The Helicopter FTO?

Helicopter-Parent1

Some of the reader comments, both here and on our Facebook page, regarding the recent officer involved shooting in Arlington, TX have tried to place an undue amount of blame on the Field Training Officer (FTO), Cpl. Wiggins, who was training Officer Miller.  I don’t know how long the training program is for Arlington PD, or when Officer Miller started it, but all accounts say that Officer Miller had been hired in September 2014 and was nearing the end of his field training.

I was an FTO for a number of years, and I still fill in that role from time to time when FTO’s take time off and their trainees need someone to ride with, so I do have a little personal knowledge on the subject matter.

Here are a few things to consider when we are talking about this subject.  By the time a trainee reaches field training, they have met certain requirements.

  1. They are over the age of 18 (21 in some states) and are legally an adult
  2. They have completed a full police academy and are, legally speaking, a full peace officer
  3. They have passed the background check and are presumably not a convicted criminal
  4. They have passed a psychological exam and are presumably not a psychotic nut job
  5. They found the station, their locker, the briefing room and their FTO, so they can apparently follow simple instructions

Considering all of the above, it is reasonable to assume that a person in training, even a fresh trainee right out of the academy, can follow simple directions.  As trainees continue through the program, and especially as they near the end of their training, it becomes reasonable to assume that they can handle more complex tasks without immediate supervision.  To remotely suggest that an FTO has to keep their trainee under constant supervision, and is responsible for their every action, is insane.

Here are some examples of common tasks given to trainees on a daily basis, which are often times completed without any supervision whatsoever.

  • “Go over there and take that person’s statement.”
  • “Go stuff this bad guy in the back seat.”
  • “Book this evidence.”
  • “Snatch that guy up and cuff him.”
  • “Fill out the booking paperwork for the arrest.”
  • “Go over to that side of the building and establish a perimeter spot.”

Some of the comments, some even made my people purporting to be field training officers (FTO) themselves, saying that the FTO was at fault because he allowed his trainee to leave his side, or that he screwed up because he was not constantly monitoring his trainee, made me remember a term about parents that don’t give their kids any room to make mistakes, to learn on their own:  Helicopter Parents

Their comments make me want to coin a new term: the Helicopter FTO

I thank God that I did not have any Helicopter FTOs as I went through the training program, although to be honest, I can think of a few I have known over the years.  Not surprisingly, they were the FTO the trainees did not want to get.  Trainees cannot learn when they are under constant, microscopic supervision.  No one can.  That is not how adults learn, and a patrol trainee is an adult.

So, unless the FTO gave the trainee bad instructions, such as “go over to that open door, enter by yourself and go snatch dude up,” or unless he sat there watching his trainee going into the building solo, and decided to watch and see how it would play out (which we know by the account of the incident, that is not remotely what happened since he ran to catch up and was there with his Taser out when the shooting occurred), then the FTO is not responsible for the actions of the trainee.

Please don’t take this as me bashing Officer Miller.  That is not my intent, not remotely.  Trainees make mistakes, hell, FTO’s make mistakes.  We all do.  That is part of being human.  But, to try and assign blame to the FTO for a series of mistakes his trainee made in a matter of a minutes, if not seconds, is the same thing as say, blaming a cop for shooting a bad guy who is beating him to near unconsciousness and trying to take his gun.  It is blame shifting, and it has absolutely no place in society, let alone in law enforcement.


On a related side note, during my time as an FTO, I had a number of trainees who seemed to have the ability to magically disappear at a moments notice.  I know many other FTOs have encountered the same thing, because a number of us have jokingly discussed putting a cow bell on our trainees so that we could keep track of them.  So, in addition the the Helicopter FTO, we can have the Cowbell Trainee.  

My Educated Guess Was Wrong – Officer Miller Terminated

A couple days ago, I wrote an article in which I discussed the current state of the investigation taking place in Arlington, TX where a burglary suspect had been shot by the cops.  At the end of that article, I laid out what I clearly stated was my guess as to what might have occurred inside the dealership, out of the view of the surveillance video.

