In the wake of last year's anti-police demonstrations, politicians made a lot of promises to "fix" policing and retrain officers to use force more sparingly. Now that some of these programs are being implemented, we are seeing the training may be sacrificing real world common sense about violence in favor of politically correct ideology.
This contemporary American desire to avoid offending anyone and avoid violence at all costs may be the death of us all. And it is especially threatening to our warriors, whether they be warfighters on foreign battlefields or law enforcement officers in Big City, USA.
PC has become so entrenched in America that it affects our civilian and military leadership at the highest levels. Last month the president held an international conference on "violent extremism" to discuss responses to ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and al-Shabaab. And he and the other participants basically ignored the radical Islamist roots of the extremism they were seeking to counter. Even some Democrat politicians thought this was ridiculous.
Obama countered the criticism of his countering extremism conference by dispatching Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson out to the Sunday morning political shows to bloviate about the dangers that non-Islamist extremists such as Sovereign Citizens, the environmental radicals, the animal rights radicals, and the Klan present to local law enforcement and the American public. But no sooner were the words out of Johnson's mouth than the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab threatened by name the Mall of America outside Minneapolis. Non-Islamist extremists have done some truly awful things—including killing cops—but they are unlikely to walk into the Mall of America and start slaughtering shoppers and employees.
We've come to expect this kind of baloney from the federal government. But for most of the readers of this magazine, the real danger from PC zealots comes when they bring their kumbaya naïve ideology down to street level. There are honestly people in positions of power in this country who believe the presence of cops is the reason for street violence and that the only reason the bad guys shoot at you is because you have guns. These and other goofball ideas are gaining traction with progressive politicians and local leaders.
Since the death of Eric Garner and the decision by the grand jury not to indict the officer involved, the NYPD has been particularly plagued by this crowd. To appease anti-police demonstrators Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton promised that all of the department's officers involved in day-to-day policing would be retrained.
Some officers were so upset with the training they actually complained to the New York Post and may face discipline for doing so. They told the paper the training was "boring" and some of its contents were wacky. For example, the training reportedly included advice to officers to close their eyes and take a deep breath before responding to irate subjects. Bratton has since denied officers were told to close their eyes in such dangerous situations, but he admits the training has problems and is a "work in progress" that will improve with time.
Maybe that's true. Maybe the new NYPD training will be vindicated in the end. Days after the New York Post quoted unnamed sources that characterized the training as a PC farce, an Albany-based publication ran a report that said NYPD officers supported the retraining and felt it would help them on the street. In that article NYPD sources said their internal polling shows 87% of the thousands of officers who turned in anonymous evaluations following the training gave it a thumbs up.
I haven't spoken with any veteran officers who have personally experienced the NYPD's new training program, so I have to take both sides of this story with a grain of salt and assume the truth falls somewhere in the middle. But I have interviewed a dozen or more police trainers over the last decade or so who have told me that many police training programs have sacrificed common sense for PC BS. These officers fear the PC police training trend will continue because of weak-kneed politicians who have been cowed by lawsuits and protests. But there are hard truths about stopping bad guys, whether they be terrorists or just criminals. One of these hard truths is that bad guys generally don't want to be stopped and force is often required to stop them. And any PC attempt to downplay this fact is dangerous for both you and the people you serve.