Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rock Around the Clock

Most departments teach their cadets that a rock isn't deadly beyond 50 feet. Unless they are performing a particularly important mission, like aiding a wounded colleague, officers facing a hail of stones should retreat to that perimeter.

Slate.

I wonder how this works out in the power relationships described in Lt. Col. Grossman's On Killing. (I know, I should really read Violence: a Micro-Sociological Theory too--it's on my list!)

My armchair psychologizing would lead me to believe that it leads to more violence and more deaths (though probably not among the police force). If you're a young tough throwing rocks and the police, and you see them back down (even if it is just far enough to get out of range), that's going to have a profound effect on you. It's going to pump you full of pride and recklessness. In the heat of battle, you're not going to recognize a strategic for what it is and the training in represents. Instead, it's going to send you surging forward, and the cycle will repeat, with each strategic retreat a new victory, until, for some reason, the police have to stop retreating. At this point, a violent clash is almost unavoidable--a group that believes themselves indomitable met by a group that can no longer retreat.

In Grossman's (whatever comes after triad, quadad?) the stone throwers are posturing (if they weren't, they would've brought guns), and the police are fleeing. Rather than fleeing (and much rather than fighting) the police should start posturing. If someone starts throwing rocks, they should stand their ground where advantageous, or advance (not retreat) to a more defensible position, and call in reinforcements. If the stone-throwers don't retreat when the reinforcements arrive, they should advance. The stone-throwers are much less likely to hit a point of no retreat than the police are (they can, after all, disperse to their homes). If there is an arrest, they should be charged with assault with a deadly weapon and locked up for a long time.

In the long run, stone-throwing, and the violence that it leads to, would be much less common.

3 Comments:

OpenID bruce-church said...

They are probably throwing stones from a pile they collected in one spot, or from an area rich in stones. So moving 50 feet back would separate them from their ammunition dump, thereby deescalating the confrontation.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

(I know, I should really read Violence: a Micro-Sociological Theory too--it's on my list!)

Now there's one you won't be sorry you read -- well, maybe the football hooligans chapter.

The book agrees with you. People avoid the tension of direct confrontations, and melt back when there's a show of force. Police with riot gear have to use less violence than police in shirt sleeves. The absolute worst is to appear dangerous, and then retreat -- the tension provoked by confrontation gets unleashed as violence only if one side suddenly flips from looking dangerous to looking vulnerable.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

They are probably throwing stones from a pile they collected in one spot, or from an area rich in stones. So moving 50 feet back would separate them from their ammunition dump, thereby deescalating the confrontation.

Stones aren't bullets. Unless you're gathering up the rocks as you retreat, you're just rearming them with the stones they've already thrown. Removing them from their ammunition is possible with an advance, not a retreat.

7:16 PM  

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