For the Reading-Impaired and Other Idiots (Part 1 of a Series)

No piece so hit a nerve as one that I wrote last year on the El Monte officer whose head punt of a gang member has since been deemed a "distraction blow" and therefore an appropriate use of force by investigators.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Knowledge without wisdom is double folly. -- Baltasar Gracian

In 2007, I was one of probably 100,000 cops who were burned out, pissed off, and sought emancipation from my employer. So I left my agency and went to work for Police Magazine/ These days I largely write about what I want and when I want, a situation that avails me the ancillary luxury of taking to task those things I resented when I worked for the department.

Feedback toward my columns has been mostly favorable. Apparently, I'm not the only one tired of hamstringing policies, nepotismal promotional practices, hypersensitivity training, Fisher-Price weaponry, etc.

Still, my blogs are certainly vulnerable to criticism. Rarely have I re-read one of my treatises that didn't make me cringe at some grammatical lapse, misspelling, or overlooked point that I wanted to make.

But such oversights rarely garner criticism from the readers.

No, what I get taken to task for is stuff that's been willfully misread, excerpted, and recycled elsewhere to benefit someone else's inflammatory arguments. Normally, I'd hesitate to offer up their links and contribute to the notoriety they obviously covet, but in deference to fairness, I include some herein.

Contained therein are deliberate misrepresentations and specious arguments, vilifying not only yours truly but the likes of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Sgt. Robert O'Brien (Cleveland SWAT, retired), Police Magazine/Police editor David Griffith, and others.

At least, I'm in good company.

Our assailants are by and large self-professed anarchists. As such, some readers might reasonably wonder why the hell I would even want to comment on the matter. After all, to paraphrase Mark Twain, you do not want to get into a pissing contest with someone who buys ink by the barrel or in this day and age Website code.

Still, one sore spot with me has been law enforcement's unwillingness to confront its critics, so I feel obligated to at least comment on the absurdities perpetrated against me.

No piece so hit a nerve as one that I wrote last year on the El Monte officer whose head punt of a gang member has since been deemed a "distraction blow" and therefore an appropriate use of force by investigators. The fact that I questioned the priorities of a news media that repeatedly focused on the kick to the seeming exclusion of the suspect's criminal acts that precipitated pissed off some readers.

One cretin, apparently oblivious of the fact that the author of "1984" and "Animal Farm" had himself once been an officer, invoked George Orwell's name in rebuking the law enforcement profession. Another even wished that my wife be kicked in the head despite the fact that she's not likely to find herself wrestling with the long arm of the law.

In the same blog, I waxed nostalgically on the old days when cops kicked ass and took names. I was reflecting back to the time before I was on the job when criminals thought twice before committing their crimes if only for the inevitable ass-thumping that came in their wake. After all, that's what made my friends and me think twice before indulging in some criminal activity back when I was a young punk.

Alas, one enterprising journalist resurrected the matter a month later, inferring that *I'd* been the one administering said ass-thumping. He imposed a review of my personnel jacket upon my former department which, to its everlasting shame, obliged him and wasted both their time and effort.

One critic blasted the same blog by saying that I'd said the ONLY thing the El Monte cop was guilty of was working in the wrong era: Wrong. I asserted that ONE thing he was inarguably guilty of was working in the wrong era. For all I knew, (at the time of that writing) he might have been a no-limit idiot.

Another repeat offender-who goes by the nom de plume of Radgeek-has re-characterized what I've said, as well: "..and those segments of society who have fundamentally failed to hold their own [sic] accountable" and, just so we're clear, by those segments of society, Scoville means niggers. Also, I guess he's pissed off that Dick Wolf decided to cast Ice-T as a cop in Law and Order: SVU."

So, to Radgeek's mind, my alluding to jury nullification practices advocated by some segments of society is an indicator of racism. I won't dignify his assumptions regarding the N-word, but he's right about one thing: I hate the fact that Ice-T, the man responsible for the song "Cop Killer," was cast as a cop in "Law and Order: SVU" and consider his hiring to be a slap in the face of law enforcement.

Most recently, Radgeek accused me of hyperbole when I cautioned against the ever increasing dangers of the job, citing a comparison of the number of officers feloniously killed in 1974 and today.

Radgeek's error is two-fold: First, he confuses the ubiquitous and lethal threats of today with the realized lethality of the past. Second, he ignores broad-sweeping changes and innovations within law enforcement practices over the past 35 years that have offset these growing external threats.

A lot has changed in law enforcement since 1974. Consider the following:

SWAT: Officers were more apt to enter barricade situations without ballistic shields, tactical training, and other protections available to them today.

Gun Grab Prevention: At least seven officers killed in 1974 were a result of weapon takeaways.

Portable Radios: In 1974, the radio was in the car, not on the officer.

Improved Medical Care: Wounded officers have a much better chance of survival than in 1974.

Concealable Body Armor: Routinely worn today, ballistic vests were virtually unheard of in the early seventies. Since 1974, thousands of officers' lives have been saved thanks to protective gear.

In short, tactically, procedurally, and logistically officers are better suited to perform the job. But just because they have developed compensatory skill sets and logistics to better combat the growing threats of the job does not mitigate the reality of those threats.

And those threats cover the gamut. First responders are expected to take on active shooters. They are asked to confront unprecedented numbers of gang members. They are increasingly apt to be targeted for merely wearing the uniform, as evidenced by three separate attackers who killed a total of 11 officers in 2009, an unprecedented event.

Just because such threats have been successfully mitigated does not make them any less inherently dangerous. If anything, it is a reflection of the growing threats in today's social climate that the law enforcement community continues to compensate for them through training, logistics, and policy changes.

Unfortunately, many keyboard warriors such as Radgeek do not possess the faculties commensurate to their self-appointed tasks, and reveal themselves to be little more than messy thinkers who, for all their bloviating, lack the intellectual discipline to offer cogent arguments.

Why does this matter? Well, Radgeek got a solid thumbs up by a reader when he made a jovial comment about cops "getting themselves killed."

And so, that wonderful opening quote from Gracian.

For what it's worth, it's amusing that these critics attack me. For I don't fall lockstep in place with everything on law enforcement's radar. Like many cops, I have serious reservations about the war on drugs, and am far more concerned about the guy who's going to harm another person than someone who's indulging in some sordid vice. If it were up to me, I'd let the doper do his thing in his room so long as he stayed there.

But cops by and large are not allowed to pick and choose the laws they enforce.

And when it came to the execution of my duties, I used every means available to avoid force, when possible. But it won't matter to my critics that I talked most arrestees into the back seat or that I had an uncanny ability to talk down emotionally compromised souls. It doesn't matter that I've written columns about the need to confront bad cops or actually written about my own professional lapses.

They'll still brand me a usurper of their rights and demand a new brand of justice. One that apparently includes kicking my wife in the head.

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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