PictureLou Hayes
The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Louis Hayes, Jr.

At any given hour in America, approximately 150,000 police officers are on-duty. They come in, and from, every shape, color, creed, background, and experience. However, one thing all of these brave men and women share is this: a deep-rooted craving to become the nation’s next viral police video.

Cameras are everywhere: Police body-worn cameras; squad car dash-mounted; smartphones; surveillance. Yet despite the vast deployment and availability of cameras, officers are still handling millions of incidents per year – of which the vast majority fail to be any sort of internet phenomenon.

“I hope today is the day that something I do ends up so unpopular online, my city has no choice but to protest and burn itself down!”  -- It’s what’s on the minds of every patrol officer and detective leaving roll call rooms en masse for the street…fingers crossed and prayers above.

After studying hundreds of America’s most controversial police videos online, I’ve assembled this short guide to help your next arrestee’s name become the next hashtag…and your photo on the front page.

We realize, for some of you, these suggestions might be coming at a point late in your career. Worry not. There are still plenty of ways to end up as a 5-second replay between the heads of two has-been police “experts.”

The following are eight excerpts from our soon-to-be-released guidebook:

COMPLIANCE IS BAD.
The surest way to screw your chances of virility is to produce suspect “compliance.” Compliance tends to be drama-free, generally requiring no force. We can all agree that physical force is a necessary component to watch-ability of these videos. You need to develop response tactics that increase non-compliance for your best chances of online popularity.

LIMIT YOUR TRAINING. We recommend a simple format for training: attend only that training which is legally mandated by local law. Contemporary programs such as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) may cause you to recognize mental health emergencies early on. This advance warning might sway you to take a more empathetic approach…a real distractor from the goal of non-compliance.

Also, strategic thinking courses try to re-wire officers’ brains to be more aware of surroundings and how to process change. This heightened state of awareness will likely put you at a disadvantage for becoming viral, as you may be tempted to make a reasonable or logical decision that will not “make good video.” If you must attending training, I suggest antiquated video-based classes that promote themes of “everyone is trying to kill you.” These may put you in a much-desired psychological state of hyper-vigilance and overarching mistrust of citizens, regardless of actual threat.  

STRAIN LOCAL RELATIONSHIPS AND TRUST. This is one of those things you should be doing ahead of time, in preparation for your video incident. If the community supports you and the actions you take, you may be ruining your chances of virility. If you must get out of your squad car, rely upon a “just the facts” attitude and offer no explanations. The only superior strategy than that is to be hated by the community. If citizens dislike you, they may actually promote your video, even if it doesn’t contain many of the other virility factors!!

RACIAL COMPONENT.
Sorry black officers, but you are at a disadvantage here. While the research is inconclusive for other racial or ethnic minority groups, data supports higher virility for white officers. Regardless of your race, ask your command staff for increased assignment to these black neighborhoods. Combine saturation patrols with zero-tolerance or “Broken Windows” enforcement methods (you can probably ask an analyst to run stats to show some sort of “justification” for increased presence there.) Limit the discussions with any influential community leaders in these zones – as they may have other strategic policing ideas that unnecessarily reduce tensions between groups.

LANGUAGE AND ATTITUDE. This seems to have a very strong correlation to compliance. Using an undignified tone and attitude should be a central theme. As part of an overall strategy of branding yourself an egotistic, power hungry law enforcer, you must also harness the power of language. For example, whenever asked why (seeking explanation or justification), I recommend responding, “Because I said so.” This single dismissive phrase increases frustration, anger, and ultimately...resistance.

Signs of sympathy on the part of the officer may have negative effect. It may demonstrate weakness. Compassion, respect, and politeness are components of “soft” policing. Do not get sucked into these sorts of tactics that too often get people to do what you ask of them.

RUSH IN. Human performance science and research tells us that people make better decisions with more time and information. We recommend taking whatever dynamic actions possible to condense your decision-making timeline. By purposefully giving yourself less time to collect or process information, you may subconsciously void your brain of pre-frontal cortex analysis and cognition.

Instead, spark primal decision-making functions in the amygdala by increasing your body’s stress hormones. Naturalistic decisions are based not in logic, but raw emotion and subconscious bias – definitely conditions that lead to poorer decision-making and instinctual utterances (hopefully captured on video!). Rushing into non-urgent situations puts you at a great advantage for losing your critical thinking skills and being stupid…without expending any extra effort.

EXTEND THE DURATION OF FORCE. The most popular recent police videos drag out the time duration of actual force used. Some of these officers have done an excellent job of trying to minimize the amount of force, thereby being ineffective and requiring a long, drawn-out fight. Luckily for these officers, they did not use higher amounts or types of force that would have been Constitutionally permissible; their chances at virility would have likely diminished had they done so.

Example: when using Taser, do not handcuff the suspect while s/he is “under power” – doing so may limit the number of shocks delivered to his/her body. Furthermore, we support the verbiage “ride the lightning” and “zap the fuck outta you” to exponentially increase likelihood of citizen anger. In summary, try your best to match the suspect punch-for-punch so it appears as brutal and cruel as possible. This tactic also allows for other onlookers to congregate and video the incident from multiple perspectives!!!

NO COMMENT AND VIDEO RELEASE. We realize this last suggestion might be applicable to your agency, more so than to individual officers. In today’s digital information age, the public expects early information from government channels during crisis and controversy. Ignore the urge to respond to questions or inquiries. Allow critics and media to develop their own narrative, rather than provide them with facts (even when confirmed). This “false narrative” might give your video proverbial “legs” to grow viewership online.

When your agency releases any video to the public, we recommend editing out attempts (purposefully or accidentally) at officer de-escalation or signs of officer humanity. Help out your local and national news outlets, by leaving in only what you might refer to as “the juicy stuff.” They’ll appreciate your efforts at condensing the video to only the loud, dynamic, drama-filled controversial clips.

SUMMARY

I can’t guarantee video virility for you. However, I hold firm that if you follow the above template, you greatly increase your chances of making national headlines, being turned into a local political pawn, and maybe in the process (with a little luck) visit your local Federal courthouse or county jail.  

Just be ready to tell your spouse why you’ve lost your retirement pension. Or why marked police cars are parked out front protecting your home and family. It’ll so be worth it!

***

Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.


 


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