KNOW YOUR ENEMY: I snuck into a cop seminar on "Use of Force". AMA.
How / Why ?
I walked in and wrote a fake name on the bottom of the sign-in sheet. It was pretty casual. I just sat at the back taking notes. Some of them were wearing their uniforms but most weren't. It wasn't difficult. But, this wasn't in the USA so I wasn't scared of getting shot in the face if I got found out for not being a cop. Your mileage may vary.
It was just a training seminar for cops so I don't think they were trying to hide anything.
I did it because it felt like a low-level way to step out of my comfort zone and get an understanding of the mindset behind the people who are going to be beating me in with batons when the law makes anarchism illegal in my country and all my raddle posts get scraped to retroactively incriminate me. I thought that if I could learn something, then I might be able to learn something to defend myself. I don't think I did, but I'm publishing the notes anyway. Using a throwaway because I am paranoid but it probably doesn't matter.
Content Warning: Everything. This is going to be long, and it's going to cover a number of potentially trauma-triggering subjects. If you have any trauma related to cops, violence, sexual assault, consent, restraint (physical/handcuffs etc.), or anything tangentially related then maybe sit this one out.
Part 1: Language
To kick this off I want to address their use of language. I think this is the scariest part of the whole thing. There is a layer of semantics in how everything is presented that seeks to either disguise or reframe the perspective of any situation or scenario. Language is a powerful tool and cops use it to sell an idea of themselves.
When three cops bundle a single individual to the ground and handcuff them, that's not called an "assault", it's called an "intervention". When cops want to move on a homeless person from outside of a store, they don't "coerce" or "force them"... they "assist" them to move on.
Everything is either danced around or given this connotation of positivity. Obviously some spume of the copaganda marketing slurry has sat down and actively made the decision to do this, but it's not pervasive all the way down. That's what needs to be addressed here. Cops genuinely believe they are the good guys. The language they use is a method of mentally indoctrinating themselves and reinforcing in themselves the same mythology that they wish others to see. For example, cops are the thin blue line standing between civility and chaosdeath. Despite their position from behind that line, cops genuinely believe this is true.
There is no self-awareness.
Language is the first tool in the cop's arsenal. It is the one that allows them to exist in the first place, and the one that helps them maintain a delusion of repute in the mind of civilians and themselves alike. If they can convince you that they are not only necessary, but heroic, then you--or some kid--will do the work to defend them, or even go so far as to join them. If they can convince themselves that what they are doing is good and moral and helpful, then it alleviates any guilt that they might feel for the harm that they cause.
I don't want to go so far as to call cops a cult, since I think it is kind of crass and overplayed, but if you want to make any kind of comparison between cops and cultists it is how they use language to effectively brainwash themselves into a belief that allows them to act the way they do--without question.
Mock the Enemy
Another thing that was pervasive was the use of jokes to mock the enemy (the enemy being anyone who goes against the "law"). I get that the speakers were probably doing this to try and make the seminar interesting and engaging, but this has two other effects:
- If it's possible to demean a person who acts differently than the way you want them to act (the way they phrased this was usually to do with "society" which is a whole 'nother semantic rabbit hole), then it reinforces the US vs THEM mentality that cops harbour. A mental positional hierarchy. There's COPS and then there's everyone else who is not a cop.
- It also has a cameraderie effect where mocking and joking about how stupid criminals are makes the cops all feel closer to each other. Jokes are a relationship builder, so if you can get a bunch of cops together into a room and make a bunch of jokes about whatever (usually the enemy) then it brings you closer together, builds morale, and builds loyalty. Esprit de Corps.
Cops position themselves as the protectors of 'society'. Society is framed in this context as anything that conforms with the law. It is spoken about as if it is a monolithic consensus agreement between all who are involved (every citizen/civilian who lives inside of it). Anyone who is in society have all mutually agreed on what is and isn't normal and anyone who breaches those boundaries are either left to fall into the cracks or actively attacked and incarcerated. This is how cops see it.
