Opinion|Commentary

Introduction

Ever since I started this blog I have wanted Obsidian Concepts to be a learning tool that people could turn to. From your new shooter to your high speed low drag operators. A tool for military and law enforcement to engage and discuss and to become better professionals at their chosen professions. To propose some difficult questions and provide realistic solutions to those problems.

The debate has always raged in my mind about posting officer involved videos on escalation of force. There are three ways escalation of force videos are released. First, you have through blogs or online forums. Second, you have social media. Finally, you have the media who reports on escalation of force incidents with law enforcement. I will explore the ways those videos are released and if they are a benefit or a hinderance to law enforcement. While hopefully coming to an conclusion on how I will handle the posting of escalation of force videos on Obsidian Concepts. 

The blogs I have read who I believe do a good job of posting the content break it down as such: First, the video is posted on top of the page. Second, they give the reader a synopsis of the content of said video. Finally, sometimes

(depending on content) the potential to discuss the video below. This way I believe is the best way to do it for the most part. 

A website I believe does a good job of posting police escalation of force videos is tactical-life.com. When tactical-life.com post a video they give a description of the contents of the video. Which could be a District Attorney or Police Department press release on the escalation of force. Along with the reprimand of the officer or justification of the officers actions in the incident. Posting that context first allows the reader  to understand the context of the video first before you watch the video in question. 

Displaying the content in this way allows for the potential viewer to have some context of the video they have chosen to view. A lot of videos that are posted on escalation of force give very little context to them in their description of the video. Without proper context all types of conclusions can be made about the apparent escalation of force. Many of them being incorrect. 

Context of the video must drive the narrative of the video. With context we can critique the video within the proper perspective. Allowing us to analyze the situation through the officer’s perspective of the incident. The ability to put ourselves in the officers shoes allows the viewer to view the video differently. 

The District Attorney and Police Department should be clear and concise on why it was a breach of force or was in the guidelines of the escalation of force protocols. Finally, the video and the parties involved should work in good faith and have full transparency. That is the only way to release these videos to the public domain after an investigation has been conducted.

A lot of escalation of force videos and investigations do what I just mentioned above. For some people that is just not enough. Even if Press Conferences are held it still may not satisfy the needs of some parties involved. Especially of the family members or compliant involved. I understand that. There is a way to quell some of that discourse. I found a video of an escalation of force situation done by Richmond PD that was well done.

Proper Release of an Escalation of Force Video

I believe a good way that a Police Department should release a video is the way Richmond PD does escalation of force videos. They discuss the context of the shooting, lay out the entire situation from 911 call to when patrol arrived, what lead to the escalation, and why it was acceptable use of force. When, I seen that video. I was like this is the perfect way to do these videos. It gives full context and complete law enforcement transparency which people want.  I believe all videos should be done in that way. 

Here is a link to the Richmond PD video

At the end of the day there will always be people who disagree with decision rendered. The job of the D.A. and the Police Department is to be open and transparent. By doing so you can quell some of  the discourse of the opposing side with complete transparency on the decision making process. 

Videos will always have Detractors

There will always be arm chair tactical guys who will always have something to say about a situation. How they would have handled it differently or there is a better outcome than the one chosen. 

On its face that is true. Yet, when you have less than a second to analyze a situation and make a judgement call in a dynamic and high stress situation your first call may not always be the best. The choice made in that moment was made to subdue threat to allow for apprehension of the suspect. 

Yes, you can arm chair tactics all you want.  You don’t know how it feels to be in that situation or that moment. So, none of us are truly equipped to give an opinion. That includes me. All my experience dealing with escalation of force has been within the realm of the military. That type of escalation of force is much different from an civilian one. In my opinion you should sit down and shut up and let the professionals handle it. 

These videos are released to allow transparency between the Police Department and the community they serve. This transparency is needed. These escalation of force videos are also learning tools for Police Departments and their officers. Escalation of force videos can be used to analyze and enhance situational analysis and the escalation of force in those situation. At the end of the day you will always have detractors saying you could do more. 

The Social Media Perspective 

Quite often escalation of force videos or potential misconduct by police officers go viral quite often. It is because it reinforces the Bad Cop narrative and social commentary. Many of these videos I will admit make the officer(s) involved look questionable I completely get that. Yet, those videos only show the content after the situation has escalated or gives very vague context on why it escalated. Which leaves law enforcement looking intimidating, abusing power, and out of control. With the proper cutting of content and no context you can make anyone look like that. 

Also, with Social Media you have to be careful of your actions at all times in law enforcement. You never know when someone will decide to live stream something or to post video of a cop during an interaction with a civilian. 

This always on feature that our society has adopted. Now, with the ability to steam and post on  Social Media it has become an double edge sword. In one hand if could absolutely show an officer misconduct. If someone stops and sees some questionable behavior and stops to record an abuse power or what they believe is a abuse of power. That could give the ability for someone to seek the legal avenues to seek justice for that officer’s misconduct. Or it could give the impression of an impulsive, abusive, or out of control civilian and the officer involved is doing what is necessary to apprehend the civilian in question. Thus, protecting the officer from misrepresentation of the incident. If the civilian in question files and abuse of force compliant. It works both ways. 

With so much negative representation of cops on Social Media. With the instant audience of Instagram and Facebook law enforcement professionals have to be vigilant, smart, and resourceful on how they handle dynamic and high stress situations with video being readily available. 

For the most part I believe Social Media is a detrimental force to law enforcement. Mainly because Social Media in this area is used to drive a certain political narrative on policing and violence in America. That is the true danger of Social Media when it comes to law enforcement. It is my belief that a lot of the time narrative of police on social media is one that leans towards the negative than the positive. At least on the videos that go viral. 

