The Real Cause of Police Brutality is Often the Most Ignored
A good read.
What led to McKinney, Texas, Police Corporal Eric Casebolt’s unnecessarily aggressive approach to breaking up a crowd of predominantly black teens at a pool party last week? As I wrote previously, police training that emphasizes a Warrior mentality likely contributed, and implicit racial bias may also have played a role. But there was perhaps another factor, one that’s too often overlooked: stress.
Let me be clear: Corporal Casebolt’s actions were profoundly inappropriate; the McKinney Police Chief accurately described his actions as “out of control” and “indefensible.” In no way am I attempting to absolve him. But according to his attorney, Corporal Casebolt responded to the pool party after dealing with two different suicide calls earlier that day, including one in which a man publicly shot himself in the head. That’s extremely telling. Taking officer stress seriously could have potentially prevented the McKinney debacle.
The law enforcement culture has a deep and abiding regard for bravery, resilience, and strength. Officers are expected to take care of business, to keep it together and do what they need to do. They are supposed to handle each call—no matter how stressful, disturbing, or emotional—and go onto the next without missing a beat. Struggling to deal with the stress of the job is considered a sign of weakness, an inexcusable personal failure. Within the profession, officers who can’t handle the realities of police work may be viewed with thinly veiled distrust, if not contempt.
As a result, officers may deny—even to themselves—that the stress they’re under is getting to them. If they do recognize that they are having difficulties, they’re unlikely to share that with peers or supervisors. Officers take pride in their ability to do a tough job, a job many people simply are not cut out for, so they are often reluctant to do anything that may call into question their fitness for duty. Self-worth isn’t the only thing at risk; many officers fear that admitting to emotional difficulties will limit their opportunities for advancement or even jeopardize their careers. Even when officers realize that they are emotionally shaken, they may feel especially obligated to ignore their own infirmity when they feel that other officers are depending on them.