91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Event featuring "killology" police trainer canceled after outcry

Michigan State Police

An event for local police chiefs featuring a controversial law enforcement trainer scheduled to take place in Novi next month has been canceled, following a series of complaints to the church where it was to be held, as well as the organization that planned it. 

Dave Grossman is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who focused on what he has described as “killology,” or the causes, effects, and responses to the use of deadly force. He has been training law enforcement and military personnel across the country on the issue for nearly 20 years, according to his website, calling them to come to terms with killing.

“So that necessity to embrace a dirty four-letter word, ‘kill,’ that is in one way at the command [level], and at the psychological level is one area where we still need to make some progress, I think,” he said in a 2005 interview with FRONTLINE

Although Grossman, who did not respond to a request for comment, has said “the goal is not to kill,” some have taken issue with his comments. One Twitter user called on people to file complaints against the event, describing Grossman as “a man whose job it is to train police to kill without feeling guilty.” 

Grossman has drawn further ire for a clip from one of his events in which he called sex following a violent police encounter a "perk" of the job.

"Cops say gunfight, bad guys down. I'm alive,” Grossman said. “Finally get home at the end of the incident, and they all say, 'The best sex I've had in months.'" 

“The sound of that clip on its face is terrible,” said Robert Stevenson, who heads the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the organization that invited Grossman to speak. Stevenson said he asked Grossman’s organization to respond to that video and was told that the clip was taken out of context, and that the full talk referred to the various ways in which police had reported feeling following violent encounters.

“I've been in the law enforcement career for 47 years, and I've never heard of a police officer that took any enjoyment out of taking somebody's life,” Stevenson said. 

He said the purpose of the event did not relate to some of the complaints that have been raised. “We didn't bring in, you know, Col. Grossman to teach killing or a cavalier thing about killing, that was quite the opposite,” he said. “We were bringing him in to help with officers that are involved in it.” 

He noted that a focus on “psychological and physical aspects” of deadly force encounters, felt especially important after a Dearborn officer took his own life after shooting and killing a 35-year-old man named Kevin Matthews in 2015.

Stevenson said that he and his colleagues felt it “prudent” to cancel the event after reviewing the complaints submitted to their organization, along with those sent to the Oak Pointe Church in Novi which was supposed to host the event. 

The Oak Pointe Church issued a statement on Monday about its decision to revoke use of its space for the event, writing, “Our mission of ‘making disciples to know Jesus and make Him known’ is not in line with one of the speakers in question,” referring to Grossman. 

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.