Short Take: Bringing Up Baby To Be Killer Cops

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?

28 thoughts on “Short Take: Bringing Up Baby To Be Killer Cops

  1. Frank

    The problem is, the bad cops look just like the good cops, so how can you tell the difference? Preferably before you’re in their clutches and thereby screwed over? It would be better to weed these clowns out before they ever see the Academy, but that’s not ever going to happen.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        Is there really that stark of a difference? It seems that its as much the “ordinary” cops getting themselves involved in senseless shootings. There’s the “thin blue line” and “us vs. them” mentality in general that make differentiation a problem in most circumstances and let racists hide in plain sight. Most don’t post explicit comments on facebook like this loon.

        1. SHG Post author

          There are a number of problems that can be separately described but all interconnect within cop culture, that will never be fixed from the outside no matter how hard we try.

      2. Jay

        I’ve heard there are two types of cops, the bad ones, and the ones who look the other way.

        As much as I hear about the ‘bad apples’ I never hear anything about what’s being done to reduce or stop such behavior.

        1. SHG Post author

          The discussion has been enormously fun the first thousand times we’ve had it here. But new guys want to have the same basic discussion all over again because they missed it the first thousand times. Surely it will be fun and a worthwhile use of my time to do it again. For each new guy who shows up.

            1. Jim Ryan

              Ah yes, but giving them a lesson’s grown tiresome for you after the first thousand times, but it is still so entertaining for the rest of us.

          1. Jay

            I’ll venture over to the search box.

            Do you think cases of bad cops would lessen if court ordered penalties were paid by union cop retirement funds instead of public coffers?

            1. SHG Post author

              smh. You’re going to make me do this anyway. I can’t win.

              No. Police pensions are a contractual, and in some instances statutory, obligations of the govt to the cop. Retirement funds are just piggy banks for the municipality to hold money to satisfy its obligations. It wouldn’t alter the duty to pay. In some states, the duty is constitutional, and even criminal conduct can’t vitiate the duty to pay vested pensions.

              So what may seems like a good idea on its services won’t work. Remember Mencken, “for every complex problem, there’s a solution that’s clear, simple and wrong.”

  2. Turk

    I’m sorry, but this is not possible.

    His LinkedIn profile, after all, says that he is “ethical” and a “good communicator skilled in managing interpersonal relationships and issues in a dynamic higher education environment.”

    An energetic, ethical, and accomplished leader with over 29 years of progressively responsible Public Safety experience with notable troubleshooting skills; proven innovative leader adept at forming and maintaining partnerships to achieve crime reduction and improve the quality of life in a municiple setting; strong analytical decision-maker; good communicator skilled in managing interpersonal relationships and issues in a dynamic higher education environment; offers highly developed leadership and management experience in the following areas

  3. B. McLeod

    Probably some fellow officers knew he harbored these attitudes, but there was that Police officer Bill of Rights thing. Even after he posted this stuff on Facebook, he retained his post until the department had completed the internal investigation and provided him with the findings. If fellow officers had anything less than such actual written statements by Shaw, it might well have gone nowhere. But the resulting reality is that he was dumped once he became too open and obvious about his biases, not for having them.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s why the answer lies below the surface, in cop culture. You can’t train people to not be racist, abusive or violent, but if cops want to rid their ranks of people like Shaw, they can make it happen by not tolerating this from one of their own.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Don’t worry, sooner or later they will figure it out and remember to shoot the guinea pig too.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Hey, it is hard to be the blind kid in the crib on the wrong side of the bar riding stuffed crocodiles.

  4. Jyjon

    An F*d up letter, that’s for sure.
    But, how do you know he wasn’t just trolling the rookie?

    The things they talk about in the article seem to be closer to bad judgement issues.

  5. Gloria Wolk

    In the cop culture, the race of the cop is not important. Some of the notorious Chicago cases had Hispanic cops abusing innocent defendants, and in other localities black cops abused black and Hispanic defendants.

    1. SHG Post author

      Notice that the cop’s race is nowhere mentioned as a factor? And yet, you introduce race for no reason. Don’t do this.

      1. LocoYokel

        I want to know where he placed. Was it a footrace or were they drag racing. If it was drag was he wearing stilettos or flats?

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