High Expectations

High Expectations, Very High!
Police killing people.
People killing police.

Again and again we hear the news: cop shoots unarmed man, cop beats pregnant woman, cop shoots man while handcuffed, cops Taser sick man, and cops Taser mentally ill man. Cops staging a raid on the wrong house has happened in the metro Atlanta area several times in the past few weeks.

A woman beaten beside a California highway by a policeman was awarded a $1.5 and a $6.4 Million dollar settlement was just handed down in Baltimore. Another cop is being scrutinized for possible criminal charges for shooting a man that he stopped for a seat belt violation who reached back in his truck to get his ID which the cop had asked for. A cop in Missouri shoots an unarmed person described as a “teddy bear” and a riot starts. One cop shoots a man, carrying a knife we are told, 16 times.

Then, we hear about two cops gunned down in Pennsylvania by a guy just because they were cops. Ambushed outside their patrol barracks. Two cops are shot, one killed, in Forsyth, Ga. during a domestic violence call. Two Alaska State troopers are killed while on a call by the 19 year old son of the man they were trying to arrest. A cop in Texas is shot because he had on a cop uniform when he stopped for gas. 35 officers were killed in the US in 2014 thru September 16th, plus an undetermined number shot, struck by vehicles, etc. The numbers are still adding up for 2015 as several attacks have happened in the last few days.

But, the cops are better at killing than getting killed. In Los Angeles, alone, police kill about 1 person per week according to the Center for Law and Justice. There were 43 in 2014 through August 30th which are last numbers available when this was written. Apparently police training pays off.

People who research the subject nationally say there is limited info available on the subject and probably by design. While a lot of info gets into the media about the number of law enforcement killed, little has been done to quantify the reverse.

In LA, even when police shoot or kill the wrong person in the heat of the moment, the District Attorney will usually let them off without any consequences as long as an officer believes themselves or the community is in danger when they pulled the trigger. Even if they weren’t.

Today, just about everybody can photograph and video tape encounters that police have with the public. This, along with dashboard cameras and security cameras, and the recent move toward body cams, has brought increased scrutiny to incidents and has removed a lot of “we have to take the policeman’s word for it”.

People shooting cops and cops shooting people. And the trend seems to be going in the wrong direction. Is there a conclusion that one can draw from all these incidents that will help make sense of why they happen? I can only offer some observations and opinions. And, everybody can do that.

My grandfather told me that the person we have to be the most concerned about if we have a confrontation with them is the person who is afraid. A person who is in fear of their life or personal safety might just “pick up a brick bat and knock you in the head”, as he would phrase it. That may go for law enforcement, too. After all, men and women do not leave their humanity at home when they sign on as a police officer.

Have you had someone cut you off in traffic, pull out in front of you, drive to close to your rear bumper, or in some other way make you angry? Have you felt that sudden surge of adrenalin that caused you to lash out with a yell, a fist shaking in the air, or a finger at someone in retaliation?

Imagine that you are a cop chasing a car down the interstate that may contain someone who has just stuck up the 7-11 or was involved in a drive by shooting. Maybe they have tried ramming your car or fired a gun at you. A frightening situation and one that might also make you mad for being put in this situation by someone.

I believe that we are dealing with both those emotions in many of these situations. Fear and anger. When we add personal bias, we have a deadly concoction. While we would like to think that a cop would be so well trained that they could become immune to all human emotion. What?!

Cops should have no emotion? Some would say yes, a cop should not be letting their decisions be guided by emotions. But, doesn’t that leave out compassion, love, and all the rest, too?

We don’t mind cops having a human emotion like love and compassion but leave the anger and fear at home. I don’t know if we can expect a person to do that and still be a person.

Police officers get divorced, have problems with drugs and alcohol, get in trouble for domestic violence, get in financial difficulty, go fishing, go to their kid’s ballgames, get sick, go to church, and are engaged in many of the normal everyday segments of life like other human beings. But, somehow, when a policeman (or policewoman) straps on a gun and pins on a badge they start putting their pants on differently? No longer one leg at a time? That is a high expectation and may be too high and lofty.

A large part of police training is about guns and shooting. And there are times when the “shoot-don’t shoot” decision must be made in a split second, or you become a casualty like the two cops in Forsyth or Alaska. Or you get shot at the Goodyear store trying to escape officers who have come to serve you a warrant. Is that a reasonable expectation?

We now have highly trained, military type police. Carrying H&K MP5 Submachine guns capable of firing 700 to 900 rounds of 9mm shells per minute, depending on the specific model. And some departments are using even more potent weapons. Flash bang devices, armored cars, helmets and face masks are part of the repertoire. Snipers and sniper rifles. AR-15’s. Mobile Grenade Launchers.

