How To Quickly End Police Brutality In America

Forget body camera footage (easily concealed). Forget online petitions (easily ignored). Forget donating money to some random organization (easily wasted).

There is a painfully simple, scientifically proven way to end police brutality, and it requires almost nothing from you.

If everyone who tweets or writes stories about police brutality did this one thing, I would not be surprised if police brutality would be over within about a year.

This miraculous thing is called gratitude. Specifically, gratitude that is publicly expressed. I’m not bullshitting, this is borne out by well accepted peer-reviewed science.

If everyone tweeting about police brutality took the time to seek out and find those currently under-recognized and ignored police officers who risked their livelihood to speak out against or physically stop police brutality, and then thanked them publicly with the same or greater fervor and frequency as they do for condemning bad cops, police brutality would be a thing of the past.

Science. It Works.

How do I know that this is true?

Because it is demonstrated consistently by a variety of behavioral studies.

Gravitation Toward Social Norms

In Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment (PDF), Robert Cialdini showed that messages emphasizing how “many people are doing bad thing X” backfire on themselves by reinforcing the unwanted behavior:

Abstract

There is an understandable, but misguided, tendency to try to mobilize action against a problem by depicting it as regrettably frequent. Information campaigns emphasize that alcohol and drug use is intolerably high, that adolescent suicide rates are alarming, and—most relevant to this article—that rampant polluters are spoiling the environment. Although these claims may be both true and well intentioned, the campaigns’ creators have missed something critically important: Within the statement “Many people are doing this undesirable thing” lurks the powerful and undercutting normative message “Many people are doing this.” Only by aligning descriptive norms (what people typically do) with injunctive norms (what people typically approve or disapprove) can one optimize the power of normative appeals. Communicators who fail to recognize the distinction between these two types of norms imperil their persuasive efforts.

A study on the effects of normative messages on modifying household energy use (PDF) found the same results.

In other words, by focusing exclusively on bad cops and re-sharing story after story about police brutality, you are broadcasting to the world: “It’s normal for cops to do this.” Since people gravitate toward what is considered normal behavior, that’s probably not the message you wanted to send.

The point is: it doesn’t matter if it actually is normal behavior, it needs to stop. By repeatedly emphasizing and focusing on how normal brutality is, we are keeping it alive.

Behavioral Confirmation

Behavioral confirmation is a classic human behavioral phenomenon that all first year psychology students learn about. It is a type of confirmation bias or self-fulfilling prophesy.

In study after study it is shown that when you approach someone or some situation with pre-conceived behavioral expectations, and then allow your actions to be based upon those expectations, you then risk causing the expected behavior.

This should be plain old common sense. Imagine suddenly treating a random co-worker as though they were always up to no good. You might start treating them coldly with suspicion, and they in turn would react to your treatment of them negatively. Witnessing their negative behavior confirms what you “already knew” about them. This works well enough on random individuals, but introduce stereotypes and suddenly multiple psychological effects are at play across large groups of people, ensuring that the pattern repeats.

Similarly, consider the overall public story that’s currently playing out and its effect on new police recruits. If the “common knowledge” of the day is that police are brutal “pigs”, then what sort of people do you think will be gravitating to work as a police officer? Even if you had a natural inclination toward the field, wouldn’t you reconsider if it involved working with such people? Is it a surprise that “Police Face Severe Shortage of Recruits”? What then can be said of those who, knowing full well the sort of “normal” behavior to expect, still decide to join the force?

Positive Reinforcement

Praise, or positive reinforcement, is a time and battle-tested mechanism for encouraging and fostering desirable behaviors, and its influence can extend beyond its direct target. It is known, for example, that praising someone for good behavior influences and affects the behavior of their peers.

For best results, praise should be delivered as close as possible to the occurrence of the behavior that you want to reinforce.

Back To Gratitude

Speaking out against police brutality is easy for everyone—except police.

For some of the police officers that do speak out or try to prevent police brutality, consequences can include job loss or worse. But this no longer has to be the case if we acknowledge and publicly thank those who were brave enough to do it anyway.

Police need your help. It is up to us to help normalize good cop behavior.

It is not enough to merely expose bad behavior. If we slack off in expressing our gratitude for good behavior, we start to become part of the problem ourselves because the message becomes, “This is normal. We expect this behavior of you, and good cops aren’t even worth a ‘thank you’.”

