Friday, August 16, 2013

It will be worse than your worst case scenario, trust me.

Many years ago I was teaching, part-time, at Minneapolis Community College Center for Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement. On that day I was running a scenario wherein two officers confront two men in a very tight and dark hallway at the scene of a possible burglary. I had come to know both of these students, one male and one female, from prior training with them and I expected them to do well.  They had demonstrated good communication and officer survival skills in prior evaluations.

The two role players were full time male cops at a local department and in this case they were playing the role of ex-cons who attempted to break into a business without success and were on their way out when the two students blocked their way.

I watched the event unfold from a point of view where I could see and hear everything that happened. I was not under stress and I was making careful observations about how the students were interacting with the role players. I had run this same scenario several times already with other students and I had some sense of how things should go, if everything went right. What happened next is still etched into my training mindset and forever changed the way I viewed future confrontations when I was on the street.

The students initially took control with good verbal commands and they demonstrated good tactics except - the male student did not get the handcuffs on tight enough on his suspect. I cannot tell you exactly what happened next. I was there. I carefully watched the entire scenario and yet, even immediately afterward, I had great difficulty putting it all together and would not have been able to do so without the help of the role players. But here is the bottom line and the reason for today’s blog.

The female student was the only survivor. Her partner was shot twice in the back, with her weapon. One suspect was shot in the back, with her weapon. The other suspect was shot in the chest by the male student, a contact wound directly to the heart. The female student had no injuries, not even a scratch. The entire incident took about 30 seconds and occurred in a space about three feet wide by 10 feet long. She didn’t shoot her partner. One of the role players did. Her partner did shoot the other role player. She was disarmed early in the confrontation and after all was said and done she did recover her weapon and fire the two shots into the back of the other suspect as he tried to acquire her fallen partner’s handgun. Everyone in the scenario was initially speechless, me included.

In my critique I made three points. One, you have to make sure you put handcuffs on properly. Two, when you go to write this up, as the only survivor and witness, you are going to get things wrong. I guarantee it. You will even have difficulty accurately recalling what happened to you, much less your partner. And three, the most important part of the critique. A lot of people are not going to believe you. If this scenario was real, and this was you and your training officer in the first few weeks of training, most cops will call you a liar. They will blame your gender. They will blame your lack of experience. They will make a hero out of your dead partner. But most likely, your career will not recover from this experience, even though you did nothing wrong and it was your partner’s poor handcuffing technique that was the proximate cause.

As I read the StarTribune article today about the shooting death of Terrence Franklin I was reminded of that training scenario from years ago. My own experience on the street confirmed many times over that you cannot conceive of some of the events you will encounter. If you can dream of a worst case scenario for yourself there is always something even worse that is possible. In the Franklin shooting there are multiple cops involved and I can’t and won’t believe that they are all lying. Most cops do this job the right way. Over the years I witnessed cops that should have been fired many times over perform acts of selfless bravery. I am not a fan of Officer Luke Peterson but I have no trouble believing that he would do the same and I applaud him for his actions. It looks like the officers may have made some mistakes in the confrontation with Franklin. I can live with that and at this point we have to trust to forensics and the fact that there are multiple witnesses to this event.

I have consulted on several cases in recent years where suspects have died at the hands of the police and I feel bad for the survivors in those families. I understand the frustration and anger and I would never attempt to minimize how awful it must be for the parents, siblings, and loved ones who are asked to trust that the police did what they had to do. But in the end, that is why we have cops. And I can’t imagine, in even a worst case scenario, a world without them because it would be even worse than that.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It Has To Start At The Top

If you haven’t read it yet, I have posted a link to Michael Friedman’s commentary in the Star Tribune on how to reform the Minneapolis Police Department. This is by far the most realistic analysis I have read yet on on dealing the police misconduct on the MPD. You can find it at

In this same edition Chief Harteau is quoted as saying she wants officers to “say something” if they see another officer involved in misconduct. Say something? To Whom? The officer? Their supervisor? Internal Affairs? I can tell you exactly how that works; it doesn’t. Unless saying something means saying it to the cops involved in the misconduct and the words are: “Not Here, Not Now, Not in Front of Me, That's Not Going to Happen.”

There are consequences for cops who report other cops so they seldom report the misconduct even though the Minneapolis Police Department manual is pretty clear.



