Deescalate What?

Five Memphis cops were fired and charged with murder after a traffic stop went wrong. The cops beat the hell out of the guy, and he subsequently died several days later. The videos are available on the Internet. Most people who watch the video, see the beating and draw the wrong conclusion. The assault and murder shouldn’t have happened. But not for the reasons the pundits proclaim.

I saw this posting on Hot Air blog and see an obvious, to me, parallel. An armed homeowner confronted an individual burglarizing his neighbor’s home. The homeowner confronted the felon and displayed his gun. The crook tried to take the gun away from the good neighbor and got shot for his troubles. The crook died, very suddenly. He won’t try that shit again.

A first reading of the story might lead the reader to conclude that the incident falls into the category of stupid crook tricks. That would be the wrong lesson to take away. Reconsider the story in light of everyday experience, that doesn’t involve guns, or even violence. Anybody who has ever seen the interaction between a cat and dog needs to make but a small leap.

For the outdoors type one can heed the advice of the:

Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright.

Do not approach a lion. Never approach a mountain lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up, if possible, so they don’t panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.

Do not crouch down or bend over. Biologists surmise mountain lions don’t recognize standing humans as prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. If you’re in mountain lion habitat, avoid squatting, crouching, or bending over, even when picking up children.

If the mountain lion moves in your direction or acts aggressively:

Do all you can to appear intimidating.

National Park Service

Creating the fear that aggression will be met with superior aggression is not an escalation. In nature, predators seek out the vulnerable. It is the same with crooks. Silence and acquiescence are seen as a weakness to be exploited. The in-your-face rejection may give a crook pause, “what does he know? Maybe I can’t win this fight.”

We see this dynamic with the cat and dog. The first interaction between the two is avoidance. Chances are the cat heads for the high ground or seeks a position of safety. At some point, the cat turns and confronts the dog. What follows is the bristling, arch back growling, hissing, spitting and paw swiping. This is usually enough for the dog to decide that the downside far outweighs the benefits or playing with the kitty cat. It only took one such confrontation between my 110-pound Rottweiler Rodin and a 14-pound cat to convince him that cats were no fun. Did the cat escalate or deescalate the situation? Let’s go back to the Houston story.

In Texas, according to Section 9.04 of the Penal Code, the threat of force is justified when the use of force is justified.

Sec. 9.04.  THREATS AS JUSTIFIABLE FORCE.  The threat of force is justified when the use of force is justified by this chapter.  For purposes of this section, a threat to cause death or serious bodily injury by the production of a weapon or otherwise, as long as the actor's purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that he will use deadly force if necessary, does not constitute the use of deadly force.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974.  Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

We can presume that the homeowner issued a set of commands to the soon to be dearly departed burglar. For the sake of argument, I present two possible scenarios. Each contains a threat consistent with the rules outlined in the Texas Penal Code.

  • Homeowner confronts the burglar and says: “Please sir would you stop doing that. I have a gun but I don’t want to use it. Just sit there quietly and the police will be here in ten or fifteen minutes.”
  • Homeowner confronts the burglar and says, “Freeze motherfucker or I’ll blow your shit away.”

Now which statement deescalated the situation?

Liberals and Miss Manners would probably opt for scenario 1. They would be wrong, in scenario 1 the homeowner just threw gasoline on the fire. The homeowner has presented the burglar with a bleak future, arrest and incarceration. But there is a ray of sunshine in that statement. The expressed desire not to shoot coupled with the means of escape in the form of the gun, is just steps away. Why not go for the gun.

In scenario 2, the felon is confronted with a different circumstance. The homeowner has a gun and seems ready and willing to use it. Prison represents three square meals a day and a chance to hang with the homies. Trying to take the gun will likely result in a quick death.

Many balless police administrators have instituted policies that prohibit “abusive language”, contrary to the penal code. I have used the language in scenario 2. I even got called to task for that quote in District Court. My response, “I just spoke to the defendant in language I was sure he would understand.”

Going back to the Memphis incident. The cops had two opportunities to shut down the incident at the very beginning. They blew it both times. Had they taken physical control of the suspect, he wouldn’t have been able to run. Instead, they opted for mace, (or whatever) and nightsticks.

I never liked either of those options. To my way of thinking, Mace and nightsticks were passive measures. They only worked if the recipient wanted them to work. More often than not the mace had no effect on the suspect, not so the surrounding cops. Hit a suspect with a stick and all that happened was you pissed off the guy. The bottom line is that at some point somebody has to latch on to the suspect to handcuff him. Why not eliminate the foreplay and get to it. If one of the heroes and Memphis had stepped up none of the following events would have happened.

In short, de-escalation isn’t what liberals think it is. De-escalation takes a variety of forms. I walked into an incipient brawl during a Super Bowl half time and diffused the situation with a whistle and a handkerchief. I stepped between the warring parties blew my whistle, threw my handkerchief and assessed a fifteen-yard penalty for Un sportsman like conduct. The combatants actually stepped away from one another.

A former partner of mine was confronted by a drunk wielding a broken bottle. The drunk had torn up a bar. Now the drunk and the cop were edging around a table. The drunk waving the broken bottle and my partner pointing his pistol and issuing commands that had no effect. Suddenly, the drunk dropped the bottle and gave up. Superior command presence? Nope. Back-up officers arrived and were standing behind my partner with their fingers plugging their ears.

I watched a 5’4″ female rookie bring a 6’7″ frat rat who tried to intimidate her down to her size. Entirely lost on the frat rat is the fact that she had to climb up on the bumper of her patrol car in order to look him in the eye. But it worked.

Liberals claim that the Memphis incident is based on racism. They could be right. Two of the five officers arrested, did not meet the educational requirement to become a Memphis police officer. In an effort to attract more minority candidates (affirmative action) the department lowered the standards.