Jul 7, 2016

Baton Rouge Shooting - Cognitive Dissonance at work

First, you should watch this video, then watch this video (NSFW & volume warning;depicting death - link to liveleak).  Both video's show the same event, two different perspectives.  You will probably see a bunch of photo's showing this:


Yep that is the suspects right hand in front of his chest.  It is there because the officer who mounted him is pushing his arm up towards his face in an effort to not meet his shoot threshold.  There are a bunch of fast movements, a few reflections from the silver bumper right next to the suspects head, but one thing you clearly do not see again until after the officer who mounted the suspect discharges, is the suspects right hand.  


Now disregard all of that.  He was a career criminal, and zero fucks given, etc.

Around the :25 mark on the first video you will hear a very pronounced "fuck" come from the officer on the ground at the head of the suspect.  Then he officer stalls for a moment or so, then grabbing at his radio.  This is a very immediate result of an adrenaline fueled change in mental status driven by a materialization of physical confrontation which was never experienced and more than likely never trained to any level of competence.

I touched on cognitive dissonance in an article I wrote earlier this year - "Tactical De-escalation" at work.  This is a very real issue and one which requires significant amounts of effective training to affect positively.  

Evil exists.
Choosing to close one's eyes to this fact guarantees one thing, and one thing only; that you have no chance.
-J. Wolfe
Cognitive dissonance, in the context of interpersonal violent confrontation, is very likely outcome for the untrained or otherwise non-violent persons - receivers.  When a violent confrontation occurs we all have a concept of what they should look like and what conditions/characteristics that should generate.  If I stab you in your bracial plexus, I expect your arm to turn off or at the very least, it to stop moving around, because that is supposed to be a switch.  If that does not happen I will be not be surprised because the next step in the 3 of 9 template is the mandible angle.  But I train to not be surprised, to not be affected by cognitive dissonance.

For the average receiver (which is the vast majority of people at any given moment) if they punch someone in the face during a street fight, that person does not instantly turn off as they have seen during countless UFC reruns, what are they going to do?  They are going to keep punching them in the face, hopefully.  There are some, though, that will just stand there and not understand how this person is still being aggressive towards them after they delivered their earth stopping blow.  This is because they have never trained for anything else, they have never experienced anything else, they do not know anything else.  These are the same people who believe a single gun shot should make people flip over backwards like in random Schwarzenegger movies.  We know this is not how it works.

In the videos you saw above, you observed a police officer put a pistol to a suspects chest as he drew a pistol from his pocket and fired a few rounds, then when he did not get the immediate response he believe he should he fired several more rounds (notice the short pause - it was not trigger freeze), what exactly was he waiting to happen?  

Then the massive adrenaline dump hit, you can see this by the extreme uptick in breathing from the officer who is at the suspects head, pointing his pistol at the, now shot, suspect.  This is an autonomic reaction to adrenaline in your system.  Plenty of information on this specific subject, I'd recommend reading On Combat, On Killing and The Gift of Fear, if you want a more detailed explanation of how your body functions in reference to adrenaline dumps and other physical/psychological issues which stem from violent encounters.  

The officer then takes his time, looking at the suspect he just shot, he is looking at him and yelling "fuck" for what purpose?  He knows why he just shot the suspect several times, he knows what his shoot threshold was.  Both the officers were feeding the situation from the beginning, commanding him at first, then attempting to deploy a taser then a physical confrontation by way of a take down (which may be going backwards in the use of force continuum, depending on which one you are going by), you even hear one of the officer's yell "GUN!" and give the suspect a verbal warning, swearing to god and all.

Yet that officer laid there, pointing his gun at the suspect he just shot and cursing instead of instantly getting on top of him and removing the reason why he had to shoot the suspect in the first place.  That was done by the other officer who was out of the video frame.  I suspect it is because the second officer did not shoot his weapon and that while he may have had an adrenaline dump it may been minor in nature and occurred at the onset of the confrontation.  The officer who shot the suspect looked upon his work and felt no immediate need to handcuff the suspect, felt no immediate attempt to secure the scene and scan for other possible threats, nothing except to yell "fuck."  Different people experience these types of physiological effects and it varies in everyone based on many factors.  


Effective training is the only way to overcome these issues.  Experience through training is the "straight line" solution to a multi-level complex problem.  Understanding how you personally react to certain situations and certain complex violence problems is the only way to get through any situation which would require use of deadly force.  Understanding biology and what happens when you shoot someone, what to expect, and how to patch it up if needed, are very important parts of being ready for that type of confrontation.  Force on force, no-kid glove training, continuous repetition and effective application of mindset are the only ways you will overcome cognitive dissonance.