Police Kill Teenage Boy: Negligence or Necessary? 1

 By Chris Simmons

 

On May 24th, a Purcellville [Virginia] police officer shot and killed Christian Sierra – a depressed High School student they had been summoned to help.

The 17-year old was at a neighbor’s house when he began threatening suicide. He subsequently cut himself and the police were called. Armed with a knife as he stood alone in the street, Sierra lunged at the first police officer to arrive. The officer responded by shooting and killing the boy.

Why wasn’t non-lethal force used? The police have several non-lethal tools available for use – the old-school nightstick, an ASP – a solid steel expandable baton ranging in length from 16-26 inches, tasers, pepper spray, and so forth.

In my opinion, in this encounter, the police officer CANNOT claim self-defense. The officer knew Christian Sierra was armed with a knife before exiting the safety of the police cruiser. Given the array of non-lethal weapons readily available for use, the troubled teen could have been quickly and safely subdued.

It is important to understand that by drawing his/her weapon, the officer actually raised the probability of a fatal encounter. Psychologically, aiming a gun at a knife-wielding individual often prompts the person’s “Freeze, Fight, Flight” response to favor the Fight option. In general, the escalation spiral will have already rendered the Freeze/surrender option highly unlikely. Flight is not an option as many individuals believe a police office will shoot them even if they turn and run. Thus, to survive, a person may feel they must attack.

In a gun vs. knife scenario, the psychological dynamic can be very deceptive. A knife-wielding individual might envision four possible outcomes:  the police officer could freeze and not fire, the officer might miss, the individual could be wounded, or he/she could be killed. Fueled by adrenaline, it becomes easy for an emotional individual – or in this case, a troubled teenager, to misjudge the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Contrast that thinking against the very accurate psychological response when non-lethal force is clearly going to be used. Witnessing an officer extend a two-foot long ASP, a knife-wielding individual will likely conclude that the officer will disarm them by using the metal baton to break their hand, wrist or arm. The use of a non-lethal option is, in effect, a proportional response favoring the police as it capitalizes on the weapon’s extended range and the frailty of human bones.

Even a distraught person generally understands that a police officer will not be afraid to use their baton, nor is it likely he/she will miss. As such, the individual will commonly concludes one of three outcomes are likely: surrender immediately to avoid excruciating pain, undergo bone-breaking injuries, or risk sustaining a fatal blow to the head or a vital organ. In this situation, it’s hard to misjudge the likely outcome. More importantly, even if the individual does err in judgment, their forthcoming wounds would rarely be life-threatening.

I believe the death of Christian Sierra was probably both preventable and unnecessary. I experienced many tense situations during 24 months in war zones around the world, so I empathize with the stress under which the police operate. That said, the soldiers with whom I so proudly served never killed anyone when the means and opportunity to capture/subdue them existed. Citizens should expect the same standards from their police.

Why Psychopaths Are More Successful Reply

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr Hannibal Lecter in the NBC TV series Hannibal  (Photo: NBC)

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr Hannibal Lecter in the NBC TV series Hannibal (Photo: NBC)

Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton reveal how acting like psychopaths could help us in work, life and love

By Theo Merz, The Telegraph

Behaving like a psychopath could help you in your career and love life. It’s counterintuitive – who, after all, would hire Hannibal Lecter or want to date Norman Bates – but that’s the idea behind The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, part popular science book, part self-help guide from Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton.

“I wanted to debunk the myth that all psychopaths are bad,” says Dutton, who has explored this subject before. “I’d done research with the special forces, with surgeons, with top hedge fund managers and barristers. Almost all of them had psychopathic traits, but they’d harnessed them in ways to make them better at what they do.”

It was through this research that he met retired SAS sergeant and bestselling author McNab, who in tests exhibited many of these psychopathic traits, including ruthlessness, fearlessness, impulsivity, reduced empathy, developed self-confidence and lack of remorse.

“There’s no one thing that makes a psychopath,” Dutton explains. “You want to think of those traits being like the dials on a studio mixing desk, that you can turn up and down in different situations – if they’re all turned up to maximum, then you’re a dysfunctional psychopath.

“Being a psychopath isn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, like height and weight.”

As one dysfunctional psychopath – who was serving a life sentence for multiple murders – put it to Dutton: “It’s not that we’re bad, it’s that we’ve got too much of a good thing.”

How, then, can you act more like a psychopath in your everyday life?

