As of July 2022, the Graham Factor is on hiatus.
Who are you?
I’m a former police officer, and I won’t say any more than that.
Sometimes my writing includes anecdotes and stories about specific people or incidents. Names and immaterial details have, in many cases, been omitted or changed to protect the anonymity of myself and others.
You can reach me at: GrahamFactor@substack.com
I won’t voluntarily share the personal information or email addresses of subscribers, commenters, or others who write emails to me without permission.
The opinions shared here are solely my own and do not represent those of any employer or government agency.
What is this blog about?
This blog is about policing, and the spike in violent crime that started in 2014. Despite the enormous human toll of increasing violence, the prevailing sentiment among those who push for police reform and de-policing has been: “Don’t overreact!” This blog aims to question the narratives those people tell about crime, cops, policing, and police reform in the United States.
I also want this blog to be educational for both police officers and members of the public who don’t know much about policing. We are now at a point where the legal and political environment for police is rapidly shifting, while public knowledge about the practical nature of police work is (in my opinion) still very low.
I was a cop and I support police, but this blog is not a “back the blue” circlejerk. If you’re a cop, I welcome your feedback and appreciate what you do. But we all know a guy who needs to stop drinking, hit the gym, delete his Facebook or cut back on the overtime and off-duty work. I reject the general narrative that police are “the problem” in the American city, but I write about real problems as well.
What is a Graham Factor?
In 1989 the Supreme Court issued a landmark case on police use of force called Graham v. Connor. Now taught at every police academy, the court’s ruling outlines how a police officer’s use of force should be evaluated by a court:
The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight… With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments -- in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving -- about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.
The Supreme Court held that when determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable, a court should look at three factors - which in police training are often called Graham factors:
Because the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application, however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.
If your primary interaction with police has been being stopped for speeding, I would suggest starting off by reading this excellent post by Nick Selby.
Why are some articles called “Guest Factor”?
I want this blog to share the perspective of street cops, so I regularly invite any current, former, or retired police officers to write in about their experiences. While I help with editing these pieces and sometimes provide feedback to authors, I didn’t write them, don’t own the copyright to them, and the opinions expressed therein are not mine. Most cops who agree to speak to me are anonymous or pseudonymous, and I won’t share their names or contact information with anyone unless I have the author’s explicit permission.
If you’re interested in writing a Guest Factor piece, please email me at GrahamFactor@substack.com.
Can I republish your work?
I do not own the rights to any pieces entitled “Guest Factor” as those are submitted by third parties. I also do not own the copyright to comments posted here, except the ones posted by me. I do own the copyright to the original works I have posted here. You are free to republish that work in whole or part so long as you comply with the terms of the Creative Commons Share-Alike License and link back to this blog.
My default policy is to allow any comments that are not illegal, and I will do my best to respond to all good-faith comments or questions. I enjoy having an open debate and we have a great cohort of smart commenters here. No promises will be made or kept to trolls, however, I will tend to err on the side of presuming all comments and questions are submitted in good faith.
I reserve the right to delete comments that don’t contribute to the discussion in any way, including insults, racism, etc. If I remove a comment I’ll do my best to explain that decision to the commenter and the readership.
I object to the notion that the internet is or should be a permanent record. I liked the old-school internet, and see social media, blogging, and comments as being an expression of a person’s opinion at a specific point in time—not something that should follow that person around forever. Accordingly, I usually remove “open threads” after about two months.
I also close comments on old posts, “archive” substantive comments including my replies (minus usernames) by putting them in the body of the post itself, and then delete all comments. This is important to me because frequently the back and forth with readers ends with me correcting or clarifying something. Non-substantive comments (“I liked this post!”) are not preserved.