OK, I am so sick of hearing all this talk about how there was no reason for the police to shoot “Insert name of anyone shot in recent years trying to kill a cop” six times because he was unarmed. There was a recent shooting of a young man who attacked the police with a knife, and got himself shot and killed. The response from the community—they didn’t have to kill him—they could have shot him in the leg… How ridiculous!
My goal here is to help everyone better understand the use of deadly force and why it is unfortunately necessary at times. I am not an attorney, but I do have a law enforcement background. I am a graduate of The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and in a past life held a Certification to teach the Armed and Unarmed Security Officers Course, as well as the Private Investigators Course in Virginia. Prior to all that I served in the United States Marine Corps and did a tour as a Marine Security Guard, protecting American Embassies around the world. I have carried a weapon since I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years of age.
Law Enforcement Officers are taught about the concept of “Escalating Levels of Force.” Most Officers have a number of defensive weapons at their disposal, that in an “ideal” situation, time permitting, can be deployed against someone who is being aggressive, or poses a threat to them. Not all people who are aggressive necessarily pose a threat, conversely not all people who pose a threat show signs of aggression before they attack.
First, lets cover some of the tools at an Officer’s disposal. The most important weapon, or tool they have available, and the one I like to put a lot of emphasis on, is their brain. Often times just speaking to someone the right way can diffuse a situation, or doing something like calling a trouble maker out of the crowd and speaking to him in private, where they do not feel the need to put on a show for others, can prevent a fight from ever taking place.
If things do become physical, an Officer has their bare hands and the defensive tactic skills they have been taught and hopefully take time to master. They have Pepper Spray, which in my experience is way overrated and is typically only effective at irritating the Officer that uses it. People who are agitated or on drugs, only become more agitated and violent when sprayed with the stuff. In addition to the Pepper Spray, some have Electric Tasers and then of course a Night Stick, or PR-24, which is a Night Stick with a handle of sorts on it. These are the typical tools police officers have at their disposal.
Now, what’s important to understand is that just because they have these various tools, that some may consider less lethal than their firearm, that does not necessarily mean they are required to deploy them all before utilizing their handgun. It’s important to understand that Police are people like the rest of us. They have families and friends like the rest of us and like everyone else in America, when their work day is over, they want to go home – alive!
So what is the standard that police are required to apply when determining how much force to use? They are not required to meet force with equal force, rather they are trained to use “only that amount of force necessary to control the situation.” In an “ideal” situation that means if the bad guy has a club, then the Officer might choose to deploy his Pepper Spray, or Electric Taser to disarm the bad guy and apprehend him.
Now, having given such an example, let me bring you into reality. Rarely are police confronted with “ideal” situations on the street. More often than not, a situation turns real bad, real fast and it becomes a matter of survival for the Officer. I’ll give you a couple of examples and explain further. The ability of an Officer to deal with a situation depends entirely on that situation. If an Officer gets a call of a disturbance and arrives to find a man pacing in the street with a club and the subject is merely agitated and continues to pace and scream obscenities at the Officer, then the Officer can work through the situation, call back up, try to reason with the subject and talk them into putting the club down. If the subject refuses to put the club down, with other officers present, they may attempt to use Pepper Spray, or an Electric Taser to subdue the subject and apprehend him. In this scenario, the subject is agitated, but displayed no real intent to follow through with any threats to hurt someone. the Police had plenty of time to utilize all the tools available to them.
Let’s look at that scenario from another perspective. The Officer gets the same call of a disturbance, but this time when he arrives on the scene, the minute he steps out of his vehicle the subject with a club charges at him screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” Do you think the Officer is going to have the same opportunity to consider all of his options, or is he going to consider his survival? If you didn’t choose his survival, and you don’t think you would choose your survival in this scenario, then I don’t believe you’re being honest with yourself.
