Earlier this week I ripped a headline for blog post inspiration. Looks like the week will end that way, too.
Before you ask – this isn’t about the PASS organizational struggles – though I think it applies there – and looking inside I think it applies to me there. It also applies to parenting. I’m writing that post later this weekend on my personal blog, Open Mike.
So anyway. This one is brought to you by a former (as of this month) SC Highway Patrol Officer. You can see the details at this link. The video below is from the public records release. He was fired as a result of this video allegedly not jiving with his statements about the victim. He was also charged with a serious offense and risks 20 years in prison if convicted (the Highway Patrol Officer).
As a disclaimer – I am not passing judgment on the profession of law enforcement or even this law enforcement officer. I’m just going to tell you about the results of some introspection upon watching this video.
First the video and some analysis:
Synopsis – Guy was allegedly not wearing his seatbelt. Highway Patrol officer went to get his license and presumably warn him, ticket him or try to search his vehicle or see what else he could find out about the guy. Guy ends up getting shot. Officer potentially in trouble based on statements and dashcam video conflict.
- Start watching somewhere after :38 – that’s when the cruiser starts to turn into the vehicle in question
- :39 Man is getting out of his car – seems sort of surprised to see the officer or at least confused
- :42 – :43 Officer “Can I see your license please” – as he finishes the man reaches into the car. He does with a bit of speed. But his feet stay on the ground and just the front part of his body goes in.
- :45 – Officer has his handgun drawn, is running to the right side of the man reaching for his license. Officer screams “Get out of the car” in a loud and panic stricken voice.
- :46 Officer starts to repeat the command the second time. He gets out “Get out of” and then he fires twice rapidly along with the words “the car”
- :47-:48 – Man complies with the “GET OUT OF” BANG! BANG! “THE CAR” order. He moves back stunned, feeling his lower body. No shots fired here.
- :49 – Two more shots ring out. Simultaneously the man is putting his arms up and sort of going to or stumbling to the ground. Looks like his hands went up before shot #4 rang out.
- 1:01 – Officer approaches the wounded man to cuff him.
- 1:25 – Officer explains himself.. “You dove head first back into your car and then you jump back out.. I’m telling you to get out of your car”
This is for a seatbelt violation. A traffic violation.
Picking that apart:
The Highway Patrolman asks for his license. Immediately upon asking for his license the man leans into his car. Yes it was a sort of quick lean in – but the Highway Patrolman has had a lot more training on how to deal with lethal force than the man who was shot in this case has had with how to be a properly compliant and non alarming manner to keep the law enforcement officer relaxed and calm. (well at least I presume that is the case). The Highway patrolman then shouts “GET OUT OF THE CAR!” in an unusual and alarmed and aggressive voice. Causing the man leaned into the car to, well, comply with the order to “GET OUT OF THE CAR!!” and he sort of does it in a jumpy, “What the heck did I do what is wrong?! Why is that man with the gun screaming at me!?” manner. So he leans out of the care relatively fast. Less than one full second after the officer yells his first “GET OUT OF THE CAR” (actually sounded more like GETOUTTTTADACAR!” ) two gun shots have been sent towards the man who was being pulled over for a seatbelt violation. (well hopefully towards him. Only one actually hit him – thankfully-). As the man listens to the command and backs up – two more shots are fired in his general direction. He is probably finally comprehending what is happening by this point and begins putting his hands up to help clarify things for the officer.
This is about 3-4 seconds.
My first reaction is the same as yours. Get mad. Get mad at the officer. Or maybe get mad at both. I personally always do the whole hands on the steering wheel, turn an inside light on, keep my hands visible and the whole “Yes Sir” “Yes M’am” deal. (Like this guy did as he lay on the ground bleeding asking the officer what the heck just happened.. He even stopped talking as the officer made a radio call requesting EMS the first time.. Pretty polite considering). But on closer thinking I realized,
“Oh crud.. I may not have shot anyone.. But I do this…”
DBAs.. Work with me here. Have you? I bet you have. Let’s run through a few reminders we can pull out of this situation.
We need to give folks time to process.
This probably stung the most. Not as a technologist or DBA or consultant. But as a father. Stung deep in fact. I actually heard myself saying “GETOUTTTADACAR!!!” and then getting angry when a kid is sitting there still looking at you 500ms later – still processing what you said. So I start with my second, more angry “GETOUTTTADACAR!!!”. Sometimes I can get a few shouts in for something and in the meantime the original request still wasn’t complied with mostly because I’m shouting. No one was shot. But I’m sure I sent a few daggers at hearts.
