The Plane that Lands

The man pictured is Sgt. Jody  Stiger, the Use of Force expert from the LAPD.  I’m still at the point where I am only catching a little bit of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.  I can’t bear to watch it after what we all lived through for the past year.  So, tuning in today while I try to get over my second Covid shot, I did a cursory inspection of Stiger.  Stiger is not of conspicuous appearance in any way, and much of what makes up his look is somewhat archaic by today’s hipster/slacker standards.  

Looking at Stiger, the first thing this former Marine saw was his haircut.  Nothing to notice there for the average civilian.  But that haircut is fresh, done either sometime today, or sometime yesterday.  His eye-glasses are not trendy.  He is fit, solid, and his answers are direct, and they come before the explanation, not after, as most Americans explain complex things.  And then his suit, shirt, and tie are precisely how we were advised to appear in court.  In my time on the LAPD, I saw officers do it differently.  I had a partner who liked to dress like Sonny Crockett, the main character from Miami Vice.  That particular partner showed up in court once without a tie, wearing loafers, and no socks.  The first thing the judge asked him was, “are you wearing any socks”?  The answer was “no”, and the judge had him placed in contempt of court.  

Stiger doesn’t look like that, and he could not have his job if he had.  As the Use of Force expert, Stiger teaches at the LAPD academy.  He teaches this class, and monitors cases like this one against Derek Chauvin.  Many may not understand it, but when the prosecution wanted a professional opinion about how the job is done, they sought the LAPD.  I’m proud of that fact, and that fact is evident by Stiger’s participation is this trial in Minneapolis.  I’ll elaborate on that fact a bit later.  

The news of the last 25 years or so have had plenty of legitimate accounts of officers handling their duties in a way that does not serve the professional image of the work.  The job is an important one, and when sloppiness, or corruption show up in a street officer’s conduct, the results can be deadly.  It boggles my mind in wonder at who some of these officers are and how they are being trained.  What is the selection sample from which they are choosing?  I remember when the Bush administration started lowering the standards for recruits, specifically waiving membership and participation in white supremacists organizations.  The Bush administration needed more recruits for its Neo-con strategy, and this was their choice.  I knew then that they had chosen badly, and those bad ingredients made a very crappy cake that we are all familiar with today.  Sadly, the US military had gone through a low standards period in the Vietnam era.  Drug use, and all sorts of issues came right in with that generation.  Eventually, they turned that around.

Chauvin, to the eye of the uniform wearer, was a “shit bird”, in USMC vernacular.  First, one notices his bad haircut.  Sure, it is probably not easy for him to get a haircut now, but he looked just as bad in the video of the arrest, which is the subject of this murder trial.  We have Chauvin’s conversation with his patrol Sgt after George Floyd’s body was taken to the hospital.  His dishonest manner of communication is stark in contrast to Stiger’s.  My wife and I watched the arrest tape last summer when it was current news, and there were so many things obviously wrong with what Chauvin was doing.  By now, you have heard the list.

Now, look at Stiger again.  So often in the last couple of decades, I have thought, why didn’t anyone tell him how to dress as an officer for court.  Stiger does it exactly right.  Stiger is wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and a tie with a small geometric pattern.  Everything about Chauvin’s presentation is unprofessional.  That conveniently matches his unprofessional conduct.  On the first couple of days of the trial, Chauvin showed up in a suit with a dark shirt, and either a plain tie, or some sort of conspicuous one.  Chauvin is on trial for his life, he has been an officer for decades, and he does not know how to appear.  That says a lot about the professionalism from top to bottom.  

All of this is to say that, there is professionalism among police officers.  There are agencies which have higher standards than others.  The criticisms I hear lately are moronic.  Are officers handling some of these incidents poorly, leading to tragic consequences?  Yes.  That is unquestionably so.  But, like any other profession, there are right ways to do it, and wrong ways to do it.  Officers like Chauvin, and many others, tarnish “the badge.”  But they don’t tarnish the need for the profession done well.  Frankly, that is a childish over-simplification.  Everyone wants police to function competently and professionally.  When Genevieve Hansen, the EMT who was in the crowd as George Floyd was being murdered by Derek Chauvin, when she was not allowed to participate and provide necessary care to Floyd, she called the police.  At the same time, a 911 operator who watched the murder in real time through an intersection camera, notified the police.  And finally, the MMA fighter who testified that he witnessed the deadly force that Chauvin was using, also called the police.  Done properly, that is what any rational person wants, a competent, decent police presence.

They say that planes that land safely don’t make news.  It’s true if you think about it.  Tragedy holds our attention.  Corruption fires our paranoid imaginations. Competence and decency do not.  Behold Jody Stiger.  

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