Contrary to popular belief, the idea that compassion and empathy are missing from police training is hardly a new idea. And, ironically, much of the concern isn’t about police empathy toward others, but the lack of compassion and empathy shown police. For those inclined toward emotional solutions, the idea that things will get better if we all share a big group hug seems sound.
And yet, what situation could be more universal, more susceptible to compassion and empathy, than a woman being rushed to the hospital to give birth?
The cops who stopped the car, guns drawn, ready to kill, fell a bit short on the empathy meter.
An Indiana couple who were on their way to the hospital to give birth claim that police officers unlawfully pulled them over and then pointed a gun at the pregnant woman’s belly while arresting the father-to-be so that he missed his daughter’s birth.
Dana and James Reiner were driving to the hospital in January 2012 when a police cruiser turned on its siren and lights to signal the car to pull over. James Reiner instead called 911 to alert the police vehicle that he and his wife was on their way to give birth and continued driving for another mile before pulling over after the police cruiser persisted.
There are few things that will anger a cop more than failing to pull over when the lights go on. It both gives rise to the suspicion that the driver presents some amorphous threat of criminality, and it’s an affront to their authority. Cops hate that.
As soon as James Reiner opens the car door and before he can get out of the car, Hebron officer Anthony Dandurand can he heard in the video yelling at him to show his hands. “I will shoot you, you piece of shit! Get on the ground!”
Reiner, who was about to fall sharply off the good guy curve, tried to explain, because good guys think that police are interested and open to explanation. He quickly learned otherwise.
Even as Reiner tries to plead with the officer, Dandurand shoves the man’s head onto the ground and handcuffs him.
Meanwhile Dana Reiner is desperately crying “I’m in labor.”
She later told the NW Times that when she got out of the car to show the officers her water had broken she saw a laser gun sight on her belly, as the other cop, Travis Thomas, tells her to “get back in the fucking car.”
At this point, one might suspect that the officers, hearing Dana Reiner scream “I’m in labor,” might shift sets, realize they weren’t dealing with Ma Barker, but ma-to-be Reiner. No threat to their lives. No disrespect intended. Just an Indiana couple whose understanding of police reasonableness came from watching too many TV shows.
Anthony Dandurand may well be dismissed under the “one bad apple” trope as being a cop so psychologically deficient on the compassion scale as to be a monumentally bad choice of individual to give a gun and shield. But the systemic reaction, once its realized that Dana Reiner really is in labor and they really do have a medical emergency in their laser sights.
The video also includes some remarkable audio: After the police realize that the couple really did have a medical emergency, one officer can be heard saying, twice, “I’ll get rid of the video.” Another officer, presumably Dandurand since it’s his cruiser’s dash cam video, can be heard saying, “Ah, I don’t care about the video.”
The reaction is telling in two ways, both the immediate resort to ditching the evidence of their wrongdoing, and the brazen response of not fearing the video, which apparently can be “disappeared” when it doesn’t reflect well on them.
One common question, when video reveals flagrant police misconduct, is how they can be so stupid as to not realize they’re being recorded. This is your answer: they just don’t care enough, having no concern that their wrongs, even if seen by a few million of the closest admirers, is of any consequences. This is an astounding thing, the hubris of believing that they are, truly, above reproach.
And as the reaction of their chief to all of this shows, Dandurand has good reason to be so brazen.
Portage Police Chief Troy Williams has defended Officer Dandurand, saying he had been a model employee since joining his department in 2012 and “should not be demonized for one unfortunate incident.”
It strains credulity that Dandurand has never had another “unfortunate incident,” given shocking lack of compassion and empathy, but that’s speculative. The point is that Chief Williams defended his “model employee” and criticized those who would “demonize” a cop’s demonic conduct. As prosecutors like to remind us when an otherwise good person commits a bad act, nobody gets a first murder for free.
Is the problem that cops like Dandurand haven’t been trained properly? His actions, from the perspective of police training, may well be viewed as textbook, having “chased” the car for a mile (he claimed it was five miles, but that proved to be a lie) and not knowing with certainty that the Reiners posed no threat.
A cop can be trained to pull his weapon in anticipation of a risk. He can be trained to aim at center mass. But should any human being require training to show some small degree of compassion and empathy when facing one of the most empathetic of situations, a woman in labor being rushed to the hospital to give birth? Maybe the problem is that, while they can’t be trained in empathy, empathy can be trained out of them. And if Chief Williams doesn’t see this confrontation of being worthy of “demonization,” then what lack of compassion is?