The Police Shootings You Never Heard About – Because They Didn’t Happen

The Police Shootings You Never Heard About – Because They Didn’t Happen

I have to believe that with the recent shooting in the Minneapolis Police Department interview room that once again there will be a hue and a cry to stop the police shootings. Without seeing the video and talking to everyone involved it is impossible to speculate on what happened. I would like to offer the following stories from my own career because I think I was like most cops in terms of what I faced and how I reacted.  

A rookie cop is with his senior partner. They are walking through the IDS on the skyway level when they see a young man that they know is a suspect in a burglary. The young man knows the cops and reaches into his right jacket pocket as they approach and then pushes the pocket toward the officers in what looks like a gun pointing at the cops. It’s lunchtime, the skyway is packed with people and the cops quickly move at the suspect from different directions and grab his arms. There is no weapon in his pocket. His response “I wanted to see if you would shoot me”.

This same rookie cop now has about 2 years on the job when he is in plain clothes in McDonalds on Hennepin Ave on a Friday night with the same senior officer. The restaurant is full of people sitting and waiting in line. The rookie is approached by five young men who offer to sell him hashish. The rookie’s partner is putting in his order at the counter and doesn’t see the offer. The rookie, and at two years you are still a rookie, sits down at a table with the five men and when they produce the hashish he produces his .357 magnum and a badge and tells them they are under arrest. One of the men grabs the rookie’s gun and the fight is on. The gun never leaves the rookies hand, but it gets pointed at his chest several times as they grapple and spin around struggling for control of the weapon. The rookie is forced to hold down the hammer and grip the cylinder with his free hand to keep it from firing. People are screaming, running for cover and diving under tables. The rookie’s partner gets a bearhug on the suspect from behind and the man is disarmed and taken to jail. The hashish is fake.

One year later. Roll call information is that there was a child kidnapping in California and the armed and dangerous suspect is thought to be in Minneapolis. The officer and his partner find the car in an apartment parking lot near Loring Park. He and his partner investigate and determine that the suspect, and a very young girl, are in an upper level apartment. They get a key from the caretaker and are careful to approach the apartment and open the door. When they enter and announce themselves the suspect steps behind a curtain covering a walk-in closet and points what looks like a long barrel weapon against the curtain toward the officers. The officers take cover and talk the suspect out of the apartment. The “weapon” was a broom handle. This was a parental kidnapping. The child was in no danger.

Several years later the officer is flagged down about a drunk that has been thrown out of the Skyway Bar after being overserved. He is leaning over with his head resting against the building. As the officer approaches, the drunk swings his right arm around at the officer, drunkenly, with a knife in his hand. The officer uses a defensive tactic to keep him spinning around, slams him against the building and then disarms and handcuffs him. The knife has a 6-inch blade. Suspect goes to jail. Later, that same evening, a man runs from a fight when the group flags down the officer’s car. The officer pursues on foot and the fleeing man turns into an alley. The officer follows, but makes a wide turn into the alley and avoids the man standing with a knife in his hand but he is close enough that the man lunges at the officer. The officer uses his momentum to do a front kick to the mans lower abdomen and the fight is over before it begins.

A few more years go by, a radio dispatch says a kidnapping of young woman by an armed suspect just occurred in South Minneapolis. Shots were fired. The car is a brown 67 Pontiac Bonneville and the license plate is given. The car is downtown Minneapolis, immediately in front of the officer going northbound on 7th St. As the officer broadcasts that the car is in front of him it suddenly pulls to the curb and a large black man jumps out of the car and runs toward the officer’s car. The officer exits and pulls his weapon but doesn’t shoot, even though the suspects left hand is in his pocket. He waits, and the suspect stopping about 10 feet away says “The gun is in the trunk. My daughter is in the back seat. I had to shoot my way out of that pimp’s apartment. She’s only 13 officer”.

The officer makes sergeant. He has two new officers on his shift who have just finished their field training and are “technically qualified” to work alone. They want to work together on this night and the sergeant lets them, although he has reservations. They get a call in the early morning predawn hours to respond to the third floor of an older triplex home where a man is threatening suicide with a knife. The call is assigned to the rookies and the sergeant tells them to wait outside the house till he gets there. The sergeant assigns two senior officers to go to the front door of the unit while he goes up the narrow back steps to a very narrow and flimsy back door. The rookies are behind the sergeant. Dispatch is doing an excellent job of keeping all officers informed about what is happening inside and as everyone gets to their doors dispatch says “I think he did it. He dropped the phone and I heard a loud thump”. Officers at the front door attempt to force open the door and the sergeant, with one kick, takes out the back door only to see an elderly white male running at him with a long-bladed fillet knife in one hand and a butcher knife held to his throat. The sergeant draws his weapon with his right hand and uses his chemical aerosol with his left hand aiming directly into the man’s open mouth and eyes, dropping him literally at his feet. There is so much Freeze+P© (CS and Pepper Spray combined) in the air that officers can barely breath or see but they still have to fight with man on the floor to get the knives away from him. The man goes to crisis and the hospital and the officers go back to work. The sergeant should have shot the man. But he chose not to.

The sergeant is walking a beat by himself in downtown Minneapolis and walks into Moby Dicks Bar. He makes his way to the men’s room and finds a drug deal going down. He ends up in a fight for his life with the drug dealer as he attempts to arrest a man almost half again his size and 10 years younger. He calls for help but his radio is disable as it is ripped out of his hand by the drug dealer. Multiple blows to the face and head are traded and the officer finds himself “out on his feet” and waking up several times, but he is still holding onto the suspect with one handcuff on the suspects wrist. During a brief pause when the sergeant has the suspect on the floor, he out his chemical aerosol and discovers that in the fight the aerosol can has been crushed and the top broken off. It’s useless. The suspect sees the aerosol but doesn’t realize it is inoperative. He pleads with the sergeant not to use it and he gives up. He goes to jail (once again the drugs are fake), and the sergeant goes to the emergency room for blunt trauma to his face and head.

The sergeant is in charge of a robbery decoy unit that identifies crime patterns with the help Mr. Doug Hicks of the MPD crime analysis unit. (This is many years before New York claimed credit for inventing the process.) The sergeant is the decoy on this night. Every officer takes a turn at it. The sergeant is sucker punched to his right temple and the blow drives his head into a brick wall to his left and for a few seconds renders him unconscious as he drops to his knees. He sees the suspect approaching and planting his feet as if to kick him in the head. He rises to his feet, gun in hand, and grabs the suspect and throws him against the building. The suspect grabs the sergeant’s gun with both hands and once again the fight is on as the gun is turned toward the suspect and then back toward the sergeant. The sergeant starts to black out from the punch and he collapses against the suspect, never letting go of the suspect’s shirt or his gun. The sergeant collapses to the ground on top of the suspect only to find that his gun has fired a round next to the suspects ear as he fell. Now the sergeant finds himself with his finger on the trigger of a gun that has gone into single action, pointed at the suspects head from only inches away as the suspect gropes for something inside the waist area of his pants. The sergeant makes his gun safe and orders the suspect to show his hands. The suspect pulls out a small baggie of marijuana.

Two teenage suspects were wanted after several violent robberies where they attacked women in downtown Minneapolis with rebar, hitting them in the head to get their belongings. One was still in critical condition in the hospital. Officers are out at night searching the homeless campsites for suspects under the freeway bridges when a large older man comes out from behind a concrete pillar with a six-foot metal pipe and starts toward the plain clothes officers yelling “I’ll kill you”. The officers back up and yell “Police, Put it Down”. They have to back up about 50 feet before the drunken suspect drops the pipe and apologizes.

Looking for the same two suspects the next day near 3rd Avenue North and 5th St. downtown Minneapolis, the officer gets in a foot chase with a possible suspect. The suspect disappears around the corner of a building and the officer makes a very wide turn and with his gun out orders the suspect, who was standing at the corner of the building butcher knife in hand, to the ground. The suspect apologizes and throws the knife down begging the officer not to kill him. The suspect repeatedly says “I didn’t know you was cops”.He has no warrants and is not the suspect the officer was looking for.

These stories are all true and they are not meant to brag. Many cops face much worse circumstances every day. My point is that all officers face similar or worse situations during their career and seldom, if ever, do they result in the use of deadly force. The officers find another way, not just because they have to, but because they want to. Are there cops that have used deadly force just because they could under the law? Absolutely true. Are they, in my opinion, sometimes getting away with murder? Yes. But they are not most officers.

These experiences that I shared are not unique to my career. They are part of being a cop. I could have made a legal argument in each case that the use of deadly force would have been justified. In the case of the suicide by cop I was wrong to assume that the chemical aerosol would work. The rookies behind me tried to shoot him but I was in the way and they were smart enough not to shoot and possibly hit me. I taught the use of chemical aerosols (Mace©) and I always taught that it is not a good defense against a knife. Should I have shot the man? Probably, I put other cops at risk by not shooting, but that is what cops usually do. They risk their own lives to protect others.

I know that some folks are throwing out the number of suspects killed by Minneapolis police officers as if those numbers alone are evidence of police misconduct. If you want to talk numbers, take the instances I shared here where I could have used deadly force and assume that I did. I had a pretty normal career. Now multiply that by every sworn officer who has ever served in the Minneapolis Police Department since 1975, when I started my career.  

That is probably the best estimate of lives saved by Minneapolis Police Officers. 

What was that number again?

History of Peer Intervention In New Orleans

A History of Peer Intervention Training

By Michael W Quinn – CEO

International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, LLC.

With all the recent press being given to Peer Intervention training I thought law enforcement might be interested in how it got started in New Orleans. I need to take you back a few years to get a sense of the history behind it. In 1987 I was given the opportunity to head up what would be a 3- year experience designing and supervising the Robbery Decoy Unit and later the Repeat Offender Program, (ROPE) in the Minneapolis Police Department. Chief Tony Bouza and Lieutenant Bob Lutz had enough faith in me to turn me loose with a hand-picked group of officers to do decoy work and following that to work with an old friend, Greg Hestness, to co-supervisor ROPE. In three years we sent a lot of vicious predators and career criminals to prison without a single complaint of any kind from citizens, offenders, or civil rights groups. We did it by depending on each other to stop any act that might lead to a complaint or dishonor the badge. We gave permission to intervene and to accept an intervention if we saw something that might be a problem. To me, it was just good police work.

