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America’s Police Have An Escalation Of Force Problem
A car window shattered, sending glass flying at children in the backseat in Indiana. A man with a toy gun in a Walmart, shot dead with little interaction with police in Ohio. A flash grenade accidentally tossed into a sleeping child's crib in Georgia. A man reaching to retrieve his wallet immediately shot in South Carolina.
It sometimes feels we can't go a week without seeing the headlines or shaky cell phone videos depicting scenes we never imagined.
Coverage of this issue has been swift and widespread. Opinions of the problem are passionate and divided. But let's set aside for a moment the (valid) discussion about race relations in America.
Let's talk tactics. Because the real problem that America's police have is with escalation of force.
Escalation of force is a military doctrine that describes when and how much force should be used.
Ideally, the level of force should start at the lowest possible level. That's what Marines are taught very early on in training — start with the lowest level of force possible.
But the best example I ever heard of it came in Afghanistan in early 2012. As a combat correspondent with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), I sat down with our commanding general, Maj. Gen. Glenn Walters (who is now a lieutenant general), to discuss the successes and failures of the deployment and what Helmand province would look like moving forward.
I had asked the general what he thought the unit replacing us would see with regards to operational tempo and he said, “The level and intensity will be determined by the enemy.”
There’s the brilliant nuance behind the escalation of force doctrine — you let the person you’re confronting determine the level of force.
Here’s why that works: Your level of force must be justified by the actions of the other person.
One of the ways the military expressed this in Afghanistan and Iraq was through the phrase “shout, show, shove, shoot.”
In a recent piece on Task & Purpose, Adam J. Tiffen outlined how escalation of force worked in a gun turret in Iraq:
"In practice, it worked like this. A turret gunner would first shout at the driver to keep back, and might display a red handheld stop sign during the day, or flash a powerful laser pointer at the driver at night. If the driver continued to breach the minimum distance, the gunner would then visibly show the driver his or her weapon. As shoving was only used for dismounted operations, the gunner would then fire a warning shot over the approaching vehicle. If the driver was still not deterred, the gunner would then shoot to disable the vehicle, targeting the engine block. Only after all other options were exhausted was the gunner authorized to shoot to kill."
Back in the United States, in these troubling incidents, no objective observer could reasonably claim that police exhausted all other options.
This isn’t a concept that is foreign to law enforcement, where it is often called the “use of force continuum.” But it’s one that seems continually violated. There’s no doubt in my mind that thousands of police officers across the country are doing great and honorable work every day. But this trend of failures and bad practices in communities across America is too important to ignore. We need more from our police departments — better training on when and how to use force, and more accountability when that standard is not met.
NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.
Hackers could have breached US bioterrorism defenses for years, records show. We'll never know if they did
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.
The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.
The State Department doesn't really care if its human rights training for partner security forces is working or not
By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?
Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.
A Kansas VA hospital police supervisor reported 'dangerous' deficiencies among his officers. Now he says he faced retaliation
The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.
And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.
A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.