Stop Giving Cop Haters Control
They Want You Dead
I dedicated a chapter in my book, The Courageous Leader: A Survival Guide to Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies, to cop-haters. Granted, the book was published in 2019 and some questioned even giving credence to these basement trolling individuals, but no one would question that today. In recent years, we have seen exactly what cop haters are capable of doing if we don’t understand their tactics and behaviors.
In the book, I called cop-haters the “one-percenters” and I was just guessing. At the time, there wasn’t any data available to determine just how many of them there were, but there didn’t have to be many to impact an agency and community. If just 1% of the public hated cops, that’s 3 million Americans and when they aren’t on social media talking crazy, they were visiting your city council to demand those so called “reforms.” The message in the book was that our leaders needed to stop paying attention to them and get back to the mission, reducing crime.
Then 2020 happened and the fears I wrote about came true.
But all hope is not lost. Courageous Leadership is a powerful force and the first step in dealing with cop haters is to understand what they think and who they are.
The truth is that I was wrong about the cop haters. They make up a lot more than 1%. I suppose I was being optimistic but let’s lay down some truth and then we can get to some suggestions for Courageous Leaders.
I love data and scientific inquiry because, if done correctly, it takes out all the emotion and rhetoric that seems to be plaguing the entire world including law enforcement. If leaders make decisions based on the rhetoric, it will be a disaster and if you don’t believe me, simply look at the crime rates in many cities. Things aren’t getting better and it all started with leaders giving a platform to those that hate us and then bending over to the “demands” of those same crazy people.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the data and understand just who the cop-haters are.
The peer reviewed research titled “Assessing Public Perceptions of Police Use Of Force” examined the answers from citizens on a host of police use of force questions from the General Social Survey (GSS). Beginning in 1990, the year after Graham v. Connor became and remains the standard for police use of force, the authors analyzed the answers from five specific questions given by the GSS, which provides a nationally representative sample survey of U.S. households using a full-probability sample.
The questions are as follows:
1. Are there any situations you can imagine in which you would approve of a policeman striking an adult male citizen?
2. Would you approve of a policeman striking a citizen who had said vulgar and obscene things to the policeman?
3. Would you approve of a policeman striking a citizen who was being questioned as a suspect in a murder case?
4. Would you approve of a policeman striking a citizen who was attempting to escape from custody?
5. Would you approve of a policeman striking a citizen who was attacking the policeman with his fists?
In averaging the answers over a 28-year period, the researchers found that 41.7% of the respondents disagreed with at least one scenario of police use of force that is legal and justified according to the court (police best practices). According to the study, “Our findings indicate that many individuals hold unreasonably disapproving attitudes concerning police use-of-force issues.”
Additionally, the findings revealed that 30% of the public would never approve of a police officer striking a suspect and 27% would not approve of a police officer striking a suspect attempting to escape custody.
That should not surprise you. I don’t expect citizens to have an intimate knowledge of police operations, tactics, or use of force just as I don’t have the knowledge of what doctors, accountants, or exterminators do.
This lack of knowledge on police use of force is not what a cop hater is.
The answer to the last question gives you that……“Would you approve of a policeman striking a citizen who was attacking the policeman with his fists?”
You don’t have to have knowledge of law enforcement to answer this question correctly. You just have to be a decent human being.
The study concluded, “perhaps most concerning, 9.98% of respondents did not approve of officers striking a citizen even when that citizen is physically attacking the officer.”
The “one percenters” should have been called the “ten percenters” and that is exactly why our leaders need to stop paying attention to the never ending demands from individuals that literally want us dead.
It sounds harsh but as we keep hearing from the media….”listen to the science” and when the science says that 10% of the population would never approve of a police officer defending their life when they are being attacked, we need to pay attention.
Who Are They
Now you may ask, how do you know who the “ten percenter” is?
Are their citizens, groups, activists that never seem to be satisfied with any type of use of force?
Are you dealing with citizens, groups, or activists that appear to have no critical thinking skills?
Everything your agency does is scrutinized no matter how you explain it or what you show them?
One demand for reform turns into another and another and it’s a never-ending quest to find fault in someone at all times?
And one bonus tip to look out for….Are there groups or individuals that constantly lie about a police encounter?
Lead With Courage
As the study found, those that hate cops are not new. While the 10% was lower in 1990, it was still there but the difference was how our leaders dealt with it. When I started law enforcement in 1993, there was never a question about what the mission was.
We existed to find criminals and take them off the street so they could not continue to victimize the community. That work is tough and as I often say “a young man’s game” because criminals don’t like to get arrested and they will run, fight and sometimes do just about anything they can to avoid accountability. Law enforcement was trained well, given the tools to do the job and we always knew that as long as we did our job within the confines of the United States Constitution, State Law, and policy, we had nothing to worry about.
Sure, the cop haters would lie, and the politicians would virtue signal but if you did your job right, you never had anything to worry about.
While social media makes the “ten percenters” seem like the majority today, the tactics and the lies have not changed but how our leaders have handled it certainly has.
We say “yes” to the demands, even though we know it will hurt the mission of crime reduction and the citizens that we serve.
We fire and even prosecute cops because it was “demanded” even though we know they did nothing wrong within the law, but it “looked” wrong to some.
Rather than focusing on getting criminals off the streets, our leaders speak about “trust” as the primary focus, even though this data is just one example that a section of society will never trust no matter what.
And I could continue for days but the time is now to lead with courage.
There isn’t enough space to cover everything today so you’ll have to stick around but I will say this. I don’t think there is any amount of “feel good” programs or the next great reform that can fix anyone that says a police officer can never defend their life (10%) so let’s set them aside and never engage again. Daniel Carr gives similar advice and describes this as “dishonest critics.” I would encourage you to subscribe to our Courageous Leadership Podcast where Daniel will soon be featured.
Roughly a third of society doesn’t have a general knowledge of legal, justified force and while they aren’t in the category of the crazies I mentioned above, they matter, and we should help them understand because the next time your agency is in the news, you need that understanding.
Think Outside the Box
We do a lot of great things now to help the public understand but know this. The Citizen Police Academy, social media posts, educational videos, etc. will not reach this group. Granted, 58% have been reached but law enforcement will need to think outside these activities to help the rest.
I’m going to be talking about some of these ideas in the months ahead but I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.
Until then….Lead On and Stay Courageous!
Dr. Travis Yates is a commander with a large municipal police department and author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership.