Pattern & Practice: the predictable and dangerous trend

It has happened so often, it is predictable. A LEO uses force, typically deadly force, and the city erupts in violence. The steps between the two follow a pattern that I’ve watched and studied. It’s time to expose the trend and find ways to stop the cycle to prevent the mass destruction and death that typically results.

Step one: A LEO uses force, typically deadly force. Although this is typical, it is not always the case. The death of Freddie Gray did not involve the use of deadly force.

Step two: “Witnesses” come forward. I hate air quotes, but I would probably use them if I was speaking about this. We have seen time and again that these “witnesses” are involved parties furthering their own interests or people who did not have an opportunity to see what they claim to have witnessed. As in Ferguson, many have been discredited by sound, forensic methods and evidence.

Step three: Speculation is rampant, politicians and other “leaders” make reckless and uninformed comments. I group these two events because they feed each other. At a time when people in leadership should encourage calm and wait for the results of investigations, some of them cannot help themselves.

Step four: Media attention hits critical mass with local, national, and international sources feeding off reports off each other, competing to be first to publish, and prominently featuring anyone willing to speak on camera. Law enforcement resources cannot keep up with the requests for information and authoritative sources are lost in the sea of reports.

Step five: The investigations conclude. They take the same amount of time they always do, several months. The slow, methodical process yields facts and destroys speculation and rumors.

Step six: The LEO is cleared by the investigative process including a grand jury. However, that fact is lost in the turbulence that has become reports by the formal and informal media.

Step seven: Those who were wrong, speculated, and made reckless comments criticize the investigative process and judicial system. Why? It’s easier than admitting you were wrong.

This weekend and this week, we’ve seen horrible destruction and violence in Milwaukee. Law enforcement agencies need to get ahead of this cycle and educate people, including the formal and informal media, about the investigative process. Be prepared for this cycle to unfold in your community. There is too much at risk to ignore the effects of this cycle. Stay safe.


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