Copyright © 2020, tim boehlert
A few weeks ago I watched a YouTube video (How Law Enforcement Taught Me to Dehumanize) that was shared by Sensei Avi Nardia. The video discussed some specific aspects of training used in Police academies and to police recruits. The original poster stated that he’d been a Police officer for 10 years (unverified).
After watching the video cursorily, my initial response was measured, and also incomplete. It’s hard for me to watch something that triggers me because of the underlying bias or skewed aspect that I perceived, real or not, and then to try to sort it out in a few minutes. I’m still working it all out.
I support Law Enforcement, and the title alone set my gears in motion. While watching and listening, I found it disturbing – not just what was being said and how, but because of the numerous and obvious edit points, and seeming underlying script that it was ‘designed’ for. It felt a lot like propaganda, and the poster seems to be reading from a script much of the time. With all of that, I found value in the points made, for either a yay or nay point of view, and mentioned to Avi that this would be a great discussion that we could engage in and share with our Kapap family.
My feeling was that as teacher and student, we were at odds with the topic of policing, the principles, and the outcomes that we have been speaking to for the last few years. This was yet another aspect that we could discuss and perhaps enlighten each other as well as our group on. We’ve done this numerous times, and while we don’t always agree with each other on things that involve the actions of the Police, specifically in the U.S., we respect each other enough to allow for each other’s viewpoints.
In a nutshell, and for me, the video presented some valid points, but was skewed and biased based on the posters personal preferences and perhaps his experiences. At the same time, while he mentions the training, he also mistakes his on-the-job conversations as training – but that is not official doctrine.
We are all formed by our experiences. Some of that is ‘official’ training – school training in any form, much of the rest is conversational persuasion provided by our co-workers, acquaintances, strangers and family members, et al. We use the school training as a framework, but we fill in the gaps with the rest that we pick up by those that hold more influence over us.
In this video, some training was certainly provided, and I don’t take issue with that, the rest however is NOT sanctioned training, but nonetheless holds merit in it’s persuasive value over the end-user, the author of the video. And this is likely my problem with accepting the data t face value.
The second reason that I didn’t care for regarding the video was the ‘creative’ aspect of the presentation. The hash tags speak for themselves.
The main idea, the idea of ‘indoctrination’, doeshave merit, and again is something that we saw from differing viewpoints, I think.
I will speak to my viewpoint here, but go watch the video first and then continue reading!
The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically
Definitions from Oxford Languages
Uncritically = with a lack of criticism or consideration of whether something is right or wrong.
In my research, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to understand the terms used for this process, and explored the outcomes — the ‘benefits’ — of the ability of the use of indoctrination to influence favorable outcomes, depending on your viewpoint.
Now, this is where I think we both saw it from opposing sides. I see it as a positive, and I believe in the way it was intended to be used, and I think Avi sees it as being a negative, and something that is not what we should be using as training.
My familiarity of the concept of indoctrination goes back more than 50 years, to the 1960’s when I may have first become aware of the word but more importantly the concept, and the negative nature in which is was presented to me then. My early memories are all negative – something that was wrong, maybe even evil. At the time it may have had political leanings, but I think I recall it as being a bad thing.
Over the years, those initial impressions held up – and forged my feeling about the word.
In 2008, I’d read Rory Miller’s Meditations on Violence, and learned a bit more about the use of indoctrination, through his use of the term/concept, ‘other’, but without directly connecting the two. It was thisnew term where I started to see the positive aspects of indoctrination – and it was all purely situational.
“In every war, both sides have had a slang term for the enemy to depersonalize them and make them easier to kill, an attempt to emphasize the “otherness.”
Rory Miller. Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence (Kindle Locations 785-786). Kindle Edition.
To ‘other’ someone is to diminish their value or status in your mind. The process has been referred to using many terms:
…and I’m sure there are other terms used in different industries. It reminds me of MILspeak – the deliberate use of terminology for specific purposes – which can be good, or bad.
While the words cannot fully represent their use, intended or otherwise, in the end it comes down to purpose. The word and the action may not jive, but serve specific purposes, perhaps designated by the wielder.
