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10/30/2020 2:42:12 PM
Posted: 12/23/2003 5:19:09 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2003 5:22:37 AM EST by fight4yourrights]
Police agree to holster their cuss words

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."

Stephen Beaven: 503-294-7663; stevebeaven@news.oregonian.com
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 5:24:33 AM EST
My department has no policy on this.  And I have found it IS helpful in gaining and maintaining verbal control.  If you take away this tool you will have more physical confrontations.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 5:37:49 AM EST
Of ALL the stupid things to worry about.....
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 5:42:12 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2003 5:44:05 AM EST by 2whiskeyP]
Cops are public servants and should be as polite to us as we have to be to them.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 5:46:47 AM EST
Put the %$#&*^&% donut down, and back away slowly.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 6:08:12 AM EST
Theres no need for profanity in Police work. It is very disrespectful to curse during the vast majority of citizen contacts.
But lets be realistic, Cops are people. In high intensity situations, under stress, when exasperated, frustrated or just plain angry, people will swear. Accept it on a case by case basis. When it is blurted out under stress, depending on who hears it, it's no big deal. When it is directed at an individual with the intent to insult that person, it is unacceptable.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 6:17:08 AM EST
The article states that they [b]TRAIN[/b] the officers to curse.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 6:23:35 AM EST

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

That pretty well sums up my thoughts about this issue.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 7:11:55 AM EST
Where's the "I could give a fork less, mofo" option on the poll?

Link Posted: 12/23/2003 7:48:35 AM EST
I said yes, they should stop. The are an example & represent their town. Cops also should be respected by children & youth as well as adults. I think it would set a terrible example if a cop was using fowl or base language in front of my child.
I think it's also way more professional for them to curb the cussing.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 7:55:49 AM EST
I took a class on "Tactical" Communication.  One of the topic was this.  There are a lot of people in America that don't understand anything but cuss words.  You have to cuss for some people to understand.

If someone isn't cussing now, it will be obvious they are a cop.

99% of police officers I know try thier best not cuss in front of kids & soccer moms.  When you are in a different area, you have to speak the same language.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 8:32:01 AM EST
Originally Posted By threefiftynone:

Where's the "I could give a fork less, mofo" option on the poll?

View Quote

[b]#3 - I don't care[/b]
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 8:44:34 AM EST
Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
Originally Posted By threefiftynone:

Where's the "I could give a fork less, mofo" option on the poll?

View Quote

[b]#3 - I don't care[/b]
View Quote


The pros know when to say stuff like that.  The amateurs do not. I've been watching 10-8 Officers On Duty.  I'm a fucking expert.

I voted #2 before I posted.

Link Posted: 12/23/2003 8:48:44 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2003 8:50:29 AM EST by cyanide]
There is a difference in --- saying something with a command presence and tone, then at some point in time it changed to  --- screaming something in a near hysteric state.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 9:14:45 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2003 9:16:10 AM EST by FishandShoot]
I like to call them "Sentence/Command Enhancers," ala SpongeBob Squarepants. [:D]
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 9:28:07 AM EST
When dealing with certain elements of society, a well-chosen curse word can many times gain compliance where it otherwise won't be gained short of using physical force.  As has already been stated, a well-seasoned officer can tell when swearing can be a useful tactical tool.  Excessive use of profanity or its use in the wrong situation should not be accepted.  The problem comes when police administrators, like school administrators, are too lazy to sort out the particulars of any given situation to determine if the officer's use of profanity was justified under the circumstances.  They implement policies that flat ban officers from swearing, which leaves the officer with one less tool in their toolbox.

Yes, 'the cops' should be polite to the general public, and in my experience being polite and professional is generally FAR more effective than anything else.  However, if the use of a curse word can prevent an officer from having to use force on someone, I think it's the lesser of two evils.

Link Posted: 12/23/2003 9:59:17 AM EST
Originally Posted By 2whiskeyP:
Cops are public servants and should be as polite to us as we have to be to them.
View Quote

When does this start?
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 10:28:54 AM EST
Police officer testifying: "So i told the suspect to stop"

Defendant interrupting: "That's a lie your honor.  He told me Freeze motherfucker or I'll shoot your ass!"

Judge: "Same thing. Continue officer..."
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 10:32:26 AM EST
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 10:34:32 AM EST
Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
[b]Next time you hear a Portland police officer tell a suspect to "drop the !@#$% gun," don't blush. [blue]They're trained to talk like that. [/b][/blue]
View Quote

We are trained to use the word "NOW" following commands.  It most of our FATS scenario's, and Simunitions training with role players, the suspect will not comply with any command unless you tell them 1) what to do and 2) When to do it.

In some agencies you'll see cops shouting the same thing over and ove. "Drop the gun ..drop the gun..drop the gun..drop the gun..." often with more than one officer joining in for a chorus of "drop the gun"s

Our training is more direct: "Drop the gun, Now!" If suspect doesnt comply in 1 to 1.5 seconds, shoot twice in center mass and evaluate.
Link Posted: 12/23/2003 10:41:52 AM EST
...so adding 'motherfucker', as in "Drop the gun NOW, MOTHERFUCKER!" is inappropriate?
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