I don’t think that’s the message we intended to send. Fortunately, by remembering and thanking those in uniform who courageously stand up to brutality, we can truly end police brutality for good.

So The Next Time You See Police Brutality Trending…

  1. Stop. Do not add to the existing cacophony by re-sharing it.
  2. Find at least one story or video about a police officer who took a stand against police brutality.
  3. Thank them publicly by name and share their story instead (with all the fervor that you’d otherwise reserve for denouncing the bad cop).

Your tweets and shares have an impact as well as consequences, so use that power wisely.

No Time Like The Present

Sometimes, all it really takes to change the world for the better is a simple ‘thank you.’

Don’t wait for the next brutal incident.

You can take real, meaningful action right now.1

Thanks to Andrea Devers for proof reading and research assistance.

  1. Consider using an appropriate hashtag like #HeroCops or #CopsAgainstBrutality.

17 thoughts on “How To Quickly End Police Brutality In America

  1. This is a beautiful and uplifting suggestion. For every officer whose lapse of judgement (or worse) brings about tragedy, a vastly — vastly — larger number are really putting themselves on the line each day, with skill, courage, and compassion, for all of us.

    Though my personal encounters with police service are far between, I’m inspired to share them widely when they occur.

  2. Unfortunately, the only cops that have proven themselves good, like Chris Dorner, aren’t in a position to do good anymore, if they are even still alive. We basically only find proof of a good cop after their death at the hands of other cops.

    As long as the thin blue line exists, calling a cop a ‘good guy’ is highly suspect at best and flat out lying at worst.

    • I see based on the URL you submitted that you are from CopBlock (or are a fan of theirs).

      Regarding:

      We basically only find proof of a good cop after their death at the hands of other cops.

      That effectively reads: “the only good cop is a dead cop.”

      I am very sorry that you feel that way. I would imagine that to make such a statement you must have experienced serious trauma at the hands of a cop (or know someone that did).

      As terrible as that is, saying that there are no good cops is clearly untrue, and I would imagine it would be a very upsetting comment to folks like Billy Ray Fields, Cariol Horne, Regina Tasca, De Lacy Davis, the entire LEAP crew, and all the other police out there who risk their lives or their livelihoods doing the right thing.

      Such comments also do nothing to help end police brutality. If anything, they can act as a roadblock to addressing the problem.

      Consider estimating the amount of time you’ve spent pouring over videos or stories of police brutality. Then spend at least that same amount of time reading about the other cops out there that you’re ignoring. Here is a link to a subreddit full of them: https://www.reddit.com/r/goodcops

      Rigid and cartoonish ideas of what the word “cop” represents is a trap that results in “Us vs. Them” thinking (defined nicely here and explored in greater detail here).

  3. Beautifully written, but not real world. No matter how much praise they receive, cops who speak out against police brutality – cops who ” snitch” against their brethren, have crossed The Thin Blue Line. Their career is done. Their is no stronger fraternity than The Thin Blue Line. Cross it and you are no longer trusted. No one will partner with a cop who is not trusted. A cop in a major city, one with whom no one will partner, is a dead man. He’s doomed to desk duty as a pariah.
    My father was a cop in Baltimore for 22 years, a dozen in homicide dept. I understand the why behind The Thin Blue Line – it keeps them alive. It requires 100% buy-in. Everyone in blue must have the back of everyone else in blue at all times and circumstances, without exception. Anyone who violates that is ostracized completely and pretty much forever – can’t be trusted. No amount of public praise will repair that.
    Don’t take my word about The Thin Blue Line.
    Ask Frank Serpico

  4. Status quo doesn’t want it. Structure must be maintained at all cost. Come back to your article in 20 years and you’ll find nothing has really changed for the better.