Here are a few on-line definitions of some of these terms:
Classical (a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired: a response which is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone.) and operant conditioning (Operant conditioning, sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning, is a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence (whether negative or positive) for that behavior.)
“…classical and operant conditioning. That is what is used when training firefighters and airline pilots to react to emergency situations: precise replication of the stimulus that they will face (in a flame house or a flight simulator) and then extensive shaping of the desired response to that stimulus. Stimulus-response…”
On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill In War and Society
Lt. Dave Grossman (Kindle Locations 319-321).
“We do not tell schoolchildren what they should do in case of a fire, we condition them;”
On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill In War and Society
Lt. Dave Grossman (Kindle Locations 324-325).”
Othering:view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.
Historically this information has been developed and used successfully in some cases to influence behaviors, and thus change results. In his groundbreaking book, On Killing, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, I furthered my research about the use of indoctrination, and discovered a bit more about the history of it’s purpose and use.
“…despite an unbroken tradition of violence and war, man is not by nature a killer.”
On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill In War and Society
Lt. Dave Grossman (Kindle Location 227).
While Miller’s book put my head into one mindset – learning the ability to distance oneself from a potential hostile person, Grossman’s revealed another angle I hadn’t thought anything about – theresistanceto such training. It was based on the work of S.L.A. Marshall and his work regarding the effectual use of combatants in war, and their inability to use force against their enemies.
It opened my eyes to the fact that while many of us may believe otherwise, man has the ability to kill, but for the most part doesn’t have the desire to do so. Thatis what indoctrination in the armed forces of the time was designed to overcome.
With this foundation, let’s dissect and analyze the points made in the video:
Othering references – “These people”, “unlicensed drivers”, and the responsibility on Law Enforcement Officers for not applying the law if they merely turned a blind eye to ‘minor’ infractions.
“It’s just a transient, addict, gangster”
Here, the use of the word is derogatory by choice and through intent to lessen the value of the person being addressed. Yes, it happens, yes it’s wrong, and yes, we’ve alldone it – more than once, and for sure over a lifetime. Think about the terms you use daily when you are triggered by a person or event – getting cut off in traffic, watching something you deem stupid, how we refer to one another even while ‘kidding.’ We’re all guilty, and thatis the result of indoctrination. You need to examine yourself and your behaviors, it won’t take long and you won’t come up empty. Be honest.
Why do we not see it the same for a Police Officer? Because we hold them to a higher standard. We expect more, no, we demand more from them. We do so without a true understanding of their job, and what/who they face every day. That is not to dismiss it, nor condone it. It is merely to educate and perhaps start down the path of making some changes – at home where we have some control over what we do. Make changes to who we are, and what we project to society through our use of the same ‘techniques.’ Let’s start there, and take responsibility for us, before we judge others.
The techniques that ‘Phil’ stated in his video ring somewhat true – recruits are taught about officer safety, and that includes the danger that canlurk in the unknowns that they will face every day, and on every call. I believe the intent of that ‘indoctrination’ is as stated. It’s meant to keep them safe – they are no good to anyone if they get injured or killed while performing the task of applying the law as we’ve relegated to them. I think the training is meant to get their attention, task them with the responsibility to above all pay attention, and to make them understand that if they don’t do a good job of that, they could die, or someone else could. Phil then makes interprets the training as a bit more ominous and foreboding. He thinks it’s meant to make them paranoid, and that the use of the terms he uttered above, are meant to dehumanize the public that have been addressed in this manner and with these words/terms. It is a mindset that is deliberately being formed, but I disagree that it has the intent behind it that he alludes to. It has its purpose, but all of the terms he used were handed to him by fellow officers, he says. That was not a part of the official training.
This brings us to the specific use of the term/concept/ideology of ‘othering’:
… Spivak was the first to use the notion of othering in a systematic way. Although Spivak uses the concept in a review of Derrida as early as 1980, it is not until 1985 that the concept is used systematically in her essay “The Rani of Sirmur”.
What causes Othering?
“Othering is not about liking or disliking someone. It is based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group. It is largely driven by politicians and the media, as opposed to personal contact.”
What is Othering in psychology?
