The most common “solution” to improper police practices is better training. And, indeed, better training, such as de-escalation rather than resorting to force, would certainly be a positive step. But what’s rarely noted is that there’s training, and there’s “training,” where the wizened old cop teaches the rookie how it’s “really” done.
A Louisville Metro Police recruit received some impromptu training from then-assistant police chief of Prospect, Todd Shaw.
Shaw served with LMPD for more than 20 years before joining the Prospect department in 2012. In one of the Facebook messages, the LMPD recruit asked Shaw what to do in a scenario in which he catches three juveniles smoking marijuana.
The question was part of a paper the recruit was writing about “the right thing to do,” according to O’Connell’s letter.
“F— the right thing,” Shaw allegedly responded. “If black shoot them.”
And as for what to tell the parents of the juveniles, Shaw said: “… call their (pa)rents … if mom is hot then f— her … if dad is hot then handcuff him and make him suck my d—,” according to O’Connell’s letter.
Shaw continued, “Unless daddy is black. … Then shoot him.”
Nice, right? But this came from a 20-year vet, an assistant chief, a guy who wielded his gun and authority on the streets of Louisville. What’s a recruit to believe? If Shaw was as bad, as racist, as abusive as his words reflected, how is it possible he remained a cop for so long? How is it possible he was promoted, put in charge of other cops, made brass?
“I am disgusted by the shocking and appalling statements released today – between the former Prospect Assistant Chief of Police Todd Shaw, and a former LMPD recruit,” Conrad said in a statement.
Nice words, and certainly true (or, at least, should be true), but so what? Shaw was on the job, remained on the job, and was promoted to a position of authority over others on the job.
Had the department known about the messages, “he would never have been considered for employment. These atrocious, racist attitudes have no place in society – anywhere,” Conrad wrote. “Any person, who holds these thoughts, has no business ever donning a uniform and representing those who have sworn to serve every member of every community. These actions spit in the face of the determined effort hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers put forth to build trust and legitimacy in the communities they serve.”
How is it possible the department did not know of Shaw’s outrageous views? Were they somehow kept secret for all those years, only to be suddenly released on Facebook, of all places?
This is (since some will naturally go there) not to say that all, or most, cops view people, and their job, the way Shaw did. This is not to say that every recruit or rookie will embrace such outrageous ideas, learn from this mutt to abuse his authority, to hate black people, to be any worse than he was inclined to be before hearing this “training.”
But to the extent that a cop needs, and wants, to get along with his brethren, this is how he learns of the “real world” of policing, through the “wisdom” of more experienced, more authoritative, cops. There is the official training, the Pollyanna stuff about how cops should behave, and then there’s the unofficial training, about how you shoot black kids smoking weed.
No one knew Shaw had a bad attitude until now? No one knew his feelings toward black people until he put them in writing on Facebook? This is hard, if not impossible, to believe. How many young cops did Shaw corrupt along the way, as a training officer, brass or just the old cop who knew how to survive on the streets?