As much as I hate being wrong, I have to admit my educated guess was Entirely Incorrect.  What I surmised might have happened, was far from what actually occurred.

With that said, please take the time to watch this press conference given by Chief Will Johnson of the Arlington Police.  It is long, but it is absolutely worth the 28 minutes.  He discusses all the details that they can release at this point, and surprisingly they released quite a bit of information.  But he goes beyond that and describes how the case is examined on a number of levels, and he describes how both the reasonableness and legality of an officer involved shooting is measured.

For those of you reading this whom are not on the job; for those who enjoy analyzing and scrutinizing the actions of cops from the safety of your couch or desk, please pay special attention to Chief Johnson’s explanation of Graham v Connor (begins at 1:55 mark), which is the supreme court case that establishes the standard by which all deadly force uses by law enforcement are measured.  His explanation is outstanding!

The Facts That Were Revealed
During the press conference, Chief Johnson ran through the series of events.  I am going to summarize them here in bullet points, and am not including everything. Please watch the video for more details.

  • Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress
  • A total of 6 officers in 5 cars were sent
  • Officers saw a single suspect inside the building
  • One officer verbally engaged suspect through a closed, locked glass door
  • Same officer noted a large bulge in the suspect’s pants pocket (others also saw it as noted later)
  • The suspect showed the initial contact officer keys to a car and said he was going to steal it
  • The officer ordered the suspect to get on the ground, but the suspect refused to comply
  • Corporal Wiggins (training officer) and Officer Miller (trainee) began to pass the officer who was speaking to the suspect
  • Wiggins stopped to talk to officer who was engaging the suspect, but Miller continued to the open/broken doors
  • Miller entered the building by himself, with his gun drawn
  • Miller verbally engaged the suspect who fled to the rear of business and tried to break through a glass door
  • Miller, still solo, chased the suspect to the back and verbally engaged him again
  • Suspect again refused to comply and began to charge Miller
  • Wiggins entered the building attempted to catch up to his trainee
  • Wiggins got to within approximately 4′ of Miller and Wiggins drew his Taser
  • As the suspect charged Miller, Miller fired one shot but the suspect continued advancing
  • Wiggins fired his Taser but the suspect continued advancing
  • Miller firesd three more shots
  • Shots fired broadcast on radio, emergency medical requested
  • At no point did the suspect physically engage any of the officers

Investigation Results Thus Far
Chief Johnson was clear to point out at the onset of his press conference that there are two investigations that are going on simultaneously in any officer involved shooting.  There is an administrative investigation and a criminal investigation.  This is true no matter the jurisdiction, and the results of the two investigations are independent of one another.

  • Administrative Investigation – Officer Miller screwed up, badly, a number of times.  His screw ups ultimately lead to the confrontation that occurred.  His mistakes were both officer safety in nature as well as tactical errors.  Not only did his mistakes put both he and the suspect in danger, but they put all the other officers in danger too.  Officer Miller has been fired (released from his probationary employment) as a result of those grievous errors.
  • Criminal Investigation – Still proceeding.  Results will be given to the District Attorney and will then be presented to the Grand Jury to determine if charges will be filed.  If I were a betting man, based on the facts that were revealed in this press conference, I would put money that this case will be going to trial.

Stupid Media Questions, and Outright Bias
As is the case at nearly every law enforcement press conference for a high profile incident, especially those involving officers using deadly force, there were a number of stupid questions.  However, beyond that, there was a couple that really display a bias by the media.  I’m going to summarize a few of those below (not verbatim, unless in quotes).

