The cost of stupidity

A wounded French police officer a moment before he was executed by Islamic terrorists.

One second you’re rolling up on what appears to be a motorist with a car that’s having mechanical trouble, and the next you’re on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds, anchored there by a broken femur and trying to reload your handgun with a broken wrist…because the mag’s worth of knock-it-off you’ve already sent in the bad guy’s direction didn’t penetrate the vehicle he’s hiding in and as far as you know he still has his gun and it’s still got bullets in it.

The general public misunderstands a great deal about the use of lethal force, but I find that one of the hardest aspects to get them to realize is the sheer speed of life and death. When a pre-teen with an airsoft gun was shot by police in Cleveland someone asked me how on earth police could “kill” a “child” two seconds after encountering him. “TWO SECONDS!!!”, she emphasized.

If you watch the video closely you’ll notice that it took about two seconds for approaching a disabled vehicle to turn into a fight for Officer Golsun’s life. Two seconds. Count that to yourself…one, one thousand, two, one thousand…that’s it. That’s all you get to notice that something is happening, recognize what it is, decide on a response, and carry it through.

Of course, many who make such statements are not really interested in learning the dynamics of lethal force situations. They’re unhappy with the outcome and want to find fault with the process that led up to it…and they are usually full of reasons why it should have gone different despite not having many actual facts about what took place or any understanding of what it’s like to actually be in the situation or indeed any situation that’s even remotely similar. If you suggest that perhaps they don’t really understand what they’re talking about, you get accused of blindly supporting some sort of nefarious agenda designed to oppress somebody.

A wounded French police officer a moment before he was executed by Islamic terrorists.
A wounded French police officer a moment before he was executed by Islamic terrorists.

It’s stupid, frankly. Stupidity is, of course, the ultimate luxury. Idiocy is an indulgence available to those who are comfortably insulated from the consequences of their stated preferences and opinions. It’s really easy to think that two seconds is plenty of time to make a life or death decision when you have never had to even ponder the possibility of making such a decision yourself. It’s really easy to scream “HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT!” at people you are pretty sure aren’t going to shoot you.

Look at the picture immediately to the left. The man on the ground is a French police officer with his hands up. A couple of frames later the terrorist put the rifle right at his head and executed him. I can’t see the “HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT!” types trying their chant with the islamists who executed him. Sure, they make a big deal about oppression and how awful our police are but if we’re really honest with ourselves we know that they’re really just doing what they know they can get away with.

Their nonsense has a cost, though. There are a lot of good police officers out there who are noticing that the job increasingly places them in completely no-win situations. Facing the possibility of death or injury from violent thugs on one hand and the ire of an uninformed public whipped into a frenzy by professional agitators on the other, many are asking themselves why they should continue to risk their future and their family’s future on what sure looks like a sucker’s bet.

Of course, some of you may not see a problem with fewer police. It’s not really a numbers thing, though. We will always have police but it’s not a guarantee that we will always have quality people serving as police officers. The people who have good judgment and families and who try to do the right thing are the folks having these thoughts…and they’re the ones we absolutely need in the profession. You have no idea how many real problems and how much bloodshed has been avoided because of the influence of police officers who exhibit good judgement and sound ethics on the street and inside the walls of police headquarters.

A number of folks I know in law enforcement have retired recently, several within the last 12 months. A number of them have fathers and grandfathers who were police officers…but they warn their sons and daughters to go do something else. A number of them are leaving a hole in their organization that nobody is going to really fill and the organization will be poorer for it. So will the public.

We need good people serving as police officers. We’re not going to get them or keep them with the crap we’ve seen lately.

Naturally someone will accuse me of blindly supporting the police, but that’s not the case. I don’t blindly support anyone, especially not agents of the government. There’s a lot to dislike about our criminal justice system as a whole and that includes the way policing happens in America…but it’s also true that at the root of a lot of the stuff that makes headlines is a decent human being trying to deal with a truly awful situation.

Our entire system of government is based on the idea that the people who show up to the polls are reasonable adults. If We The People act like a bunch of spoiled kids it descends into chaos and madness pretty quick. Reasonable adults require facts before making judgements, recognize the difference between good and evil, and are inclined to give good guys the benefit of the doubt. Spoiled kids whip out the pitchforks and torches entirely on the basis of ridiculous allegations by liars and thugs.

This pattern cannot continue consequence free. You can’t keep spitting on the people who keep the barbarians at bay and still enjoy the safety and comfort of a barbarian-free existence. Yes, folks, there are barbarians among us. Ugly, savage brutes for whom unjustified violence is as reflexive as drawing breath. Get pissed off at the description if you want and call me “intolerant” if it makes you feel better, but I’ll remind you I wasn’t the one murdering cartoonists yesterday or gunning down police officers in New York a couple of weeks ago.

There really are good guys and bad guys in this world and increasingly elements of our society are insisting on persecuting the good guys and giving the bad ones the benefit of every doubt. The cost of that stupidity is too high, folks.

