A cop who previously worked as a youth care worker calls his old job a monster factory:
I have seen it over and over again. Due to their behavior a child or teenager needs ‘intervention’, ‘help’, or is ‘at risk’. Teachers at first usually, and then a combination of teachers, social workers, and case managers come up with various ‘treatment’ and ‘goals’ for the child/teenager to strive for in their behavior. If the child or teenager ‘acts out’ the members of one of the institutions staffed exclusively by graduates of an approved social-work or education school, or some form of ‘line-worker’ like a (youth care worker) that has been vetted for ‘professional disposition’ by one of those graduates will ‘confront’ the child or teenager about their behavior. It is these confrontations about behavior that lie at the source of the problem. They happen almost entirely on the child or teenagers terms. By design.
A teacher, social worker, mental health professional, or case manager will for good reason make sure they do not touch, lay hands, or physically restrain their ‘client’. The fact that they can be sued is only the start. You may well have a teenager or even a child who is bigger and stronger than you. There are techniques for attempting to resolve the issue at hand or at least deescalate tension that may arise during a confrontation over behavior or that was present prior to it. However, these techniques all belie what is at issue and at stake; that the child or teenager has violated a rule or norm and that someone with the authority to command their behavior is telling them to stop and they are not doing it out of either ignorance or willful defiance. If you have the authority to command a stop to a certain behavior or change in it you do not need to negotiate your position on the matter. That is ceding authority to the kid. That is a horrible decision and especially practice to make but we do it anyway. Because it would be foolish to command behavior that you have no ability to back up with some form of consequence. THAT is why teachers, social workers, mental health professionals (I am thinking of them in institutional settings) and case managers do not physically restrain or push matters too far usually. Because you call the cops to do that. That is what we are for.
There is a problem with handling confrontations in this manner for children and teenagers who are treated this way their entire lives by institutional employees. They come to believe that when handling confrontations with employees of institutions (any institution: a school, a social work institution, law enforcement, companies, etc) that they can always dictate terms through their refusal to obey ‘the rules’ and by physically resisting or even physically escalating against whatever order they’re being given. ‘You can’t tell me what to do or else I’ll!…’ fill in the blank. This works fine if you’re in one of the institutions that is staffed by people who are given to avoid physical confrontation anyway (not everyone obviously) and are governed by rules that dictate that that is how confrontations will go, but if you run into people who won’t follow those rules in the real world you quickly run into problems.
A cop cannot get yelled at and simply back down. By law and certainly by case-law there is no requirement of a cop to cede ground. As a matter of fact in general you’d better not. You ARE required by law to enforce it whether you like it or not. We have discretion only when we know intervention will definitely cause more damage to life and property than can be reasonably justified, but as always, you’d better be ready to articulate it in court. You might back up to tactically gain advantage but that had better be the only reason you’re doing it. No law enforcement agency will employ a cop who backs down from enforcing the law. You aren’t ordered to take a suicidal position when enforcing the law, but you have to make your best effort and call back-up if you need it. This isn’t a chest-thumping, braggadocio’d position to take. It is the bare minimum required of any law-enforcement officer.
I see this day in and day out in the behavior of criminals and inmates in the jail and on the streets of the county I work for. My favorite situation is when fresh from being whisked from the juvenile detention center on their eighteenth birthday an inmate new to the jail will demand to see a supervisor when, “I don’t like the level of service being provided.” It’s the same on the street. After a few years the criminal type will get to know their rights in the system due to familiarity and their expectations will change. They won’t complain about things they can’t legally expect. They certainly don’t try to take your gun away and understand that it’s suicide to try. But the young ones… the ones that have only their prior experience with their schools or the juvenile system to operate on, they make very bad decisions. The world does not have to conform to your barbaric yawp. You must learn that no one kow-tows to you.
Or, as Ed Realist put it, “One could say that Michael Brown is dead because he was foolish enough to treat a cop like a teacher.”