6. Employees shall immediately report any violation of rules, regulations, or laws that come to their attention to the Internal Affairs Unit, regardless of the violator's assignment or rank within the Department.[i]

 Every police department in the country has a similar policy. I have talked to cops across Canada and the United States and every cop knows this policy is there but they all admit it is the most commonly violated policy in the whole manual. It is seen by most as a “gotcha” policy to be used to discipline an officer when a department can’t justify anything else.
Let me give you a Reader’s Digest version of my history of reporting misconduct with the MPD. Late 1970’s I tell the Deputy Chief Brucianni about two vice cops beating up a prostitute. Two days later one of the cops grabs me and threatens to “kill me” if I ever snitch him off again. He meant it.

There are several incidents over my 23 year career but skip ahead to the 1990’s. A rookie police officer in the academy relates an event to the entire rookie class about how on her ride along the two cops kicked in a door without a warrant and then admitted to her that they use Creative Report writing and lie about their justification. They tell her “That’s how it’s done in the 3rd precinct.” I take it to my Lieutenant. The two cops are separated and sent to new precincts. No discipline. The department allows the prosecution to proceed against the man arrested because drugs and guns were seized. The cop who told the entire rookie class this story? No longer a cop. 

That is typical of what happens when cops report the misconduct of other cops. They get put under so much pressure they resign.  I like the idea of some sort of protection for whistle blowers but written orders or even laws alone will have as much power as the code of conduct rule I  listed above. In other words, none.  We don’t need whistle blowers. We need cops brave enough to stand up to the cops who are making them look bad.  We need cops who are willing to intervene in the misconduct of other cops. Cops don’t need to say something. They need to DO something. Cops need to know that their behavior will not be tolerated by the other cops. The idea that we can make a difference by offering more training on cultural diversity and racism is a smoke shield.
Most cops, as Chief Harteau points out, are good cops. We need them to step up and hold the other cops accountable, but it has to start at the top. As long as you have cops like Lucas Peterson that can get away with excessive force, charging people with crimes they never committed, and lying in their reports, working the street you will never get the good cops to come forward.

Chief Harteau, you want to change the culture of the MPD? Then hold cops like Peterson, Thole, and Powell accountable.  Make the rest of us, and your cops, believe that you mean what you say.

Mike Quinn

[i]Downloaded on August 6, 2013 from

Monday, August 5, 2013

We ARE the heroes.

I know that cops who bring disgrace to our profession bring us all down, across the country. I also know as I have noted in my book and in my lectures, that most cops do the right thing. We are all capable of acts of evil, yet the vast majority of cops do not give in to those desires to meet out justice on our own terms. Given the power and control we have over peoples lives and the opportunities for misconduct that are so tempting when dealing with the criminal element it makes me proud to know that most cops do not succumb but instead make us proud.
My good friend and former partner Chief Greg Hestness at the University of Minnesota is always the advocate for all the good things cops do. He helps to keep me on track and remind me of the good work done by so many. The following is from the UMPD Report. My congratulations to all the officers involved especially Officer McElroy.
MP13-251677  JUMPER  1 Portland Ave. S  Officer McElroy responded to a jumper call on the Stone Arch Bridge.  Upon arrival he found a male straddling the railing with his shoes off, telling passerby's he intended to jump.  Officer McElroy engaged the male in conversation and was eventually able to establish enough rapport with the man to convince him to bring his leg back over the railing.  In the process of coming back over the railing, the man lost his balance and began to fall backwards, off the bridge.  Officer McElroy grabbed the man and pulled him over the railing.  MPD officers assisted him with securing the male.  Male was transported to HCMC APS on a hold.  Supplement was added.

***Excellent job by Officer McElroy and all MPD officers who assisted!***
Here are some of Chief Hestness' comments.
I know all the focus is on bad cops again and we give lip service to the good ones out there.  Case in point, Mark McElroy.  He is still on probation, almost done.  I hired him away from HCSO last year.  He was a four year Gopher lineman under Coach Mason, 6-5, 300 plus.  We often don’t credit huge guys with the gift of gab and empathy, but he has it.  ....  I have to admit when it comes to pulling people off the railing, being huge and quick has its advantages.
Gregory S. Hestness
Assistant Vice President
Chief of Police
University of Minnesota
Good Job University of Minnesota Police Department. You make us all proud.
We are our brother's keeper,
Mike Quinn