At work? DBAs have a reputation among developers. Do you give your developer time to comply? Do you sit there searching for fault raising a litany of complaints, offering no help, just a real nasty attitude? I’ve done it before. How about in e-mail? Do you get a little less cordial in e-mail?
Communication is a two way street.
You say something.. You pause.. You wait for a response. With the response you get a sense of whether or not the receiving party understood. You confirm that somehow and life moves on.. Or you clarify, and repeat the process. “GETOUTTADACAR!! BANG! BANG!” is a horrible approach to communication. And I’ve been doing that to the folks at PASS slightly this week. Now there are two sides there – PASS has a slight history of some oopses, and there hasn’t been transparency as some folks have asked for – but for the new voting issues? We’ve all shouted “IWANNAVOTE!!!” and schedules do need to be arranged for folks to get together and discuss and then an official response to be crafted”..
I see that all the time in the day job. Folks looking to find a reason to go to the BANG! BANG! part will often skip the whole pause and wait for response part. They aren’t communicating. They are talking at you. And they have a motive – and it isn’t usually for the common good. And if it is – then the common good is going to get missed. If you’ve been on the receiving end of these – you know what it is like. So why be on the giving end?! Stop that. Slow down. Let the flow work. (And to that? I say OUCH!)
Bees and Honey and all that stuff…
You know the saying.. Honey is better than vinegar to attract bees – or flies.. Either way I don’t want either around me – but I get it.. Sometimes things are bad. Things are blowing up. Someone has done something stupid. Something bad has happened. We want it fixed. But when we take out the shouting. When we take out the BANG! BANG! we just said “we actually just want to control someone and snipe at someone more than we want to fix the problem” – That may not be your intent – but it is almost always the effect..
Oh how we do that in the day jobs!! Sometimes it is the “drowning person clawing out to survive” syndrome. Sometimes it is someone having a bad day. Sometimes it is just a downright ugly person trying to look better or ruin someone’s day. Whatever the cause – there’s no excuse for it..
To the person giving it? Stop. Slow down. Go punch a wall or get mad at a politician on either side…
To the person on the receiving end? You have two choices. You can give it back.. And feel better for a couple seconds – but continue the loop. Or you can not be offended, rise above it and deescalate the situation. Sometimes, as is evident in the above video you just won’t be able to deescalate the situation once it starts.. So do what you can to take it real slow before the situation develops. Be overly communicative. I’m not blaming the man who was shot for being shot.. The training should have prevented that if what the state alleges is true as it seems to my untrained eye – but we’ll wait for a jury to decide a verdict… But if he went overly slow and was overly communicative “It’s in my car is it okay if I reach for it?” perhaps it wouldn’t have happened. Again – not blaming him at all here. But it’s a reminder that slow and deliberate is a good call almost always. Even in the middle of a fire or accident scene – deliberate and methodical was better than rushing around. I’d rather spend 15 seconds longer doing an intervention than save 15 seconds and do the wrong one.
So many things come down to training. There appears to be a couple training failures here.
- Only one bullet hit its mark. That’s a really good thing here for two reasons – No one else was hit and the man who was shot at didn’t die.. But it was also a training failure in some sense. First I saw nothing that looked like a possible weapon in a hand. Now I know that perfect accuracy isn’t the law – but when you make rapid fire gut-based decisions that seem to leave training aside – aim tends to leave the playing field. They teach anyone firing a firearm that you “own” each bullet that leaves your firearm. There didn’t appear to be a solid backdrop behind this man. But a gas station with customers…
- I imagine he was fired quickly for a reason. That isn’t how these things normally work. I almost imagine one part of the defense could be the training he received. Will it be accurate or not? I don’t know – but the point is – we need to train for unusual situations. And train often and test our muscle memory and reflexes. For two reasons – so we don’t react too slowly, and so we don’t let emotions or panic take over and cause us to react too quickly. Of course police officers have to react quickly to certain threats – and that does require some near instant judgments. But this officer barked an order and within 500-800 ms he made up a mind and was firing – after seeing nothing but a person moving quickly to barked out orders that were said in a voice that begged for urgent reaction.. Clearly there is some room for training from this incident.
As technologists. We need to be ready for unusual. We need to make quick judgments sometimes – but we often aren’t dealing with life or death. Train for things. Do scenario based training. Put all situations through the ringer and get used to them. But mostly? Maybe we should just train on slowing down and going to a methodology in the event of a huge “bad day” so we don’t let that panic demon out of the bottle.