  5. It is hilarious to read what people who have never been a LEO think cops do or how they function as a social unit. It pretty much works the same as a family in that you pretty much all agree to not let each other die even though you may think that a few of your
    Coworkers are assholes in general. Everyone knows who the assholes are and nobody really wants to work with them, but you’re respectful to one another if you have to respond to a call together. Those individuals probably make up less than 5% of the department. Everyone is there to get through their 12 hour shift and make it home in the wee hours of the morning to take care of their kids, clean their houses and whatever mundane ordinary other things a normal person needs to do every day. There is no big conspiracy to go out and beat people up or kill people. The biggest priority is wondering if you’re actually going to get a chance to eat in the next 12 hours so that you can stay awake all night and hopefully not have a migraine in the first 2 hours of a really long shift. Quite frankly we don’t want to have to go into people’s nasty homes.. It sucks to spend 30 mins inside someone’s home to then find out that the whole family has TB or some other highly contagious disease with no cure. Even more fun when you have small children at home. I don’t enjoy riding with a person who hasn’t showered in a month in my car.. I don’t want to reach in his pocket and I certainly would rather not have to wrestle him in any way, but I don’t mind giving him food or money for the bus. Anyway, this may be a big shock to some, but police are actually PEOPLE. They are not brain washed or some kind of robots. Their responses are pretty much always defensive even though of course the tax payers demand more proactive work for the money they’re paying. Someone has to do this disgusting job and believe me, it’s not for everybody.

  6. Gratitude seriously? For violence and gross abuses of power? For a conviction rate of less than 4% of crimes that are actually captured on camera.

    I will believe in the “good cop” myth when I start seeing as many videos of “good cops” stopping other cops from abusing their authority rather than participating in or turning a blind eye to it.

    I will entertain this “good cop” myth when they are held to the same standard of accountability as anyone else.

    Until then, I will use the same strategy of profiling and group them all together as dangerous, ultraviolent, heavily armed, low IQ thugs with special privileges that exempt them from the most basic accountability.

    But gratitude? Their job is statistically less dangerous than a truck driver. I can’t even offer them respect as grown men until they start acting like decent human beings again rather than heavily armed cowards.

    • Gratitude seriously?

      Yes seriously.

      For violence and gross abuses of power?

      For the stuff that’s mentioned in the post. Troll one more time on my blog and you will be banned for life.

  7. Greg you’re a little pussy bitch. I’m not trolling I’m stating my opinion which is shared widely throughout the US and infact the entire globe if you care to pull your head out of your assistance. You’re obviously so comfortable in this self-imposed ignorance that you can’t handle that other people could see things differently.
    I can’t wait for the day your rights are violated by these thugs in blue, be sure to tell your cellmate how much you love sucking pig dick and see how much respect you earn. The exact amount of respect you deserve.

    Fuck your stupid bitch ass if you think threatening me with a ban from pathetic, poorly written blog you arrogant fucking bitch cunt. Ban me pussy and make my point, no one should be subjected to your cop cock sucking dumbass propaganda.

    • Dear random angry internet person,

      Thanks for making it clear to me that you weren’t trolling (at least in this comment), but are just a confused person whose reading comprehension ability is impaired by ignorance and anger.

      I don’t have the time or interest to be a therapist to angry confused people such as yourself. However, so long as you don’t spam my blog and don’t give me reason to suspect that you’re trolling, I’m happy to host your nonsense.

      I hope you get better (find Jesus and all that), because I don’t think your current approach is going to accomplish much of anything except make people either laugh or not pay attention to you.

      Misunderstandings are an unfortunate thing. Maybe go on a vacation, relax, and re-read the post on a fresh head. Maybe it’ll start to make sense, or not, but either way thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!

  8. Greg,(The pork ball findeler)
    I’m going to go ahead and help you with your traffic by putting your pussy propaganda blog on blast.
    I got screenshot of your bitch ass threats against people who don’t like taking it up the ass from pigs like you do.
    Hope you’re ready to be flooded with a whole new demographic you ignorant fuckboy.

  9. ” . . . this is bared out by well accepted peer-reviewed science.”

    “Thanks to Andrea Devers for proof reading and research assistance.”

    Well, author and proof reader, it’s back to basics!! The word “bare” is only ever an adjective (bare skin, bare bones, etc. — it means no clothing or covering) and, as an adjective, it cannot be made into a “past tense” by adding a d — it is not a verb!

    The word/phrase you are looking for is “this is borne out” — borne being a past participle of “to bear”. This is not the noun bear, this is the verb bear, as in “the facts bear out my point” or ” this bears repeating”, etc.

    You got tripped up by the homophones bear and bare.

    My understanding of the grammar involved is borne out by Mirriam Webster’s online dictionary app.

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