"Reforming” law enforcement in the United States is a big issue these days.
What is missing in this issue is the fact that, as the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”
In each of the tragic situations in the news, law enforcement officers were on the scene because someone had done something to attract their attention, or responding to a call for help from members of the public including relatives or some similar situation.
As a former peace officer and court official, it is frustrating to read and hear constant complaints against cops with no mention of the actions of the people who initiated the situation.
Homicides in several major cities in this country have shot up in the last year, by 40 percent in Los Angeles alone,
Why don’t we ever hear anything from the public about all the people murdered every day, by friends, relatives, or gangs?
One recent exception: some people in Bakersfield marched against gangs in their neighborhoods.
Which took guts.
If this happened all over the nation the number of police shootings and the number of non-police shootings would plummet.
Cops are people and like all of us they sometimes make bad decisions.
The worst recent example is the Minneapolis police officer and his three colleagues who, despite their training, ended up murdering a man who committed a $20 crime.
As I have noted before in this space, I was once involved in a situation involving a man high on a new drug called PCP that none of us, including the suspect, had ever heard of.
It took four of us to control him, with me being the only person injured, a minor finger cut while putting handcuffs on his legs while he was squirming all over the place.
As soon as he was controlled he was immediately transported to the main jail in Bakersfield by myself and a sheriff’s deputy.
In every case in which I have been involved as an officer or observed as a reporter, suspects injured in altercations with law enforcement were immediately given first aid by officers on the scene while awaiting the arrivals of paramedics, who had been immediately notified.
Doing their jobs
There seems to be an attitude among some folks in this great nation that it is wrong for cops to do their job, and that in each situation the law breaker is innocent and the peace officer is always guilty.
Two days after a young woman attempting to stab another young woman with whom she was fighting was shot and killed by a cop, I read an op-ed piece in a newspaper by some academic placing all the blame on the officer and none on the person who was shot.
I don’t know if the “expert” had seen the video of the incident, but if I had kids, I would not want them to attend any of his classes.
I also wonder what people would be saying if the officer had done nothing and the intended victim had been stabbed to death.
Of course, all the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” experts have answers for that.
‘No win’ situation
Shortly after reading this piece, I saw a veteran officer who had commented on CNN about the Minneapolis case in depth, agreeing that the officers involved there were wrong, and also saying that the officer who shot the knife-wielding young woman probably saved a life.
As he noted, “that was a no-win situation” — had the girl with the knife killed her victim, people would still be blaming the officer.
The academic wondered why the officer did not take any “non-lethal” action instead of shooting.
Such as? If the officer was equipped with a taser, he was too far away for it to be effective.
A writer in The New Yorker made fun of the 26-year veteran police officer who accidentally grabbed her Taser instead of her gun and killed a man whom she and her colleagues were trying to subdue.
The writer could not understand how the officer could say in an interview that she had “loved” being a peace officer for more than two decades.
Which was idiotic.
A 26-year veteran, that officer will most likely go to prison.
As I have also reported before, a respected Tehachapi police chief lost his life years ago while trying to talk down a young man he had previously tried to help.
Unfortunately, the average civilian has no clue about the situations cops face daily.
They do train for these situations with “shoot-no shoot” technology and other efforts, but making decisions in the heat of a life or death situation can still go wrong, as the officer learned when she grabbed her handgun instead of her taser.
There’s a big push on now to “train” cops to prevent these kinds of tragic situations.
That’s fine, but most peace officers already undergo continuous training.
As a learned general once noted, all the planning and training for battle goes to hell after the first shot is fired.
Training the public
When I hear these calls for training I wonder what is being done to “train” people who are not in law enforcement to avoid putting themselves in situations that can result in potentially deadly outcomes.
Like a kid pointing a gun at a cop, or trespassing on someone’s property, or fighting, etc.
I also hear people saying they are afraid of cops.
Well, cops are just as afraid of you when they make a car stop, or are called to referee fights between “adults,” or all the things that could be prevented if people would just grow up and start taking responsibility for themselves.
Demanding good sense is not something limited to peace officers.