There are 2 released videos out showing people killed by police officers. I suspect that they’re not going to make too much of a ripple, so I’d like to offer some thoughts of my own. Please don’t leave a comment addressing anything I say unless you watch the videos.
Here is the Daniel Shaver (hotel hallway) video (start around 12 min mark):
Here are couple of perspectives of the Pierre shooting.
This one is helpful, because it provides a bit of audio.
The first video outraged me, and I was further outraged to hear the police officer was acquitted. It almost makes you think that maybe we should take guns out of the hands of even law enforcement. But then you see the second video(s), and you see that multiple non-lethal methods are attempted, and even tazing the guy doesn’t stop him. A guy like this is capable of anything and all the evidence is that he would not have stopped unless he was shot–unless, of course, the police officers were to put themselves even further into harm’s way.
In reality, there are more examples of the latter than there are of the former, so armed law enforcement agencies are on balance necessary. But it is still a reality that there are plenty of shootings by police officers that are not justified or where other methods could have obtained better results.
I am not drawing all my lessons from these 2 videos alone, but I think both offer some good jumping off points for discussing some of those lessons, so here is a bit of analysis.
Evidently, the Shaver incident began because someone saw someone ‘waving a gun’ and called the police. It was actually a pellet gun. The officer who shot Shaver bears the bulk of the blame, but I wonder if the person who made the call feels any responsibility. I think I can almost picture this person in my mind’s eye… the kind of person… the mere sight of a gun throws them into a cold sweat… IT MUST BE REPORTED! Despite the fact that Arizona allows people to carry weapons–both concealed and openly, on one’s hip–without even a permit, the sight of the gun INSIDE a hotel room prompted this person to call. Well, better safe than sorry, right? RIGHT?
But if we can’t expect some ninny off the street to properly assess a threat, you should at least expect your local police officer to be aware of the laws of Arizona and what that might mean when you encounter someone. When you look at these two people come out of their hotel door, you can plainly see, if you have any capacity for situational awareness and reading people, that these people are nowhere near ‘up to something.’ And even if he did have a gun, damn it, he was lawfully entitled to have it.
Listening to the background audio on the first video, I gather that one of the police officers was relatively new. This may have impacted the behavior of the other officers, who perhaps were over-compensating for having the liability of a new guy with them.
Shaver bears some responsibility here, and it is a lesson for all of us gun owners. 1., assume your fellow citizens are idiots. If at all possible, prevent them from knowing you are carrying at all. They can’t be trusted to take the measure of a situation. Shaver apparently flashed his pellet gun inside his hotel room being none-the-wiser, and died for it. This is, in my opinion, a good reason for concealed carry rather than open carry. 2., assume the LEO is as dumb as you assume your fellow citizens are. Of course, if you are intoxicated, as Shaver may have been to a degree, you might not be thinking all that clearly. But the irony with Shaver is that he didn’t have a gun with him AT ALL and he still was killed. So, the bottom line is that you should have your wits about you ALL. THE. TIME. Take responsibility for your actions.
As for the LEO himself, I think it speaks to a toxic strain that runs through America’s law enforcement mentality. Yes, the job is dangerous. Yes, you might get killed in the line of duty. Yes, your discretion and patience may actually get you killed. Yes, you may have to make decisions super quickly based on limited knowledge of the situation. Sorry, but the Shaver scenario shows what can happen if you allow this toxic strain to manifest without restraint.
This is still a Constitutional republic, and within this constitution, there is a second amendment to bear arms. There are other amendments, too, protecting citizens. You, as a law enforcement officer, are duty-bound to treat your fellow citizens as FELLOW CITIZENS with rights and privileges that come under the Constitution. You receive certain accommodations on the use of force, but you do not have a license to disregard the Constitution just because you are afraid for your own life. If you cannot maintain a high view of the Constitutional rights of the people you encounter, then GET ANOTHER JOB.
I thought this National Review article put it well:
That’s especially true when the police — through their own incompetence — create their own fear. Philando Castile was shot even as he followed his killer’s instructions. Shaver died trying his best to comply with a highly unusual, complicated set of commands while under extreme duress. Scared cops still need to be competent cops, and members of the public shouldn’t face death because a police officer can’t keep his emotions in check.
Finally, I know that police have a dangerous job, but they’re not at war. As I noted above, it’s infuriating to see civilian police exercise less discipline than I’ve seen from soldiers in infinitely more dangerous situations. Not one of the men I deployed with would have handled a terrorist detention the way these officers treated American citizens.
And who holds law enforcement accountable? The local municipalities. In other words, elected officials have the responsibility to make sure their officers have the right attitude. If law enforcement is allowed to set its own rules and expectations, that’s like the fox guarding the hen house. It is easy to defer to the ‘experts’ in law enforcement, but it is not wise. Hold their feet to the fire. This toxic strain I referred to can only be reversed when local communities and states make it emphatically clear that the rights of citizens shall be preserved, even in the execution of law enforcement activities. This is the United States of America, not some two-bit third world country. And, as David French put it, we are not at war.
In the second video, we see too much restraint! I honestly don’t know what that police officer was thinking. His posture and demeanor from beginning to end was bizarre, although maybe if I had more information it would make sense (eg, as he enters the room he seems to be unprepared for the possibility a hostile is inside it). It should have been evident almost immediately that this guy would not be stopped by anything short of lethal force (or non-lethal force that put the lives of LEOs at risk).
One gets the impression that this officer was highly reluctant to use lethal force. Perhaps here the elected officials over-did it? Maybe he was more frightened of what the American media would do to him if he shot Pierre (a black man) than what Pierre might do to him–even if Pierre killed him!
This officer is frankly lucky to be alive. His own weapon could have been taken from him, or perhaps Pierre was armed with a firearm all along and could have transitioned to it. Less than decisive action by LEOs have led to their deaths at the hands of bad men.
The second video helps us see why we do need to give law enforcement some latitude in their use of force. We see how fast situations can escalate, and how quickly one has to make decisions. It reminds us that there are some bad hombres in the world, and if one of them happened to be in your house, you want the responding police officers to have the capacity to use the necessary force. Although, the same lesson is again an argument for why citizens should be allowed to arm themselves.
If a bad hombre like Pierre is in your house, there probably won’t be enough time for the police to respond BEFORE YOU ARE DEAD. In that second video, there appears to be a full 90 seconds before backup arrives–and this is with his partner ALREADY ON THE SCENE. There is plenty of time for Pierre to put this officer down for good. 90 seconds may not seem like a long time to wait for help, but hopefully this video helps the reader think more clearly about the realities of such encounters. Per the saying among advocates for guns: when seconds count, the police are minutes away.
How far do you live from your police department?
This is the real world, not some fantasy make-believe world where given enough time and good intentions we’ll iron out all of our problems. There will be bad men, bad accidents, and bad misunderstandings. Very little of it can be addressed at a level above the individual, with some of it falling appropriately under the scope of the local community. But lurking behind all this is an even more disconcerting truth… what happens if the bad men control the nation?
Better to work through these issues before you are in them, in my humble opinion.