In 1989 Dr. Ervin Staub published The Roots of Evil where he documents and analyzes the effects of active and passive bystandership. It is a wonderful work with ideas that can be applied across many areas of human interactions, including peer intervention, bullying and the underlining causes of human tragedy. His thoughts on active bystandership speak to why the decoy and repeat offender programs were so successful. 

After my retirement from  the Minneapolis PD in 1999 it was my work in the decoy and ROPE units and the many witnessed failures of police leadership that led me to write Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence. After the book came out in 2005 I was invited to speak at conferences in Canada and the U.S., to the RCMP Academy conference of internal affairs investigators, to citizen groups like Communities United Against Police Brutality, to police chiefs at Northwestern University, to students at Colleges and Universities, and to police agencies regarding the idea of holding each other accountable and not letting another officer do something that could cost them their career or their freedom. I didn’t call it peer intervention. I called it officer survival ethics.

In the fall of 2011 I began a friendship with Mary Howell, a prominent civil rights attorney in New Orleans. She was speaking at a NACOLE Conference regarding bystander intervention by police officers and being familiar with Dr. Ervin Staub’s work on active and passive bystandership, she wanted to talk to me about some of the ideas in my book. Specifically, she wanted to know why and how I had been so successful with the decoy and ROPE units. So began the long journey to the peer intervention training that took place in March of 2016 in New Orleans.

I was invited to speak to Silence is Violence in New Orleans in January of 2012 and meet with Baty Landis and her group. They told me there was no faith in the police department at that point in time. The police were frustrated and the community was angry.  But Mary Howell refused to give up. She wanted a better police department and a happier community. She brought together what became known as the “Working Group” for bystander intervention. Over the next couple years, the membership grew to include Dr. Joel Dvoskin, Dr. Erin Nelson, Dr. Everett Doolittle, Ted Quant, Barbara Attard, Steve Parker, and Dr. Ervin Staub.

Knowing that the consent decree for the New Orleans Police Department was being written at that time, Mary contacted Christy Lopez at the Department of Justice and told her that our group wanted to put together a curriculum on active bystandership that would be written into the decree, and through her efforts it was, in sections 266, 294 and 315.

In October of 2012, the working group presented our ideas on active bystandership at the NACOLE conference in San Diego. We were inundated with requests for more information. When will this be ready? Can we start doing it now? Etc.

Once we knew that peer intervention was in the consent decree there were many meetings and conference calls with the working group. Eventually, I was elected to write the curriculum for the peer intervention training. This was a case where everyone in the group had ingredients they wanted included in the final course but I was the designated cook.

I had already been working on the course development for several months and I had the first draft of the training done by December, 2012. The curriculum received Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training approval in January, 2013 and I taught the first class in Fergus Falls, MN on March 13, 2013. It went really well and was recorded by The edited promo for the class was produced by and put on Vimeo by April of 2013.  You can also see it on my website at I received National Certification for the program from IADLST, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training in October of 2016.

From October of 2012 to spring of 2015 there were a series of trips to New Orleans meeting with the working group, and many phone and email conversations about “Peer Intervention” training.

In May of 2015, I presented the Peer Intervention program for Judge Morgan and the NOPD command staff at the New Orleans District Courthouse. More meetings followed and in October of 2016 I was offered the contract to teach the first train-the-trainer class in peer intervention to the New Orleans police department for what was now called “EPIC – Ethical Policing is Courageous” ©, the core and framework of which is my original peer intervention class.

When Ben Horwitz from the compliance team first told me the timeline for command staff training, focus groups, surveys, contract signing, etc., I quickly realized that to meet the contract requirements I needed to start right away and couldn’t wait for the signed contract. I told Ben that I would come down in November and get started based on his promise that a contract would be coming. He didn’t like the idea but eventually agreed. Officer Jacob “Jake” Lundy was assigned as my liaison for the project. He had recently been involved in a shooting and was temporarily off the street. It was a perfect fit for me and for him. He was great to work with and made all the difference in coordinating the different activities and training that needed to be done.

I delivered the first EPIC training on March 30 and 31, 2016, almost 5 years after my first conversation with Mary Howell. The reviews were great. Some officers even wanted more training.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this process. I learned a lot. I feel like I have a whole new police family in New Orleans and I know the future of the NOPD is bright. There are many good cops in NOLA that are proud of their uniform and I would like to think I helped in some way to make that happen.

MOST IMPORTANT: The driving force behind all of this has been Mary Howell. If anyone deserves credit for making this all happen it is her. Recent reviews in major publications are lauding the great promise of peer intervention and the difference it can make. Her name is never mentioned, but what made all this possible was Mary Howell’s dogged persistence to make the NOPD better for the cops and the community. I don’t believe it would have happened without her.

Finally, Peer Intervention, Active Bystandership, EPIC – whatever you want to call it – relies on the Chief Law Enforcement Officer to talk it, walk it and support it for everyone under their command. Superintendent Michael Harrison is making that happen in New Orleans. In a letter to me he says "We believe this is the transformational tool that will catalyze our many ongoing reformation efforts and help make this agency one of the premier law enforcement organizations in the United States. Your hard work in producing our training curriculum has been commendable. ” Before his retirement, Deputy Superintendent Bob Bardy told me and others that EPIC should be called “Ethical Policing is Contagious.” He believed it was. He said that New Orleans officers needed to use EPIC to change the culture of the police department, to make it theirs, and make it a culture the New Orleans community and the NOPD can be proud of. He believed and so do I.

In September, 2016 the Irondale, Alabama Police Department, under the command of Chief Atkinson, joined the ranks of Police Peer Intervention. Congratulations to Irondale. 

Recent Articles on Peer Intervention are listed below.



Management by policy absent accountability - a bad plan.

On 8/10/2016, the Minneapolis StarTribune ran an article about new policies for Minneapolis cops. By way of introduction to this article, here are the policies. The date indicates the day they were included in the MPD Policy Manual. 
A. Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.
 B. It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.
 5-304 THREATENING THE USE OF FORCE AND DE-ESCALATION (10/16/02) (06/01/12) (07/28/16)
A. Threatening the Use of Force
 As an alternative and/or the precursor to the actual use of force, MPD officers shall consider verbally announcing their intent to use force, including displaying an authorized weapon as a threat of force, when reasonable under the circumstances. The threatened use of force shall only occur in situations that an officer reasonably believes may result in the authorized use of force. This policy shall not be construed to authorize unnecessarily harsh language. (08/17/07) (07/28/16)
 B. De-escalation
 Whenever reasonable according to MPD policies and training, officers shall use de-escalation tactics to gain voluntary compliance and seek to avoid or minimize use of physical force. (06/01/12) (07/28/16)
 1. When safe and feasible, officers shall:
 a. Attempt to slow down or stabilize the situation so that more time, options and resources are available.
i. Mitigating the immediacy of threat gives officers more time to call additional officers or specialty units and to use other resources.
ii. The number of officers on scene may make more force options available and may help reduce overall force used.
 b. Consider whether a subject’s lack of compliance is a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply based on factors including, but not limited to:
 ·         Medical conditions
·         Mental impairment
·         Developmental disability
·         Physical limitation
·         Language barrier
·         Influence of drug or alcohol use
·         Behavioral crisis
 Such consideration, when time and circumstances reasonably permit, shall then be balanced against incident facts when deciding which tactical options are the most appropriate to resolve the situation safely.
2. De-escalation tactics include, but are not limited to:
•    Placing barriers between an uncooperative subject and an officer.
•    Containing a threat.
•    Moving from a position that exposes officers to potential threats to a safer position.
•    Reducing exposure to a potential threat using distance, cover or concealment.
•    Communication from a safe position intended to gain the subject’s compliance, using    verbal persuasion, advisements or warnings.
•    Avoidance of physical confrontation, unless immediately necessary (e.g. to protect someone or stop dangerous behavior).
•    Using verbal techniques to calm an agitated subject and promote rational decision making.
•    Calling additional resources to assist, including more officers, CIT officers and officers equipped with less-lethal tools. 

I am glad that Chief Harteau recognizes that there should never be a “time limit” when responding to potentially critical incidents. Historically, as she noted, that has not always been true in policing. Clearing your calls so you can race to the next one was, and still is, a priority for some officers. On its face, the new policy appears to be aimed at changing police behaviors regarding people in crisis, a problem that has received national attention lately as a result of police shooting unarmed citizens. But by itself, a new policy - without training or specifics on how street cops are supposed to implement it, in a city where police behaviors are causing a rift in police community relations - doesn’t change anything. You can’t policy your way out of bad police procedure. That’s bad management and an abdication of responsibility on the part of Harteau’s administration. 
Improvement in police community relations and specifically MPD’s response to persons in crisis will not come from policies; it will come when misbehaving cops are held accountable and out of the Crisis Intervention Team training that MPD is currently doing. That training will provide officers with a set of responses to critical incidents that involve some options to deadly force and it may be the most important training the street officers will ever get. I know from my experience working with the New Orleans Crisis Intervention Team trainer, Cecile Tebo, that the essence of the new policy changes in the MPD manual can possibly accomplish two things. First, they will reinforce the principles taught in Critical Incident training and second, they will lend support to the officers who take the time needed to use de-escalation techniques with a person in crisis. The problem is that the policy lists responses and actions that are best left in the training curriculum and not put in the manual. More on that later. 