  •  21:38 mark –  Did the first shot fired strike the suspect?
    • How on earth would we know that?  Bullets aren’t numbered.  We have no way of identifying which slug was from which casing and in what order they were fired.
  • 24:28 mark – Did Officer Miller explain why he continued to shoot after the Taser was deployed?
    • Chief Johnson handled this much better than I would have.  Does this guy think that this was some long, drawn out thing?  From the first shot until the last shot was only seconds.
  • 23:52 mark – Did Corporal Wiggins ever try to question Officer Miller, or intervene and ask him what he was doing?
    • OMG, seriously?  Is this person for realsies?
    • Let me see, my trainee has disappeared on me, where did he go?  Holy crap!  There he is, he went inside by himself and is engaging the suspect.  (runs to catch up) Trainee has suspect, who is now charging him, at gunpoint and suspect if failing to follow all verbal commands.  This is where we call “TIME OUT” – okay trainee, why are you doing what you are doing?
    • The utter lack of a grasp on reality displayed by some reporters is sometimes quite amazing
  • 24:21 mark – BIAS ALERT – Do you think the outcome of this investigation would have have been different two years ago?
    • In other words, did this outcome only happen because of all the scrutiny law enforcement is under right now?
    • Chief:  “No sir, I do not”
    • Let us just say even if he did, which none of us who know what really happens in these investigations would ever think, but even if he did think that, does this reporter think he would say it would have been different?  This is a BS, gotcha question asked so that they can say the “Chief denies investigation would have had different outcome without public outcry.”
  • 25:30 mark – BIAS ALERT – Does Corporal Wiggins face and punishment for “allowing” his trainee to be separated from him?
    • Chief: “Absolutely not”
    • Follow up question: “Why did he allow him to go in there by himself?”
    • When I heard this question, I actually yelled at my computer screen.  What an arrogant ass. The Chief explains it politely, I won’t.

Because, mister “reporter,” here on planet earth, grown adults have not only free will, but we also have limited abilities.  As a training officer at an in progress crime scene, like this was, he is not only trying to do his job as a training officer, but he is also doing his job as a cop, which involves not only trying to keep track of the suspect and his trainee, but also all the other officers at the scene.  Additionally, as a mere mortal human being, I highly suspect he was unable to freaking read the mind of his trainee and know what the trainee was planning on doing…

He and his trainee were supposed to be moving to the open area to establish a perimeter position, in order to contain the suspect.  When he stopped to talk  with the other officer (I can only presume to discuss their plan of action) , the trainee continued.  The trainee upon reaching their perimeter position, screwed up and took it upon himself to enter the building, solo, which goes against all officer safety and tactical training he would have received to that point.  Apparently, the training officer’s superpowers were not working, and his assuming the trainee, who was nearing the end of his field training, would have followed basic protocols is the same thing as “allowing” him to do something.

Training officers and trainees are all only human.  Sometimes humans make mistakes.  This question, in the way it is worded, blatantly tries to assign blame on the training officer, and thus the department.  This “reporter” should be forced to attend force on force and shoot/no-shoot training before being allowed to attend another law enforcement press conference.

  • 27:11 mark – Have you spoke to the former officer in person, and how was that interaction?
    • Chief Johnson: “Difficult”
    • Followed by a long pause, after which he goes into a little more depth after politely shushing a reporter who was trying to interrupt.

Summary
Based on all the facts known at this point, this appears to be a bad shoot.  The officer involved has had his probationary employment terminated.  The criminal investigation is still ongoing.  Once that criminal investigation is complete, the case will be given to the District Attorney who will present it to the Grand Jury.  They will determine whether or not the case goes to criminal trial.  As I said already, I suspect it will.

Thus far, everything about this investigation is functioning Exactly As It Should, and just like it does in every case, with or without the media breathing down law enforcement’s neck.

It really sucks that this young man was killed, just as it would have sucked even if it were a justifiable shooting.  I wish the death of a child upon no parent.  No parent should have to outlive their child.

But, while the shooting is horribly regrettable, one must not dismiss the suspect’s role in his own demise.

Two people made very bad mistakes that early morning.  One of those people who made mistakes instigated the entire event, and made it worse by making yet more mistakes along the way.  The other person was a man working a very tough job, trying to make his community a safer place, who was put on the spot and forced to make a split second decision, and he made several mistakes as well.

