Police Need Better Training

Neliza DrewApr 24·8 min read (originally published on Medium)

They also need training by the right kind of people when they often get it from the wrong kind.

If you want people to always see others as a threat, you hire the kind of trainers we occasionally had as guest speakers at our dojo. One dude strapped on 5 knives and a handgun to drive across the street to a restaurant.

(I didn’t go to the restaurant because it had nothing for vegans to eat so I had a sandwich at the dojo, but if I’d gone, I’d have just walked because fucking hell, it was across the street.)

He was constantly on high alert for people looking to jack his car or take him hostage and had weapons planted all over his car. He kept asking us what we’d do if people tried attacking us in our cars or tried dragging out of our cars. Note: I was the only woman in the group besides his wife who wasn’t “training” and was just there to sell shit. We had a couple of POC in the group as this was in South Florida, so you’d have to really work on your pitch to end up without, but the majority were 30–55 cishet white dudes obsessed with “protecting [their] family.” This is the target market for classes and lessons like this: Cishet white dudes who watch too many specials on family dangers. The other big market for classes like his: military and law enforcement.

Now, this dude was very dismissive me for two reasons: 1) He wasn’t a big fan of women because they’re who need protecting by people like him and 2) I wasn’t taking his paranoia seriously enough. (I probably also wasn’t either appropriately impressed or appropriately horrified by all his talk of bloodletting because I’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with crime writers and worked in a juvenile detention center.)

There is an excellent reason I wasn’t taking his paranoia seriously: I’ve been girl or woman (or that weird teenage blob of hormones in between) my whole life. I was raised (by one of those paranoid cishet white dudes with an arsenal and dreams of having to fight off the zombie hordes or whatever in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where he’s fermenting squirrel intestines or something and a mother with an impressive array of anxiety issues) to believe that anytime I left the house I was in danger of being raped, murdered, converted to Satanism, infused with demons, sold, imprisoned, chopped into bits, or some combination of the above.

The thing about fear is you can soak in only so much of it before it either overwhelms you completely or you just kind of say “fuck it” and get on with living. Especially if all that fear is someone else’s. Plus, I’ve always been a reader. And readers, nerds if you will, tend to look for statistics.

When my friends (and, let’s face it, classmates because I wasn’t exactly popular enough to have more than one friend at a time) started dating and talking about sex, I looked up all the facts I could find on teenage pregnancy, efficacy rates of various forms of birth control, STDs and means of transmission, and sexual positions. (That last one was a bit harder to find information about given that I was researching via a small town library in the days when the “internet” was a dial-up connection mostly shared between super-nerds and university nerds.)

The stats I’ve found show that I’m in far more danger around men I’m acquainted with than strangers in bushes, but that men in general have a habit of being garbage and that seems to be related to a lie they tell each other about “strength.” Too many are more concerned with being at the top of some imagined pecking order than just being happy. Maybe that’s why they’re so often angry? At any rate, the cishet white dudes with paranoia and angry issues are far more of a threat to each other than anyone else is to them. Unless they’re paranoid because of their secret meth business or something, the likelihood of them being jumped by assassins is way down on the list of threats. It’s further down than lightning and sharks and, but heart disease and car accidents are much more likely. At this point, being in a mass shooting is somewhere above sharks, even for my sister who likes to go diving with sharks, but the odds of any of these wannabe warriors accurately “taking out” a mass shooter without accidentally killing someone else or getting themselves killed is something even Vegas won’t touch. It’s a fantasy no different than little kids wearing plastic crowns and pretty dresses except their toys can murder.

They think I’m an idiot, a “sheep” who isn’t prepared.

Here’s the thing about that: I don’t want to spend every waking moment of my life “preparing” for some imagined danger I’m unlikely to face while ignoring all joy.

I started taking martial arts in part to write better fight scenes but also because a group of dudebros kept following me when I’d go running at the beach alone. I wanted the ability to go running with a few tools to feel a bit safer. Not literal tools, though, because finding someplace to stick my phone and a key is hard enough without figuring out where to hide a grenade launcher or some shit. (“Warrior” cosplay isn’t really designed for women not willing to dress like GI Jane.) Becoming so paranoid about “threats” that I drive across the street rather than walking defeats the whole damn purpose.