There has been a lot of discussion recently in professional journals, the news media, and other venues about police use of deadly force and de-escalation training. De-escalation has been a part of police training in academies and law enforcement schools since I started with Minneapolis in 1975. As an advisory board member at Hibbing Community College for over 30 years I signed on with many of my colleagues to use of force curriculums that emphasized de-escalation. Over the course of my career I witnessed and used de-escalation techniques that included everything listed in the new policies plus some that would have violated those policies but were very successful. The phrase “You couldn’t make this stuff up!” is said every day on the street as officers deal with the human condition; a condition you can’t manage by policy. 

In a StarTribune, August 11, 2016, editorial “Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, said many officers already use de-escalation techniques. “It’s always easier to resolve a situation verbally,” Kroll said. “But I’m concerned that officers not be afraid to defend themselves.” It is true that many officers work hard to de-escalate situations. It is not true that it is always easier to resolve a situation verbally. If it was true we wouldn’t need the Crisis Intervention Team training. It is better for everyone when a situation can be handled and resolved without the need for physical force and most cops really do try to make that happen. It is a win/win for everyone. But, de-escalation in critical incidents is hard and it takes practice and experience to become adept at de-escalation skills. 

For the officer trying to resolve a critical incident, active listening skills and the ability to communicate (dialogue) are critical; and sometimes they will fail despite their best efforts. When that happens the officer’s legitimate use of coercive force may become necessary to protect the citizen and themselves. Following an event that ends in force or deadly force, whether you did the right thing or not, you will be second guessed in the media, face potential lawsuits, get criticism from within your department, and be forced to explain why a cell phone video showing only tiny bits and pieces of the event don’t match up exactly with what is in your report or what witnesses claim they saw. It’s no wonder Lt. Kroll is concerned. 

I am concerned because it is unrealistic to think that a policy added to the Minneapolis Police Manual detailing how force should or should not be applied in a given situation will change behaviors. The reality is that no officer ever faces the same situation. Each officer brings a different skill set. No set of facts or circumstances is ever identical to what you could imagine or train for. No suspect, victim, witness, weapon, or other factor is the exactly the same. Based on policy, we train under general guidelines being specific in our policies only when truly necessary. An example would be defining the specific weapon allowed for a duty weapon or the requirement for a specific score on targets with that firearm on the range. How we train to meet those policy guidelines is in the training curriculum. 

When we put details best left to the training curriculum into policy such as what we see in the new use of force policies in Minneapolis we only create fodder for plaintiff’s attorneys.  Given the nature of the job you will always be able to find something in a critical incident that could be considered a violation when you put that much detail in a department policy. That concerns me because those details will play in the minds of some officers, especially new officers, involved in critical incidents and it could be a fatal distraction just when they should be focused on the safety of the citizens and themselves. 

Some of the folks that I consider the best and wisest men and women in law enforcement have always told me that a policy manual is made up of guidelines that inform officers on how they expect an officer to do the job under normal circumstances with the understanding that there is nothing “normal” or routine about any call for service. And there are always exceptions. If Chief Harteau’s purpose for the new policies is to improve police behavior, the department and the citizens would be better served if the Minneapolis Police made an effort to investigate misconduct, hold officers accountable to the policies and laws already in place and make supervisors do the job they are being paid to do –  supervise. 

Here are the numbers that show that Minneapolis PD needs to do a better job of holding their cops accountable: As of 2010 Minneapolis ranked 4th in the nation for complaints of police misconduct out of the 89 agencies with 500-999 sworn officers, while the State of Minnesota ranked 37th overall. By comparison, the St. Paul Police Department, our sister city, doesn’t even show up in charts and graphs of departments with high numbers of complaints. (Reeves, 2011) (National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, 2015)

You could argue that those numbers are now 6 years old and things are better under the new policies. I would argue that things are worse as a result of the lack of accountability in the MPD. 

As evidence I present the following:

Minneapolis Police Officer Tyrone “Barze has been the subject of at least six other lawsuits alleging excessive force and wrongful arrest since 2012, according to federal court records. Two of the suits were later dismissed, but the city paid $318,772 in settlements over the past two years, records show.” (Jany, 2016)

As of August 28, 2013 – “Of 439 cases involving Minneapolis police misconduct handled by a new office created last fall, not one so far has resulted in discipline of a police officer.”
… In addition, the city of Minneapolis made $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct between 2006 and 2012, but the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved in those cases did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
… (Furst, 2013)

An MPR News analysis of data from the Minneapolis City Attorney shows the city has paid out more than $21 million to resolve misconduct lawsuits and claims during the last decade. (Williams, 2014)

Officer Michael Griffin “A Minneapolis police officer whose two excessive force lawsuits have cost the city $410,000 has had 19 complaints filed against him since he started in 2007, six of them last year.” (McKinney, 2015)

Enough said about that. If you are a taxpayer in Minneapolis, you should be concerned too. 

The August StarTribune editorial also talks about the new policy on Peer Intervention in cases of excessive force. I have some knowledge of how that works. In New Orleans I spent almost four years off and on authoring a two-day program on Peer Intervention that works for the cops and the citizens. This was a huge project working with and being advised by Dr. Ervin Staub, Dr. Joel Dvoskin, Civil Rights Attorney Mary Howell, Critical Incident Team Trainer Cecile Tebo, Federal Prosecutor Steve Parker, Cold case homicide investigator Dr. Everett Doolittle, Civil Rights Activist Ted Quant, Police Psychologist Dr. Erin Nelson, the U.S. Department of Justice, the federal consent decree monitors, community members, and New Orleans Police Officers across all ranks – current and retired. 

The New Orleans Police Department struggled for many years with corruption and significant challenges to their legitimacy. They are on the road to recovering their legitimacy. Part of that recovery is the peer intervention program. Here is what New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison wrote about the peer intervention program they have trademarked under the name “Ethical Policing is Courageous” (EPIC). “We believe this is the transformational tool that will catalyze our many ongoing reformation efforts and help make this agency one of the premier law enforcement organizations in the United States.”

In their effort to regain legitimacy with the community and comply with a federal consent decree, New Orleans officers understand that Peer Intervention is not just about the use of force. Peer intervention creates the synergy that allows officers to hold each other accountable for any act or failure to act that might dishonor the badge, the agency or the officer’s family. It is about permission to intervene and permission to accept an intervention from another officer. You don’t accomplish that with a policy; you accomplish it by spending hours in a facilitated dialogue about peer intervention as an officer survival tool. And most importantly, you accomplish it when everyone from the Chief to the lowliest intern believes and practices peer intervention without the fear of retaliation or recrimination.   

The use of force, when excessive, is already governed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 109 S.Ct. 1865.May 15, 1989. To better understand how that works, here are some key citations from that opinion that give officers guidance to using force.

The Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" inquiry is whether the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Pp. 1871-1872.

With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the             moment applies: "Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers," Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody *397 allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments--in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving--about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the "reasonableness" inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.

An officer's evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively             reasonable use of force; nor will an officer's good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional.    

Under Graham v. Connor, an officer’s use of force comes down to doing what is necessary when it is necessary by a reasonable officer at the scene, given the facts known to that officer and the totality of the circumstances without regard to the officer’s motivation. It really is that simple, and that complicated. 
The law regarding intervening in another officer’s actions is much clearer. There is a legal duty to intervene in the misconduct of other officers. Here are some of the most important cases. 

In Putman v. Gerloff, 639 F.2d 415, 423 (8th Cir. 1981) “We conclude although Crowe was a subordinate, the evidence is sufficient to hold him jointly liable for failing to intervene if a fellow officer, albeit his superior, was using excessive force and otherwise was unlawfully punishing the prisoner. . ..” 

In Anderson v. Branen, 17 F.3d 552 (2d Cir. 1994). “[A]ll law enforcement officials have an affirmative duty to intervene to protect the constitutional rights of citizens from infringement by other law enforcement officers in their presence. . ..”  

In Torres v. Allentown Police, No. 13-3066 (2014). “Plaintiff can sustain a claim for a Fourth Amendment violation against an officer who did not participate directly in the use of force if that officer failed to intervene despite having had a reasonable opportunity to do so. . ..”  

In summary: Officers are allowed to use the force necessary in the judgement of a reasonable officer at the scene but officers must intervene in a case of excessive force. The new MPD policy that states “Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees. It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required” doesn’t work on several levels. 
First of all, there are many reasons why physical force may look like it is being “inappropriately applied”. When an officer decides that force is necessary and their training or physical abilities at that point in time are not sufficient to use force in the text book approved manner, it is the backup officers’ first responsibility to assist that officer to gain control of the suspect using the force necessary based on how a reasonable officer would act. Cops don’t have the luxury of playing 20 questions about why the officer lost control and needed help. When what they are doing is not working and they are starting to improvise should cops assume from the policy that the only option is to “stop” the use of force? Sorry, that’s not usually an option. 

I walked a beat in downtown Minneapolis by myself on many nights when there was no partner available. I was a trained use of force instructor. In the one-on-one struggles that occurred with drunks, prostitutes, drug dealers and other assorted characters I was able to “appropriately” apply force in most of those struggles. Blood, sweat, alcohol, drugs and the willingness to fight to the death make the word “appropriate” difficult to define. I’ve had my own weapon pointed into my chest twice by “unarmed” men trying to kill me over misdemeanor offenses. I was attacked three times with knives. The “appropriate” response by a reasonable officer would have been to shoot them. I didn’t. What I did in each case was probably inappropriate given the circumstances, but everyone survived. That’s 5 lives, plus mine, that made it through the night because I responded in an inappropriate but creative manner based on my skills and abilities. Every police officer I have ever talked to who had any time on the street can tell you similar and scarier stories of survival. 
Next, when is force “no longer required”? This can be a tough question. Striking someone in handcuffs or when they appear to be under another officer’s control may be excessive. But how do we judge that when a jury in the District of Minnesota, United States District Court, cleared Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen of excessive force even after other police officers found it necessary to intervene and stop Andersen and they testified in federal court that his force was excessive? (Hanners, 2015)

    Officer Michael Griffin was indicted on 9 counts regarding alleged brutality and the jury cleared him on 6 counts and could not come to a unanimous verdict on the other three. There are important issues in this case that bear reflection regarding peer intervention. 