IN BUSINESS

Focus

“If I’m in a hostage situation I’d rather have a psychopath coming through the door than anyone else because I know he’s going to be completely focussed on the job in hand,” says McNab.

The ability psychopaths have to turn down their empathy and block out other concerns make them the best operators in high-pressure environments, he says. “If I was on trial, I’d want a psychopath [to represent me] too. I want someone who’d be able to rip people apart in the witness box, go back to their family and not think anything more about it, because it’s just a job for them.”

Fearlessness

The lack of fear which characterises psychopaths could also help people in the work place, says Dutton, who asks of the book’s readers: “What would I do in this situation if I wasn’t afraid?” (It matches, almost word for word, a sign which greets visitors to Facebook’s California HQ, “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” though Dutton insists this is coincidental.)

“If it’s asking for a raise or picking up the phone to call someone you wouldn’t otherwise, functioning psychopaths have a natural advantage in that they can turn this fear down.”

Lack of empathy

But it’s important, McNab says, not to turn down the ‘empathy dial’ completely when doing business. “You don’t want to be a Gordon Gekko character, screwing people over all the time. They get hurt once but you get hurt forever because they’ll never trust you again. That’s the difference between a good and a bad psychopath: knowing when to turn that up and when to kill it.”

Feature continues here:  High-Functioning Psychopaths

The Fascinating Influence of Clothing on Your Behavior and Performance Reply

Mind Games: Sometimes a White Coat Isn’t Just a White Coat

By Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times

If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.

So scientists report after studying a phenomenon they call enclothed cognition: the effects of clothing on cognitive processes.

It is not enough to see a doctor’s coat hanging in your doorway, said Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who led the study. The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — that physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention.

The findings, on the Web site of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are a twist on a growing scientific field called embodied cognition. We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.

“I love the idea of trying to figure out why, when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and how that might affect our basic abilities,” said Joshua I. Davis, an assistant professor of psychology at BarnardCollege and expert on embodied cognition who was not involved with the study. This study does not fully explain how this comes about, he said, but it does suggest that it will be worth exploring various ideas.

There is a huge body of work on embodied cognition, Dr. Galinsky said. The experience of washing your hands is associated with moral purity and ethical judgments. People rate others personally warmer if they hold a hot drink in their hand, and colder if they hold an iced drink. If you carry a heavy clipboard, you will feel more important.

It has long been known that “clothing affects how other people perceive us as well as how we think about ourselves,” Dr. Galinsky said. Other experiments have shown that women who dress in a masculine fashion during a job interview are more likely to be hired, and a teaching assistant who wears formal clothes is perceived as more intelligent than one who dresses more casually.

But the deeper question, the researchers said, is whether the clothing you wear affects your psychological processes. Does your outfit alter how you approach and interact with the world? So Dr. Galinsky and his colleague Hajo Adam conducted three experiments in which the clothes did not vary but their symbolic meaning was manipulated.

Article continues here: Sometimes a White Coat Isn’t Just a White Coat

The Skill of Self Confidence Reply

As the Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, Dr. Ivan Joseph is often asked what skills he is searching for as a recruiter: is it speed? Strength? Agility? In Dr. Joseph’s TEDx Talk, he explores self-confidence and how it is not just the most important skill in athletics, but in our lives.

Using Stories to Persuade Reply

By Chris Simmons

Storytelling influences another’s feelings or emotions by allowing a person to identify with a character in a similar situation. Even if the narrative is exaggerated or abstract, the listener understands that he/she is not the first person to have undergone a particular scenario. The storyline reassures him/her that the stress, anxiety, doubt, and other feelings they are experiencing are not unique – others in their situation have felt the same emotions. The teaching point is that others have shared the individual’s dilemma and undertaken a specific action(s) with demonstrable results. By using a story to deliver this lesson, the core truth is more easily remembered because of the listener’s emotional involvement.

In sum, a storyline is a highly effective communicative tool to gently guide the behavior of others. In addition to their inspirational role, stories can fulfill a very practical function – that is, to help get the truth from someone suspected of wrongful behavior. In this setting, the use of a parable can allow the guilty party to admit to an act and save face at the same time. However, the listener’s fear of a bad outcome requires the storyteller to have established solid rapport for the “confessional story” appeal to have any chance of success.

Violence Against Women — It’s a Men’s Issue 2

Jackson Katz, Phd, is an anti-sexist activist and expert on violence, media and masculinities. An author, filmmaker, educator and social theorist, Katz has worked in gender violence prevention work with diverse groups of men and boys in sports culture and the military, and has pioneered work in critical media literacy. Katz is the creator and co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, which advocates the ‘bystander approach’ to sexual and domestic violence prevention.

