McKinney Update

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism.]

Following protests in McKinney, Texas, where Corporal David Eric Casebolt assaulted 15-year-old black teenager Dajerria Becton and drew his weapon on two other black teenagers, Casebolt has resigned. Probably not out of any overwhelming sense of regret and personal responsibility, however, since he was allowed to "resign" while retaining his benefits and pension.
Cpl. David Eric Casebolt, who had been placed on administrative leave after the episode on Friday, remains under investigation, Chief Greg Conley said at a news conference. The corporal will keep his pension and benefits, the police chief said.

"Our policies, our training, our practice doesn't support his actions," Chief Conley said. "He came into the call out of control, and as the video shows was out of control during the incident."
Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and current law professor who is affiliated with the Rule of Law Collaborative, agrees that Casebolt was out of control, and explains what he sees going wrong in the video of the incident, after comparing Casebolt's behavior with that of another officer who remained calm:
The two officers in this brief video represent two different policing styles, two different mindsets that officers use as they interact with civilians: the Guardian and the Warrior. As a former police officer and current policing scholar, I know that an officer's mindset has tremendous impact on police/civilian encounters. I've described the Guardian and Warrior mindsets at some length here and here; for now, suffice to say that the right mindset can de-escalate tense situations, induce compliance, and increase community trust over the long-term. The kids interacting with the first officer were excited, but not upset; they remained cooperative. Had they gone home at that moment, they'd have a story for their friends and family, but it would be a story that happened to have the police in it rather than being a story about the police.

The wrong mindset, on the other hand, can exacerbate a tense encounter, produce resistance, and lead to entirely avoidable violence. It can, and has, caused longterm damage to police/community relations. We shouldn't be surprised that the kids Corporal Casebolt was yelling at weren't eager to do what he was ordering them to do—no one likes being cursed at and disrespected in front of their peers, and people of all ages, especially teenagers, resent being treated unjustly. That resentment can lead to resistance, and Police Warriors—taught to exercise unquestioned command over a scene—overcome resistance by using force.

...What should officers do in similar situations? For starters, they must realize that the public—even a group of non-compliant teenagers—are not an enemy to be vanquished, but civilians to be protected, to the extent possible, from indignity and harm. A Guardian mindset encourages officers to be "procedurally just," to ensure that their encounters with civilians are empowering, fair, respectful and considerate. Research of police and military encounters strongly suggests that officers are most effective at fostering goodwill and reducing antagonism when they approach each encounter with the goal of building civilian trust.

Officers should also look out for each other, protecting their colleagues not just from harm, but also from lashing out in anger or frustration. Policing can be intensely stressful, and officers should be trained and encouraged to help their peers deal with stressful situations. When an officer is losing his cool, another officer will often be able to intervene, giving the first a chance to collect himself. That type of peer support isn't part of modern police culture—particularly not when the officer losing his temper is a supervisor and union official like Corporal Casebolt—but it should be.
All of which is sound observation and sound advice, but fails to address that much of the police brutality we see is white cops "losing their cool" specifically with people of color. What also isn't part of modern police culture, but should be, is a zero tolerance policy on the racist, dehumanizing language that is endemic in most police forces; implicit bias assessment and training to counteract that socialization; and ongoing routine therapeutic intervention for every police officer, not just when there is "a problem," but as a matter of course in a job acknowledged to be stressful, traumatic, and—by virtue of official policies like the war on drugs and broken-window policing as well as unofficial policies like the criminalization of need and exploiting and controlling communities of color with municipal violations—disposed toward supporting unfair stereotypes of marginalized populations.

I mean, yes, absolutely, as long as we're going to have a police force, officers should look out for each other. But what about the times that all of the officers on scene are "losing their cool"? What about all the times that looking out for each other doesn't mean deescalation but covering each other's asses after already doing irreparable harm?

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