The alleged victims in this case prevailed in a civil suit against Griffin and the city had already paid out $150,000.00 for the settlement before the criminal trial. Griffin has now cost the city a total of $410,000.00. I have always taught that being found liable in a civil lawsuit is the community’s way of telling cops that they may have been within the law, but they were outside community standards. It is this conflict between community expectations and police conduct that is at the heart of our loss of legitimacy in the community. The community has spoken loud and clear regarding how Michael Griffin conducts himself – they don’t like it. 
But rather than being held accountable he is supported in his misconduct. This statement from the Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll “We are pleased with the outcome of the jury’s verdict,” said Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll. “Officer Griffin has been vindicated and the truth rules the day. The city has a duty to stop their witch hunt of Officer Griffin after multiple internal affairs investigations and jury verdicts. We expect to see Officer Griffin back to work serving the community and the city to reimburse him for his legal expenses.” (Mayerle, 2016)

 In the Anderson lawsuit, according to the jury, kicking a suspect in the head after other officers already had him pinned on the ground was OK. What was the jury telling us? A street cop is not going to risk reporting or intervening in other officers’ actions unless they believe, based on the actions of their supervisors and department leaders, that they will be backed up and there will be no retaliation from other cops. In the Jason Anderson case there were numerous comments by Minneapolis cops on police social websites that the Crystal Police Department would no longer get any backup from Minneapolis cops.

In case you think this is an isolated instance of police retaliation I had a garage burglary where my son’s racing bikes were stolen. The loss was several thousand dollars. I couldn’t even get a phone call or an answer to my emails from the investigators involved. When that lack of response came up in an online discussion recently Lt. Bob Kroll posted this on a police website,  twelve years after I published the first edition of this book. 

Mike Quinn you likely didn't get a call back on your garage burglary by intent because you are the most reputable RAT the MPD has ever had. Go write another fiction worst seller on dirty Minneapolis Cops. I'm not a fan of yours either. Any time you want to meet to solve our differences I'm game. Coward. (Kroll, 2016)

Based on the lack of accountability by the administration and the support of the police federation demonstrated in the cases I’ve listed it would be career suicide to intervene in another cop’s misconduct in Minneapolis. The policy becomes a moot point - a smokescreen imitation of leadership.

Next question - why are only sworn officers identified in the policy? Don’t non-sworn persons have the right and responsibility to step up when they know that something being done by a sworn officer is wrong or unethical? In the beating death of Jesse Lee Williams in 2006 by deputies of the Harrison County, Mississippi Sheriff’s Office it was the jail nurse that brought the first complaint. (Balko, 2006) 

What happens when a civilian employee becomes aware of a false arrest, brutality or tainted evidence? Shouldn’t they have permission to come forward without fear of retaliation? When you have cops like Barze and Griffin being supported by other cops and not being held accountable by management it could mean the end of a citizen’s career to intervene or report them. If Peer Intervention is the goal you don’t do it with a poorly worded policy that says sworn officers must intervene in cases of excessive force; that’s the law. Policies like this one, that misrepresent the law, cause more harm than good.  

Peer Intervention is summed up in the International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau Oath: I promise that I will always have the courage to stand by you and for you. I promise that I will never, through action or inaction, allow any act that dishonors you, your family, or the badge. I ask only that you promise to do the same for me. 

     It is also a fundamental principle of the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor: On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community and the agency I serve.

Peer intervention is more than just the promise. It is an oath that says: Across all ranks and assignments - I promise to intervene when I see conduct that violates your oath of office or conduct that endangers your well-being or the well-being of your family or career and I give you permission to intervene when you think my conduct violates my oath of office or is endangering the well-being of myself, my family or my career.  

Peer intervention, like all officer survival training, requires training. Everyone in the agency has to understand why and how to implement peer intervention. They have to practice it with hands on role play and say the words “Stop, I got this” or “Time Out, I’ll talk to them” or sometimes it’s as simple as saying “That’s enough.” 

The policy implications in peer intervention are critically important. Are officers required to report all interventions? If an officer intervenes in a use of force situation, and it prevents the misuse of force, is that a reportable offense? What if the intervention occurs during a misuse of force but the intervention is successful and the officer complies with the intervention? Is that a reportable offense? Will the officer’s willingness to accept the intervention be a mitigating factor if there is a complaint? What if an officer refuses to allow an intervention? Who reports what? Does a recruit have the authority to intervene with their field training officer or a superior officer? And these are just some of the obvious questions cops have when you implement a peer intervention program regarding use of force or policy violations. 

Some of these issues will be easier when everyone has a body camera. When you know it’s already a recorded event it becomes easier to come forward and tell the truth. But a camera only faces in one direction at a time and it will not, as we have seen already in Minneapolis, record everything you might want to see later. 

If you really want to stop excessive force, hold officers accountable. Minneapolis should look to this New Orleans example for guidance: 
Three New Orleans police officers were fired Wednesday (June 15), and a fourth suspended, for their roles in a September 2015 incident in which a handcuffed man was hit several times while seated inside the department's French Quarter station.

Officer Alfred Moran's body-worn camera showed him using his hands to strike the man, who had been arrested for public intoxication shortly before midnight on Sept. 30, NOPD said. The man was sitting on a bench inside the 8th District station on Royal Street at the time, and had argued with Moran prior to the incident. 

Three other officers – Lewis Simmons, Christopher Jennings and Jeffery Tyler –witnessed their colleague's use of force, NOPD said, but none of them reported the incident to supervisors, as required by department policy. The incident came to light the following day during a supervisor's routine review of body-worn camera footage, said NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble.

NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau launched criminal and administrative investigations. But Moran, Simmons and Jennings were "untruthful" during the investigation, Gamble said. Tyler, meanwhile, answered honestly when questioned.

The handcuffed man did not require hospitalization, Gamble said, and the department's internal investigation, along with a consultation with the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, did not find enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against any of the officers.

Moran, Simmons and Jennings were each fired after Wednesday's disciplinary hearing, while Tyler received a five-day unpaid suspension. All four officers have 30 days to appeal the decision. 

"I expect our officers to follow the law, to follow our policies and our training and to be honest," NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a release announcing the disciplinary actions. "Today's decision demonstrates that the NOPD is committed to ethical and constitutional policing and that we will not tolerate anything less." (Bullington, 2016)

Finally, peer intervention is not just about intervening in the use of force or policy violations. The oath also means that we are “Our Brothers and Sisters Keeper.”  When that officer that was always ready for roll call, that always had a neat and clean uniform, and never had any complaints about attitude or language, starts to slide in late for roll call in a dirty uniform and is having trouble seeing a reason for the job – it’s Peer Intervention time. 

This also means that the department’s peer support group and crisis intervention team officers should be some of the first ones trained in peer intervention. They are typically in those roles because they understand the need to support other cops in more ways than just taking the Holy Jack of Daniels Oath at the bar. Peer Intervention is about officer survival. Survival of a cop’s career, their family and their freedom. It is about preventing problems and it works in any organization where the bottom line is safe and ethical behavior when everyone in the organization participates. The community understands when a cop makes a mistake or when a bad cop has to be fired. What they do not understand is when a cop is doing something unethical and other cops do nothing to stop them. That is what really destroys community relations and impairs the legitimacy of a police department. 
The Minneapolis Police Department’s ongoing attempts to manage by policy, absent accountability, is bad policy and we are paying the price. 

Michael W. Quinn
CEO- International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, LLC.
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 402 -8829

Balko, R. (2006, August). Jesse Lee Williams Jr. Retrieved from The Agitator:
Balko, R. (2014, October 1). U.S. Cities pay out millions. Retrieved from
Bullington, J. (2016, June 15). NOPD fires three officers. Retrieved from Times Picayune :
Chevron's Stop Work Authority. (2016). Retrieved from
Furst, R. (2013, August 28). No Minneapolis cops have been disciplined after 439 complaints. Retrieved from StarTribune :
Hanners, D. (2015, November 12). Minneapolis officer indicted. Retrieved from
Jany, L. (2016, April 28). City of Minneapolis settles in brutality lawsuit against officer. Retrieved from StarTribune:
Kroll, B. (2016, March 6). Bob Kroll commented on Marie Przynski's post in Minnesota- Land of 10,000 COPS. Retrieved from Land of 10,000 Cops. .
Mayerle, J. (2016, April 19). Partial Verdict Reached . Retrieved from CBS Minnesota:
McKinney, M. (2015, May 15). A Minneapolis police officer whose two excessive force lawsuits have cost the city $410,000 has had 19 complaints filed against him since he started in 2007, six of them last year. Retrieved from
Melby, T. (2016, March 30). Black voices. Retrieved from
National Police Misconduct Reporting Project. (2015). Retrieved from Cato Institute:
Reeves, B. A. (2011, July). Census of state and local law enforcement agencies, 2008. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics:
Williams, B. (2014, April 11). Minneapolis police brutality lawsuits renew civilian questions about force discipline. Retrieved from

A Blueprint for Better Policing in Minnesota? No.

A response to A blueprint for better policing in Minnesota - Densley and Olson.

Let me start by saying that I respect both of these authors and their goal of trying to improve policing in Minnesota. My comments are not a criticism of them. Their ideas are the result, in my opinion, of their lack of experience in law enforcement. This is not to say that they don’t understand the criminal justice system. I know they do, but they are missing the experience that comes from working in a squad car. The authors call this paper a blueprint. This is not a blueprint; if it was it would have concrete actionable items, which it does not. It is what many academics, politicians, activists, and community members are buying into without knowing the ins and outs of what they are proposing. It is done in most cases with all good intentions, but it is not a workable blueprint.