Dr. Jeni Cross on “Three Myths of Behavior Change – What You Think You Know That You Don’t” Reply

Jeni Cross is a sociology professor at Colorado State University (CSU). She has spoken about community development and sustainability to audiences across the country, from business leaders and government officials to community activists. As a professor and consultant she has helped dozens of schools and government agencies implement and evaluate successful programs to improve community well-being. In this talk, she discusses her work around changing behaviors.

Communication as “Theater of the Mind” Reply

By Chris Simmons

In April 2004, the disgraceful abuse of detainees by a small number of US military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison made international headlines. Just weeks later, I arrived in Iraq to lead the interrogation operations of a Special Mission Unit. The timing could not be worse. The Abu Ghraib fiasco lead to the Pentagon’s long-term and exhaustive scrutiny of the interrogation operations of every US unit. Over the next year, our detainee screening center was subjected to 17 separate inspections.

My element received additional attention because our success rate far exceeded anyone else in country. Time and time again, I explained to our inspectors the simple differences that made us so unique. The most important distinction was that I had complete hiring and firing authority over every augmentee sent to us for potential assignment. Newly arrived candidates underwent a series of highly invasive interviews. The grueling process screened out innumerable aspirants, to include almost half of all interrogators sent to us.

A few other key distinctions made us special. Two of those – which all my personnel understood – were that:

1). ALL communication is theatre, and

2). Every interrogation occurred exclusively in the mind.

I illustrated my point to the inspectors by telling them that every personal interaction they had ever experienced – and would ever experience — was a distinct performance.

I told them to think of the best movie or theater show they’d ever seen. I then told them to strip away the setting, the costumes, the sound effects, the lighting, the acting – everything, until all they had left was the dialogue. I asked them to imagine those words recited by a robotic voice with no change in speed, inflection, pitch, tone, or volume. In doing so, they learned that in removing all of those multi-sensory facets of the communicative production, they’d removed the ability for the message sender to emotionally connect with the recipient. Without the emotional core, they’d also lost all impact and retention.

We were able to glean intelligence from almost everyone we interrogated. Our success was based, in large measure, on a keen understanding of both the nuances of communication and basic human nature. Arguably, these skill sets are every bit as important to you in your daily life as it was to us on the battlefields of Iraq. After all, everything one achieves evolves solely from their ability to communicate.

 

How to Motivate People to do What YOU Want 4

By Chris Simmons

As the Collections Chief for NATO’s intelligence battalion, I ran the alliance’s “Human Intelligence” efforts, gathering information from people throughout Bosnia and Croatia. It was a target-rich environment and on a daily basis, we received information on local obstruction of the Dayton Peace Accords, refugee issues, war criminals, and terrorists.

“Bosnia” actually consisted of three distinct governments: a weak state-level institution (i.e., Bosnia) with two highly autonomous parts, the Croat-Bosniak Federation and the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS). Each entity had its own government, parliament and presidency. The redundancies were mind-numbing and hardliners made a game of finding new and creative ways to subvert the 1995 peace treaty which ended the three and a half-year war.

In one area, the local power company was led by Bosnian-Croat militants. These hardliners decided to upgrade the power to their faction’s neighborhoods and install power grids into newly-established Croat communities. Not surprisingly, this action was undertaken to the detriment of the local Serb and Bosniak enclaves.

Clearly, the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) had to respond or risk having hardliners from all three factions mimic this new form of obstruction. We could have used our authority to simply order the offending power company to cease and desist, but opted against it. The likelihood of success was low and would have required lots of manpower and daily supervision. Instead, we came up with our own highly-creative countermeasure.

Local support for the power company’s misconduct was minimal. The Bosnian-Croats wanted to move forward with the peace process, as did the other ethnic groups. We also knew that getting the local citizenry involved in ending the bad behavior would be more effective than any unilateral action SFOR could take. As such, we can up with a plan which would teach all three factions an important lesson.

We understood far too well the truth of the old adage, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing.” Local support wasn’t sufficient – we needed the citizenry to take action on the beliefs they held so strongly. So we offered an incentive. As co-authors Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner would later point out in their best-selling book Freakonomics, there are three forms of incentives:

–        Moral: People don’t want to do something they believe to be wrong;

–        Social: People don’t want to be seen doing something wrong;

–        Economic:  People want to avoid financial and property penalties.

