Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are Game Wardens More Intelligent and Responsible than Police Officers?

Why do game wardens appear to be so much more intelligent and caring than police officers? When game wardens become aware that a bear or a large alligator is walking through the middle of a small rural town, they engage in all sorts of careful and artful maneuvering to convince the animal to go back into the woods or swamp, or to get him into the back of a truck so that he can be let loose in the wild. If necessary, they shoot the bears and moose with a tranquilizer dart.

Police, on the other hand, have an entirely different ethic: all force, all the time. Rather than understand, as game wardens do, that the animal is just going about his business as he sees it, or hunting, because that's what animals do, police see all but the most submissive human behavior as a direct threat to their authority, which in most officer's minds seems to be absolute. Even to the extent of attempted murder, or electrocuting and executing human beings on the street, without the benefit of trial, police seem to believe that they can do as they please, with virtually boundless impunity.

In Oakland this week a police officer concluded that the best way to handle a shouting bipolar patient was to throw the patient, and the officer himself, through a plate glass window. Congratulations, officer! You have just proved once again, that those professionals who corral thousand-pound bears and alligators -- at least the ones who get the most publicity -- are considerably more intelligent and reasonable than those who corral surly human beings.

Another BART police officer is on YouTube and it has triggered more controversy about the BART police force. Once again, use of force is the issue.

A video of the arrest of a BART passenger over the weekend shows the officer and suspect both crash into a plate glass window at the West Oakland station, shattering it on impact.

BART is once again defending itself.

BART is expected to hold a news conference some time Monday evening. The agency is also trying to track down witnesses so they can be interviewed on what happened at the West Oakland station platform that evening.

The officer involved in this case is very new to the BART police force. He just transferred there six months ago from the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department.

Attorney John Burris is calling the officer's arrest of a mentally-ill man "excessive force." He has already got a $50 million wrongful death suit against BART for the New Year's Day shooting death of an unarmed passenger. Now, he plans to sue again for this case.

"You would have thought that this officer would have learned from the Oscar Grant case that you don't immediately rush in," Burris told ABC7. "You try to calm the situation down."

Maybe game warden are not aroused by the brown or black color of bears to hate, fear and attempt to murder them.

4 comments: said...

That's an extremely insightful comparison.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I think the big difference is that police officers assume the people they are dealing with are intelligent and aware of the legal and cultural norms of the society they live in. Therefore, when they are confronted by people who aren't following the norms and rules, they assume it's because it's an intentional and confrontational situation.

The game warden, by comparison, would be loony to assume a bear or other animal knows the rules or even cares about the rules. Therefore a game warden assumes the animal is not intentionally being confrontational.

A lot of the recent posts deal with people who are not able to understand and follow the rules of society--the mentally handicapped, for example--like the bear. The inability for police to diagnose these problems or the lack of effective communication from--say--the mentally deficient person's caregivers to indicate the mentally deficient person lacks the suitable ability to normally function in society creates the situation where the cop is presented with the game warden's problem without even knowing it.

Then the mentally deficient person acts in what the cop sees as an irrational, confrontive manner and tases/shoots/nightsticks them.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

I think the last comment is very much on point. Police assume that everyone must be rational, even after having been told by family members that the person they are dealing with has emotional problems.

Wild animals are expected to be "wild," but a human having a diabetic seizure, or in the grips of suicidal attack, is expected to act like a normal human, even when that's impossible.

And police assume that all refusals or failures to follow police commands are intentional or recklessly silly challenges to police authority.

I don't believe that more training will help, because I believe that the people who want to help others with mental problems are going into social work and psychiatry. The people who want to enforce "order" at any cost are joining the police forces.

When someone shows psychiatric trouble, it's much easier for the police to beat or electrically shock them than it is to process the paperwork for, and find a placement for, someone with psychiatric problems.

This is why police ignored Esteban Carpio when his mother told police that Mr. Carpio was mentally unstable. The police feel terrible about the loss of a fellow officer, but they want to and have legally put the blame on Esteban Carpio. Police showed a terrible lack of understanding of mental illness when they took Mr. Carpio into a room, interviewed him for hours, and left him there with ONE police officer who had a loaded gun.

Police and the public will be safer when police realize that mental illness is actually quite common (all cities and towns have some of it) and everyone is safer when mentally ill people are treated with the extra care that is required.