Addendum:

I encourage you all to go and watch the video found here where a civil rights activist who protested police actually goes through use of force training:

http://www.fox10phoenix.com/Clip/11014328/activist-critical-of-police-undergoes-use-of-force-scenarios

Note that the civil rights activist who protested the shooting of an “unarmed” man, shot an unarmed man himself. The activist had the luxury of knowing the scenario wasn’t real…but when you are in a force on force evolution it sure as heck feels real. Kudos to him for having an open enough mind to go through such an exercise in the first place. Many wouldn’t dare put their world view to the test like that.

As my friend Todd pointed out in his blog post the world looks mighty different to those who have actually had to simulate solving these kinds of problems.

43 thoughts on “The cost of stupidity”

  1. The two seconds in cleveland were unnecessary. Had the cops simply stopped 100 feet out, used a bull horn and got his attention, kid might still be alive. Situation was handled wrong, they put themselves in undue risk causing the encounter. Same situation with a CCW civilian, he’s in prison.

    1. How do you know stopping 100 feet out and using a bullhorn was even an option available to the officers? At what point did they identify the deceased as the subject of the 911 man-with-a-gun calls? You are making some pretty bold assumptions with the luxury of hindsight…and that’s the problem.

      1. Easy- because there was no reason to roll up on that kid so close. It’s tactically unsound. Had it been an actually criminal- the cop would have been dead.

        You defending the indefensible. That’s the problem. There are plenty of cases of “good defense shoots”. Cleveland wasn’t one of them. He gave himself no time to identify and the predicable happens- an innocent boy is murdered.

    2. It’s obvioius you have never worked as a law enforcement officer. To park the car 100 feet behind the suspect’s car is not smart. You have just lost any cover you might have had parking so far away. How do you think the public would respond if every time an officer pulls up behind a vehicle for a motorist assist and yells at them over the pa system to get out of the vehicle, probably not very well. Would you like an officer yelling over the PA system at a motorist in the middle of the night in front of your house while you’re sleeping. To this officer it appeared to be a motorist having problems. Remember the slogan to serve and protect. The officer had stopped to see if he was having vehicle problems then the suspect pulled a gun. As an officer you don’t have the luxury to ask the suspect if that is a real gun or what their intentions are, you have to respond. Law enforcement is a very tough job. It’s not always just driving around and eating donuts like some people think. They put their lives on the line for the public every day, then people second guess them and respond with two seconds in cleveland was not necessary. Until you have walked a mile in a cops shoes you should think before you respond.

  2. Excellent article, I hope it reaches a lot of people who climbing aboard the anti-LEO kick.

  3. Comparing this to the Cleveland shooting is BS and you know it. These men in Paris were obviously armed, disguised, and dangerous within less than two seconds. Pulling up to a park where there is an obvious child with what could POSSIBLY be a real firearm necessitates more caution, get cover behind your engine, draw your firearm, if necessary, and then demand he put down the gun via bullhorn. That scenario requires no quick-draw and shooting, but many police don’t have the common sense to do that, and they ruin the image for the good ones out there.

    1. This is precisely the sort of thing I’m talking about. You’re making a lot of definitive statements without actually having BEEN at the scene or even familiarizing yourself with what happened. In Cleveland the officers were responding to a man with a gun call made by people who felt they were being threatened by a person armed with a handgun. The people who felt threatened didn’t describe an “obvious child” in their call. The officers who arrived on scene did not know the exact location of the subject to the best of my knowledge. The last thing a police officer wants to do is run up on someone they suspect is armed with a gun in the manner seen on the video because that’s a good way to get killed. You see their interaction in that moment and assume that every action taken was deliberate and nefarious, completely discounting the truth that sometimes crap happens. Things don’t go according to plan and suddenly a police officer finds himself facing a terrible situation.

      1. And this is precisely the blindly support police that results in innocent 12 year olds dying.

        Just because some person made a MWAG call doesn’t mean they were right. They could be wrong. So it’s possible they could roll up on an innocent person. They need to make their own determination.

        But even if it was a dangerous person, rolling up like that is inviting to be murdered. It’s just dumb.

        And there is the issue that shouting and pointing a gun at a person who doesn’t expect it means the cognitive load to process what is happening increases (because from THEIR perspective there done absolutely nothing to warrant such a thing). People need time to process and respond. This officer gave the boy no time and just murderd them.

        ” The last thing a police officer wants to do is run up on someone they suspect is armed with a gun in the manner seen on the video because that’s a good way to get killed. You see their interaction in that moment and assume that every action taken was deliberate and nefarious, completely discounting the truth that sometimes crap happens. ”

        It doesn’t matter if it’s deliberate or nefarious. A reasonable person acts different.

        And honesty I’d more cops were actually punished- even if at a minimum they are fired and banned from being a cop any more- people would be less likely to question actual good defense shoots.

        This is a problem brought on by officer safety. Their duty is not to get home at night. Their duty is to protect innocent people- not murder them.