We also knew the most successful behavior modification campaigns often involved all three incentive styles. As such, we went to the remaining local utility companies, which were run by the other factions, and had them suspend service to the Bosnian-Croat communities. We then spread the word throughout the area, encouraging everyone (not just the Bosnian-Croats) to contact the power company and its employees and ask them to comply with the peace accord. The overlapping incentives achieved immediate results. Additionally, as word spread throughout the country about our new community-based tactic, its success dissuaded all three ethnic groups from ever again attempting to use utilities as a weapon against one another.

Influencing people to do what you want is easier than one might imagine. This is especially true in scenarios like the one above, where the belief system of the targeted audience already overlapped with the message sender, i.e., SFOR. When starting from a point of shared interest, modest incentives are often sufficient to achieve the desired results.

“Schooling” Al-Qaeda: How We Learned to Terrify Terrorists Reply

By Chris Simmons

In Iraq, I led interrogation operations so feared by Al-Qaeda that they dubbed my interviewing center, “The Cemetery” and “The Devil’s Den.” The terrorist group’s fear was well founded, as our success rate in getting useful information from detainees was unprecedented, exceeding 99 percent.

This achievement came about because I ensured every one of my people understood that interrogation is not about the physical act of talking to someone. Interrogation is a performance – it is theater of the mind.

We are all familiar with the adage, “Perception is reality.” I believe this axiom doesn’t go far enough. Perceptions, be they short-term or permanent, are living “beings.” They can grow, shrink, bend, twist, or die. For us, perception management was a key tool in mentally wearing down detainees before we ever spoke to them. A premium was placed on their perceived self-interest and total lack of control.

For example, a classic resistance technique used by detainees was to focus on anything that had a schedule. The predictability of routines was often quite reassuring. It could also help measure time or provide a comforting feeling of stability.

We shattered this detainee countermeasure by eliminating every trace of patterns. Watches, clocks, and all verbal references to time were prohibited. Our guards did not appear to keep a set schedule and equally important, seemed to randomly move to other shifts. We began feeding detainees two to six times a day. Detainees were also arbitrarily removed from their cells and taken to the toilet. To complete the effect, the location where our guests were quartered had no windows or doors to the outside world.

For our detainees, time ceased to exist. From a psychological perspective, this is critical as the brain – when striped of any means to measure time – actually compresses it. I recall one detainee who, six hours after arriving at my facility, was absolutely convinced he had been with us for three days.

Another protocol we developed to sow mistrust and further wear down detainees was to change at least one standard procedure on a biweekly basis. You see, when we finished questioning a detainee, we would often transfer him/her to the prison at Abu Ghraib. This compound essentially operated as a “catch and release” program. Prisoners were required to be released within six months of their arrival. This enabled Al-Qaeda to establish a “snitch line” within the stream of prisoners being steadily released.

In this manner, the terrorists sought to maintain an awareness of our latest interrogation procedures. They then shared this information with other terrorists in an effort to make their resistance (after capture) more successful. By training its members in our procedures and routines, Al-Qaeda became more effective in defeating my interrogators. However, the afore-mentioned biweekly changes negated Al-Qaeda efforts. For example, if we held a detainee for several weeks, he/she experienced several of our new procedures. The detainee then went to Abu Ghraib where he/she was debriefed by other Al-Qaeda members and their “new” information passed to a soon-to-be released snitch. This step could take days-weeks, possibly allowing us to introduce yet another new tactic. As a result, Al-Qaeda was suddenly playing catch-up.

This also opened the door to us applying more psychological pressure on detainees, as we could then estimate what U.S. tactics they had been taught based on their date-of-capture. This enabled us to confront the detainee and tell them we knew Al-Qaeda had trained him/her that we would do “x, y, and z.” We then lied to the detainee and told him/her we stopped using those tactics a long time ago. We would tell the detainee that Al-Qaeda taught them these old procedures because they were incompetent, grossly uninformed, or simply because they viewed their personnel as “disposable.” We then appealed directly to their self-interest, asking them why they should remain loyal to an organization that had so clearly betrayed them.

For the most part, interrogation techniques have changed little over the last millennium. That said, our ability to get valuable information from detainees far exceeded every other organization in Iraq. While many items factored into our success, the three key components were:

  • Our creative latitude;
  • The speed in which we could move from one tactic/procedure to another, and
  • Our willingness to take calculated risks.

As any fan of American football will tell you, the only thing that matters is the size of your “Play Book” and your ability to execute the plays.