The Basic Nature of Othering in Human Psychology
“In short, this effect speaks to how we differentially treat those whom we see as “in our group” versus those whom we see as some kind of “other,” meaning someone who is defined as in “some group other than my own group.”
What is Othering in sociology?
“We define “othering” as a set of dynamics, processes, and structures that engender marginality and persistent inequality across any of the full range of human differences based on group identities. 13. While not entirely universal, the core mechanisms the engender marginality are largely similar across contexts.”
What is negative Othering?
“The practice of Othering is the exclusion of persons who do not fit the norm of the social group, which is a version of the Self.” … The usual negative othering (or anti-othering), such as racism, sexism or xenophobia is contemptuous disregard of those categorized as instances of despised groups.”
What is the concept of othering?
“Othering” refers to the process whereby an individual or groups of people attribute negative characteristics to other individuals or groups of people that set them apart as representing that which is opposite to them.
Othering can be as subtle as: Ignoring people’s ideas, work, or opinions. Not giving people the benefit of the doubt. Failing to share important information.”
What is Othering in criminology?
“Othering in the context of research is the term used to communicate instances of perpetuating prejudice, discrimination, and injustice either through deliberate or ignorant means. Othering is most obvious where researchers, their paradigms and processes, and their … Entry.”
“Othering is the ability to convince yourself that another human is different from you. In most cases the ability to other determines how much force can be used on another person. Propaganda in war or mass rallies in a police state are attempts to co-opt the Monkey mind —the limbic system —into believing that the enemy is not a person, not like us, not one of us. If you can be convinced that the enemy is not human, you can butcher or hunt a person just as if he were an animal. If you are truly convinced, not just following the crowd with your Monkey mind, you will not even suffer from guilt reactions.”
“For some people, othering is a skill. A new criminal usually has to work himself up to an act of violence, talk himself into it. He convinces himself that he is only taking what should be his by right, if the world were fair; or tells himself a story where his victims are the bad guys. Police officers and soldiers, especially the extremely professional veteran, other by behavior. “This person did X which elicits Y force.” “If I see A I will do B under the Rules of Engagement (ROE).” The ability to other by behavior is one of the most important skills in force professions. It prevents over-reactions (whether excessive force complaints or atrocities). Because it is not personal, it removes the Monkey-mind from the equation. It also prevents, in my experience, burnout. Having an emotional connection, whether that connection is love or hate, increases the stress of a force incident. Othering by behavior allows one to maintain absolute respect for an enemy or a threat even if it is necessary to kill. Not being othered is also a skill, and one that is critical in de-escalating potentially violent situations.”
“The ability to deal with someone who is acting immorally and/or illegally — without disrespecting or othering that person — is a priceless skill that is available to you through reading this book. It is the key to being an adept problem resolver — and an ethical protector, for that matter.”
Miller, Rory. ConCom: Conflict Communication A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication . Unknown. Kindle Edition.
With all of that information, you get a better understanding of the concept – and perhaps can see for yourself how and why it may be used as a ‘training tool.’
Scripted Quote: “People that break the law don’t deserve sympathy. We should make law breaking as painful as possible to teach ‘em a lesson to dissuade them from committing more crimes or to prevent them from turning the city into, you know…”
That is not what he was taught as official training. That is what he claims to have learned from his fellow officers. He then goes on to state that his training was broken down into roughly two parts:
40% Legal codes and procedural stuff
60% Physical toughness, UOF and officer safety
“Early in the Academy they would sit you down to watch lots of dashcam footage of police officers being murdered, police officers being ambushed, police officers being shot to death on routine traffic stops and it would be drilled into you “there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. At any moment somebody might run up on you with a gun and you’ve got to be ready.” And once your head is full of cop death, that’s when they start teaching you the boxing and the wrestling and the judo and the Aikido and the firearms training. That’s when you start learning the laws about when you get to use force and how much force you get to use. And I’m being precise on that last part. I would say most of the use of force instruction that I received was on knowing what was the maximum amount of force you could get away with.”
