CIT responds that he is not even close, so if a "unit that is there can set up one (CP), that would be great."
At the 5 minute mark, a unit reports that he has arrived at the Costco and asks what he should do. Dispatch tells him to set up a CP. Dispatch then tells units the 413 is "argumentative" with the manager who has told him that 413's are not allowed in Costco. The 413 responds that he is a Green Beret and "allowed to carry" a firearm inside the store. Dispatch then gives respond units the exact location, including the aisle number of the 413 who is in the "camping area".
Dispatch then tells unit, the 413 is "fidgety" and says he has been joined by a female and give her description. Dispatch also reports that the 413 is "throwing merchandise around". At the 6 minute mark, dispatch tells officers that the manager will be standing outside the business waiting to direct officers.
An officer responds,asking if he should stop people from "going in and out of the store". At the 7 minute mark , the Watch Commander comes on the radio and says it "would be a good idea" if the manager would make an announcement to start slowly evacuating people with out alerting them.
I worked in law enforcement, both as a police officer and criminal investigator for over 32 years. Supervision has grown to the point that it is doing more harm than good in law enforcement. Supervisors, dispatchers, CIT etc are all chiming in on the radio, making tons of assumptions and issuing orders, not knowing for sure what is going on inside the Costco. There are boots on the ground, but the patrol officers stand in silence, waiting for the CP (which is not yet set up) to give them their marching orders.
This bureaucratic insanity began in the federal law enforcement agencies and now has infested both state and local Departments. This "Check the Boxes", "Cover Your Ass", top down management, operates with little input from officers on the scene. As a result lives are lost, when they could have been saved.
Patrol officers are are trained to get there, keep their mouths shut and wait for the "CP" to be established so decisions can be made. Go back and listen to the first seven minutes of the tape. There is NOTHING being dispatched that indicates the "413" has upholstered his gun, or is threatening anyone with a gun. In" fact, officers are told the gun is "tucked" in his pants. If the 413 has a concealed handgun license (which he does) , the only crime that may have been committed so far is misdemeanor trespass.
Anyone who has ever been a police officer knows that "complainants often "exaggerate" to get faster response time from the Police. They also know that dispatchers ask leading questions about behavior. Complainants often respond, "yes" to leading questions, when asked about the 413 being under the influence of drugs or being mentally disturbed. Rule number one for the dispatchers is also CYA !
Notice that responders are not acting in the best interest of the public. Everyone is in the CYA mode BEFORE they know the facts. Supervisors are giving orders before they know what is really happening at the scene. Keep in mind, that there are patrol officers on the scene, but due to the culture of CYA none are speaking up on the radio. Far away supervisors are running the show and none of the officers at the scene are giving feedback. The only information is coming from the dispatcher who is getting third party information from the 911 call center operator taker who is talking to a Costco employee.
Based on my experience, this is the current culture of most law enforcement agencies today. Agencies have very strict hiring standards and the completion for law enforcement officers is fierce. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy is hindering officers from protecting the public by setting up road blocks rather than facilitating them in the performance of their duties.
If officers show initiative, they fear management retaliation for not being a "team player". Rookies are taught not to think outside the box. Common sense and initiative are no longer rewarded. Thinking, experienced, non management law enforcement veterans are not only neutralized by management, they are vilified. Newer officers don't want to end up on the shit list, so they go along to get along, with vindictive management.
As a result, RoboCops neither protect nor serve the public. The fault with they system is not the troops on the ground. The current culture created by the bureaucracy is preventing officers from performing their jobs in the best interest of the public . Forced to follow "cookie cutter" management SOP's and General Orders, officers now stand idly by, waiting for CP's to be set up as situations deteriorate.
More on the current state of law enforcement and this incident next time.