Police agree to holster their cuss words


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TheeBadOne
December 28, 2003, 06:06 AM
Chief Derrick Foxworth decides to limit how much officers swear after a review says profanity is one of the public's top gripes

Next time you hear a Portland police officer tell a suspect to "drop the !@#$% gun," don't blush. They're trained to talk like that.

In an easy-going city known for its civility, the Portland Police Bureau condones the use of profanity by its officers in certain limited circumstances as a tool to de-escalate volatile encounters.

But a report released Friday by two police review groups says foul language by Portland officers is one of the public's top complaints and must be curtailed. Police Chief Derrick Foxworth agreed and has changed the department's directive regarding profanity to limit its use.

To which the union for Portland officers says: So what?

Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, said Friday there are more pressing public safety issues than profanity by police officers.

He also said he thinks the public understands that profanity can be useful in some circumstances.

"I would think citizens would rather have them use profanity than physical or deadly force," King said.

The city's Independent Police Review Division and the Citizen Review Committee discovered, however, that Portland may be unique in using profanity as a policing tool. Of the 26 police departments across the country that responded to the groups' survey, none had policies that allowed the use of profanity by officers as a control tactic. Four had no profanity policy, and 22 explicitly banned it.

Foxworth said he thinks there are other police agencies with similar, less-restrictive policies toward profanity but did not mention any.

The Police Bureau's policy on profanity has evolved and loosened in the past 30 years, from an outright ban to current rules that encourage such language in limited cases.

According to the report, the department's directive 310.40 banned the use of profanity by officers in 1976.

But in a 1989 revision of the directive, officers were instructed that they could not use "epithets or terms that tend to denigrate" a race, gender or other groups unless they are quoting another person in a report or in testimony.

The directive was revised again in 1999, this time adding a provision to allow profanity in an effort to establish control.

By now, however, profanity appears to be the most commonly used verbal control tool on the bureau's use of force continuum, the report said. And it is used as more than just a control technique. The report found that officers use profanity when they get angry or frustrated and in some communities where they feel it might be part of the vernacular.

The report also pointed out that there is an overall lack of guidance regarding when and how profanity can be used.

Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch said tightening the profanity policy is a good step toward eliminating foul language altogether. Police officers who use profanity around the public are "unprofessional," he said.

"We hold them to a higher standard," Handelman said. "When they're representing the city of Portland, you don't expect them to go around mouthing off to people."

The report was prompted by a "large number" of profanity complaints filed with the Independent Police Review Division and the past efforts of a now-defunct civilian oversight group to limit profanity by police.

It said that from Jan. 2, 2002, through June 11, 2003, citizens made 63 complaints with 94 allegations of profanity.

Of those, four allegations were sustained, meaning the officer was disciplined. In 11 cases, a supervisor had a formal meeting to help the officer handle similar encounters without profanity.

King said that the use of profanity is sometimes needed when other verbal control tactics have failed.

"There are a limited number of cases where it's effective and even helpful," King said.

For instance, he said, if a suspect has a gun and is not responding to oral commands, the suspect might respond to a few profanities.

Officers should not direct profanity at a suspect by calling him a name, King said. But using it as part of a command or an exclamation can be helpful, he added.

The report made three recommendations, each of which Foxworth agreed to and some of which are already in place. Foxworth added language to the bureau's directive on profanity that said such language can be used only in "exceptional" and "very limited" circumstances as a control technique if it helps avoids the use of physical or deadly force. Officers can also use profanity if they are quoting someone.

Foxworth also said officers must now report instances when they use profanity. New software will help the bureau track and monitor citizen complaints about profanity, he said.

Training now includes the new policy on profanity, and a chief's memo has been read at roll calls to reinforce the change, he added.

Foxworth agreed with King that he would rather an officer use profanity than deadly force. There are cases in which profanity has prevented a physical encounter, the chief said, but he could not recall any.

And he emphasized that profanity is a no-no for officers in most cases, unless they think it can prevent the use of force.

"We're not saying it's OK to use profanity outside of that setting. In any other setting, it's inappropriate."

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/10719255808450.xml
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profanity is one of the public's top gripes
Sounds like they have real serious problems in Portland... :rolleyes:

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artherd
December 28, 2003, 06:52 AM
You have to be kidding me.

Hell, the cops can call me or the guy next to me a donkey raping ???? eater if it'll help any of us not get hurt.

Sheesh, maybe they'll replace their guns with giant teddy bears next, because guns offend the public?


Sorry, but this is really over the line. Profanity and commanding language and assertion of authority are nessicary tools.

clubsoda22
December 28, 2003, 07:14 AM
Drop the fudging gun monkey lover!

clubsoda22
December 28, 2003, 08:15 AM
On second thought, we should go back to Shakespearian English...their insults were so much more polite.

