Behind the Badge

Stand Down or Stand Up
By Joseph Pangaro, CPM

A very common practice is developing in the police community–standing down in the face of chaos.

Most recently we saw this practice at the Charlottesville Virginia clashes between the neo Nazi groups and the groups protesting them. The two sides assembled in separate areas but it wasn’t long before they began to engage each other, usually one person at a time.

The individuals from each group stood toe to toe and began yelling and screaming at each other, eventually they came to blows, hitting each other with whatever make-shift weapons they had or their bare hands. In a short time the groups of onlookers from both sides joined in and the fracas became more violent with several people getting seriously injured and eventually there was a death.

The police had assembled in the general areas and began observing the crowds, which is what this stand down practice has become, observing. I watched the news accounts of what was going on and it was clear that there were people at this event that were armed with handguns and long guns of all kinds. That in itself was not really a problem, especially for the police in Virginia where state law allows open carry, but other people were carrying sticks, clubs, tire irons and bats. Clearly state law doesn’t prohibit these items, but anyone watching the mood of the crowd as it developed and scuffles that were taking place would know that there was going to be confrontations between the two groups where those clubs, bats and tire irons would be used.

Even as the situation became more agitated, the police officers continued to observe, making only slight adjustments in their placement to contain the action.

It is this new phenomenon that we see where the police, as directed by their leaders, are taking a more hands off approach to these types of crowds. The thinking seems to be: Let the crowds interact and vent their feelings but don’t get involved in anything that can look bad on TV, even if they commit blatant acts of vandalism and destruction, or worse, assaults against each other using weapons right in front of the officers.

Charlottesville is not the only time we have seen this; it seems to be a growing trend. We watch time and time again as groups of “protesters” loot stores and break windows, turn over police cars and burn buildings, all the time taunting the police who stand by “observing”.

My two part question here is simple: First, has law enforcement become so demonized by the media and many of the people of our society that this hands off approach is now the default position to avoid accusation of police brutality and further agitation by our citizens?

Second, have our leaders become so averse to taking legal, moral and justifiable police actions in these violent events because they will be vilified and potentially lose their careers over doing their jobs?

I think the answers are obvious; yes and yes.

Our society is changing, our historical norms of behavior are being replaced by a much more violent culture that sees violence as the go to plan to get a reaction in the belief that “revolution” is at hand and these actions are required to remake our society.

Are they? Is revolution at hand?

I watched a news report of some of the Antifa groups having a meeting before an event where they discussed having the event get violent at the “right time”. This was as the cameras were rolling, not in a clandestine meeting somewhere; they were planning on getting violent as part of the goal of the event. I think this reality is due to the stand down efforts that agencies are taking.

To be honest, I can understand the development of these stand down policies; we watch our brother and sister officers do their jobs to protect life and property and they are treated like rogue warriors out to hurt people for the sheer pleasure of it, as if they were simply bullies let loose to terrorize the population. They can and do face arrest and trial in some cases for doing their job.

Standing down is a reaction to this paradigm change in our society.

Where will this lead us as a nation?

History has the answers if we look for them. It will lead to chaos, and more violence and a destruction of our society in general. We will devolve into a place we won’t recognize and assume the default position of humanity: tyranny.

Protest is good. It is part of our heritage and necessary for our rights to remain strong, but violence allowed to run amok is the opposite of who we are as Americans. Law enforcement and living within the law is the foundation of a safe and healthy society.

Lt. Joseph Pangaro retired after serving 27 years at a police department in Monmouth County, NJ, having served as the Lead Training Officer. Pangaro is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s Certified Public Managers Program (CPM). He’s a newspaper columnist who writes about the rigors and joys in law enforcement. Joseph Pangaro is the CEO and President of Pangaro Training and Management, and Pangaro Global Training, an online training company. Email Lt. Pangaro or Twitter: @Pangarotraining.