While the above scenario may seem cut and dry to most, there are even other things that an Officer has to consider, usually in a spit second, before using deadly force in a scenario like this. What I am about to explain next, is relevant in both the Michael Brown shooting and the shooting that occurred last night when the Officer was attacked by a man with a knife.
When an Officer is confronted with a threat, or when any of us are confronted with a threat for that matter, because this standard for the use of deadly force applies to us all, the person making the threat has to have the ability to deliver on that threat. What the heck does that mean? Well, let’s say that you are 6’4″ tall at 240 pounds and some young lady standing all of 5 foot nothing, weighing 110 pounds soaking wet, yells “I’m going to kill you!” and charges at you. Could you use deadly force in a scenario like this? Generally speaking no! Why? Well, while the young lady clearly threatened to kill you, she also clearly has no ability to deliver on that threat. As angry as she might be, chances are no amount of effort on her part to physically overcome you is going to be successful, you’re simply too big a man for her to harm.
Now, let’s turn that scenario around. Suppose that 6’4″ tall man at 240 pounds were to look at that 5 foot nothing 110 pound young lady and say, “I’m going to kill you!” and charged at her. Do you think she would be justified in using deadly force to stop him? The answer is yes! Why? The man is clearly much bigger than the young lady and capable of following through with his threat, even without a weapon. Chances are the young lady would not even have a chance of defending herself, or stopping the man if she had a club, thus the use of deadly force would be justified.
I want to take a minute to discuss some of the misconceptions caused by the “Hollywood Effect.” What’s that? People watch too much television and the layman seems to be under the impression today that being shot, regardless of where someone is hit, kills a man. There is also an impression people get from watching action movies, that a man can be hit in the head with a baseball bat and stand back up to continue fighting. I’m not going to post a bunch of gruesome pictures here, but feel free to Google these things and I’m sure you can find some. There are documented cases of men being shot 20 plus times and not going down and a baseball bat to the head will split it open like a melon. The military started using the .45 handgun during WWII, because the enemy would get high on opium and attack them. It was the only thing that would halt their advance in most instances. If you’re not familiar with the .45 caliber handgun, it’s what one might call a hand cannon.
Having said that, do police shoot to kill? No! Police are not trained to shoot to kill, they are taught to shoot in incapacitate, or to stop the threat. Can that and does that result in death? Yes! Police are not trained to shoot at the heart or head, they are trained to shoot center mass, or in simple terms, right in the middle of a person’s body, the largest target available. What most people do not seem to know, is that shooting a handgun “accurately” is very difficult. I have seen some people with a natural ability with the handgun, but anyone who is really proficient will tell you, it is a skill that requires training and continued practice to maintain. And shooting accurately under stress, is even more difficult.
The scene commonly portrayed on the screen in Hollywood, is the cop who calmly draws his weapon and places a round perfectly through the heart, or between the eyes of his attacker. And let’s not forget the thug, who with handgun turned sideways, shoots his thug adversary in the knee cap from 20 yards away. These scenes are not common in real life. When a man is charging at you, especially if they are 6’4″ and 240 pounds like Michael Brown in Ferguson, wanting to kill you, you don’t have time to consider trying to shoot them in the knee, your training kicks in, you shoot center mass, and hope your aggressor goes down.
I will be the first to tell you, in my experience over the years, having shot with many people and having stepped up to the line to qualify with my handgun many times over the years, most people, most law enforcement officers, are not the finest marksmen. Yes, if they are carrying a handgun and wearing a badge, they do have to meet a minimum qualification standard, usually twice a year. Is that enough? I personally don’t think so. It was always my belief and remains my belief, that if one is going to carry a handgun, they should take it upon themselves, required or not, to train as much as possible and to become as efficient as possible with that handgun.