Officer: Young knave, do you quarrel?!?!
Skateboard Punk: Certainly, foul pig! I bite my thumb at thee!
Officer: Bite thy thumb?! Perhaps thou wishes chastisement for thy trespass!
Skateboard Punk: Thy mother is but a festering strumpet!
Officer: Lies! I draw my sabre! (Extends ASP) Thou shalt suffer the fate of King Rodney! ::THWACK::

zahc
December 28, 2003, 10:13 AM
LOL

Dannyboy
December 28, 2003, 10:24 AM
condones the use of profanity by its officers in certain limited circumstances as a tool to de-escalate volatile encounters.
This is a joke, right? Would someone please explain to me how profanity can "de-escalate volatile encounters." It just seems like bassackwards logic to think that cussing at somebody who's probably not right in the head is going to calm them down.

thorbry
December 28, 2003, 10:37 AM
Anybody else remembering a scene from Police Acadamy (assertiveness training for the little squeaky voiced black girl)

Pilgrim
December 28, 2003, 11:05 AM
I remember reading many years ago an article written by a Los Angeles Police Dept. chaplain. He visited a division in LAPD and noticed something different about that division from all the ones he had visited. It took him a while, but he finally realized he didn't hear any profanity, even in that sacred bastion of profanity, the locker room.

He later in the article told about his conversation with the division commander, a captain. He mentioned to the captain his discovery the division was profanity free. Did the captain issue a directive or order banning profanity? The captain said no, there was no order or directive. He just made it clear to his officers that if one becomes used to using profanity in casual conversaton with friends and associates, it becomes that much easier to use it when one is angry, frustrated, or afraid. He also made it clear to his supervisors and watch commanders he did not think much of supervisors who used profanity to supervise their officers. He in turn, led by example.

Pilgrim

TallPine
December 28, 2003, 11:25 AM
profanity appears to be the most commonly used verbal control tool on the bureau's use of force continuum
So, do they have a chart that defines words of increasing profanity to be used as part of the contimuum ???

As in "Gee whiz, drop the darn gun!"

and then work on up to worse words from there .....?

Skunkabilly
December 28, 2003, 12:02 PM
I fart in your general direction!! :D

iapetus
December 28, 2003, 12:40 PM
Reminds me of the edited version of RoboCop they used to show on TV here.

"You mother crusher!"

"That guy is such an a-airhead!" (including a slight stutter where they hadn't dubbed it properly).

And best of all, in the scene where Robocop stops the convenience-store robbery, and the perp is coming at him, blasting away with his shotgun, and screaming obscenities (which you can pretty much work out by lip reading)...

And the dub over it with "Why Me?! Why Me?!" :rolleyes:

MarkDido
December 28, 2003, 08:46 PM
The police could always adopt a "UN" type of verbal warning, such as:

"Stop! Or I shall write a harshly worded resolution!"

GigaBuist
December 28, 2003, 09:01 PM
Hmm, okay, given the thread topic I might have to work around THR's language filter a bit.

I don't a have a problem with officers cursing. Makes 'em seem a little more normal. After seeing that I saw last night I would -asssume- PD intervention with this guy would have required cursing to be understood.

Hoodlum: Bitch (female dog), I'm a muh-fuggin G. Don't tell me how to take care of my ???? (fecal matter).
Bouncer: Oh you're a G? Then take care of your ???? (fecal matter).
... at which point I turned 90 degrees to avoid them and double-checked that my folder was right where I wanted it to be, and did a full scan on the parking lot to figure out what was going on.

I'd imagine a LEO trying to deal with this guy would have had to cursed to be understood properly. Perhaps touching his chest with his hands, keeping the elbows parallel to the ground, then extending the arms out in a "I want to hug you" manner repeatedly would have aided communication with this guy.

I've had LEO's curse mildly when I was around them. Once instance comes to mind: I got pulled over, he asks where I was headed, I pointed TO THE DOOR, and he reponds with, "Whoa... ain't that a bitch."

WYO
December 28, 2003, 10:06 PM
Have a nice day, [sir, or mam, as appropriate]. That sometimes sets people off, if said in the wrong tone. :)

stevelyn
December 29, 2003, 08:39 AM
.....explain to me how profanity can de-escalate a volatile encounter.

More often than not a policeman is dealing with the lowest common denominators of society. In doing such they have to bring themselves and their language down to a level that those types of "people" understand.
It's like meeting violence with violence. A person intent on inflicting harm on others isn't going to be open to reason as to the err of their ways. But they do understand getting their "effing @$$ blown away".
Besides.......profanity is the only foreign language I speak fluently. :D :evil:

Ryder
December 29, 2003, 10:19 AM
I can't recall a cop swearing at me or around me in an official capacity. I treat police with respect because respect is a two way street. I get as much as I give. I don't see why that wouldn't work for cops too. I'm not overly sensitive about words though, wouldn't care too much as long as it is generally applied, but wouldn't that generate general disrespect?

I swear myself when things get violent. You ought to hear me bump my head! :D

Russ
December 29, 2003, 10:32 AM
It has been said that profanity is the attempt of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully. Really no need for it when dealing with the public. If in the heat of violence or excitement it comes out then I agree it shouldn't matter. However, as a matter of course, it isn't acceptible. Perhaps many departments should up the age requirements to become an officer. Much of this comes with maturity and life experience.

standingbear
December 29, 2003, 12:29 PM
shouting foul language doesnt impress me.why lower yourself to their level?

Bill Hook
December 29, 2003, 05:05 PM
I'm in favor of this to the extent that it keeps officers respectful of their employers (the public, in case you forgot), but some latitude might be allowed when confronting an armed suspect.

Sean Smith
December 29, 2003, 05:21 PM
I don't object to this sort of thing because I think swearing is "good," but rather because it is so stunningly trivial compared to what the police should be worried about.

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