Our police executives are writing and proposing much the same thing. At a recent conference of the Police Executive Research Forum police executives from across the country got together to discuss what needs to be done to improve police community relations. Their answer? Our cops have to be more respectful of the people. With that ethereal notion in mind PERF should have turned to Chief Todd Axtell of St. Paul Police Department and Chief Michael Harrison of the New Orleans Police Department and said: “How do we make that happen?” But they didn’t. And therein lies the problem. How do we make that happen? I don’t have all the answers, but with that in mind, I would like to address some of the issues brought up in the recent article, A Blutteprint for Better Policing in Minnesota.

With regard to police instructors: There is no question that there are active duty and retired cops that should not be police instructors. They can be identified by their emphasis on “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, enforcement of the law because the law is the law,  and their unwillingness to embrace the community as full partners in the system. But, eliminating retired cops from teaching law enforcement classes is akin to eliminating retired M.D.s from teaching medicine. The authors appear to base this idea on the assumption that cops are only capable of a warrior mentality, and that is not true. First of all, retired cops are usually better instructors because they have had the time to reflect on their training and experience over the years and reconnect with their communities in ways that were not possible when they were caught up in the everyday business of policing. They tend to bring a more balanced and mature approach to the table.

Second, it is wrong to assume that we are strictly guardians and not warriors. This analogy has been used a lot lately and it implies many of the wrong ideas. First, cops do have a role as guardians. By way of examples: We patrol areas to show our presence and availability to the community. We issue traffic citations in order to remind people of the dangers inherent in violating traffic laws. We respond to domestics in order to help men and women get the help they need to either get out of their current situation or get help to resolve their differences.

In terms of guarding communities, we cannot and never will be able to protect everyone. We respond to tragedy; we can seldom prevent it. We don’t have control over poverty, the educational system or employment opportunities for people of color. We know these are huge factors in the criminal justice system; but we have no influence or control of them.

We respond to death scenes, many of them tragic. We must attempt to be consolers when we are asked questions that can only be answered by God.

If you want a warrior/guardian analogy use Colonel Dave Grossman’s: We are the sheepdogs: directing, guiding, protecting, and serving – but able and willing to put it all on the line when the wolves attack. And when that attack comes we are warriors, laying down our lives if necessary so that others may live.

Next: I like the idea of a four-year degree because those officers have a little more life experience and often are more “culturally competent”. I led the training of over 300 officers in the Minneapolis police academy and I can tell you that the maturity shown by older recruits was a huge benefit to them, and to the citizens of Minneapolis. Less testosterone based decision making and more reflection on their role in policing were evident in role plays and training. I would strongly recommend that an agency only hires men and women over 25 years of age. But mandating a four-year degree for entry into a peace officer training program only works when the pool of candidates is big enough to support it, and if you want to eliminate a lot of people of color a required 4-year degree would help to do that.

Also, a four-year degree does not, by itself, imply that they will be a good cop. Some of the best street cops I knew, trained, supervised, or otherwise worked with, would probably not be good candidates for the dean’s list at a four-year university. But if you knew them, they would be the first people you would want showing up when your life is in chaos and you need a police officer. We don’t need “elite college graduates”, we need people who want to serve their community.

I don’t know what the authors mean by a “rigorous academy” but I do know that at its core it must be about taking officers to new levels of skills and abilities with positive motivation. The old military model is not only obsolete; it is a disaster for the community.

As the former Deputy Director of the Police Corps Program, a federally funded program that was supposed to teach community leadership along with police skills I can attest to the fact that recruiting liberal arts and STEM graduates to be cops is difficult at best, and in today’s climate is probably even harder. Cultural competency from a liberal arts education is extremely desirable and those recruits who have even a basic appreciation and understanding of other cultures are ahead of the game in terms of communication skills on the job. STEM graduates, business degree grads, law degrees, etc., are all sought after by police chiefs because of the contributions they are prepared to make. Salaries, community animosity toward cops, and lack of promotional opportunities in smaller agencies are, and always will be, huge barriers to hiring these potential leaders.

Next: A single state police academy might work if we used the model I worked with in a program called POCOP. Police agencies would hire the persons that they want based on background, education, testing, etc. The agency would make the job offer and the recruit would draw a starting salary when the academy starts. Full salary and employment would be contingent on passing the academy. The academy would provide the core law enforcement classes and skills training required by the POST Board to anyone who meets at least the minimum education and/or background to be a licensed peace officer in Minnesota. The downside to this is that we would have to dismantle an educational system that provides training across the state. A person trained in law enforcement or criminal justice may or may not end up in a peace officer’s job, but the education in the criminal justice system will be valuable to them in whatever career they follow. We don’t criticize students who pursue degrees in political science, art history, or law even though we know that many of them will never find a career in those fields. Why would we criticize law enforcement and criminal justice students or the schools that train them?

With respect to the academy idea, unless things have changed drastically, I would never collocate the course with the State Patrol. As the Deputy Director of the Police Corps program working under the auspices of the State Patrol it was my experience that their idea of training peace officers is anathema to what real community policing is supposed to be. The constant screaming, degrading (right up until graduation day), and focus on beating people down mentally and physically was one of the reasons I left the program in 2002.

As far as location goes, if you want candidates who reflect your community you must put the academy central to the Twin Cities where people have access to it. The St. Paul Police and Chief Axtell truly understand what a community cop should be and they would be a great resource and venue for any program. Also, transportation will be a critical factor for new recruits. Putting the academy out and away from public transportation and making it residential will eliminate many of very candidates every department is trying to hire. Once again it would make it harder for that person living in hard circumstances to be part of the program.

Next: As for funding, agencies are already paying for the background checks, psychological exams, testing, recruiting, and marketing of their agency. State funding could provide funds for the training but it might make more sense to just make the academy an affordable, not-for-profit organization led by an experienced law enforcement trainer working with a civilian from the twin cities community. Chief Stamper’s comments on MPR the other day were wonderful and his thought, to paraphrase, that we will know community policing when we see police commanders and civilians in equal roles in a police department was perfect.

Next: I take offense, and I am pretty sure the law enforcement training community will justifiably take offense, to the implication that they “Breeze Over” some of the critical aspects of police training. I am not sure what the “other stuff” is that the authors are talking about. The argument is often made that police training emphasizes firearms and deadly force training by dedicating many more hours to those skills than it does to communication skills or de-escalation techniques. You cannot compare the many hours it takes to make someone proficient in the use of firearms and deadly force with the training in communications, de-escalation techniques or implicit bias. They are different skill sets requiring different kinds of training. Should we devote more time to communication skills? Absolutely, but once again I go back to my experience and I can say that the majority of poor communication skills are introduced by bad trainers outside of, and in violation of, curriculum or training policy.

Are we too militarized? Yes, but not in the way you probably think. From time to time we are armed warriors with the tools, military and otherwise, that we need to get the job done. As peace officers, we need those tools that at the very least match the weapons and tactics of our worst adversaries; witness Dallas, Texas. The attitude that can come with the use of those tools is the problem. We are not the military. We are citizens working with other citizens to provide a safe environment for all. When we take on the attitude of soldiers occupying an area, based on our equipment, uniforms, and biases against people who are “not us” we become armed combatants with the attitude to match. As human beings we are all capable of acting in truly horrific ways toward each other. Dr. Ervin Staub’s work documents over and over again what savagery is possible. The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence.  

Because we are also not sheep. There are times when we must be able to call upon that savagery in a controlled manner. Witness Flight 93 on 9/11. Citizens, when the need arose, became warriors willing to risk it all to save others knowing that it probably meant their own death. This was a homicidal/suicidal act that would be unimaginable, even to the actors, under other circumstances but it is a necessarily accessible component of a peace officer’s makeup. The community and peace officers, depend on that warrior spirit to come alive when needed to do the things most citizens cannot or will not do. Learning to use that terrible power requires hours and hours of hands on training lest it be used the wrong way, so we do.

Next: I have written over and over again about police accountability and the militarization of police tactics. I too want a police department that does not look and act like the military. However, it is clear from recent events that unless you are willing, as a community, to call in the army or national guard when we have events like Dallas, and all the other mass shootings and attacks on innocent civilians, you must prepare police officers to work with and use military equipment to end those events. I don’t like that we have gotten to this point but I am not going to pretend that we haven’t. What we must eliminate is the attitude that goes with the military style uniforms and equipment. There is a certain amount of pride in what we do and we must fight to not let it become hubris when we put on that uniform. I am guessing that the first uniformed police officers dealt with the same problem, going from civilian clothes to a uniform.

Finally: Many police trainers will say “We are the law.”  When taken out of context that comment sounds terrible, and scary. But what is meant by most trainers is this: Peace officers have incredible control over people’s lives in the exercise of enforcing the law. As peace officers we have a moral responsibility to enforce the law fairly. That means recognizing that every decision made by a peace officer with respect to enforcement is a moral decision. Not everyone should be arrested for an act that violates the letter of the law. Not everyone needs to go to jail. The poor teenage dad with a beater car that hasn’t renewed his plates because he can’t afford to do that and feed his wife and child this month does not need a citation and his vehicle towed; even if the law says you should. He needs access to resources to help him make good decisions about how to survive. We are the law and with that power comes the responsibility to enforce it fairly, justly, and with compassion. Most importantly, everyone needs to be treated with respect. I have taught in police training and I have written and lectured across the country since my book was published that the disrespectful acts that one officer may get away with will at some time come back in the form of anger and violence toward another officer. We don’t want to admit that the horrendous acts committed in Dallas and now Baton Rouge are, in part, a response to the constant barrage on the web and in social media of real police misconduct. But its true.

My recent experience with body cameras and working for many months with the New Orleans Police Department convinced me, and the vast majority of New Orleans cops, that body cameras are an essential part of police work. I love the idea of taking it to the next level with cameras facing backward and forward. I believe the law about body cameras in Minnesota is a disaster. Cops must be able to access footage before making their reports. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is able to write a completely accurate report of what occurred in a critical situation based solely on their memory. The body camera law in Minnesota is a trap for police officers and we will reap the rewards of that trap with increased litigation and accusations of lying in our reports.

