Last month I found myself engrossed in one of those real-life television shows about surgeons and their work repairing the human body in a variety of impressive ways. The particular episode I watched was about a hip replacement, which is apparently now an extremely commonplace and generally successful intervention. As part of the show, a veteran doctor coolly described to his patient the impending procedure, detailing the sedation, necessary incisions, titanium hardware that would be used, and the healing time post-surgery. Following the commercial break, I sat enthralled at what was to come.
The patient went limp under the anesthesia, and the surgeon began with one fine, smooth, laser-precise incision along his outer hip area. I was good with that, and everything seemed to my untrained eye to be perfectly under control. However, before the next commercial break, this formerly serene surgeon had acquired the equivalent of woodworking power tools, and was using them in what appeared to be a violent and overly aggressive assault on the poor patient’s bones. Sawing. Tugging. Forceful manipulation of joints and sinew, and all to the hypnotic sounds of buzzing power tools. At one point the surgeon’s breath became labored as he described through his surgical mask exactly what he was trying to do.
Now with the spherical head of the large leg bone exposed, the doctor and his team sawed the ball joint completely off. A nurse handed our hero what looked to be a standard power drill and a handful of three-inch decking screws, which he then used to attach a shiny new titanium joint onto the end of the patient’s femur, torqueing down as the drill labored to bore metal screws into bone. I squirmed in my seat and beads of sweat began to form on my forehead as I grew increasingly more uncomfortable and queasy. The violence was sickening. This was a travesty. That unknowing, unconscious patient will never walk again, I thought. Surely this was not how a surgery should look. I turned off my television before the show ended and spun into action.
I immediately texted 10 of my friends and relayed what I had just witnessed, priming them for the mayhem, chaos, and abuse they would also see when they watched the same show. Next I jumped on my social media platforms and posted short video outtakes from the show and described in gruesome detail, from my uneducated yet enraged perspective, the irresponsible and violent actions of the surgeon. As I watched my post go viral, the comments became more irate by the minute, I contacted the state medical board from the jurisdiction of this rogue surgeon. “Arrest him! Revoke his medical license!”, I demanded, as I screamed at the call-taker. I delegated an earnest ally to hastily set up a crowd funding donation site to pool money for the class-action medical malpractice lawsuit that was sure to come.
The next morning I convened a meeting of like-minded locals who had heeded my call for action, and we began to structure a citizen’s review board for Surgeons, which would zealously oversee all surgeries from an untrained civilian perspective. We determined to demand all surgeons be equipped with body-worn cameras to capture video of their every action inside the operating room. Then we could review these complex, brutal procedures frame by frame and pass judgement on the abusive doctors. They must be held accountable! Surely this type of violence must end!
By now hopefully it’s apparent that this is all fictitious. The deranged idea that an untrained citizen, ignorant of the extensive training and education of a skilled, professional surgeon would take it upon themselves to intervene in such irrational ways is ludicrous. Or is it?
Social media buzzes daily with the often invalid and generally ignorant opinions of citizens nationwide as they critique and criticize complex police interventions. Police Review Boards, composed overwhelmingly of citizens with zero law enforcement training or bearing, are placed in positions of authority over complicated law enforcement actions and scenarios. Marches, protests, and even riots often ensue as a result.
That hip replacement surgery appeared to my untrained eye to be completely frantic, chaotic, violent, and haphazard. However, viewed from the perspective of a highly-skilled, trained orthopedic surgeon, it was conducted expertly.
The reaction of untrained citizens to police work is similar to what I experienced watching a surgeon replace a hip. Our work is often grimy, visceral, and frantic, and an untrained citizen can see chaos, disorder, and abuse while a trained officer would see professionals doing what they have to do.
America’s law enforcement officers are expertly trained before they are immersed professionally in anarchic situations. When they act, although it may appear erratic, careless, or violent to non law enforcement professionals, when it is viewed through the lens of proper police training and street experience, their actions are generally exactly right.
I will let surgeons be surgeons, trusting their education, expertise and skill during turbulent medical procedures, even when my untrained eye is repulsed. I merely ask citizens to trust their highly trained, proficient law enforcement officers to do what they are qualified to do. We must let the professionals beprofessionals.
Lt. Kory Flowers is a 22-year veteran with the Greensboro (NC) Police Department. Flowers trains law enforcement officers nationwide on various subversive criminal groups, leadership, and tactical communication. He is a frequent contributor to POLICE.