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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Aw, Philando, This is What Killed You? by Mitch Smith and Timothy Williams. 

So, before Officer Geronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile--Mr. Phil, of J. J. Hill--to death, the St. Anthony police department sent Mr. Yanez to a two-day training called Bulletproof Warrior, that, as the title suggests, treats policing like war, with charts and graphs on "Combat Efficiency" and "Perceptual Distortions in Combat." 

According to the New York Times, who have a copy of several of the pamphlet's used in Officer Yanez's training, the section called "Pre-attack Indicators," reads: "Unfortunately, the will to survive is all too often trained out of the psyches of our police officers." It warns of "predators," and "adversaries," who are younger than officers and who have "been in more gunfights and violent encounters." It advises: "An attack on you is a violent act! What is the only way to overcome that violence?" 

You guessed it: shoot someone. 

Never mind that for twenty years, violent crime has been on the ebb, and that the last few have been among the safest times for American police. 

"Another booklet distributed at seminars, 'Anatomy of Force Incidents,' repeatedly makes the point that officers are allowed to--and need to--use more force than they may believe, and to use it preemptively. 'Myth: the officer must use the minimal amount of force necessary to affect their lawful law enforcement objectives,' it says, and 'Myth: an officer must use the 'least intrusive' or 'best' option when using force." 

You get it, right? In their minds, these officers are being trained to be Rambo and Commando; cheap, 1980's cartoon-macho action heroes created with layers of suntan makeup and handfuls of steroids. 


In 2014, Officer Yanez (who maybe likes his donuts) went through twenty hours of this training. That was his second go round. Quite a bit of that training involved watching video of police officers being shot to death during traffic stops--the film regularly slowed down or stopped for commentary on how a more macho cop would have survived. That's forty hours--paid for by Yanez's workplace--of being taught and retaught to be terrified unless he used excessive force--preemptively. 

"Courses like this reinforce the thinking that everyone is out to get police officers," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a research and policy organization based in Washington. "This teaches officers, 'If you hesitate, you could lose your life.' It is the exact opposite of the way many police chiefs are going." 

Today, I saw a snatch of video of you, Phil, laughing in your dreadlocks, relaxed and calm. I caught my breath. For an instant, you were alive again. 

Oh, Philando. Mr. Phil: The people you touched. The children you cared for. The mother who loved you. The girlfriend who walked through fire to create a legacy for you even as she watched you die. 

The child who saw it all. 

 Lost. For Rambo.

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