Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Police training

You often see news about some police over reaction that ended up badly. Swat attacks often fall into this catogory. They are exonerated because "they were following procedures". Judges won't second guess them becuase they've been "trained".

Well, whether they've been trained or not, we should expect out police to behave rationaly. That means they should take into account whatever information they have available, whether they've been trained how to evaluate that particular information or not.

The event that still sticks in my craw was the shooting of a man at an airport by some reactiionary, control freak air marshalls who intentionlly ignored critical information and killed an innocent man. They had all the information to know the man was not a danger to anyone but they ignored it becuase they'd been trained to focus only on information that wasn't relevant in the case.

Here's the story from last December if you don't recall the details.

The key part to this story as that as soon as air marshalls got involved the man's wife yelled out that he was bi-polar. The cops heard that. Everybody heard it.

The rational thing to do is then evaulated everything that happened with that key information taken into account. They failed to consider that information. I guess because they hadn't been trained to do that. But it doesn't matter -- it was key information and they knew it. The only reason to ignore it was because actually behaving rationally would put the air marshalls at risk of having their decisons evaulated. They knew that as long as they followed procedure, even if they knew the procedure was srong in this instant, would insulate them from and judgement of their behavior and judgement.

This is an absurd situation, we create a situation where all a cop has to do to make sure his ass is covered is to kill someone who's no danger to anyone. That's really, really bad.

Let me just tell you that I'm bi-polar, have been for a very long time, and most of my life was undiagnosed and untreated. So I have some insight into this kind of situation.

There are a number of things that could have triggered someone who is bi-polar to fell an intense anxiety that he was going to explode if he didn't get off the airplane -- anxiety related to heights, enclosures, people, other things. The feeling can be intense.

When they blocked him from getting off the plane he's onlhy going to be thinking about what he can do to get off the plane. That's real common, it's going to be his only focus if he's bipolar.

A natural conclusion is that if he tells them he has a bomb they'll let him get off the plane. I doubt that there is anything else he could do or say that would get him to be allowed to leave. So that's what he said. All he's thinking about is getting of the plane. He doesn't think about consequences past that. That doesn't make him dangerous.

Once he's off the plane, everything is fine. He has not problem, he can't imagine why anyone else would still have a problem. He really can't imagine that. That's part of what it means to be bi-polar.

These control freak air marshalls have been trained to take a claim of having a bomb seriously and to respond to the threat.

Well, if the guy is bipolar, then his proclamation of having a bomb just isn't a threat. That's true whether they've been trained to deal with some kind of bipolar manic episode or not.

It was a tragic situation. These cops may have behaved like they were trained. And, maybe that should exonorate them from any personal responsibility. (I don't think they should be exonarated, you wouldn't be if you killed someone in a situation where you wouldn't have if you'd rationally evaluated all the information you had available).

But to claim that those cops had been right to kill a man because they had "training" is a cop out. They training they had was worthless in the given situation, actually caused the problem.

Bad training can be worse than no training. And the kind of training that cops get in dealing with people who are mentally ill is bad training.

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