Retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the director of Killology Research Group, a company that specializes in police training, will no longer speak at a training session for Detroit officers at a May session after members of the community complained in response to videos of Grossman speaking that resurfaced online.
Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Robert Stevenson said he canceled the upcoming training session for Detroit officers scheduled for May 26 and 27, which was set to feature 64-year-old Grossman as a speaker, after the association and the church where the event was set to be held received complaints.
“We started getting complaints yesterday,” Stevenson told the Free Press on Monday. “And I talked to some people and we just decided it’s prudent to cancel it for now.”
The event, which was set to be held at an evangelical church in Novi, Michigan, was meant to address the post traumatic stress disorder some officers face after killing a person.
But over the past week, videos of Grossman’s controversial comments spread on social media. According to Stevenson, the complaints started coming in after a Twitter user tweeted images of an online flyer from the Michigan Police Chiefs website promoting the in-person event scheduled to take place at Oak Point Church in Novi. Grossman was scheduled to speak on day 2 of the event, which would have cost $195 to attend.
“If you have a problem with a bunch of cops being trained to kill, I’ve included contact info so you can let them know,” the tweet said.
Oak Pointe said in a statement after Grossman’s controversial comments surfaced, “The fact that we were unaware of the planned speakers and contents of the MACP (Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police) May 26-27 event is our responsibility. Even though this was not a church event, we are responsible for what we host in our building and therefore endorse.”
The statement went on to say, “In one of his online seminars he states, ‘Any natural or learned resistance to killing, any sense of the sanctity of human life, any human emotions, any remorse or compassion at the moment of truth can all be overcome and overwhelmed with training’ (Unit 2, from ‘On Combat’). Because of this statement and other elements of Lt. Col. Grossman’s teachings, we cannot welcome him as a speaker at Oak Pointe Church.”
According to the website for Killology, the term is defined as a noun and characterized as “The scholarly study of the destructive act, just as sexology is the scholarly study of the procreative act. In particular, killology focuses on the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances (such as police and military in combat) and the factors that enable and restrain killing in these situations.”
Grossman founded Killology after retiring from the Army. His outfit specializes in studying the impact using lethal force has on soldiers and members of law enforcement. Killology explores techniques the military uses to help soldiers overcome the reluctance to kill and how they can be applied to officers in the line of duty. Grossman’s books have focused on how soldiers and police officers can kill without feeling guilty, and his training encourages officers to see themselves as being “at war” while on the streets.
Since his retirement from the Army in 1998, Grossman has been “one of our nation’s leading trainers for military, law enforcement, mental health providers, and school safety organizations,” according to the company’s website.
Over the past 20 years, he has spoken to numerous local law enforcement groups across the country, as well as the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Offices, according to the website.
In one of the controversial clips of Grossman speaking in 2015, he says officers often have the best sex of their lives after returning home from a shift during which they killed someone.
“There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job,” Grossman said. “You find one, relax and enjoy it,” he added as people in the audience laughed.
In other videos, Grossman told the audience that a person must become a “predator” before taking a life and encouraged officers to fantasize about wearing a cape and letting it “flow in the wind,” as they look over the city they serve.
As he signed an autograph in one video, he quoted Ecclesiastes 3:3, saying, “a time to kill, a time to heal.”
Critics of Grossman say his tendency to encourage the militarization of police work could lead to more fatal police encounters.
Grossman’s courses were scrutinized in 2016 after it was revealed that St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who fatally shot Philando Castile, had taken Grossman’s “Bulletproof Warrior” course a few years prior.
Seth Stoughton, a former police officer who now specializes in use of force, said of Grossman’s training, “It’s become a much broader metaphor for all aspects of policing, and it’s contributed to a very adversarial approach to policing, where officers are told that they are superheroes doing battle with the forces of evil, that they’re soldiers on the front line in a war against anarchy.”
According to Stevenson, the May training session wasn’t meant for “the line officer” but was intended for police chiefs and executives dealing with police shootings as part of ongoing training aimed at police leaders in the state.
On social media, users criticized Grossman’s practices.
But Stevenson defended the initial decision to have Grossman speak at the session. “Suicide’s a problem,” for some officers, Stevenson said. “So that was what we were having him talk about. I mean, he does have a military component, but that that’s not applicable to the civilian side.”
He also referenced the suicide of a Dearborn officer who took his life in December, five years after killing a 35-year-old Black man.
The officer, Christopher Hampton, still faced a civil lawsuit in the death of Kevin Matthews.
“My hope is that I can put Col. Grossman’s people in touch with the people that have objections and they can find out what he’s really teaching and address their concerns,” Stevenson said.