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Discuss “Standard of Care” versus “Sufficiency of Care.” Include the legal concerns that may present also. Is sufficiency of care an acceptable standard? In non-disaster scenarios?

Chapter 11 Courage to Commit

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People complain, gripe, and moan about incidents involving police and claim they want change. Then someone examines the incident and releases the findings. When the findings are not what the opposition has predisposed them to be and without examining the evidence, they usually claim that the authorities are making excuses or covering up the truth. With regard to incidents where cops are found to abuse citizens, the reality is that those officers engage in that behavior because the police department they work for allows them to.

Departments do not have a reliable early warning system in place that allows notice of the “problem officer” before it’s too late. Unless they comprehend the police and police culture, and use that data to devise a system to monitor officer’s behavior, they cannot notice clues that indicate a problem. When officers under a supervisor’s charge engage in a pattern of behavior that is noticeable but goes unaddressed to the point that an unfortunate incident occurs, the supervisor is rarely held accountable for failing to correct the behavior that led to the incident. In fact, Internal Affairs Division rarely makes inquires to discover the reason for the behavior. They are more concerned with sustaining or disputing the facts relating to the incident. These cases present a golden opportunity to collect data that could help create models that could be used to predict certain behaviors of officers. This is another example of a reactive mindset instead of a preventive one in certain units of the police department. The main reason they do not engage in in-depth inquiries is to save time, and also their mission parameters are too narrow. They are often so narrow that the only facts they are concerned with are facts directly related to the incident, and not all the associated facts. When a unit’s mission is focused on certain facts, and not all facts, then the result of the investigation is skewed toward the interests of the investigating body and is no longer fair and balanced. The unit investigating the incident knowingly or not has a horse in the race and is no longer neutral. Even though they claim to be neutral, as that is what they are told they are, rarely do the members of that unit test the validity of that claim. If they do, they are shut down quickly by the administration. Depending on the police department administration’s maturity level, the department may consider background factors relating to the officer’s behavior as excuses rather than the reasons for the officer’s behavior. A high maturity level of thinking is just as important a standard for police administration to maintain as it is for the individual officer. Departments should strive to remove the “Do as I say and not as I do” mindset and lead with a compassionate, merciful standard that applies to its own personnel as well as the public.

The Importance of Psychological Services

In order to achieve this standard, police departments should have and maintain an in-house, full-time psychological services unit that partners with and trains supervisors to monitor officer behavior. The goal is making them a better officer. Most departments have a reactive program ferreting out bad behavior and punishing the officer after the bad behavior has occurred. This type of program pits the officer against the department. It creates the feeling that “Internal Affairs is out to get me” instead of “my department is trying to help me be a better officer.” An immature officer will likely never evolve to the maturity needed to understand the importance and awesome responsibility they have taken on. Departments need to develop new investigative tools and tests that should be flexible and designed in such a way that makes it possible to understand the psyche of a particular recruit, as some recruits have unique backgrounds that may not fit the traditional models of testing. These tools and methods should delve into incidents in their life that led to their belief systems. This is necessary in order to hire a person who not only completely understands the responsibility they are accepting, but ensures they understand they are taking on this important role in society for honorable reasons and not just to have a steady job. This understanding must be reinforced during field training and during in-service training. This in-depth inquiry into the background will take more time, but the needed time should be taken to ensure that the proper person is selected for the position. A word of caution about this process. It is important for administrators to understand the difference between intelligence level, education, and maturity. Maturity is something you cannot gain in an academic setting; it is something that is gained through making mistakes, jettisoning naïveté, and being of such moral character that the person desires to learn from and correct the mistake rather than continuing the bad behavior. A person can be a fine academic and of high intelligence, and at the same time be as mature as a 12-year-old child.

The Importance of New Perspectives

Additionally, a mechanism should be in place to try to determine when officers lose their sensitivity. If mechanisms are not in place, officers will become desensitized to the horrors of the job. When those horrors are seen on a consistent basis and there are no prevention mechanisms in place, officers come to believe the horrors are a natural part of the environment and will accept it as normal behavior. When that behavior is consistent in a specific area where the population is not diverse or primarily one race, then that officer will associate that behavior with that particular race rather than with that geographic area. Neighborhoods can be complex in culture. For example, when I was a child, the parents on the street where I lived spanked their children, whereas the culture in a separate neighborhood two streets away did not. The culture and belief systems drew the line between neighborhoods, not the geographic boundaries.

Police are not taught to understand the neighborhood they are policing. It takes a certain maturity level

to think in depth and understand the people they are charged with protecting. A person who joins policing should have the same enthusiasm, commitment, and maturity as a person would have who is dedicating their life to the clergy. There must be an honest commitment to serve mankind, not one that cheapens its value.

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