Monthly Archives: March 2015

Proper Perception and Appropriate Intervention: Both In and Out of Uniform

Mehran Banaei

Law enforcement officers around the world are required to successfully complete an intense use of force training. The objectives of the training are to enable officers to optimally react in real life situations, where an officer ought to physically control, disarm, or arrest a hostile aggressor, or a high risk assaultive criminal. The intent of the course is to be able to diligently keep the assailant restrained in compliance with the law, keep the public safe until backup arrives. Henceforth, the subject is safely transported to a secure environment. The training is not intended to make tough sharp shooters, but rather make law enforcement officers safe, more perceptive, reactive and proactive. The mechanism by which an officer can successfully achieve the intended goal is to develop the ability to identify the threat cues, read body language, always expect the unexpected, make sound risk assessment, and in time, respond appropriately to what suddenly unfolds.


The accurate recognition of signs, body language and threat cues can indeed distinguish a dangerous hostile subject from a cooperative subject. In so doing, one’s mind has to be always 100% alert. Officers cannot afford daydreaming on the job, or be impaired. One wrong move could be unforgiving. The failure to be vigilant could be lethal to the officer, his/her partner(s), innocent bystanders or the subject.

Officers are provided with essential tools required for the task: a pair of handcuffs, defensive baton, OC spray, handgun and a communication device for which they are duly accountable for to use, or not to use. Prior to completion of the training, officers are given scenarios where they enter into a hypothetical situation, ought to successfully assess the situation and demonstrate their acquired skills. To pass they must be able to accurately absorb all the threat cues, assess the risks involved and appropriately intervene to the given dynamic situation at hand. Pass or fail depends on the decision made by the officer. The decision made has to be effective, having implemented a balanced use of force. Lastly, they ought to be able to rationally articulate the rationale behind their decision, and the subsequent intervention made. Once on the job, the same requirements go for each real situation that the officer is deployed to, the articulation will be made to either a supervisor, or in a judicial tribunal.

Undoubtedly, the most crucial part of the training is the recognition of the signs and act accordingly. In the above clip, the dispatched officer to the scene made an initial poor risk assessment by entering into subject’s house without his partner. Furthermore, he failed to recognize that subject’s right hand in his pocket could mean that he is holding a weapon. Tragically, such a mistake costed him his life.

The hypothetical scenarios and real life situations are indeed miniature models of reality of our existence on this planet. In a lifetime of dancing on earth, every observer is like an officer, witnessing countless signs and indicators, where each sign would indubitably display a message. At our disposal, we are equipped with the necessary tools, such as our senses to collect information, and a complex brain to process the collected data for intervention. We have learned that universe did not exist 13.7 billion years ago, prior to the Big Bang, that suddenly, matter, energy, time and space were brought into existence from oblivious non-existence. What would this fact alone indicate? According to Roger Penrose, the odds against such an occurrence by accident were on the order of 10 to the power of 10 to the 123 to 1. This means 1 followed by 10 to 123 zeros. After the Big Bang, if the rate of the expansion of the universe were as different as 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, life on earth would not have evolved the way it is. What would this cue lead us to conclude? When we study the enormous complexity of the DNA Double Helix structure, we learn that each human DNA molecule is comprised of chemical bases arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences without which life would not be possible. What would this fact alone dictate?


Amazing fractal pattern of Romanesco broccoli, rich in vitamins and dietary fiber: Is this a sign of chance creation or intelligent design?

All signs indicate that the universe is remarkably created to host life, not just a life, but a life to be probed and enjoyed. Life is to be enjoyed whether one is having a meal, hearing symphonies played by birds and insects, seeing marvelous colours combination displayed in nature, in the starry night, smell of a rose, holding a loved one in one’s arms; all have a profound message to each participant. The ubiquitous message is that the universe is caused intelligently and is pursuing an intention. Indeed, what all these decisive cues that we process during our lifetime are telling us? Having observed such signs, what is the proper intervention to take? How is it possible for one to miss all these indicators one after another, and yet articulate one’s decision for no intervention?

An officer thinking like Richard Dawkins would be dead on his first day of the job if he assumes that a confronted assailant with a knife in his hand is only an illusion of a dangerous assailant. And the knife is not a real knife, but has only the appearance of a knife designed to kill. The assailant’s attacking posture and verbal assaults are only an illusion of hostility. In his articulation, a Dawkinsist would like to assert that now, when science can explain how the knife is manufactured and got in there, we would then need not to worry about its implications.

Officer Peter Atkins would assume that only a man with a lazy mind would interpret that an assailant charging at one with an aimed knife is an indication of hostility. According to him there are no compelling cues worthy of consideration for intervention.

Officer Sigmund Freud would interpret a pointed knife as wishful thinking, man’s oldest desire for emotional comfort. The appropriate course of action according to him would be an inhibited sexual freedom from childhood.

Officer Karl Marx would interpret a pointed knife as opium of the mind, his intervention would be creation of a classless society governed by social justice loving working class.

Officer David Hume would state, in his articulation, spout that a career criminal with extensive criminal convictions of armed robbery entering a bank with a shotgun, face mask and a getaway car parked in front of the bank does not necessarily entail that a bank robbery is in process. Hume’s intervention according to his philosophy, is to walk away from the crime scene as we are only psychologically conditioned to expect a felony that the armed man will run out of the bank with bags of cash in his hands.

Like Hume, Officer Stephen Fry walks away from the crime scene with no intervention made. Fry articulates that he sees no threat cues because there are children on hospital beds suffering from cancer.

On the other hand, there are others who would go to the opposite extreme and wrongfully interpret circumstantial cues often displayed inadvertently as a sign of hostility and react inappropriately with excessive use of force. For example, Abubakr Al-Baghdadi of the so-called ISIS may pull out his machine gun and shoot several times at a passive resisting social activist with no criminal history or intent, giving a horrible name to the agency that he claims to represent. Like Dawkins, Al-Baghdadi is guilty of misreading the cues. Other extremists like Benjamin Netanyahu would deliberately bomb a country and annihilate an entire defenseless population for a non-existing threat. In his articulation, Netanyahu proudly asserts that his actions are only result of self-defense.

Do we have a ground to stand on for any wrong intervention or rather total lack of it? In a universe engulfed with zillions improbable order and harmony, can we articulate that it is self-created, accidental or purposeless? What happens if at the end of life’s journey, we do have to articulate our decisions made to the Entity that caused the universe, be that Natural Selection or what have you. Indeed, it will be too late to make an optimal reaction to the omnipresent cues of the cosmos when the scenario is over.

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Filed under Philosophy of Science and Religion