New technology will hopefully give us more non-lethal tools but there will always be confrontational traffic stops, warrant arrests, people with killing on their minds, and though we are guardians by nature we must continue to be warriors when necessary in defense of ourselves, or more often – the community we serve.

I am my brothers and sisters keeper,

Michael W Quinn –


My background:

I am a retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant and CEO of The International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau LLC. I have a BA degree in Training and Human Development with an emphasis in criminal justice. I am the author of Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence. What bad cops don’t want you to know and good cops won’t tell you. A text being used in many colleges and universities around the country.

I served my country in the USAF from 1968-1975. I served the citizens of Minneapolis from 1975 to 1999 in a variety of assignments that included uniformed patrol as an officer and Supervisor, investigations, plain clothes and undercover work. I was an instructor in SWAT, Firearms, Deadly force, defensive tactics, and other specialty skills. I have been a police trainer since 1979.


I was the Deputy Director of Minnesota Police Corps Program, a Court Security Officer at the Minneapolis Federal Courthouse, and a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal contract guard.


I am a community faculty member of Metropolitan State University St. Paul, MN and Chairman of the Inver Hills Community College Law Enforcement Advisory Board in Inver Hills, MN.

I have lectured and taught on the subject of police ethics and accountability for police managers, street officers, civilian review investigators, and college classes across the United States and Canada. I have testified in federal court as an expert in police use of force and accountability.


I just completed a 4-year project working with the New Orleans Police Department, Department of Justice and the Federal Consent Decree Monitors to design and provide training in Peer Intervention and Active Bystandership as mandated by the consent decree. The training, known as “EPIC – Ethical Policing is Courageous,” is the first of its kind to address systemic problems in the police culture and is based on my “Peer Intervention for Law Enforcement” Class.


During my Minneapolis police career I supervised the Robbery Decoy Unit and co-supervised, with Greg Hestness, the Repeat Offender Program, in a coordinated effort with multiple departments and jurisdictions without any complaints of racist language or excessive force. I worked for over two years in Internal Affairs handling police misconduct complaints.

I supervised the Minneapolis Police Academy and in a consensus building style used citizen and police input to develop and implement new and innovative training for police officers.

I supervised the design and development of the federally sponsored Police Corps Academy under the auspices of the Department of Public Safety to include program design, curriculum development, facilities management, professional and technical services contracts and lesson delivery.

I served as coordinator of the Minneapolis Police Emergency Response Unit, responsible for hostage situations, barricaded suspects and special events requiring high security.


Following is a partial list of published articles. More information is available at my website htttp:// and


Remsberg, C. (1986). The Tactical Edge, Surviving High Risk Patrol. Quinn, M. (Acknowledged Contributor). P. 200-210. Northbrook, Il: Calibre Press. 

Schwartz. P. (Producer). Quinn, M. (Technical Advisor). (1991). Deadly Force: Reasonable and Justified. [Video]. (Available from Illinois Law Enforcment Media Resource Center at Western Illinois University: Macomb, Il.)

Andress, M. (Producer). 2005. Harrington, J., Quinn, M., Rowley, C.(participants) Behind the Badge: Ethics in Policing. Interviews with current and former law enforcement officials, this program examines ethical issues in law enforcement. It also addresses ethical considerations common to all professions. ETS Productions, St.Paul, Mn.

Willet, M. & Quinn, M. (1991). Deadly Force: Reasonable and Justified. Ttraining guide to accompany video Deadly Force: Reasonable and Justified. (Available from Illinois Law Enforcment Media Resource Center at Western Illinois University: Macomb, Il..)

Quinn, M. (2005, 2011). Walking With the Devil:The Police Code of Silence. Minneapolis:Quinn and Associates. Second Edition.

Quinn, M. (2006). We Are Cops. We Are Not Soldiers At War With The Community. Law Enforcement Executive Forum: Integrity. 6(4). 31-38.

Documentary Project

I have been married to my beautiful wife, Sara Jane, since 1970. We survived a 30-year career in law enforcement and have wonderful grandkids. But not all police families have been as lucky. I wrote a book about cops and ethics titled “Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence” where I talk about the pitfalls and traps that await everyone going into law enforcement.

Based on my experience in law enforcement and drawing on the basic message of my book I teach cops to intervene when they see another officer doing something illegal or unethical. I don’t ask them to be “rats” and I understand completely when they tell me that sometimes intervening will cost them more than they, or their family, are willing to pay. I get that. I’ve been there too.

I also know that telling cops to intervene because it will save their job and keep them out of prison is an easy sell, but it is also pretty sterile. I want to produce a documentary of families of cops who have done time and/or lost their jobs because of conduct they regret or because they failed to intervene in the misconduct of other cops.

I want to use the videos to sell the idea that misconduct is not just about the cop; it is about his/her family. In my classes I ask cops to take a loyalty oath to each other that reads like this:

I promise that I will always have the courage to stand by you and for you.

I promise that I will never allow, through action or inaction, any act that dishonors you, your family, or the badge.

I ask only that you do the same for me.

It is a powerful oath when taken in front of other officers. I believe that it can be even more powerful if it is taken in front of and with family. In lieu of having family present at the training I believe that video interviews of the damage done to good families by the ethical lapses that we are all subject to will strengthen the training immeasurably and save careers and families.

Ethics training is not popular in police circles and when I hear officers say that they don’t intervene in the misconduct of other officers I ask these questions:

Tell me what you are going to say to that officer’s spouse and family when they lose their job or go to prison, or worse, for doing something you could have and should have stopped?

Are you going to tell them you were afraid to intervene?

Are you going to tell that officer’s children you were not responsible for their mom or dad’s conduct?

Are you going to deny your responsibility for their survival?

If you or someone you know is willing to be interviewed on camera as part of this important project, please contact me.


Michael W Quinn

International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, LLP

4829 Vincent Ave So, #1

Minneapolis, MN 55410

(612) 402-8829



It could have been bad.....

And It Could Have Been Bad

It was July 24, 1977 and I was on my way home from the hospital having just witnessed my daughter’s birth. It was almost noon and already the temperature was very warm. I was on an emotional high that only comes a few times in a man’s life. As I stopped at the red light I looked over to the little grocery store across the street and saw a man standing in the entrance whose head was rotating quickly left and right, scanning up and down 50th street. He had a stocking hat pulled down to the top of a huge pair of black sunglasses. He was wearing a long black overcoat but his arms were not in the sleeves, rather the coat was buttoned in the middle and he appeared to be holding something long that was causing a bulge in the coat at his knees. Then I realized it was a person I knew, having arrested him for robbery.

The light turned green and I turned the corner rather than go home and I saw an old ford 4 door with a male driver that I also recognized as one of a pair of twins that terrorized a section of south Minneapolis. The car was running and had expired California plates. This was before the age of cellphones so I quickly drove into the gas station at the corner and dialed dispatch to tell them I thought there was a robbery in progress at Calhoun Food Store #2. Dispatch told me there were no squads available to respond.

I was carrying my chief’s special .38 caliber revolver and I was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. I pulled up across from the food store. Took out my handgun and got behind my car for cover, expecting the worst. The lookout either recognized me or at least realized I was a cop and he began banging on the store’s front window with his elbow. Two more men, one of them a twin of the driver, immediately emerged dressed just like the lookout and after pointing at me across the street they ran around the corner to the ford. They drove by me at a high rate of speed and I immediately ran to the store to check on the owner. He was fine. No crime had been committed. When I identified myself and told him what I had witnessed he told me that the reason they left was he yelled at them to buy something or leave. He went on to say that he had a machete behind the counter in case of trouble and he would have taken care of them. All I could think of was the old “Knife to a gunfight” joke.

My emotional high was gone, replaced by an adrenaline dump and now I was just trying to come down from what could have been a really bad encounter with three men with what I assumed were long guns. What was interesting as an afterthought was this. This was a busy intersection. Many people saw me standing behind my old red 72 pontiac catalina with a gun in my hand, in plain clothes, crouched down, and nobody said a word to me. Nobody called the cops. Some folks had walked passed me and it was obvious that they saw the gun but all they did was pick up their pace.  No bystander intervention by the public here.

Skip ahead to August 15, 2015. I am on my way to my grandson’s birthday party, my daughter’s youngest. As I am driving on a busy street in a local suburb that has seen their crime rate rise steadily over the last few years I look across the divided 4 lane and see a uniformed police officer chasing a man at gunpoint. The man is about to run directly toward me across two lanes of traffic. I slam on the brakes, open the door of my truck and step out onto the cement median. The cop doesn’t see me but the man does and he stops and throws up his hands. Whether it was me deterring him or the cops commands I don’t know. What I do know is that now I see a group of 4 men start to move toward the cop and they are not friendly. They get way too close; one of them almost behind the cop. The cop has to order them away as he handcuffs his suspect. I anticipate that this is not going to go well as they are yelling at the cop. Then the group sees me and directs their anger at me with strings of obscenities and threats of great bodily harm (assume the worst kind of language). Two of them start to cross toward me. I pull my fanny pack holster out of the car and start to put it on as I yell “You should talk more respectfully to the police.” and they immediately get back up on the sidewalk. Yelling “He gots a gun”.

By now the cop has his suspect locked up in his car and the group of men are yelling at the cop that “that old white MF’r says he’s going to shoot us.” The cop calmly tells them to stay on sidewalk. I ask him if he is “Code 4” and he indicates he is ok. Then he walks over. I repeat what I said to the angry group and show him my retired MPD id. He thanks me for stopping and walks back to his car. Now I can hear the backup car coming with sirens going and I leave for the birthday party.

Several things struck me as I drove away. First, my hands were shaking from the adrenaline charge. Second, here I was again celebrating a birth day of my youngest (grandchild this time). And once again I was lucky enough to be armed, to be ready, and in the right place at the right time. Had I not witnessed this event and not inserted myself into the problem it might have ended exactly the same way. We’ll never know.

