Last month MSNBC host Joy Reid broadly criticized police training – an issue that she knows nothing about. She tried to legitimize her anti-police opinions by giving air-time to a former federal law enforcement officer – turned outspoken police critic (Katie Sponsler).
Ms. Sponsler is a United States Air Force veteran and a former National Park Service ranger. Ms. Sponsler ran for election to the Virginia House of Delegates to represent District 66. She lost in the general election on November 2, 2021.
Ms. Sponsler gained fame (outside of Virginia) when one of her tweets went viral on January 28, 2023.
Ms. Sponsler then made an appearance on the MSNBC show The Reidout with Joy Reid on January 31, 2023. This was the eve of Tyre Nichols funeral and the reason for her invitation on the show seemed to be – to provide cover for the dishonest bashing of all police officers.
After her appearance with Joy Reid, Ms. Sponsler was invited to write an article for Time magazine and it was published on February 6, 2023 and titled What the Police Academy gets Wrong About Training Future Officers.
*Vague and out-of-context opinions from those with mediocre law enforcement experience that criticize the institution of policing are rewarded in grand fashion by the mainstream media.
The Anti-Police Industrial Complex
Question: What is the easiest way for a former(1) police officer to become famous without accomplishing anything noteworthy?
Answer: Be willing to criticize individual police officers (even when their actions are objectively reasonable) as well as demonize the entire paradigm of modern policing.
There is an entire industry of former police officers who make the rounds of cable news networks – not because of their experience, education, or accomplishments in the field but solely because they are willing to dishonestly criticize the institution of policing (and the brave men and women who are part of it) at every opportunity – despite the facts or context of a given police incident.
In the spirit of being objective it is unknown if Ms. Sponsler fits into this category. I believed that she was incredibly disingenuous during her interview with Joy Reid. But, it is reasonable to wonder if that was her intent or just a predictable consequence of talking with Joy Reid – who is an outspoken anti-police activist.
Ms. Sponsler claimed that she had received training that informed police officers to yell “drop the gun” when an offender has a gun and “stop resisting” when an offender is resisting arrest. She claimed that the reason police are trained in this manner is strictly for the benefit of civilian witnesses – who would then be able to back up the officer’s claim of giving such commands.
Well, obviously, there are a lot of reasons that police officers would tell an offender to “drop the gun” – mainly, so they do in fact – drop the gun! The chance that a civilian witness may hear these commands as well – is very far down on the list of importance as to why an officer would give such commands to a person who is violently resisting arrest.
Also, imagine if an officer did not tell an offender to “drop the gun” or “stop resisting” during a use of force incident? Anti-police activists would immediately criticize police officers for not providing these basic instructions to suspects. The claim would be that the officer purposely did not give these commands – so they could continue utilizing force against the ‘uncooperative’ suspect.
This also touches on the Sam Harris concept of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. Are we to believe that absent these commands from police officers – offenders are simply too dumb to realize on their own that they should drop a gun or stop resisting arrest?
The goal should be to train police officers to utilize de-escalation techniques in dynamic situations – as well as to issue clear instructions on what they want offenders to do. If these commands are overheard by civilian witnesses – that is a bonus – not the purpose for giving clear and concise instructions to difficult suspects.
Disparity of Force
Ms. Sponsler claimed that she had received training that informed her that she may be able to utilize higher levels of force than larger police officers.
This is called “disparity of force” and is a concept that every city, state, and federal law enforcement officer learns during basic use of force training. This is not controversial training – it is common sense.
In short, factors such as the: age, sex, height, weight, skill level, intoxication level, injury status, fighting ability/experience, availability of weapons, etc… of an officer (or an offender) can be evaluated by officers in a use of force incident and can dictate whether an officer uses a high or lower level of force.
As an example I will describe some of the individuals that I was in the police academy with.
- An athletic 22 year-old man who was 6’7’’ and over 200 lbs.
- A 30 year-old man who could bench press over 400 lbs and had won competitions on the amateur boxing circuit.
- A 35 year-old female who was 4’11’’ and barely weighed 100 lbs – with no prior fighting/MMA experience.
If each of these officers are attacked by a 200 lb unarmed man on the street – would you expect each of these officers to use the exact same level of force to defend themselves against the attack?
Of course not. It may be reasonable for my 4’11’’ friend to utilize a Taser or even deadly force to defend against this attack. However, I would not expect either of the above listed men to have to use any tools/weapons to protect themselves.
And if you agree. You acknowledge that “disparity of force” is a reasonable concept to cover during police use of force training.
Therefore, it is ridiculous for Ms. Sponsler to be critical of this line of training – as it mirrors common sense. Of course, it is not surprising that Joy Reid would cling onto this tidbit with the wonder and excitement of a child on Christmas morning – as this uninformed and dishonest criticism of police training is exactly the type of nonsense that fuels her program.
At the end of Ms. Sponsler’s Time article she lumped together the following names “Tyre Nichols, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner”.
Each of these cases is different. They involved different officers from different police departments. Not only is it disrespectful to the deceased, but also to the officers (some of whom acted reasonably and within the law) to lazily categorize these cases in the same file folder.
This is what the anti-police activists want. For the public to not be able to distinguish the differences between the objectively reasonable and lawful shooting of Breonna Taylor and the illegal actions of Derek Chauvin that helped to cause the death of George Floyd.
The goal of anti-police activists is not to improve policing – but to abolish policing. So when they criticize police training or tactics, we should remember what they intend to replace it with.
This article originally appeared at Police Law News SubStack