I’m glad that Las Vegas Patrol Officer Brian Kroening survived the obvious lethal threat against his life in the video above. I reckon it’s a “good shoot.” That said, as someone with academic and practical experience in psychology, it’s clear that the officer and his assailant got caught-up in an escalating aggression loop: “a fast positive feedback loop between a hormonal stress response and the brains’ aggression system.” In simple terms, the officer did nothing to calm James Michael Todora down. As Todara got more and more wound up, he became more and more verbally and then ballistically aggressive. Officer Kroening could have . . .
recognized the signs – a rapid back-and-forth argument from a distressed man (who shared his tale of woe) – and interrupted the pace and tone of the encounter. The officer could have stopped speaking, changed his tone of voice, perhaps taken a literal step backwards and said something palliative like “It seems you’re having a bad day. Let’s just take a second and calm down and figure out what we can do to sort this out.”
In fact, Officer Kroening inadvertently, perhaps unavoidably, ratcheted up the stress (and thus aggression) by mirroring Todara’s speaking pace and tone and then taking hold of Todora’s arm. If the officer expected gentle compliance I reckon that expectation was unrealistic. At that point, the officer should have yanked Todaora out of the car as violently as possible.
Note: While I have worked as a reserve police officer I am in no way suggesting I would do any better — indeed any differently — in the same situation. But I do think this video highlights the fact that law enforcement officers need more training in psychology, in how to calm distraught, potentially violent people. Am I wrong?