While I believe we should and do hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard than the average person, we have to keep that higher standard reasonable. What do I mean by that? Well, I believe that an officer needs to train to maintain their composure under pressure. I don’t believe a man, or woman that makes the decision to wear a badge, should have the kind of temperament that causes them to lose their cool and continue to beat a subject after they are down because they are angry. I don’t expect an Officer to draw his weapon and start pointing it at people, threatening to kill them as we saw one Officer in Ferguson doing last night. I know it’s hard dealing with some people, but that’s why law enforcement is not for everyone.
In my opinion, based on the information available thus far, it is starting to seem more and more like the Officer in Ferguson, Missouri was justified in shooting Michael Brown. I’ll explain why. We know that there was a struggle for the officers weapon inside his patrol vehicle. The witness story is that the Officer reached his hand outside his patrol vehicle, grabbed a 6’4″ 240 pound man by the neck, and pulled him through his window. I don’t know any other appropriate way to put this, other than to say Bull SHIT! It is also being revealed that the Officer sustained a severe injury to his face, from having been hit by Michael Brown while sitting in his patrol vehicle during the initial encounter.
The assault on the Officer in his patrol vehicle demonstrates a clear willingness on the part of Michael Brown to be violent and a total disregard for the Officer’s badge of authority. While the family and other witnesses that initially went public with their story giving statements that Michael Brown was on his knees, with hands in the air saying I surrender, the evidence does not support that. The initial autopsy shows the shots to the front of his body with the kill shot being through his skull while Michael Brown was bent forward. Many are trying to spin the explanation of how that may have happened, but I believe the honest story of what happened is the one caught on a video being shot right after the shooting incident, where someone was telling everyone that Michael Brown turned toward the Officer and rushed at him. This is when the Officer began shooting until he fell to the ground.
This is an unfortunate incident to be sure. I do not believe it had anything to do with race, rather it had everything to do with a young man who made some bad decisions and it cost him his life. My bet is that the Officer that shot him is anything but happy about the incident, in fact, I would bet he is heart-broken and grieves for the loss of that young man and the pain his family feels. The Officer did not want to kill anyone, he simply wanted to go home to his wife and children, alive, not in a body bag.
Justice for Michael Brown is not having the Officer convicted of murder. Justice for Michael Brown would be raising our children to respect the law. Justice for him would be teaching our youth how to properly exercise their rights to complain and bring redress before the government – peacefully. Justice for him would be teaching our youth that opportunity still exist in America for ANYONE to succeed. Justice for him would be teaching our youth that hard work and sacrifice is the key to obtaining success in this country. Justice for him would be silencing those that are still stuck in the 1950’s preaching oppression.
Unfortunately racism does still linger in America, it is a fact that one cannot argue. Racism is no longer the problem that it once was however and we must continue to push forward, shoving what remains aside until we free the world of it. I adopted a young black child when he was eight years of age, he is my son and I never qualify it when speaking with people, he is simply my son. I have raised him to ignore those that might display or exhibit signs of being racist. I have taught him that America is full of opportunity for those that sacrifice and work hard. I’ve not taught him to focus on the oppression that once existed toward the black man in this country. I’ve taught him that the ultimate victory against those idiots that still exhibit signs of racism, is succeeding and prevailing while they linger in the past. While racism still exist, it is but the mere occasional annoyance, or hurt feeling, it is no longer the sort of game changer it once was that could literally prevent a black man, or woman from achieving success in this country.
My son is starting his second year in college working toward earning an Electrical Engineering Degree. He knows that the only thing that can prevent him from achieving success in his life is HIMSELF! It’s the same lesson I was taught! And in today’s America, it’s the TRUTH! It applies to us ALL! I’m getting off on another topic now, so I am going to end this paper on Deadly Force and I hope that some of you find it helpful in understanding why deadly force was used and why deadly force was justified in this instance, even though Michael Brown had no weapon other than his fist and his size. Don’t think a simple punch can kill? Google referee and punch. There have been a couple of incidents recently where a referee was punched by a player and killed.
Pray for our nation people! Pray for peace among our people! Pray for total race equality and for people to respect one another regardless of skin color! Pray…