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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

I was wrong about Derek Chauvin: he has Aspergers

Six weeks ago I wrote a post about how Derek Chauvin was being viewed through the wrong lens, one of racism rather than sociopathy. The main point of that post was that when black people run into a difficult white person, their default assumption is that they were treated badly because of racism, when in fact it probably had more to do with that white person's overall dysfunction.

I had watched the video showing Chauvin's utter disregard for George Floyd's life. I had read about his conduct at his second job as security for a nightclub. I had read about the 22 complaints against him. And I had seen that the junior officers he was working with that fateful day had deferred to him, almost as if they were afraid of him. From those data points I concluded that Chauvin was a sociopath.

But the New York Times recently published an article on his past, and it now seems far more likely to me that he had Aspergers Syndrome, rather than sociopathy. Given the NY Times' leftist slant, had they been able to draw a picture of Chauvin as the apotheosis of evil and racism, they would have done so. But, the story they pieced together describes a man who was socially clueless, awkward, and isolated.

Consider the following excerpts (in italics):

[D]ozens of interviews with acquaintances depict a police officer who seemed to operate at an emotional distance from those around him. Chauvin was a quiet and rigid workaholic with poor people skills and a tendency to overreact...

"Rigid" is a word often used to describe Aspies. And Aspies are known for their "poor people skills." Sociopaths, by contrast, are often charming and manipulative.

He was awkward. Other officers either didn't like him or didn't know him. He didn't go to parties and didn't seem to have many friends. Some neighbors knew so little about him that they didn't even know he was a police officer until after his arrest.

"Awkward," of course, is the most frequently used word used to describe Aspies. And the fact that he was asocial -- as opposed to antisocial -- also indicates Aspergers.

Even on the police force, Chauvin was an outsider. He often partnered with a rookie he was training, exacting in his expectations. That was fine with his veteran colleagues, who did not necessarily want to ride alongside him.

"Exacting" means strictly by the book, which is how someone with Aspergers would operate. The veteran colleagues, who presumably knew what he was like, avoided him, as people generally end up doing with Aspies.

Derek did not play sports in school -- at least, not that anyone remembers. He did not have a yearbook photo for his junior or senior years. One classmate from Park High School in Cottage Grove, another Twin Cities suburb, remembered him as the student in ROTC who never talked but always held the flag. Another classmate, Scott Swanson, said Derek flew under the radar.

Never talked? Flew under the radar? Sociopaths tend to be both loquacious and memorable. In fact, they'll often do anything to make their presence felt.

After joining the military police, [Chauvin] was deployed to a U.S. Army base in Germany, here he studied for the Minnesota police exam in his spare time. He did not socialize much or drink alcohol...When Chauvin reported for training after the police academy, he showed up in a new white Crown Victoria outfitted to resemble a police car....Leaving work, most officers dressed casually. But Chauvin, who stood ramrod straight like he was in the military, left in full uniform, his pants pulled higher than most people would wear them, his boots polished.

Being obsessed with the trappings of his job, to the point of looking foolish -- and being oblivious about the impression he's making -- sounds like Aspergers as well.

In a group setting he would never connect and stand there like a small child. I was put off by his lack of communication skills...You never felt like he was present.

Again, typical of an Aspie. A sociopath is usually very present, and in a destructive way.

The article continues in this vein. He was not smart financially. He was awkward at the beauty pageant where his wife competed for the title of Mrs. Minnesota. And he and his wife often went separate ways.

The worst the Times could come up with as far as Chauvin's meanness was the incident they led off with, which occurred when the police observed some teenagers shooting their nerf gun out a car window:

[Chauvin] made a lasting impression. In fact, Bergh and another passenger said they would never forget him, nor what he said as he gave them back their guns. "Most of you will be 18 before the end of the year," before letting them go. "That means you'll be old enough for big boy jail."

That hardly presents the picture of unbridled viciousness and evil the New York Times would have preferred to draw.

I had pointed out in that previous post that police departments now guard against sociopaths by using the MMPI. Given that a policeman's job consists of interacting with the public, perhaps departments should guard against Aspies as well.

As far as the behaviors which initially made me think he was a sociopath, not thinking through the potential consequences of kneeling on an arrestee's neck can be a function of an Aspergerian lack of awareness -- and inability to identify with anyone else -- as well as callousness. Being overeager to use pepper spray at that nightclub could just reflect a rigid "by the book" approach to his job. And getting numerous complaints in the course of his duty as a police officer could well just reflect the fact that Aspies are often infuriating to deal with.

(I had mentioned "stupidity" as one of the lenses that Chauvin should have been viewed through; but I see now that it's that peculiar form of stupidity associated with Aspergers, not just a low IQ.)

In any case, I was wrong to label Chauvin a sociopath.

The main point of that previous post still holds true though: it would help race relations immeasurably if blacks realized that whites can be difficult to deal with for a whole host of reasons other than racism.