By Chris Turrentine
I just read the story about the Cleveland Police Officer that shot the 12-year-old boy with the toy gun. Then I stupidly started reading the comments that people have left on the story. I try not to read them because I just get angry. The comment section is where you can usually find some of the most hateful things anyone could possibly say and will make you question humanity. As usual, there is a ton of cop bashing. This incident is an unfortunate circumstance that no officer wants to go through and it is something this officer is going to have to live with for the rest of his life. It is also a heartbreaking situation for the parents of the victim losing their son. However, the police have been catching an extremely bad wrap lately and it is completely unjustified.
I have read comments like “the police just didn’t want to see a young black boy become a black man,” “the police should only be able to shoot to disarm,” “why don’t they use a Taser,” and “a gun should be the last resort for a cop” and so on. I can understand some of the concerns of the public, but to judge every officer based on the actions of a few is just wrong. Are there bad cops? There most certainly are. When you have more than 900,000 police officers, there are bound to be some bad apples. However, thousands of good officers are out there trying to do the best job they can. Trying to make someone see what it is like to be a police officer is virtually an impossible task. Until you have put a vest and gun belt on and hit the streets to work patrol, you will never understand what it is like.
An unfortunate part of the job is that you have to make split second decisions and others have an unlimited amount of time to tear your decision apart. It is very similar to a football game when sportscasters rip a play apart when they were not on the field. I was not in that officer’s position, but I can tell you that I saw what the gun looked like the victim had, and I would have had to do the same thing the officer did. Officers want to go home at the end of their shift just as everyone else does. You never know who is going to be a threat and try to kill you, so you have to be suspicious of everyone. To the people who say “but he was only 12 years old, he wasn’t a threat to the officer.” I can tell you that gangs today are recruiting kids younger and younger in age. These are not groups of kids who think they are gangsters recruiting, but extremely violent gangs such as MS-13 and Tango Blast. Some of the Mexican Cartels most successful hit men are and have been children.
“Why don’t police officers shoot people in the hand or the foot or fire a warning shot?” Would you ask our brave service men that killed Osama Bin Laden why they did not shoot him in the foot? No, you would not. Most of us have been taught not to kill from the time we are young and it’s instilled in us as we grow. Police officers still have that inner voice telling them not to kill when it comes time to pull the trigger. They have to force themselves to fire their weapon because they also know that if they do not they may not go home to see their spouse and children. I have seen a few police videos where the officer should have pulled the trigger and did not, which ultimately lead to the loss of their life. Police officers do not go to work hoping to get to kill someone. When it comes time to pull that trigger, your body goes through major stresses. What one person sees in that moment, every other person will see something different. To try to shoot a small target such as a foot or hand is too difficult to do when you are under that much stress. In fact, if you do not believe me, have someone fire rounds at you and try to shoot a moving tin can at the same time. Besides that, if someone is shooting at you or trying to shoot at you, shooting for the biggest target is your best option. That is the chest and torso area, and just so happens that all of your vital organs are in there. To better understand what the body goes through and how people react to killing, I highly suggest you read “On Killing” by Lt. Dave Grossman.
There is no time to stop and ask questions when someone else has a gun. You cannot ask them “excuse me sir, is that gun fake and what do you intend to do with it?” You would have even more dead officers than we do now. A common misconception amongst people is that you have to wait for someone to point a gun at you before you can use deadly force. This is entirely untrue. If someone has a weapon in his or her hand and it is down at his or her side, you can use deadly force. It takes a person no time to raise that weapon and squeeze a round off. That round can kill an officer or hit an innocent bystander. Another misconception is that you cannot use deadly force against someone who does not have a weapon. Again, this is untrue. If you have a 175 pound officer in a fight for his life against a well trained 130 mixed martial arts fighter for example, and that fighter getting the best of the officer, he is highly likely to take a round or two from the officers pistol. Why you ask? If the officer is knocked unconscious or beaten so bad that he cannot move, what is to say that the fighter will not take the officers gun and kill him with it. Of course, we can set here and “what if” things until we are blue in the face. Law enforcement uses their best judgment when placed in the situations they are frequently in, and they have to do what think best.
From 2004-2013, there have been there have been 600 police officers killed in the line of duty from being shot and stabbed. There have been well over 500,000 officers assaulted from 2003-2012. The bottom line is there are people out there that will try to kill the police. They have to be ready for anything. Some call it being paranoid. You can call it what you want, but I have not seen any comparable statistics where accountants or Internet bloggers are facing the same dangers. The threat could be a 90-year-old man or a 10-year-old boy.
I also want to touch on why the police use some of the weapons and armored vehicles that they use. The AR-15 rifles you see police officers with were not always in every patrol car as they are now. They used to be reserved for SWAT teams. Well, there was an incident in West Hollywood, California where some gentlemen decided to rob a bank and they were heavily armed and had very strong body armor. The patrol officer’s guns were not stopping them and the suspects were firing thousands of rounds from fully automatic rifles. SWAT was called, but there is a wait time for them to arrive on scene. The police were severely outgunned. Some quick thinking officers on the scene found a nearby gun store and retrieved some higher power weapons. Once the suspects were no longer a threat, the police chief of Los Angeles said that his officers would not be in a situation like that again. The AR-15 has been a tool for law enforcement since. The armored vehicles that you see, is just another tool used for high-risk operations. Bad people have guns and some of them have very powerful guns. These tools are to level the playing field for the officers. Remember this, police have tons of rules and laws to follow, but criminals have none.
I will wrap it up, but if I can have one thing taken away from this, it is that police officers are people just like you. They make mistakes. They have feelings. They have chosen to take on an extremely thankless and dangerous job where they can really make nobody happy. When you read stories about an officer involved shooting, look at all of the facts before making judgment. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Even better, go and do a ride along with the police department if you can. It may be an eye opening experience. To all of the law enforcement professionals reading this…keep your head up and stay safe.