Friday, May 29, 2009

So Special...

Finishing up the first draft of the next book. It's almost ready to go to the first readers and right on schedule.  For the most part, I think I pegged it.  There are enough stories and enough logic in it to get the main point across- force decisions are different than other decision processes.  Higher stakes than most people will ever make, made faster and with both less information and less reliable information, yet made by the same basic model human that buys a car or manages a checkbook.  And these decisions are shaded not just by physics but also social conditioning and morals and ethics and laws (sometimes very different things) and politics and both personal and public perception.

It covers training and experience which interact with each other and produce the human who will make the big decisions.

I'm happy with the first two-and-a-half sections (the book has two full sections and two smaller sections that fill in some information gaps.)  The stuff in the first two-and-a-half section is important information, good stuff to know.  With luck it will add some perspective or -gasp!- actual information to debates about police use of force.  But in the end, that's all words.

The last partial section is about action and brings it all back to the reader, and I am running hard against the human nature wall.  People like who they are. They may not think it, they may not say it, but if "just bein' me" becomes a burden or dangerous, people, except for the most ego driven or stupid, change.

When some idiot's wife asks or tells him to slow down and he speeds up and snarls, "I drive like I want!" he's just being an ass. He sees a patrol car in his rear view mirror and suddenly the big man who does whatever he wants drives like a little old lady.  People who say they don't change DO change if they perceive the stakes as high enough. But they don't like it and they resent it.

It's human nature to prefer everyone to change to accommodate you acting the way you want.  Most of us understand that there are limits to this and it is a two-way street.  Those that don't understand this become criminals.  I'll go so far as to say that most acts defined as crimes are simply what happens when you think you are too special.  Too special to conform to rules, to special to work to buy things, too special to be told "no."

Usually when I write I can subconsciously read like a naive reader and have a pretty good feel for what buttons I am pushing.  With this short section, I can feel defensive walls coming up.  Up to this point, the book has been largely anthropology- how the strange tribe known as police think and why it makes sense in their world.  In this section it is a travel guide- this is how to act when you run across a member of this tribe.  Simple stuff, in a way. Never force an officer to make a quick decision.  Show your hands.  Reason, but don't argue and if you can't tell the difference keep your mouth shut.

But here, when it gets personal (not just advising some random imaginary criminal to keep quiet but specifically YOU, if something happens to the point that officers show up, especially with guns out, DON'T ARGUE WITH THEM.) Suddenly, defensive walls go up. Because people like themselves. The most unreasonable people I have ever met felt that they were completely reasonable, even logical. They shouldn't have to change. The public servant who gets paid from their taxes should have to change...

Cool, except you see the logic when force is used on someone acting just the same as you... but it's not you... so you're special? 

If I can navigate this communication pit (and it may be entirely in my perception. One side effect of spending so much time with criminals is that I sometimes see their sense of entitlement and ability to rationalize as more prevalent in the general public than it probably is.)  If I can get this through to people it will be powerful. Just the ability to see yourself from the outside, to see when you are acting like a criminal or like a citizen or like a protector, can be a huge stimulus and guide to personal growth.

This is a throw-away section. It wasn't in the original concept for the book, but it has the potential to be the most important part.  It's also going to be the hardest to communicate. Things have prices.


Wim Demeere said...

Good call, keep that section in. It is indeed probably the most important one.

I said it before, I grew up to say "Yes Sir" to a police officer and do what he said. Period. No arguing, no "I have my rights", nothing. STFU and do what he says, he's the Law (capital L warranted).
Times and attitudes have changed and there's good and bad in that for "civilians". But as a result, the job has changed too. Average Joe who mouthes off to a cop or acts like a criminal like you wrote, can't expect to have only the pros and not the cons of that change. Of course he does and that's why this section is necessary IMHO.

Just my 2 Euro-trash cents,


Viro said...

I would suggest that you let the readers know that when a LEO shows shows up on the scene, that unless they know you, THEY DON'T KNOW YOU.

You may be in the right, but they don't know that yet.

You may be the victim, but they don't know that yet.

The reason you have a weapon is because you took it away from the criminal. They don't know that yet.

As to the average person's interaction with law enforcement- I agree with how Wim Demeere was raised. STFU and don't resist until you get to court. Out on the street a police officer is the Law. Our society (generally) is structured to back that up. Resisting on the street is only going to cause more trouble.

James said...

I like the idea of a tribe. I've frequently told gang members that I'm actually a member of a gang, a brotherhood, a whole lot bigger than theirs. In a sense, it's true. But cops get attitudes, too. I can't count the number of times that I've seen a cop let his ego get in the way of good decision making. Letting some idiot on the street push his buttons. I've told rookies that if the person on the street gets you angry, then he has already won and you have lost. And there is an inverse relationship between good decision making and anger. I just thought of the first time that was pounded into me in FTO. I caught a group of kids hanging out behind a gas station. Not doing anything, really. I got out all full of myself and told them to leave. My FTO asks me what I would have done if they hadn't and I didn't have an answer. He said" Don't ever put yourself in a position where someone can tell you to stick it up your ass and you can't do anything about it - anything legally justifiable, that is". Then he put his head back, tilted his stetson over his eyes, and, for all I know, went back to sleep. Except that he never missed anything. Ever.

Rory said...

Wim- You wrote a short note with a lot of stuff in it. When did the 'Law' change from the 'social contract' to 'that guy's arbitrary rules that I don't have to follow?' How can people not see that the "I can do anything I want, that's freedom, but if you do anything I don't like, that's oppression." attitude can't work except for one person...and we wind up having all these petty Stalins. How can people be so stupid as to poke bears and be surprised when they get mauled? Grrrrr.

Viro- I touch on that, hitting hard that officers have to deal with (and are held accountable) for what they see. They can't be held accountable for what they didn't know. THEY DON'T KNOW YOU is a really nice encapsulization. (Spell checker says that isn't a word but I like it.)

James- Good story and good training officer. Permission to use it next time I teach UofF or communication to officers?

Wim Demeere said...

How can people be so stupid as to poke bears and be surprised when they get mauled? Grrrrr.

Frankly, it's beyond me how people embrace that messed up logic but it seems to be universal now. Just yesterday I was talking to a guy and he mentioned several incidents he witnessed in that regard. All in the span of a few weeks. He echoed my sentiments that this crap is on the rise.
Combine that with the decreased respect for LEO's and basically anybody with authority and you get a frightening picture. Let's top it off with the economical crisis that's bound to bring out the worst in people.
I'm guessing things will become worse before they get better. If at all...


Kai Jones said...

It's the entitlement/special snowflake society we have now. Instead of understanding that there is a duty owed to society as well as rights that society will protect, many people have been told for years that they are special and deserve respect without earning it.

James said...

Not a problem, Rory. His first name was George and I got him as an FTO right after an OIS where he saved another officer's life by taking out the bad guy. They told me that he was a lot more somber during my field training than he'd been previously but I think he knew more about police work than I've managed to learn in 30 years. I count myself as fortunate. He spent most of the shift with his foot on the dashboard and his stetson over his eyes pointing out things to me that I'd missed. What a guy!