The third thing that struck me was the unexpected rage that coursed through me as I listened to the threats and obscenities directed at me by this group. As a uniformed cop I was usually prepared mentally for threats; it came with the job. However, it has been many years since someone threatened me like they did and I was more than willing to respond in that moment in a way that would have ended very badly for any of them that attacked that cop or me. My anger and the threat I felt from this group would have made the decision very easy.  Hard to know if the Grand Jury would have seen it the same way. It was a couple hours before I got control of the anger and the adrenaline.

Lastly, if I had not pulled out my fanny pack with the weapon, and there was a weapon (9mm semi-auto with 16 rounds), would they have backed off or would I have created a worse situation for the cop as the group came after me, because I sure as hell was not going to leave until that cop felt it was safe for me to go.

Policing is a tough job. I would always tell the new recruits that it is the unexpected incident that is most likely to cause you a problem. When they would question some of the officer survival training scenarios I would remind them that as outlandish as they may seem, they are all based on real incidents. When I would make them angry and ask them to control their emotions and reactions there was a reason. It’s not easy.

Recently, in New Orleans, two cops called out a third who apparently was angry and was getting out of control. You can see the article at Kudos to the cops who intervened.

On this job we really are our brother’s keepers and when things are bad we must be able to depend on each other. Sometimes we protect each other from bad guys and sometimes we protect each other from ourselves. Like the oath says “I will always have the courage to stand by you and for you.” It doesn’t end with retirement. There will come a time for each of us when we will probably be more of a hindrance than a help but I know that for me it will only end when I am no longer able to stand.


Freeland's Error - Et Tu Ferguson?


This is about cops and legitimacy but let me start by explaining the title and reviewing a little world history. In the 400s AD, Ireland was converted to Catholicism by St. Patrick. There is no documentation that there were any snakes there at the time. In a series of power grabs and wars over the next 1300 years the people in power allied themselves with England in order to guarantee that they would stay in power.

By the early 18th century. 90% of Ireland was owned by English Protestants to whom the Catholic peasants had to pay rent. So, for hundreds of years there has been fighting between the Catholics and Protestants over civil rights, home rule, and religion.

Skip ahead to 1948 when Ireland is granted full independence from Britain except for the 6 Northern counties that remain under British rule. Many of the anti-Catholic laws are still on the books and there is growing resentment among the Catholics and equal resistance to change from the governing Protestant majority. By 1968 the tension between the Catholic minority that wanted to be part of Ireland and the Protestant majority that wanted to remain under English rule was turning neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend. On 5 October, 1968, a planned peaceful civil rights protest march by the Catholics in Derry turned into a riot as the Protestant police force turned on the demonstrators with nightsticks and fists.

The relatively small police force struggled to cope. Violence continued to erupt over the next few months between the two groups and the Northern Ireland Prime Minister finally asked Britain for help. On the 14th of August, 1969, British troops were sent in to restore order under the command of Lieutenant-General Ian Freeland. Freeland expected to be home within a couple months after he put down the “insurgency." House to house searches for weapons and a “shoot on site” curfew were established and Freeland thought he had solved the problem. He was very, very wrong.

At the peak of what became a 38 year operation, the British Army deployed some 21,000 soldiers. During the operation, 1,441 members of the British armed forces died in Operation Banner, including natural causes and suicide. In that same time period the British Army killed 305 people. 156 were civilians. (Northern_Ireland_Civil_Rights_Association#Derry_march)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in 1970 the RAND Corporation, a Washington think tank, published a paper titled Rebellion and Authority (Wolfe, 1970), written by economists Nathan Leites and Charles Wolfe Jr. Their report became the Rosetta stone for governments and police departments in dealing with riots and other civil unrest. The major premise of their report reads: “Fundamental to our analysis is the assumption that the population, as individuals or groups, behaves “rationally”: that it calculates costs and benefits to the extent that they can be related to different courses of action, and makes choices accordingly…. Consequently, influencing popular behavior requires neither sympathy nor mysticism, but rather a better understanding of what costs and benefits the individual or group is concerned with, and how they are calculated.” This premise is Machiavellian in nature and we can see the similarity in Machiavelli’s quote from The Prince “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” (Machiavelli)

In other words, Wolfe and Leites said that people in power don’t have to care what others think about how they use their power; be ruthless enough and you will end resistance. People will be rational and make choices based on a cost benefit analysis. If the government makes the costs too high the people will acquiesce. They were wrong. Control through fear as a way to quell an insurgency or fight crime has a very short period of efficacy. Fear not only makes people irrational, it makes them committed enemies, drives them underground, and it negates any claim of legitimacy on the part of the enforcers. Freeland did not understand this.

He was a decorated and distinguished military leader who, on the orders of the British Prime Minister was directed to “deal toughly, and be seen to deal toughly, with thugs and gunmen.” Freeland thought they had everything they needed but they made a “….simple mistake. They fell into the trap of believing that because they had resources, weapons, soldiers, and experience that dwarfed those of the insurgent elements that they were trying to contain, it did not matter what the people of Northern Ireland thought of them.” (Gladwell)

Freeland did not understand that when “people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters-first and foremost-how they behave.” (Gladwell, 2013) The conflict in Northern Ireland lasted 38 years, because the government had lost legitimacy. Freeland commanded an occupying force and as such he failed to see the need to participate with the parties involved in the violence. He was clearly not neutral, taking the side of the protestant majority in the way he tried to subjugate entire neighborhoods and he failed to show any respect for the Catholics he was trying to control. Freeland commanded his troops as if Rebellion and Authority was his bible and Machiavelli his right hand man, and he lost legitimacy. This was Freeland’s Error.

The deaths of unarmed civilians in Ferguson, Missouri and New York caused major rioting and protests around the country far out of proportion to the events. There is a history in this country of cops killing unarmed civilians and for the most part only a few concerned citizens ever make any noise about it because in the vast majority of cases the cops do only what they truly believe is necessary. Mistakes are made but for the most part cops get it right. Then again, there are many cases where the use of force is clearly questionable and through smart phones and instant video capabilities the public can see at least one version of the event within minutes of its occurrence on YouTube, CNN, FOX, etc.  Nearly everyone in America is an instant news reporter, and typically when it looks bad on video, it is bad.

In cases where I was an expert for plaintiffs where the police killed or abused unarmed citizens there were no marches or demonstrations for the victims. So what is different now? How have we reached this tipping point? I believe the recent public outcry is not just about the deaths of two black men, it is about the loss of police legitimacy. The Justice Department report of the investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department is just another example of what many of our communities of color have been living with for years. In America today the criminal justice system is suffering from “Freeland’s Error” and we are losing legitimacy.

The basis for legitimacy in our system of justice stands on the three legs of participation, neutrality and respect. Take away any one of those three legs and legitimacy collapses like a stool under too much stress. Take away two legs and the process of rebuilding legitimacy becomes even harder. Take away all three legs and we have the makings for a revolt. Participation means that people need to believe that their voice is being heard. Neutrality means that they need to believe that the law is being applied equally to everyone without bias. Respect means that, to the extent possible, police officers need to be respectful in both their language and actions – to everyone. Without legitimacy people will only see injustice. It will matter not that the use of power was lawful.

Participation implies an effort by both parties to communicate honestly and openly and come to a mutual understanding. The community must believe that they have a voice in how and when power is used by those who control it. The free press, the internal affairs complaint process, the civil court system, and the use of civilian review boards are examples of how a community can give voice to their concerns. All of these are in place right now but giving voice only succeeds if someone is listening and participating. Using Minneapolis as an example the StarTribune reported In August, 2013: “Of 439 cases involving Minneapolis police misconduct handled by a new office created last fall, not one so far has resulted in discipline of a police officer.” The article goes on to say : “In addition, the city of Minneapolis made $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct between 2006 and 2012, but the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved in those cases did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis.” This is a prime example of non-participation by the police. No one is listening.

Neutrality means the treatment of citizens must be done in an unbiased nature. In other words the same rules apply to everyone, regardless of race, gender, etc. Clearly that is not the case in many cities. The African American Men Project exposed the egregious effects of zero tolerance policing that resulted in 44% of the 18-30 year old African American men in Hennepin County being disadvantaged with arrest records that will drag on them the rest of their lives. In Ferguson the arrest records reported in the Justice Department’s report defy any explanation except racial bias.

Respect is perhaps the most important and sensitive leg of legitimacy. It is about how we treat people and whether that treatment is considered to be fair. The civil courts give us alternatives when police departments don’t want to participate or are biased in their abuse of power, but how do you counter a lack of respect? “Holding all else constant, citizens who receive respectful treatment from authorities are almost twice as likely to comply, and those receiving disrespectful treatment are nearly twice as likely to rebel. If a citizen’s voice is terminated by the police they are more than twice as likely to rebel against the police request for self-control. If the police demonstrate their commitment to making an informed decision by seeking information about the presenting situation, citizens are more than twice as likely to comply with the phase 1 request for self-control.” (McCluskey)

There is a wonderful passage in In Number Our Days by Barbara Myerhoff where she writes about the importance of respect.

“The desire to be counted publicly as honorable is certainly a universal human concern. But some societies lavish more care and time on the matter than others. It would seem that there is often a direct, inverse relationship between people’s actual effective power and their passion for publicly enacting their honor. Oppressed peoples whose lives are largely determined by forces beyond their control are often preoccupied with “face,” and develop subtle gradations of worth and honor in various terms— precise variations in skin color, minor distinctions of dress, and the like. Economic impotence, social inferiority Vis-à- Vis other groups, removal from centers of authority and influence are among the conditions leading to a great concern with honor. Socially disdained groups have to find their own standards, generating internal codes for taking each other’s measure. Only by doing so can they avoid the devastating consequences of judging themselves in the terms used by people who disdain them, in whose system they will always amount to nothing.” (Meyerhoff)

Many officers believe that citizens should not be allowed to record the misconduct that is captured so well by citizens. But right or wrong is not the right question. The real question is - Why does it take citizens with cell phones to report misconduct that should have been stopped by the officers to begin with?

