Fault Lines
15 December 2017

Getting Past The Cult Of Compliance

January 23, 2017 (Fault Lines) – Ed. Note: This is part two of Lou Hayes’ post on the “Just-Comply-With-Police Fallacy.”

Chicago area disabilities activist and author David Perry refers to a “cult of compliance” – a state where those with authority expect and demand immediate compliance from subjects. He argues that many of the cases of alleged excessive police force, specifically against those with disabilities, are caused by cops’ cultural mindset that subject non-compliance in itself constitutes a threat that needs to be eliminated swiftly.

At least one cop mantra supports Perry’s claim. The Ask-Tell-Make teaching suggests police officers move through three legally-defensible phases: first ask someone to do something, then tell them to do it, then make them do it. This three-step “behavior modification” process ignores what I’ve long believed to be other critical tactics in getting people to do things I want them to that they don’t: persuading, begging, pleading, giving options, negotiating.

The obstacle to getting some cops to buy into pleading and begging with a citizen on the street is that some cops see it as showing weakness. Being perceived as a weak cop runs counter to a culture instilled in police academy of being strong and mighty, and staying in command and control of chaos. (Which are admirable traits too!)

I fear, that if law enforcement stays on the current path of how it views non-compliance, we will continue to see unnecessary police force used against those who have good reasons why they didn’t immediately submit to cops. (Don’t worry cops. I recognize that necessary is a term that can only be used in hindsight & restrict my use of necessary for only the most egregious cases! I also still refute the term’s placement in legal and policy standards.)

Our cops need training that teaches them how to break from the human “normalcy bias” – where all humans tend to expect things to be normal and fit into established patterns and schema – and hunt for information on why someone might not be complying. There are tactical aspects too on being in the most advantageous positions to make those perceptions on behavior and non-compliance without being too at-risk.

We should also reconsider the practice of charging and prosecuting each and every person that has police force used against him/her. In some cases, the force will be entirely necessary, as might be the case with Pearl Pearson and the OHP. But when we look at the full context with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, maybe throwing salt on the wound isn’t the best option for trying to CYA.

There is collateral damage when cops buy into theories like Ask-Tell-Make. Or when they default to demanding immediate compliance from subjects on the street. Or when they fail to pick up (or ignore) the subtleties of disability or some other variable. Or when they rush into danger without taking the time to observe and process information.

We, in law enforcement, can do a better job at limiting these instances of collateral damage. I know it. Sounds like the Oklahoma County DA knows it too.

12 Comments on this post.

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  • Dan
    23 January 2017 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Do you have any insight into how we got to this place in the first place? The police in most other first-world countries seem to behave very differently — they’re much more polite, and much more focused on de-escalation. What’s the difference? More “American Exceptionalism”?

    • Lou Hayes Jr
      23 January 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      My theories have many angles: marketing/recruiting of candidates; selection of new officers; internal training philosophies; fractured nature of LE structure in the country (we have 18,000 agencies, each with slightly different policy, training, leadership, supervision, discipline, restraint, philosophies, values). We in US policing do a terrible job at nurturing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and social skills. Those of us who do teach it, are on an island with little support from other related fields of training. It seems to be a topic that is isolated to crisis/hostage negotiation teams. Even the mainstream programming for our investigative/interrogation training is built upon junk-science (I promote/practice a different style of interview/interrogation that’s built on research). So…lots at play.

      • Greg Prickett
        24 January 2017 at 10:13 am - Reply

        What?!? Wicklander and Reid are junk science?

        Say it ain’t so! LOL

        • Lou Hayes Jr
          24 January 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

          Maybe “pseudo-science” is a better term. haha. But then again, it depends on whether you’re hunting for a confession…or the truth.

          • Greg Prickett
            25 January 2017 at 5:39 am -

            I was fine with the term junk science, and I’m a graduate of the Reid course.

      • Dan
        24 January 2017 at 12:50 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the analysis. That makes lots of sense. Of course, it also means it’s going to take a huge amount of effort and activism pretty much anywhere to change things.

  • john
    24 January 2017 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Maybe not so much of a huge effort.

    Start by ending the practice of immunity given officers, which has no basis in in the constitution or the law, (it was a gift given by the supreme court, not the legislature) and start holding the individual officers criminally and financially liable for their actions and watch it change almost overnight.

    Protip, If the courts and fellow officers don’t start holding the cops responsible for their actions the people, at some point, will. Then we will really see the “war on cops” they cry about so much when ever someone dares criticize them for shooting an unarmed person in the back. Do you really want to be afraid for your lives every second of the day and night, and for your families when you get followed home?

    • Greg Prickett
      25 January 2017 at 5:44 am - Reply

      John, what exactly does your comment have to do with the post? Lou is looking at changing training and how police officers deal with people on the street. Your post really doesn’t have anything to do with that.

      Instead, you address a completely separate issue that is only tangentially connected to the subject of the post. And then you follow it with a threat to the officers and their families?

      Try to focus on the post itself, and reply to that subject.

      • bacchys
        26 January 2017 at 3:26 pm - Reply

        Eliminating immunity would be one way of addressing the unnecessary use of force by police. It would, for instance, more quickly bring societal norms to bear on policing rather than through the disconnected method we have now, whereby perhaps elected officials find their jobs dependent on backing police uncritically, or perhaps on at least rhetorically supporting reforms. I doubt it would be a consistent application, however, given the nature of our civil courts.

        There’s definitely a downside to eliminating immunity. That immunity is judge-made rather than legislatively enacted doesn’t make it bad policy. OTOH, there’s a downside to what we’re doing now. Politics is about weighing the relative costs and benefits and coming to an equally disagreeable resolution for all involved. In theory, anyway.

        Training and policy changes are only part of the consideration, however. Discipline and standards also have to be part if any cultural shift is going to occur.

        • Lou Hayes Jr
          26 January 2017 at 5:24 pm - Reply

          “Societal norms” sounds an awful lot like a popularity contest. The current system of Qualified Immunity ensures that interpretations of procedural case law are clear and established, which is a vital phase in the application of discipline within the organic environment of (Constitutional) law. I hardly consider the current method as “disconnected.” Maybe we disagree about from *what* it’s disconnected…

          Standards are surely a portion of shifting culture, but what standards in particular? I talk about (at least) ten different standards at play when discussing a police officer’s decisions: criminal law, civil law, agency policy, training, science, community/media, culture, supervisor, personal, & peer. The consequences of violating any of those “standards” are each different.

          • bacchys
            8 February 2017 at 11:48 am -

            My apologies on the delay in responding. It’s been a busy few weeks.

            We’re a Republic. The people are sovereign. Quite a bit of what we do- and what we allow the government to do- is going to be a “popularity contest.”

            “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is a not-uncommon mantra, but it doesn’t seem to apply to law enforcement. Our current immunity jurisprudence creates a downward spiral of excusing ever worse behavior from those who are supposed to “protect and serve.”

  • The Much Expected Pokemon Homicide
    3 February 2017 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    […] are persons in position of authority programmed to view non-compliance? (And I’m talking about teachers, bosses, coaches, and homeowners too!) And what are the darned […]