The question that now remains is, did that second man’s mistakes rise to the level of a criminal offense?  I suspect we will have to wait to see what a jury says about that.

As for how the Arlington, TX Police Department is handling this investigation, I have nothing but respect for them.  They are quickly handling a very difficult investigation under the public microscope.  Additionally, the sincerity and emotion in both Chief Johnson’s words and body language in this press conference tell it all.  This is a man who not only cares about his department and the employees, but also cares about his community.  He appears to me to be a man of honor and integrity.  Chief Johnson appears to be a man I would be proud to work for.

Media Attempting to Create Ferguson v2.0

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Some more information has been released in regards to the shooting in Arlington, TX that the media is trying to turn into the next Ferguson. The media’s intentions should be abundantly clear in looking at the title of this AP article, and then the second paragraph of the article.

The man, legally an adult, is continually referred to as a “teen.” He was “killed at a car dealership”, not while committing multiple felonies. The cop was an old white guy while the suspect, sorry, “victim” was a young, unarmed black teen.

Yup, no agenda, no slant…

Press Conference
The Chief of the Arlington Police, Will Johnson, gave a press conference yesterday. The department, very smartly so, recorded the whole thing and put it up on their YouTube page. The Chief makes some very good points during his presentation. I wonder how many of the “news” agencies edited his conference, for time of course, and inadvertently removed some of the noteworthy points he made?

Here is the full video:

Surveillance Video
Next, the security surveillance video in full has been released. It shows everything from the moment the suspect arrives at the dealership until the cops arrive. The video covers the time frame of the shooting, but the shooting itself is not shown.

In the video, the suspect can be clearly seen committing multiple felonies. But beyond that, his behavior is bizarre. He appears to be high on something.

He can clearly be seen peeling open the broken windshield of a car with his bare hands. He then slides through the opening wearing nothing more than shorts and a t-shirt. Anyone who has even been in a car accident where a windshield was broken can attest to how windshield safety glass breaks leaving thousands of glass slivers. The suspect seems to be totally impervious to the pain caused by the glass slivers as he both peels open the windshield and then slides through it.

Here is the “full” surveillance video. I will say this in regards to the fullness: it is NOT the full video. There is no way to include all the camera angles into a single video, and the actual shooting is also not captured, so it is clearly a compilation video. Also, please note the title of the video… no agenda…

That said, here it is:

My Educated Guess
Now that I have had a chance to listen to the information the Chief of Police put out, and now that I have watched the “full” surveillance video, I have some information on which to base a semi-educated guess on what occurred.  I must stress, this is ONLY A GUESS.

Based on the suspect’s behavior in the surveillance video, I am going to go out on a limb and say he was high, and likely on some sort of drug that involves pain relief or elimination.

Knowing that only two officers entered the building to apprehend the suspect, who is high and not feeling pain, I suspect they were unable to overpower him, which is why a Taser was deployed.  The Taser, as is often the case when used on people high on drugs that eliminate pain, proved useless.

The two officers, one being the officer who shot, is 49 years old, and from his photos, notably not a triathlete (not intended as an insult, I’m no triathlete either),  and the other is a 19 year veteran (likely putting him in his 40’s as well).   The suspect, is 19 years old, and a college football defensive back.  I’m betting I am pretty safe in assuming that he, the suspect, was in far superior physical shape than either of the cops.  Couple that with his being high and not feeling pain, I suspect the officers were quickly on the losing end of that physical confrontation.

Going even further into educated guess territory, most car dealerships I have been in over the years have brochure racks near all the exits.  Additionally, there are chairs and all sorts of other items in a dealership showroom that can be used as weapons.  It is quite possible the suspect may have grabbed something to use as a weapon, and with the Taser having no effect, the next step up is the handgun.

Now, I realize all of that is nothing but my guess.  But that said, my guesses in the past (*cough, Ferguson, cough*) have proven far more accurate than all of the early media reports.  Take what I am saying with a grain of salt, but please do the same with the bullshit the media is spreading.

My only motivation here is the truth, what is the media’s motivation?