What we are learning about citizen participation is that they will not be denied. When we fail to participate in an open and transparent manner; when we enact policies that support racial bias, and when we fail to show the respect every citizen deserves the communities will communicate with us and the rest of the world in the only way left to them – the media. Freeland’s Error is not just a lesson from history it is a fact of life made public by social media and it cannot last.

Furst, R. (2013, August 28). No Minneapolis cops have been disciplined after 439 complaints. Retrieved from StarTribune:

Gladwell, M. (2013). David and Goliath . New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Machiavelli, N. (1532). The Prince.

McCluskey, J. D. (2003). Police requests for compliance: Coercive and procedurally just tactics. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing .

Meyerhoff, B. G. (1978). Number Our Days. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Northern_Ireland_Civil_Rights_Association#Derry_march. (2015, February 22). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Quinn, M. W. (2011). Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence. Minneapolis: Quinn and Associates Publishing and Consulting.

Tyler, T. R. (2004). Enhancing Police Legitimacy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 93.

Wolfe, N. L. (1970). Rebellion and Authority. Chicago: Markham Publishing Company.


What we do "to" people is necessary - What we do "for" people is what makes this job worthwhile.


This is a rewrite of an old column. After the original was published I received an email from an officer who said he was ready to quit over the politics in his department when he read my column and it reminded him of why he took the job to begin with. He went back to work with renewed purpose.

Yesterday I spoke to a wonderful group of students at Southwest State University in Marshall Minnesota. Their teacher, B.C. Franson, uses my book in her class and she is kind enough to allow me to speak to her students. One student asked me if I ever missed the job. "Of course", I replied. I went on to say that I did not miss the drunks, domestics, fatals, homicides, assaults, or the politics. What I missed, I told him, was the rare opportunity to do something really good for someone; something only a cop could do.

A recent survey conducted by Calibre Press showed that the vast majority of cops would not want their child to go into police work. I find that very sad. Out of 3,400 hundred officers, 81% said no to their child becoming a cop. As a second generation cop I don't believe I would have been as happy in any other career and if I had youth and energy on my side I would go back and do it all over again; mistakes and all if I had to.

I remember that as a young cop I was filled with bravado and a sense of invulnerability. I felt “dangerous.” Taking down the next bad guy, winning a physical confrontation, going to that next man with a gun call, and getting into a major pursuit were nightly goals. Nowadays, when my friends think I am being too critical of police officers and some of the bad choices they make, they are quick to remind me of just how wild, crazy, and fearless I was in my younger years; and they are right. The key word here is “fearless,” in the sense of being synonymous with “brainless.” You did not, and you will not, see me use the word brave. In my early years I often I created more danger by my actions, not less. That has nothing to do with bravery.

By way of example: As a young officer I watched as senior officers took more time to approach people and calls, evaluating and planning, while I responded by jumping into the middle of the fray. I went through a lot of good, experienced partners because I was quick to criticize their hesitancy. I saw it as a reluctance to act. When they criticized me for not waiting for them I thought of them as “retired on the job” because they did not want to run down that dark alley to chase everyone who fled from them. I would complain about their reluctance to get into vehicle pursuits and call them “old lady drivers.” I found a million and one reasons to complain about their work and their work ethic. I was one of the “New Centurions,” the professional police officer, and things were going to be different when all these old guys retired.

Then they retired, and things were different, because now I was the old guy. Now I was taking time to evaluate and plan a little before I responded. I began to question the justification for doing 10 or 11 no-knock warrants in a single night that seldom recovered anything of significance. All my hard charging, risk taking, and putting other officers at risk hadn’t change a thing in terms of the crime rate. Strangely enough, there were still drive-by shootings, husbands still beating their wives, rapists still victimizing women, drunk drivers still killing people on a daily basis, and there were still senseless acts of cruelty being acted out every day. And I began to question why I was doing this job.

When I started in law enforcement I was told two things; 1) That at about seven years I would become a seasoned officer and 2) That somewhere between 7 and 11 years on the job, I would question my choice of careers and most likely be divorced? I was also told that at that point I would probably drop the idea of making any real difference and start viewing police work as a job; eight for eight, or eight for whatever I could get away with. I believed those trainers and when I started wondering about my choice of careers, I examined mine within those parameters and found that there was no resolution. That’s because I was asking the wrong questions.

For a long time I tried to do the job better each day. I was witness to crime scenes that would make me cry when I got home at night. I recovered the broken bodies of babies killed by those who were supposed to protect them. I stood by the blood splattered walls over the bodies of innocents caught in crossfires and I listened to the voice of a crying mother on the phone who was half a world away after I told her that her daughter was dead by her own hand. I couldn’t stop any of those acts. At best, I was a witness to the depths of despair and depravity of which mankind is capable, and I had to make a decision to either go on with this job or quit. I stayed, but before I made that decision I had to ask myself, “Why?”

As I saw it I had at least three choices: 1) I could choose to stay on the street and be as vicious and hard and cruel as the bad guys; throw ethics out the window and make cases any way I could. 2) I could choose to retire on the job and find a nice cozy place where I shuffled papers, away from the street and any contact with victims or suspects. Or, 3) I could make a decision to stay on the job and rededicate myself to being ethical but relentless in the pursuit of the bad guys and give up the idea of trying to change the world by locking up every bad guy.

I chose door number 3. I came to realize that I could work hard with the idea that if I do this job well there will be one less victim and one less nightmare for the survivors. That may not seem like a lot but it was enough. That made it worth staying. In this job we do “to” some people and we do “for” some people.

What we do “to” people is necessary. What we do “for” people is what makes it worthwhile. Looking forward to doing “for” people was why I took the job and it was good to feel that way again.






Moral Body Armor - I wrote this column many years ago for It is still relevant today.

It’s easy, in retrospect, to talk about some of the tough ethical choices I made during my career. And I know I have minimized a lot of the bad choices I made in favor of a more acceptable memory; so be it. Still, there are plenty that bother me to this day. A rookie officer needs to find their own way and they need to be accepted in the department where they work. This is true as a matter of human nature and true as a matter of survival in police work. There was the young Native American burglar who was also stealing cars. My training officer and I caught him in a stolen with what appeared to be the cache from a burglary. He refused to talk about the car or the electronics in the back seat. My trainer told me to soften him up a little to get him to talk. So I did. I really showed him how tough I was, punching him while he was in handcuffs, thinking I was going to get some sort of useful information from him and show my trainer how I was one of the guys. The only one who was tough was him. He never said a word. He just smiled at me, and I felt sick.  

He taught me something that night. He taught me that I was weak because I didn’t have the guts to not punch him after my training officer told me to. That wasn't the only lesson learned that night. I taught that young man something too; that cops are brutal and stupid. There is probably no way that kid ever changed his attitude about cops after what I did that night. His family probably feels the same way. There was one change that took place that night, in me. I swore I would never do something like that again. I felt terrible. I made plenty of other mistakes in later years but punching someone in handcuffs just to hurt them was not one of them. Almost thirty years later, as I sat down to write a book on police ethics I thought about that incident and I wanted to write something that would help new officers make better choices than I made.

So I wrote about the importance of stepping in and stopping another officer when their conduct gets out of line. It makes a lot more sense to me than going to internal affairs or civilian review with relatively minor offenses. But I had forgotten how hard it can be to take that step, till recently.

I was working with this person for the first time. They seemed full of energy and ready and willing to take on the world but they were treating prisoners like shit and clearly making them angry. It was a small thing really. The prisoners were hardcore gang members. They’d been through the system before and it was no surprise to them that the cellblock was cold. They knew before we closed the door that blankets were available so they asked for them, respectfully, if not politely. My partner’s response was “Does this look like the F’ng Marriott Hotel to you?” Then my partner walked them into their cell without the blankets. His response to their request for blankets surprised me but not as much as my own reluctance to say something to him right then and there. I wasn’t going to say anything in front of the prisoners, but here was a situation exactly as I outlined in my book, a minor incident with a chance to step in and make a small difference and yet I hesitated.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not in the business of making life comfortable for gang members that are on their way to their next prison cell. But making prisoners angry just because you can is an officer safety issue. I didn’t want them acting out their anger on me or someone else just because my partner felt it was necessary to demonstrate that he was in control. A minute or two later I got the blankets out and was walking them back to the prisoners when my partner started chipping on me about being nice to criminals. I responded by reminding him that they were more likely to nap or at least lay down and relax if they had a blanket to keep warm. His response was unpleasant.

A couple days later I am in the courtroom with the same partner and once again he is going out of his way to make a prisoner unhappy. By now I have had a couple days to think about what I should have said to him the first time we worked together and I go through a short litany of why making a prisoner angry, just for the sake of making him angry, potentially compromises another officer’s safety. His response was ambiguous at best but I think I might have reached him on some level. At the very least he knows what to expect from me.

But the question I had to ask myself was “Why wasn’t I able to challenge him immediately when the bad behavior first occurred?” That’s what I advocate when I speak about moral courage yet, when it came time, I hesitated. I was reminded that it’s hard to step in like that, even on relatively minor issues. Maybe that’s the problem. On big, clear-cut, in your face, go-to-jail-lose-your-job issues the decision to step in is almost made for you. It’s the smaller ones that we feel safe walking away from. We can rationalize that they are no big deal because no one is getting hurt and it’s just a whole lot easier if we don’t confront our coworkers.

But we don’t develop moral courage from walking away. Like the body armor you wear with your uniform your moral body armor is made up of many very small threads, woven in a special pattern, a pattern that you weave and create each and every time you take on one of the small issues. And likewise, every time you walk away a thread goes missing from the pattern and you are the weaker for it. Doing the right thing is hard and it can be especially hard with the smaller issues because they are the easiest to walk away from. Think about the pattern you are weaving with your life. Weave a pattern that matters.