I’d much rather hang out with the writers who go wander around alleys in strange cities looking for the basement bookshop or dive bar where other writers are reading about fictional murder than feel trapped in the “safe house” with a bunch of gun nuts looking to “take out the enemy.”

What does this have to do with police?

More than you might have guessed at this point. But maybe you already guessed.

Guys like this dude, and really, it doesn’t matter who he is because there’s more than one and they all have a similar “You can’t be peaceful unless you’re capable of mowing through strangers with a nuke” mindset. And they train police. They train the military. They teach these people armed from head to toe that everyone is a threat, that everyone is out to get them, and they need to shoot first and count the body parts later. They train “warriors,” which isn’t what police (and even what many military troops) do anymore or isn’t what they’re supposed to do.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe, like police dogs trained to attack, we need to see these officers who practice shooting kids and family members to kill hesitation as a last resort, something you keep locked in the car unless it’s deemed necessary by the grownups in the room.

They aren’t capable of de-escalation or conflict resolution or calming anyone down. They keep proving this time and again. Honestly, if you took these people out of uniform and aired videos of their actions, their fellow officers would gun them down instantly because they’re angry and shouting and waving around weapons without any semblance of control over themselves.

Except they are in uniform and that signals to their fellow officers that they are immune from intervention, and too often immune from justice. They wear a costume that says they can say and do whatever they want with impunity.

They talk tough. They will tell you how scary and dangerous they are. But they’re afraid. They’ve built the threat up so much in their heads they’re convinced at any moment they’re going to be called upon to defend their small group of loved ones from an invading force.

Problem is, most of the time the other people like them, with the same paranoid mindset, makes up their biggest threats. The people convinced they need to be strapped with an AK-47, a handgun, and a couple of fancy knives to buy a sub at a chain restaurant in the suburbs? They’re the ones most likely to shoot up a workplace or beat their spouses or get shot by their own kids when they fall asleep without securing all their damn hardware.

And boy do those guys love their knives. They have knife fetishes almost as strong as their gun fetishes. Sometimes moreso because the knife guys do all sorts of training drills and see them as somehow even more prepared for their imagined apocalypse than the gun guys. (Note: They’re also the ones commenting about how a teenage girl with a kitchen knife was going to “murder” someone buy “slitting her carotid” or “femoral artery” or “stabbing her in the heart.”

I’ve trained with plastic trainer knives before. We’ve also done a lot of training with small slices of pool noodles because if you teach young martial arts students basic knife defenses for a belt exam with hard-plastic trainers, several of them will end up with bruises that will upset parents or ruin school picture day. It’s not as easy to stab someone in a vital place as you’d think without training. For one reason, most people don’t know anatomy well enough to find a vital spot blindly in a fight. I mean, hell, there’s a nonsense post circulating where some dude is convinced women lose their flat stomachs when their uteruses fill up with semen. (You’re either screaming WTF right now or you’re one of those people who doesn’t know enough anatomy to be too lethal except accidentally.)

For another, kitchen knives are not the weapons of mercenaries or spies. Most are dull. Black Widow is not running around with a bread knife as her first choice. A good 80% of the knives in my kitchen block are barely sharp enough to get through the skin on an avocado. Ginsu did not waste all that commercial airtime convincing you to buy their knives because they thought you were planning a murder. No. They knew damn well most of the shit in your kitchen was better at smashing bread than cutting it.

Can you injure or kill someone with a kitchen knife? Yes. Are you going to need some luck (very good or very bad depending) to kill someone with a kitchen knife? Yes.

Cops have become so obsessed with the notion of never getting hurt and always “going home” that they murder or maim as a first response. Is their job dangerous? Can be. But it’s not as dangerous as a lot of other jobs where the safety equipment is a plastic hat, a rope, or a “be careful” from a supervisor. Hell, at this point it’s more dangerous to interact with cops than be a cop. Sure, their families want them to come home. So do the people with burnt out taillights.

Part of the solution has to be taking a hard look at the people training police. If their spiel is suggesting that killing is in anyway okay, they need to go. Sometimes necessary as a last resort? Sometimes, yes. The first option before trying literally anything else? No.