Police Psychology: Fake News
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
My first TV show appearance was in March 1991, a couple of days after the Rodney King Incident in Los Angeles. The president of the police union I worked with asked me to go along on a TV interview because the deck was stacked against him with a member of the ACLU and civil rights leaders as the other guests. The attacks were vicious against the union president at first, then I spoke up and said that many mental illness protocols show that “jumping to conclusions” is a type of delusional thinking that comes with narcissistic, histrionic and borderline personality disorders, and even worse comes with paranoid psychosis where conspiracy theories play out. The fact was we didn’t have any knowledge of what happened before the videotape of Rodney King, the toxicology report on him, or even his history. I suggested we should wait for those results to draw conclusions. That was not a popular idea with the anti-police persons, but it did shut them up, and gave the PBA president something to play off. History confirmed my contention. As it turns out, when the opening ten seconds of the video that the TV Station KTLA had edited out were shown, the officers were acquitted in state court. The press caused a reaction, created news, and once created it was not destroyed. Essentially, if that video were not to have riled masses, causing riots which enabled part of LA to be held hostage, this would have probably been handled internally by the department with the same results. One officer was later found to have made six unnecessary blows after King was subdued and a second officer (the second was the supervisor) were found guilty of a civil rights violation in federal court.
“Fake News” is no stranger to people in law enforcement. Name the police administrator (or psychologist) who hasn’t been misquoted (or misinterpreted) by the media, and I will show you someone that hasn’t spoken to the media very much. It is not endemic to all media, but it does show up a lot. It has gotten extreme lately on both political sides. Russian collusion, traitors by email, selling the country to enemies either by hotel room profits or donations, it is getting hard to distinguish what is news and what is not. Is it just our innate desire to find the needle of evil in the haystack of life? Or is it being fed to us to draw delusional conclusions that border on mental illness? Either way, psychology is definitely involved here. (more…)