It’s always fascinating to consider the ways new technologies are simultaneously helping and hurting us. Some disturbing evidence on the negative side of the equation could be found buried in an Associated Press story over the weekend, which looked at a series of recent incidents in which Los Angeles police officers have been accused of using excessive force.
The article quotes Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief and police consultant who is a dean at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. He said police academy trainers have noticed that “younger cadets, who grew up communicating via text messages and email, and in an era where schoolyard fights are not tolerated as they once were, often lack verbal communication skills and experience in dealing with physical aggression.”
"Officers are just plain scared," Weinblatt said, according to the AP. "They don't have the communication skills or physical confidence of previous generations. They're jumping higher and quicker on use of force because of that fear element."
So, if I’m understanding this correctly, young police officers—who came of age in a world where the primary mode of interpersonal communication is texting—don’t really know how to talk to suspects. That means it’s harder to deescalate a confrontation. So they’re quicker to use deadly force.
I can’t quite find the words to express the mixture of disturbing feelings this news evokes. Perhaps someone can design an appropriate emoticon.