Chief Brown's Reaction to Police Beating is the Right Call to Tame Rookie Cops
This is just an arm-chair amateur speaking, but Dallas Police Chief David Brown's response to the motorcycle beat-down scandal seems right-on to me. Brown is going to require his more veteran coppers to work afternoon and midnight shifts with the rookies so that the rookies won't all be out on patrol together in un-chaperoned rookie gangs.
Putting young cops with grown-up cops probably is the right and only answer (although I feel sorry for the older officers who will have to work at night after earning their way off bad shifts with long and loyal service).
Most people in Dallas know about the incident that kicked this off. A young man on a motorcycle fled from police, sparking a long, wild and woolly chase. When the cops did get the kid down, they beat hell out of him with a baton and fists, most of which was captured on car-cam video.
In the end, 22 officers showed up in response to one moron on a motorbike. We haven't yet heard a full accounting of what the rest of them were up to. If I had to bet, it was a typical TPP (Tribal PO-lice Pile-on), after the word went out: "Hey, come on down for some fun."
I am hearing some real concern from black leaders who think this thing may have had more of a racial component than City Hall wants to admit. Most of the cops were white. The kid was black. You just can't rule it out. Scientists have compiled a pretty impressive body of research to show that white people actually have a different neural brain-based reaction to black faces than to white faces. You do have to wonder.
But even if all the cops had been black, you would still have had to deal with young cop syndrome. Especially in young male cops, you are always going to have a certain amount of testosterone poisoning.
I watched some of the tapes. What you don't get from the snippets on TV is two things: 1) How long this chase went on (long) and 2) How many times the guy ran. He sped off. They chased and caught up. He sped off again. They chased and caught up. He sped off. I didn't keep count, but it seems to me the kid ran from them a half a dozen times.
I am two things. 1) The father of a young male. And (for reasons that are not interesting here), 2) an amateur student of bear attacks on human beings.
Most bear incidents have to do with what are called "campground bears" -- usually female, animals that learn to hang around campgrounds for food. Campground bears rarely kill anybody. They work on bluff. They stand, roar, pound the ground with their forepaws and spray slobber. That's supposed to make you say, "Yes, m'am, Mizz Bear, the food is all yours." And then you are supposed to back away. Slowly.
The instructions from the experts say three things. 1) Back off. 2) Never look the bear in the eye. That's a challenge, like with a dog. And most important: 3) Never run. Never ever run. Because running triggers the prey mechanism. The bear thinks, "Chase, pull down, eat."
I know professional cops all over town are going to despise me for saying this, but young cops are not fundamentally different from bears. If you run from a young cop, especially a male cop, you trigger his prey mechanism too.
And let me say this in the next breath. You know, I did mention above that I am the father of a young male human being. I think most of them are alike. I think if you run from a group of young male librarians, their brains tell them: "Chase, pull down, beat."
In fact, it takes one hell of a lot of wisdom and experience to get them past those responses. Another example from the animal kingdom: You know how puppies chase birds on the lawn? Know why? They're stupid. After a while, they get over it. That's what you're looking for in a mature cop.
You cannot even have a police force if you don't assume that you are going to recruit a hell of a lot of aggressive, macho (including the females), high-energy young people -- hungry for action. Looking for a fight. People who think a fight would be cool. People who need to fight. In fact, that's who you want, sort of. You start there. And then you have to tame them.
A last thought. We always told our kid, "If you run from the cops, you are going to piss them off so bad that they will kick your ass when they catch you." I am confidant that, at least between the ages of 15 and 20, his inner response to our serious admonitions on this topic was, "Cool."
There's only so much you can do with them.
One last bear note. Brown also fired people. That's a very important element, as well, because some people are not going to tame. They say you can handle a campground bear, but if you get targeted by a lone "stalking" male? You are toast. Post toasties, give it up, you are gone. So a good top cop does need to look for and weed out those guys. Seems to me like the chief is doing this exactly the right way.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.