In the late ‘60’s, the then mayor of Macon, Ga., Ronnie Thompson, became a laughing stock by acquiring an armored personnel carrier and giving out his “Machine Gun Ronnie” pins. The pin had a miniature of a Thompson Sub Machine Gun. But the Pot smoking crowd from the 1970 Byron Pop Festival and the civil rights rioters stayed clear of Macon.

Looking back, he was a pretty forward thinking mayor! All the big cities have armored cars and machine guns now.

A 90+ year old black woman is at home minding her own business when a group of drug squad cops bashes in her front door in the middle of the night. Do you think that would evoke fear? How would you react? She reacted by opening fire and, in return for not bothering anyone, is killed. They had the wrong house, or bad information, or both. But, maybe stupidity was their main problem.

Three cops in Dekalb County burst in to the wrong house a few days ago and not only shot the homeowner and his dog, they shot each other, too!
How did that happen?

It would not take a lot of research for a detective to determine who lives in a house that has been living there for 30-40 years! Some said the cops were justified in killing her because she was shooting at them. Others would say she was justified in shooting at them because they broke into her house (with the law on their side?).

A child is asleep in its crib in Gainesville when another para military operation is launched against the house and its occupants on a drug raid. A flash bang device is fired into the house, lands in the baby’s crib and severely injures the child. I have not heard of any drug charges that came out of that raid, except for one of the drug squad officers who falsified the warrant info.

There is a phenomena in life that I call “Justification of Purpose”. SWAT teams need to find hot situations where they can use all of their skills, training, and equipment in order to justify their existence. They need to use their MP5’s or why bother to have them. They are trained and retrained to bash in a door in the middle of the night to catch bad guys. (And 90 year old women living alone) And, by God, don’t have the misfortune of getting in their way. They need to have situations come up like the shootout in North Hollywood, California in 1997. These reestablish their need to exist.

A search warrant was recently served on the home of an FBI agent living in the Atlanta area in a wrongful death case by US Marshalls. About 25 heavily armed officers and an armored cars arrived to to serve the warrant. One might asked if they are so inept as to require that kind of firepower to serve a search warrant on one of their own in a civil case.

If I were a cop stopping a car load of guys at 1:00 AM on I-285 I would likely be afraid for my safety. I might be inclined to have my hand on the trigger. And, if I do that enough times, that split second “shoot-don’t shoot” situation may end up with me shooting a guy reaching for his wallet, not his 9 mm. High expectations!? You bet!?

I’ve only known one law officer that was killed in the line of duty. He was killed with his own gun because he got careless stopping someone he knew on a lonely stretch of road late at night. He was not afraid! He was not angry. He was a nice guy. Maybe he would be alive today had he had not been so nice and had one of those emotions working. It cuts both ways.

Andy Taylor did not carry a gun and his deputy was only allowed one bullet and it was kept in his pocket. Andy got shot at a few times and had some rocks thrown at him by some of the guys in the area but he always resolved the problem by talking to the guy and there was never any bloodshed. He would not have made it too long in DeKalb County, Ga. High Expectations!?

A report from Ashville, NC showed their SWAT team was being used primarily for serving warrants. I guess the idea is that 20 guys with guns and an armored vehicle will convince a guy to “come out with his hands up” and no shots will be fired. So, maybe that works. But can you imagine the fear this invokes. Fear is what the SWAT team is counting on. But suppose the fear invoked results in a 90 year old pulling out their old S&W 38 and opening fire in fear of their personal safety?

There are people shooting people because they have lost all sense of morality and value for human life. People devoid of most human emotions. One man killed his kids and himself. Two young men attacked their parents while they were sleeping last week. People are shot over $3.00 in their wallet. A man beheads a coworker after being fired.

As long as we have heavily armed police functioning in a violent society mixed with the human emotions of fear and anger and the need for self-preservation, some of the split second decisions will go in the wrong direction and a cop that was receiving awards and accolades last week is in line for an indictment for shooting and / or killing someone that should not have been shot next week. Or, maybe, we are reading about another cop killed in the line of duty.
Expecting more is just too high an expectation!

The only people that are not held to any standard of accountability are Presidents, Senators, Representatives and high level appointees who can abuse, neglect, and flagrantly violate the law while exhibiting total incompetence and disdain for the American public. And even the Congress of the United States cannot bring them to justice.

 

© Sandy Point Times  HJC

 

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