So the latest scapegoat for unpleasant police outcomes is “Warrior Training.” (“Taking the ‘warrior’ out of city policing,” April 22.)
The notion that the discontinuation of this training will reduce police use of deadly force is wishful thinking. Also, the idea that warrior training “encourages officers to believe that they are always under threat” must be taken in its proper context. It’s unfortunate that the Star Tribune Editorial Board chose to jump on this politically correct bandwagon with the mayor and the police chief.
Consider a uniformed police officer having several citizen contacts within an hour that result in no citations or arrests but rather with the citizen and officer wishing one another a good day. Surprisingly to many people, these types of contacts are the routine, not the exception.
Following such friendly encounters, what mind-set will the officer have? How will he or she approach their next contact? Will they be resting on a lackadaisical plateau, assuming universal appreciation and compliance? And what if they are? Is there such a thing as an officer being too friendly?
Most cops are people persons; they don’t need to work at being friendly. It is their natural disposition. There’s nothing wrong or dangerous about being friendly. But officers also need to remain vigilant about their safety and the safety of their partners. Warrior training simply instills a cautious, resolute officer mindset — an understanding that while most citizens will cooperate and appreciate the job they do, there is no guarantee that their next contact will be like that.
The training does not encourage officers to be overly authoritative, heavyhanded or cynical. It simply cautions them to stay on their toes and be prepared for things to go south — because in the real world that’s the direction some contacts go.
Another aspect of the warrior mentality is for officers to believe that they can survive, even in situations that appear unsurvivable. Police can encounter unexpected dangers and sustain injuries that seem so devastating that giving up and succumbing to one’s injuries or to overwhelming opposing forces may seem inevitable, unavoidable — maybe even comforting.
All of us have seen hundreds of people shot in movies and television shows. Many of these shooting victims simply fall down and die. One shot and dead. This expectation can itself become deadly when it invades a mindset, and when seen enough times, it becomes convincing.
But the truth is, people can survive most gunshot injuries. They can still defend themelves and survive. The warrior mentality encourages officers to fight on and never give up, never give in.
These are valuable lessons. Police officers across the country have benefited from this kind of training for years. The training is nothing new. For the mayor to decide that officers don’t need this training and that it is somehow causal or related to unfortunate police outcomes is a gross overreach. That the mayor’s decision was made in tandem with the police chief appears an excercise of misdirected political correctness and community appeasement.
That the lack of this training would expose officers to danger seems irrelevant. It’s appropriate that the Minneapolis police union is fighting the decision and that should have been anticipated.
Perhaps the mayor and the chief should attend some version of this survival training to see firsthand if the training, or some segment of it, conflicts with Minneapolis policy or values. Specifying these areas of conflict and revising some portion of the training would allow officers to continue to benefit from it.
Perhaps the name “Warrior” is half the problem. It was probably tacked on to the course name as an afterthought to instill some romantic James Bondish quality. It tends to conjure up some medieval “Game of Thrones” sword-wielding savage who kills first and sorts out the victims later.
If the trainers wanted to re-brand and restart their business, they might consider calling it “Community Policing and other Topics,” or “The New Public Servants,” or “Guardians of the Community” — or something even more up to date.
Richard Greelis, of Bloomington, is an author and retired police detective and teacher.