Some Numbers

What’s wrong here?

The metric about Australia had me confused for a second. It’s a bit lower than the US, but not much. Oh, that’s 28 years worth of police shootings compared to the US rate in one year month.

That’s just shootings. As we’re seeing, cops are willing to break your neck or choke you to death, too.

Over on the Behind The Bastards podcast, they are talking about the guy who teaches cops “killology” and fills their cinderblock-like heads with ideas about how they are the “sheepdogs” who guard the “sheep” from the “wolves.” [Behind The Bastards] He teaches them that they are noble and important and it’s more worthwhile for them to shoot someone to death than to deal with the lawsuits if you only maim them. It does go a way toward explaining how the cops favor emptying multiple clips into a target. I always wondered about that: police allegedly spend time practicing with their firearms and supposedly are trained to shoot effectively. But when I used to go to the range, it was the cops and ex-cops that were the absolute worst shots there; they put bullets all over the place and they were scary and incompetent.

Anyhow, the asshole comes across as a sort of Stephen Seagal-type character, with a carefully padded resume. He’s an armchair warrior who has managed to avoid actual conflict, yet claims profound understanding of people’s motives in conflict. He also managed to preach to some of the choir, by claiming that violent video games make people unhesitatingly violent. I guess one thing to think about would be stopping cops from playing video games, if he was right – which he’s not. Ahhhh, he’s a psychologist – and he’s playing in suit with that field’s tremendous fondness for just asserting bullshit. If you want a scary detail, his ‘methodology’ appears to be based on SLA Marshall’s. Unfortunately, Marshall was a bullshit peddler, too. [stderr] Grossman’s bio on his site sure sounds impressive, as does his bio on wikipedia, but the Behind the Bastards episode does its usual fine job of stripping him down to his underwear and pointing at all the holes.

His whole message is “err on the side of violence” and “violence must be superior.” It’s not just that he teaches cops to be afraid all the time he teaches them that if someone resists at all they are more likely to escalate their resistance to the point where they attack. So: take them out, first.

I read Grossman’s On Killing years ago, and I’m sad to say that some of it made some sense. I think Richard Rhodes’ analysis in Why They Kill is vastly better. [wc] Rhodes’ analysis is that it’s a learned behavior, where some people experience violent conflict and discover that it’s a way of solving certain problems. If those problems are threats from peers, you have a person who learns that beating or killing peers is one way of interacting with them. It may not be the best way, it turns out, but in some places it works. As an aside, Marshall, Rhodes and Grossman all appear to make what appears to be a mistake, in my opinion – that people have an inherent reluctance to kill other people. I think that’s an absurd position to take; people seem quite fine with killing eachother and always have. If you discard that absurd unevidenced belief, you wind up with a model of human behavior that more closely tracks real experience and history.

The crazy part about Grossman’s theories is that, if he was right, his behavior should be quite different – he should be teaching cops how to recognize out of control escalation and de-escalate. Instead he’s teaching them that people are going to try to kill them, so they should unhesitatingly kill the other guy, first.

Cops are not warriors.

Mother Jones also takes on Grossman, here [mj]

Marching around the stage in a theater in Lakeport, California, Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman tells his audience that they shouldn’t go out looking for people to kill, because those who need killing – the “gangbangers,” terrorists, and mass murderers – will come to them. All they need to do is be ready. “Are you prepared to kill somebody?” he asks me and the small group of “armed citizens” who’ve paid $90 or more to see him. “If you cannot answer that question, you should not be carrying a gun.”

Two hours into his high-octane, six-hour seminar, the self-described top police trainer in the nation is just getting warmed up. Grossman, a 60-year-old former Army Ranger, wears low-slung blue jeans, an ornate Western belt buckle, and a black button-up emblazoned with the words “Grossman Academy,” the “O” stitched like a bull’s-eye. He sports a military haircut. Onstage are two giant easel pads, their legs taped to the floor so that they don’t go crashing down whenever he hits them to punctuate his points. “We fight violence. What do we fight it with? Superior violence. Righteous violence.” Like a preacher, he doesn’t bother with notes.

Holy shit. Back in the day, when I taught my advanced system audit and firewalls courses for Interop, everyone in the class was paying 10x that. But, to be fair, I didn’t turn out a bunch of brain-whacked mall ninjas. UNIX system administrators don’t generally need deadly force; you can fix most of your extreme problems with fsck -y -v.

Here’s the closing point: someone who wants to know how to kill quickly and heartlessly is the exact wrong kind of person to arm and send out in a cop uniform.