And again, partial truth at best… Yes they use ‘training’ films to educate the officers, perhaps to inoculate them. It’s a wakeup call to reality. He oversimplifies it, and skews it with his agenda showing. He then tries to make the final point that the UOF training is designed and taught for officers to break the law, and I call bullshit. UOF is taught in different ways, in different agencies. It is an evolving and ever changing program. It used to be taught using a ladder schema, and is different now. The ladder concept was about escalation of force – either matching it or being one rung above what was being used against you, but look it up for the precise definition.
Graham vs. Connor ‘mantra’ cited.
Look up the case law, and educate yourself on the concept, terminology and language. Pay particular attention to the language – legal words and terms have very accurate and specific meaning, and not what you may think.
Tennessee vs. Garner cited
‘Reasonable Officer’ standards vs. Probable Cause cited
Rookies “spent hours watching cops being murdered by members of the public and then they get told that justifiable use of force revolves around the officers perception of how dangerous members of the public are.”
Indoctrination continued onto the streets – ‘what could have happened scenario’ talk by other officers.
Again, he goes off the rails and pushes ‘guy-talk’ as training – yeah, it can be, but it wasn’t official training, and it’s incident specific perhaps. Using experience to help others is not necessarily a bad thing. The thinking man will set his own boundaries and taboos. The possibility of death in that job are astronomical as opposed to what any one of us may encounter in our lives, and that doesn’t change because it makes us feel uncomfortable. The thinking man will consider the possible, and hone in on the probable. Worry is nothing more than fear of the unknown – and about future events specifically.
“The training teaches you to be ready to kill, it teaches you to want to kill, so that you don’t become a victim.”
I call bullshit, again. This is a bold-faced lie – the training does not teach you to want to kill. I doubt they even use ‘victim’ in relation to Police training.
“If the legal standard for use of force relies on what a reasonable officer would do in that situation, what is a reasonable response to years of training that says ‘everyone might try to kill you’?”
Again, years of training, or years of street-talk? Reasonable officer is outlined in the case law. Read that.
Col. Dave Grossman’s landmark essay citations:
“…Killology, which aims to reduce officers’ psychological inhibition to kill suspects. Grossman describes a facet of his training as it relates of the human reluctance to kill as “making it possible for people to kill without conscious thought.”
Yes, his training is designed to reduce the inhibition to the use of deadly force when deemed necessary and by applying reasonable officer standards. By eliminating conscious thought, you enhance your survivability.
Think of it this way – in the MA and SD programs that we teach, we try to eliminate doubt, boost confidence, and ensure good outcomes for the student. To do this, we teach skills that create those possibilities. We use mental, psychological and physical training to achieve that goal – victory, survival. We think of the physical aspect, as muscle-memory.
Having the ability to respond to a stimulus without conscious thought, Mushin.
In my opinion, it is a useful tool. Even legally armed citizens have specific legal and moral obligations when it comes to the use of deadly force. You have to ask yourself, “can I kill someone, under what circumstances, and could I do it without hesitation?” Hesitation kills.
There is so much more to it than what I can spend time here on. I ask anyone that is considering the purchase of a gun for self-defense to answer one question: “Can you use your purchase to take the life of another.” It’s extremely complicated, and I don’t know anyonethat ever wanted to kill another person, but I know a few that hadto. It never sits well. They’d used their training to save the lives of others. It was the most effective solution to the problem – in the moment. It comes with baggage.
Col. Grossman classifies people into three groups as a model to work from:
Sheep (members of public)
Wolves (bad guys)
Phil embellishes it this way:
“The sheepdogs protect the sheep from wolves, but, the sheepdogs are not sheep themselves and according to Dave Grossman, the sheep distrust the sheepdogs because they kind of resemble wolves and the sheep don’t like being told what to do.”
I’m not sure you can generalize that, but some sheep likely do think that way – some.
Phil then states:
“I know it’s supposed to be a cute metaphor or whatever but think of the messaging at play here. Cops are not members of their community, they are above and in charge of that community and the community rarely appreciates it. All the sheepdogs have is each other.”
Embellishing, again. ‘The messaging’ is all his since he crafted the idea into words. Cops are members of their communities and the communities that they serve. Their purpose is to mete the law within those communities.
10:20 “Pinned in the brains of Cops.”