So, cops target people who breach laws. They have a belief that this is reasonable because to breach a law is to go against the consensus of society as agreed upon by all people. This is how you get "Anti-social" orders. The cops can be called on you just for existing, because your behaviour is somehow a threat to those societal norms.
- Being homeless
- Public nudity
All of these things are against the "norm" of society, and therefore in the cop-head they are "wrong".
This is a wider subject, but I bring it up because when discussing use of force, the cops will often use society as reasoning for why their force was justified. If someone is "aggressive" they are a threat to society. Society has decided that they should be arrested/beaten/imprisoned.
This helps to offset blame from the cops. Because they can claim that it wasn't their decision, it was the decision of society. It wasn't cops who decided to fuck someone up. Society decided.
In reality, you didn't decide. There is no society. There are only rules that were written into law by aristocrats and land-owners and the cops are their mercenary enforcers.
Part 2: Ethics and Legality
At this point it becomes clear that so much of what cops do is drawing lines in the sand about how they justify what they do. Every action needs to be justified. It's about reconciling their actions with the law, because in their mind the law is the arbiter of all that is good and moral. But, it's also about covering up their shit to make sure nobody has a right to legally argue against their actions. If you aren't happy with the way a cop treated you, it won't ever make it to a court room, because of these hoops that have been jumped through to make sure their actions are justified.
If a cop wants to fuck you up, you are not protected by the state in any way except in the rarest cases of abuse.
Just in case that wasn't obvious.
If it's legal, it's okay.
There was a direct acknowledgment that many of the "interventions" (I will keep using the term interventions, but recognise that this is cop language for acts of violence) that the cops use are direct breaches of a person's human rights (as far as human rights are defined by various pieces of legislation that were discussed). To put it differently, there was a direct acknowledgment that human rights were a complete illusion as long as they could be taken away at the whim of any individual cop who decides they want to. How can they decide they want to? As long as it can be justified legally, within frameworks of law that have been codified throughout history. They are empowered to do so whereby some piece of scripture says so.
"If it's legal, it's okay."
Can a person be held to the ground by multiple officers, have their limbs restrained, be handcuffed, punched, hit with sticks, bundled into a car against their will, held in a cell, imprisoned for extended periods of time, and so on and so on?
As long as it can be legally justified.
Does this breach multiple human rights?
Does that matter?
Human rights only exist until some other piece of overriding legal doctrine undermines it. Let's make that very clear: You do not have rights. You have rights until the state determines that you don't.
More than this, just the idea that as long as something is "legal" it is okay, is obviously a swarm of shite. I don't need to explain that, but they believe it. These are people who genuinely believe a higher power (the state) can determine right and wrong and that laws are infallible truth.
If it's ethical, it's okay.
Where the law failed to cover their backs, "ethical justifcation" was the fallback. Can a cop breach a person's human rights? As long as it can be ethically justified. Who determines what is ethical in this instance? You'll only need one guess. If it conforms to the ethics of the state (decided and writ by the state), a cop can do it.
Is it ethical to hold someone to the ground, handcuff them, throw them into the back of a car, drive them to an unfamiliar place, and hold them in an austere room with no access to food and water unless given by another person.
The state says yes.
I don't know if it was an intentional choice to try and muddy the water over the meaning of ethics versus the meaning of morals here. My understanding is that ethics in general refer to the subjective decisionmaking of an individual and it is morals that relate to ideas of right and wrong determined by a higher power (the state, society, etc.). The way cops have proven their manipulation of language to try and twist and subvert their image, I wouldn't be surprised if this was an intentional choice.
For the "Greater Good"
Both these legal and ethical arguments went hand in hand with this idea of acting for the greater good. When a cop "intervenes", how are they mentally reconciling that in their head? They are lionising themselves. They see themselves as acting with beneficence. They are moral saviours enacting mercy and kindness out of moral obligation to others. They breach your human rights for the greater good of yourself and/or others.