Though he spent years as a soldier, he has never killed anyone in combat.

He does his killing by indirection.

Grossman is also a crazed christian. Go figure.

Sorry about the weird image layout; I’ve fixed it and won’t be trying that particular technique again.


  1. says

    The figures I’m seeing in your images are:

    UK: 55 fatal shootings by police in 24 years
    US: 59 fatal shootings by police in 24 days (First 24 days of 2015)

    AUS: 94 fatal shootings by police in 20 years
    US: 97 fatal shootings by police in 1 month (March 2015)

  2. says

    Policing by consent seems to have never been implemented in the US.

    Particular the 6th principle:
    “To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

  3. says

    The metric about Australia had me confused for a second. It’s a bit lower than the US, but not much. Oh, that’s 28 years worth of police shootings compared to the US rate in one year.

    You’re still confused. It’s the US rate in one month.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    what appears to be a mistake, in my opinion – that people have an inherent reluctance to kill other people. I think that’s an absurd position to take; people seem quite fine with killing each other and always have. If you discard that absurd unevidenced belief…

    I think it’s more accurate to say that normal, untrained people have a reluctance to kill others except in the most extreme circumstances (e.g. their family being attacked), and sometimes even then they hesitate.. There’s a minority of sociopaths who are fine with it, true. But surely a large part of the point of most world military and US police training is focused on making people who wouldn’t otherwise kill into killers. (Most other police around the world are generally trained to NOT kill if at all possible. Hence stark contrasts like the ones you showed.)

    Your oft-repeated point about US police forces operating as an occupying military power is correct.

  5. komarov says

    Some might look at those statistics and view them as an indictment of AUS/UK policing. Maybe the stats should be included in the US cop entrance examintation just to gauge the candidates’ reaction and weed them out a bit before wasting everybody’s time.

    “” “Are you prepared to kill somebody?” […] “If you cannot answer that question, you should not be carrying a gun.” “”

    Well, at least there this guy is getting dangerously close to making a good point. But realistically, the answer to the question only determines whether you shouldn’t be carrying a gun or you definitely shouldn’t be carrying a gun. Of course, I’m of the school of thought that holds you shouldn’t be carrying a gun, period, unless you’re at a firing range and it is your turn. This mere thought probably violates someone’s 2nd amendment rights, however, and should be vigorously opposed.

    “” former Army Ranger, “”

    While one shouldn’t jump to conclusions, this bit should at least have given someone pause for thought when they were deciding that the ex-soldier had the right skill-set for community police training. And sometimes, that someone should take the time to re-examine their decisions and perhaps admit to themselves – and to next year’s training budget – that they may have been wrong.

  6. wereatheist says

    You made me call up ‘man fsck’.
    I didn’t find a -y option (but this is on a Lubuntu box, maybe other *nix variants had it), but I understand what -v means :)

  7. says

    -y is now (I expect) the default, because that is all anyone ever used. It tells fsck to just fix things and any dangerous operations are approved.

    What’s crazy is that fsck was a roll-up of the functionality of ichk and dchk, which repaired inodes and directory entries separately. There was a time before file systems did mostly safe transactions and you sometimes had to fix them manually. The Linux extfs re-orders operations for resilience, which was a big innovation Kirk McKusick put in the BSD “fast” filesystem. When Osterhout at Berkeley started talking about log-based filesystems the Linux guys took some ideas from databases and did transaction journals. I don’t think fsck has much to do anymore. Aaah, good times.

  8. says

    The thing about needing to be ready to kill if you’re going to carry is pretty much true. A responsible gun carrier has to be hyper alert at all times, maintaining dangerous levels of stress in order to be able to react appropriately to any situation.

    The dumb part is that 99.9% of all possible situations do not require you to use your gun, so you waste considerable effort and do yourself significant harm for pretty much no reason. That’s why carrying is inadvisable for anyone willing to actually do the work that responsibility entails.

    The US is unfortunately full of assholes hiding behind the responsible gun owners, most of whom hate them more than the rest of us do. And many of them are wearing uniforms.

  9. John Morales says

    Ian, hm. <clickety-click>
    So, not quite 330 million USAnians, of whom around 30% own a weapon, and around 18% of whom are habitually carrying.

    (That’s a lot of people who need to be hyper-alert and ready to kill, no?)

  10. John Morales says

    (and… can’t resist)

    The “responsible gun owners” are those who are responsible for gunshots, presumably.

Leave a Reply