The “Ferguson Effect”: Police Stand-Down


The “Ferguson Effect”: Police Stand-Down

As a psychologist serving police officers involved in traumatic circumstances, I am intimately and painfully aware of how dangerous and debilitating to an officer police work can be.

The instantaneous decisions required in do-or-die situations have been explained and demonstrated to me by many officers involved in these terrifying events. Numerous officers in the cities that I serve have been killed or badly injured (some permanently handicapped), in vehicle incidents, shootings and knifings. These events frequently happen in an instant while walking up on a porch, knocking on a hotel door, approaching a vehicle, stopping a pedestrian accused of shop lifting, quelling a domestic disturbance, and more. Surviving these outcomes often requires split second reactions.  In these circumstances, he or she who hesitates can easily be dead. On the other-hand, he or she who does not hesitate may unjustifiably injure or kill someone.

No matter how hard a police officer trains, there is always the possibility of an honest mistake.

I believe that many who have turned against this nation’s police are Liberal/progressive ideologues bent on fomenting racial divisiveness, political change and perhaps even a revolution.

For those of any political persuasion, who are well-intentioned, but simply ignorant of the facts involved in police work in this seriously dysfunctional society, I strongly recommend they contact their local police department and request to go on some “ride-alongs” with officers. A ride-along means what it implies, a citizen simply rides in a squad car with an officer during his or her shift and experiences what they experience. I further  suggest that the citizen request ride-alongs during the most troublesome hours for their community and the police.

If they will do this, as I have done, they will be in for a real education.

I have provided psychotherapy for many officers who bear the physical and psychological wounds suffered when they were attacked by very bad people. I have done my best to help these officers traumatized by actually seeing, or learning of, their fellow officers and friends killed or crippled in the line of duty.

The psychological term for such emotional trauma is: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This may sound like “psychobabble to some”, to someone who has never experienced this emotional disorder. But, PTSD is actually a complicated set of emotional consequences that can be extremely distressing and debilitating to afflicted individuals and those around them.

See this URL for an excellent description of PTSD, its symptoms and psychological treatments.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

I have personally observed the anxiety and fear that outstanding officers suffer after they have been forced to shoot and injure, or kill a perpetrator in self-defense or defense of other citizens.

It is standard protocol that an officer involved in a lethal confrontation, be removed from the seen, questioned and be relieved of duty for the time that it takes for internal and external investigations to be concluded. Also, there must sometimes be a Grand Jury verdict regarding the officers actions.  This process can go on for many weeks.

During this time officers are often highly stressed over the possibility that others, who have no idea of what it is like to be in a potentially lethal confrontation, might misjudge the necessity for lethal force and find them guilty of a crime. This is true, even when officers are certain they did all of the right things in a lethal or injurious confrontation.

Furthermore officers know that if a Grand Jury finds them innocent, they may still be at risk for a civil lawsuit which requires less evidence for a conviction than a criminal trial. In other words, their lives and that of their families could be ruined by a lawsuit and financial insolvency.

As if this were not enough for our underpaid law officers, not all of the media can be trusted to get the details of a police confrontation correct. Too often police officers have been unjustly vilified by a politicized liberal/progressive media.  Officer shootings of individuals of all races have too frequently been followed by a flurry of false claims. This is particularly true when the shooting involves a black citizen. Even when these allegations are authoritatively disproven by unbiased investigations, blacks and others still continue to allege foul play! These charges to frequently become politicized by race-baiting politicians, black racists, and rioting revolutionary anarchists bent on destroying America.

Police officers are very aware that the relatives and friends of those they have arrested, physically subdue, killed in self-defense or the defense of others may target them or their family for revenge.

It is a great American tragedy that there has been a sharp increase in police officers who have been hunted, ambushed and killed by assailants.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/21/ambush-killings-of-police-officers-has-hit-a-10-year-high/?utm_term=.a177313e4862

As a result of all of this, the following survey findings reported in USA Today on 1/12/17, should come as no surprise.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center has found that 72% of surveyed police officers “are reluctant to make stops.” This national survey, gained data from 8000 officers and sheriff deputies, indicates that lethal encounters with black suspects in numerous cities across America has increased tensions between law enforcement and minorities and that his has badly damaged the moral of many officers.

It was reported that “FBI Director James Comey suggested that the increase in violent crime in some cities maybe the  result of a less aggressive law enforcement approach in the face of increased public scrutiny.

So, if you were a police officer do you think you could resist the so-called “Ferguson Effect”?

If America does not support its law enforcement officers the murderous chaos that we now suffer will increase more dramatically than it has.

The barbarians are coming……and they are almost never America’s police officers.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.,  1/16/17

 

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