At a surface level you can kind of empathise with this mentality. If someone is a victim of violence, and the greater good patrol steps in to save that person from being a victim, well--okay. You can kind of understand that, right? And that's how they sell themselves. But, this mentality extends right down to the lowest level, to the point they will step in to save people from themselves. They utilise that image as the defenders of the weak and the victims, and abuse that to encroach on every facet of your existence.
Smoking weed? Careful! You might hurt yourself! Quick! Kick their door down! Hit their dog with a tazer! Restrain them! Take them to jail! It's for their own good!
The surface level justification that sounds reasonable, becomes a pervasive tool of control. And, more than that, they still think they are heroes for doing it. Because they have separated themselves (remember US vs THEM) they think that normal people (meaning anyone who is not a cop) do not have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves without intervention. They genuinely think that without them being around to police your existence, you would be a helpless child wandering aimlessly through life, sticking your fingers in plug sockets.
Restraints in Prisons
"For the Greater Good" is used to justify whatever they want it to justify. Intent to commit suicide? Kick your door down, taze your dog, section you into hospital. For the greater good. Drink and drugs? Kick your door down, taze your dog, send you to jail. For the greater good.
At an individual level, you cannot make choices about yourself without their approval.
This brings us to nasogastric feeding.
Let's take the example of somebody hunger striking in prison. This happens frequently enough, I would assume, considering it is one of the few ways you--as an individual--can wrest control of your autonomy in an environment where all your rights and choices have been stripped away.
How do the cops respond?
Send in a tactical goon squad to restrain that person, hold them down, force a tube down their throat and literally force-feed them. For their own good.
If you don't know or understand what nasogastric feeding is, watch Yasiin Bey undergo the procedure in this chilling video (Extreme Trauma warning). How cold do you have to be to do this to a person against their will, and somehow have convinced yourself that you are saving them by doing so. This video is titled as "Guantanamo Bay Procedure". Lemme tell you, this ain't isolated to Gauntanamo Bay. They are doing this everywhere. They are doing this where you live.
Here are some quotes of how they have convinced themselves that this is okay:
"If the person doesn't have the capacity to feed themselves, then we have to make that decision for them."
"While a person is under our care, we are responsible for their well-being. We can't allow people to starve themselves."
Watch that video again if you can stomach it and see if this choice of words makes sense. "Care", "Well-being".
There is a big irony here. We've already discussed how cops can literally ignore the entire concept of rights, yet they are doing so to combat "crimes". Some of which will touch sensitively on the concept of consent. But, are cops themselves held to the same level of accountability when it comes to consent?
Well, firstly, many of these restraints/holds/incarcerations are not. A cop doesn't need to ask your permission to handcuff you. They don't need to ask your permission to twist your arm behind your back, to hold you prisoner. More than that, during these holds, the cop will touch you in ways and in places that would usually be considered a huge breach of personal space. A cop can--and will--pat you down, touching you in places that would get anyone thrown in jail by the cops!. But, this is usually at the point where the mask drops away and the facade of civility and negotiation is dropped entirely. What about before that?
This is a direct quote from a speaker.
"Always ask for consent. If they give it, great. If they don't, do it anyway."
An example of this might be in conversation:
"Can I check your car?" "No." "Okay, I'm going to check it anyway."
Consenting to cops is an illusion.
There was no discussion on racial profiling. Maybe they're wising up. There was--however--plenty of gender profiling. Discussions on how certain genders need to be handled in a use of force situation. discussion about planning response teams based on the gender of the person they were dealing with. Is the criminal a big muscular man with big biceps and a scary beard? Better send in the tactical goons with penises. The more physically intimidating a person appeared, the more consideration would need to be given to which gender configuration the tactical team sent in would have to be made up of.
If a big scary man needs to be restrained, it's probably better to send in equally big scary men-cops to do the dirty work. If they think the criminal could be talked down, maybe they'd send in a nice friendly woman-cop with a soothing voice.
Here is the one quote I noted from this segment.
"Men produce power from their shoulders. Women produce power from their hips."
To be honest I don't know what the fuck they were talking about here.