Yes, there are also tons of positive videos of law enforcement professionals doing the right thing. Yet, those don’t get the coverage time they should on Social Media. Many of the videos I see go viral are the negative ones. With fewer positive ones going viral. When it comes to corruption or bad cop behavior it gets increased  social media screen time. 

I am not saying those issues shouldn’t be addressed and covered on Social Media. They completely should. If they are going to be posted they should be posted in the proper content and context. We should hold the people accountable that we have deemed acceptable to carry a badge and serve our communities. Yet, we should spend more screen time praising their victories than devouring and enjoying their defeats.  We all know sex, lies, and videotapes sale. That’s why the negative gets more coverage than the positive on Social Media or in general. 

News Media and Law Enforcement

What sells news? We all know the answer. Sex, lies, and videotape. The news media and law enforcement is a complicated dynamic that exist. The news media locally  and nationally have a duty to report the news that is meaningful and important. That is the role to news media to give honest assessments of the world around us. To use its voice to shine a light on abuses and the good of this world. 

It is completely within the right of the news media to report about these escalation of force videos and situations. It is their job as journalist to show the truth no matter how ugly. The freedom of press and speech is one of the cornerstones of this democracy and should never be abandoned. 

With the power that news wields they should be responsible with that information. To report the news and the facts without bias or political narrative. Too many times today political narrative gets mixed into our news. A journalist job is to report the facts and let the America public decide what they should think. Too many times today that is not the case. Narrative drives the story and news is second. Designed to fit that narrative of their choice. If you want to put your political opinion or narrative on a topic write an editorial. That is what they are for. They are not meant to be intertwined in the factual news. 

Driving a Political or Social Narrative 

The news  has so much power of content and narrative they should use that power wisely. A news report on an escalation of force video should give context to the content. Before showing any of the video. Inform of the protocols of the investigation, and then show the video. Also, give viewers a way to learn more about the incident of the escalation of force. That is it. 

Media today seems to be more involved in the scandalizing of situations or creating narrative written news. In turn the truth gets lost in between. They are showing the corrupt and rogue cops. Instead we should have more articles and pieces on the good law enforcement professionals of this country. These men and women out there placing their lives on the line everyday to protect and serve their communities around the nation. They work hard and sacrifice so much for their communities. We should show more of the positive that they do within our communities. 

When it comes to the corrupt and rogue cops we should investigate their abuses of power. Hold them accountable and if the situation dictates prosecute them under the law. No one is above the law or above reproach. I just believe that media’s portrayal of law enforcement should skew more on the positive side than the negative. 

The news media has a responsibility to be unbiased on their reporting of the news. To give us the facts of a situation not their opinion. To let us the reader or viewer make our own conclusions with the information at hand. The news media should be helping build a narrative that shows law enforcement in an more encouraging light. Right now I believe law enforcement fights a narrative and perception that is a negative one. One of police corruption, abuses of power, and of being too militaristic in certain ways. 

The Debate Rages On 

All in all I have always been deeply conflicted about the posting of escalation of force videos. I believe when they get posted they further cement this mentality of us versus them. What I mean by “us” is the civilian population they are meant to protect and serve.  By “them” I mean the police who serve their communities. I feel the release of these videos only serve to widen that divide but it needs to be that transparency there. A lot of Americans incorrectly view the police as this type of mafia like entity when it comes to law enforcement. Silence above all else. Back the badge and your brothers and sisters in blue no matter what. That is a misconception that needs to be debunked. 

I am not saying that doesn’t happen. Like in all organizations people have the ability to corrupt and twist the identity of anything. Yes, we do get crooked and rogue cops. That is completely a reality of law enforcement or in any profession. All professions have corrupt and power hungry people. It is the fact that those crooked and rogue cops make better news, gets clicks on websites, and drives a certain political narrative. It’s is an unfortunate truth yet, still a truth. 

The overwhelming amount of cops are honest and hardworking people who want to protect their communities and be of service. Men and women who choose a life of law enforcement do it because they have an urge to protect their love ones and others. That urge is  implanted deep in the fiber of their souls to protect. That is who those law enforcement professionals are at a core.

The profession of law enforcement is hard enough. No need to compound that complexity by adding potential fuel to the fire. The profession of law enforcement is dynamic. A situation can go 0-100 real quick. Where decisions have to be made in under a second in dynamic and high stress situations. As, an law enforcement professional you have to have razor like focus and excellent situational awareness to be able to handle dynamic and high stress situations. 

A New Hope 

My goal with posting these types of videos is to give law enforcement a way to review and learn from this content. These videos are teaching tools for police departments, sheriff offices, and law enforcement nationwide. This content should be reviewed through the context of teaching and with an analytical perspective. It should not be used as a narrative to prove any political agenda. The purpose is to provide officers with the knowledge and situational analysis of the situation to make better decision in the field. 

If I am to post content of this nature I want to do it in a professional manner. To turn it into a teaching tool and allow for discussion of how to make better decisions in the field. That is my goal if I post these types of videos on Obsidian Concepts. 

The way I would like to do it is first to personally review the video. Take my time analyze the video and get a firm understanding of the content. To read any press release that comes with the video. Second, I would watch the video continuously to record times when I believe are pivotal situations that are happening in the video to look out for. Finally, I would right a synopsis for the content and context of the video. Put those times in the video that are pivotal to the escalation of force.  Post the video last so people can refer back to the synopsis above. Lastly, I would leave it open for discussion. 

First, for my men and women in law enforcement do you approve of my potential format? What do you think about the escalation of force videos? Do you think the perception and narrative of the media skews towards the negative? Let me know comments below. 

Thanks for Reading 

If you enjoyed this post, hit that like button, subscribe, and tag a friend. If you have any suggestions, ideas, or comments. Please feel free to drop a comment. Be Humble. Be Savage. Have a great day!

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