Phil sums up his three main points about how Police are supposedly trained to dehumanize the public:
“Cops are fundamentally separate from members of the public.”
Very open to interpretation. In essence, yes they are separate. They choseto put their lives in jeopardy to protect us. They walk amongst us. Therefore, they deserve better. We ask them to do things for us that we can’t or wouldn’t do to preserve our lives, and our way of life.
“Members of the public might kill a cop at anytime.”
Ding. Ding. Ding. TRUTH. That is always a possibility. One should be trained to understand that kernel of hard truth.
“Breaking the law should be as painful as possible to deter crime.”
That wasn’t included in the official training Phil. That may be yourtakeaway based on yourexperience. I guarantee that is not a universal.
“Mentally what must you do to hold these three lessons in your head and still feel like a nice person at the same time. You pretty much have to begin dehumanizing the community in your mind to be able to do what’s necessary, to be safe, to prevent crime and to protect your fellow officers from being murdered.”
You use the tool where and when appropriate IF that tool works for you, in your hands, and is legal, ethical and moral. Nothing more.
“The rule in training for dealing with people was: you ask, you tell, you make.”
True. Let’s not forget that when an Officer asks, tells or makes you comply, it’s through the lenses of the law. I don’t know if it’s anything more than a guideline, and likely brought about because it was improperly used somewhere at some time, but it’s a legal responsibility to comply with his commands. It is not a request, legally.
“…that deviation from social control will be painful and may be deadly.”
A bit skewed towards the agenda, but there is truth there as well.
“If you dehumanize people long enough, you won’t like who you’ve become.”
I have to agree with this. We can get jaded, when exposed to the worst that humanity has to offer, day in, day out, year after year. It takes a special person to walk that line. If all that you know is one-sided, your view will always be the same. If you follow the donkey long enough, all you see is the ass. That doesn’t make it the reality. Sometimes you just have the ability to focus on the journey vs. focusing on the view.
One last quote from Col. Dave Grossman. Here he’s referring to a milepost set by S.L.A. Marshall regarding training and the use of more realistic paper targets vs. the traditional bulls-eyes incorporated during WW II, a change that is still in effect today:
“Today the body of scientific data supporting realistic training is so powerful that there is a Federal Circuit Court decision which states that, for law-enforcement firearms training to be legally sufficient, it must incorporate realistic training, to include stress, decision-making, and shoot–don’t shoot training. This is the Tuttle v. Oklahoma decision (1984, 10th Federal Circuit Court), and today many law-enforcement trainers teach that law-enforcement agencies are probably not in compliance with federal circuit court guidance if they are still shooting at anything other than a clear, realistic depiction of a deadly force threat. And, again, we have S. L. A. Marshall to thank for that.”
On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill In War and Society
Lt. Dave Grossman (Kindle Locations 268-273).”
To me it’s more than that – it’s about finding, creating and developing tools that have one goal in mind – to mold a better student.
In SD and the MA, we use the tool that Phil takes issue with – dehumanization. We have some of the same responsibilities in disseminating it, and howwe do so. We should do so with the three pillars in mind – legal, moral, ethical. This is a concept that was brought to light for me through the teachings of Arcadia Cognerati’s Greg Williams and Brian Marren.
To devalue ‘dehumanizing’, or any term you could apply to the concept is a difficult task, as it is used for good against evil. It has been taught in martial arts and self-defense classes, but it’s also taught to all of us from early childhood. “Stay away from the badman.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” You can fill in the blanks. It does have value when used responsibly.
To denigrate it because you can only see the ass of the donkey is to miss the value, to miss the lives saved, the heartbreak avoided, the ‘best outcomes’ achieved as a result.
In short, view it as a tool. Nothing more. Possessing the ability to not only learn and use the tool responsibly, but by also using the concept of Mushin – without mind, gives the student advantages. We teach it to prevent having victims, to uphold morally right responses to assaults by eliminating the doubt, and the hesitation that come naturally to many of us because of our cultural grooming. We use psychology to teach others how to overcome one’s natural instinct to dismiss the possibility of evil. We use terms, and words that enhance that abilitiy – sometimes we don’t like what we see or hear, but the journey is the goal, not the view.