Part 3: "Interventions"
This was pretty much the point of the whole thing. The "Use of Force" in action.
There was a hierarchy of interventions starting from low-level and building up from there:
If one intervention fails, move up to the next one. Go in and give your instruction first. If they don't obey, reprimand. If that doesn't work, restrain. After that, seclude. Finally, medicate (I don't think this actually applies to cops in general but applies to certain situations where people are tranquillised).
Reasons why you might use an intervention: To take control of a situation.
Here are some other reasons listed:
- To prevent harm from occuring
- To stop dangerous, threatening, or destructive behaviour
- To prevent crime
- To prevent escape
- To protect property
All of these reasons are expressly given in relation to when a cop can breach a person's rights. When talking about how vague "to prevent crime" is, let's go back to the discussion on society and some of the crimes that exist simply because they don't conform to societal norms. Public nudity. Your human rights can be decisively breached by a cop just because you don't wear clothes. Rights are an illusion. Let's talk about "to protect property". You can be tazed, beaten, arrested, imprisoned, for stealing the bread that you need to eat from select corporate food chain of your choice. "To prevent harm from occuring" -- the wording that enables a cop to use harm in order to prevent harm. If someone is being violent, use violence to stop them from being violent!
There was another interesting wording that they used here in deciding when an intervention is necessary.
"You must have a "reasonable belief" that it is necessary.
That's all it takes. The cop just has to believe.
Most of these discussions were also held from the perspective of "Risk". These acts of violence that cops can choose to use against you, weren't discussed as responses to things that were happening, but as proactive measures based on a gut feeling of something that might happen. No, you haven't done anything violent. No, you haven't broken any laws. No, you haven't done anything wrong. But, you present a risk that you might do some of those things, so the cop can restrain you anyway. You don't even need to have committed any crime if the cop can imagine that you might do that at some point in the future, then that is reason enough.
Cops try to predict where "flashpoints" might occur. This being, situations or scenario that are likely to result in any kind of aggression or resistance. This is why you see cops lingering around sport events. Because they are known flashpoints. As people become predictable, the cops learn the patterns so they can show force before it escalates. If they can control you with their presence alone, then they will.
If there is a protest and they can get in and separate people, isolate people, get people away on their own, then people are less likely to "escalate".
The topic of trauma came up. There was an acknowledgment that any kind of intervention could cause trauma, either by re-triggering previous traumatic memories, or causing a whole new trauma. Of course, this acknowledgment wasn't considered any reason not to do it.
There was more consideration given to the potential for trauma for the cop.
Careful, cop. Assaulting a person to the ground could cause the following:
- Emotional disturbance
- Sleep disturbance
- Shutting down emotions
Thankfully, most cops suffer from these symptoms already, so don't worry about it.
There was a line:
"Professional failures are rarely found."
I didn't really understand what this meant in the context. To me it reads like they are saying the "fault" of the trauma is rarely in the procedure. The institution itself offsetting blame onto the individual victim.
There was also acknowledgment of the entire profession of psychotherapists who exist to emotionally regulate cops.
They also signposted anyone in the room to a religious service for emotional support. If your own ability to shove your feelings down into a dark hole and hold them there, and the field of psychotherapy fails you, maybe try God.
The title of this segment--"Pain"--is not something I came up with. It was actually the title of a segment of their seminar. Using pain as a method of control is a taught technique. This won't come as a surprise, but there it is, from the horse's mouth.
The actual mechanics of it were pretty boring and it was just talking about manipulating the flexion of people's thumbs and wrists to force compliance.
Not sure what else to say on that, since it speaks for itself.
There was more. The seminar went over multiple days but I didn't stay for it all.
I don't think this really revealed much that wasn't already painfully obvious, but if you learned anything from this, I hope you have learned how much disdain the cops have for you just for existing, and how willing they will be to beat the shit out of you at the slightest provocation or threat to their control. If you think you've learned something about how to counter these kinds of tactics, feel free to share it in the comments.
Thanks for reading this far, I know it's a lot.