Don't trust the police
When I began writing this article, I changed topics so many times because I have so much to say. It is simply impossible to get every point across that I would like so this has been narrowed down to an introductory defense of law enforcement. Since I cannot cover everything, I would like to offer a couple disclaimers. First, I am not a boy scout cop that is blinded by the pageantry of law enforcement. In fact, my favorite piece of literature is, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. Second, I can be very critical of the police. I get in many arguments with fellow officers over our enforcement of stupid laws, our inability to control crime, and especially the police unions.
A fellow officer and I often discuss how we can foster change from within the system. We have come to the conclusion that mass change is unlikely, but we can step in occasionally on a case by case basis to interfere with the system when necessary. As supporters of gun rights, together we have saved quite a few men from being charged with gun crimes or violent crimes when they are acting in self-defense.
For example, I recall an incident when a large group of inner city black youth attacked a white man who was just walking down the street. During the attack, the white man pulled out a knife and cut one of the attackers pretty bad, sending him to the hospital. A sergeant at the time felt compelled to charge the white guy because of the nature of the injuries to the assailant and the use of a weapon. To make a long story short, I persuaded him not to charge him and he was released.
This may seem like common sense to most, but in the police world, liability and politics often force officers to make the simplest decisions that will require no defense on their part, often at the peril of innocent people’s freedom. For example, the sergeant most likely felt it would be hard to explain to the attackers angry family why the victim was not charged since their child suffered the most severe injury, and especially since the victim was white. I have never minded explaining why I did the right thing.
One point in the article that I’d like to address is the claim that law enforcement is trained to be antagonistic toward the public. Although I will never defend the bully cops or deny that they exist, you’ll never get rid of them. There are almost one million officers in America. That means one million unique human beings with personalities from every spectrum. But I assure you, no officer is directly trained to be a bully. In fact, we spend hundreds of hours of training over our careers in customer service, diversity, community policing, problem solving, etc. They directly train us to be soft and accommodating. I’ve had to take classes in dealing with every type of human from a deaf person to a transgender. But there is one piece of training that indirectly trains us to be a bit more antagonistic and “trigger happy”: watching video of police officers killed on duty.
Although this training is essential and its intentions are to improve officer safety, it certainly indirectly affects an officer’s disposition toward citizens during various encounters. Training videos showing real footage of officers being murdered are often used to help officers learn from the mistakes of the fallen officer. As the proliferation of cameras continue, there is not much an officer does on his shift that is not recorded on video. Many departments even have lapel cameras now that are always recording. As a result, the more cameras there are, the more police murders are recorded, which causes officers to be inundated in training with video after video of officers being violently killed.
Some of these training videos are obtained through a network of classified footage used exclusively for training purposes and shared by law enforcement only. They are uncut, unedited, and brutal. I remember one cruiser cam video showing an officer who was gunned down by a guy with a rifle during a traffic stop. As the bad guy drove off, all that could be heard on the officer’s microphone was his morbid gurgling and agonal breathing as he laid dying in the street all alone. At the time, all I could think was that somewhere his children were playing on a playground or reading in school while he died on the pavement. It was incredibly sad.
But then I replayed the video in my head and I heard the officer warn the guy six or seven times to put down the rifle before firing his first shot. I thought, “Why did he even warn him at all? That crazy bastard was loading his rifle right in front of you, what did you think he was going to do with it?! If he just would have shot him the moment he saw the gun, he would still be alive and his children would be with their father.” My instructors agreed. That was the lesson we learned. Some will say that we learned to be a little more “trigger happy” and others will say that we learned to survive. Who is right?
I kiss my daughter and my son every night before I go to work. I’m terrified of being that officer. When I make a traffic stop and the guy gets out of his car against my wishes and reaches back into his car, it scares the living shit out of me. I think of that officer and I pull out my gun and yell at the guy to get back in his car. He looks back at me like I’m crazy and says he was only looking for his phone.
But what if I knew that guy had a warrant for armed robbery, and he was jumping out of his car to get away, but decided to grab his phone suddenly before running? As he climbs back out of the car, I see something silver in his hand and shoot him. I just shot an unarmed man. Some people think I should go to prison or at least be fired. Anton McDowell requested an explanation of why officers are not held accountable for their actions and felt like cops just protect each other.