  4. I’m not saying the cop had nefarious intent, but I AM saying that he messed up big time. He made a mistake that killed a child. As such, he should pay for it with jail time, the same that would happen for any civilian who misused lethal force. Hold police accountable for their mistakes, especially mistakes that lead to the death of innocents. No one is above the law, especially the police.

    1. There are different sorts of mistakes in this world. There are things done unintentionally but negligently that the law assigns penalty for. A drunk driver may not mean to run a pedestrian over, but the recklessness of his/her behavior is such that death or grave injury to another was a predictable outcome of such carelessness…and so we put them in jail. You are going to have the devil’s own time explaining how a police officer responding to an emergency call who happens upon what reasonably appeared to the officer…and apparently to the people who dialed 911 in the first place…like an armed threat is similar to the drunk driver without sounding silly. Maybe first concentrate on explaining exactly what “mistake” the officer made in the first place.

      1. Yes there are different punishments. There is planned murder and unplanned murder. The Cleveland one was unplanned murder.

        It’s easy to explain how a reasonable person acts in that situation- they asses first from a distance instead of rolling up feet from the threat. But because if the system and the cop knowing no matter what he does he will get away with it he doesn’t have to do that.

        The CLEAR mistake BTW was rolling up in a potentially deadly person. If it was a criminal the cop would be dead. Duh.

  5. He failed to properly asses the situation, his mistake is that he killed a child. Comparing this to a drunk driver is nothing but a red-herring.

  6. Taking it to the absurd, eh? Had the officer not been so quick to the trigger, an innocent child would be alive today. The process that officer involved shootings go through is padded by a culture of doing everything possible to protect the officer. If this would have been a CCW who’d perceived the child as a threat, they would get no such protection. The police need to be held to the same standards as everyone, AKA the citizens they work for.

    1. What makes you think that a citizen carrying concealed would not have been cleared of the shooting? The requirement to shoot a person is this: You must be in fear of your life, the other person must present a threat, must have ability, and must have intent. Have you seen how realistic some airsoft guns are? Are you aware of the age that most criminals start carrying guns? Have you ever seen a 14 year old “child” kill another person? Ever seen the victims of violence? Just maybe a year ago, we had some girl in Chicago cap her best friend since childhood over a boyfriend dispute. Killed her deader than a doorknob. I will say this again because it bears repeating. A 16 YEAR OLD GIRL MURDERED HER “BEST FRIEND” OVER A BOY.

      If you were a cop and you rolled up on that situation, would you have thought that girl would have had the nerve to pull the trigger (on a snub nose revolver mind you, which requires a determined effort to fire). No? Well then you just let her kill someone. What then? Let her shoot someone else? Let her shoot you?

      After hearing that story, or seeing a 9 year old who was murdered by a 14 year old who just started toting a gun for the local street gaings and you rolled up on a report of an armed suspect in a park and you see a kid with a 1:1 scale model of a handgun what would you do? Would you risk taking a bullet for the good of the community? Lose the ability to walk? Maybe get grazed in the head or lose an eye or a piece of the jaw and six teeth and half of your tongue with it and need to relearn how to talk? How about the arm, and lose the use of your right hand, and forever be challenged to work and support your family again? Or what about taking it right in the forehead, and letting your family deal with losing you? Would the community leaders you so desperately wish to please even do much more for you other than say a few buttery words at the hospital or shed one single tear over your casket and then forget about you in two weeks?

      The goal is this: Get home. Alive. That means get home (don’t break the law and go to prison) and live (don’t die).

      Go to a Juvenile detention center (I do fairly often…that community involvement and whatnot) and look at the faces of some of the criminals there? Maybe guess which ones are riding a murder rap? Betcha it won’t be who you think it is? Remember one of the deadliest men in the 30’s was called “Babyface”

      1. Because he didn’t use tactically sound judgement and an innocent person died. Saber tooth is right- this shoot is the result of a system protecting cops so they do no wrong. We need HIGHER standards for cops, not lower. Their shootings need to be squeaky clean.

        And no, we don’t pay cops to get home at night. That is not their duty. Their duty is to protect innocent people.

        All your points about who could be a shooter just reinforce the notion that rolling up feet from a potential murderer was tactically unsound.

  7. There’s been a lot of police bashing going on, and a surprising amount from gun owners or at least visitors to gun related blogs like this one. Cops are an easy target to ridicule, with their MRAPS and dog-sniping merit badges, but the reality is their jobs suck and the average law abiding citizen wouldn’t last a month putting up with the constant BS they receive for a miserable pay check. It’s easy to armchair quarterback their mistakes when you have no skin in it. Having been through violent encounters, and breached rooms where I don’t know what’s waiting for me, I can appreciate their circumstances and see the situations from both sides of the story rather than just the “victims”. Mistakes do happen and should be disciplined accordingly, but continually (and needlessly) harassing the only element keeping opportunistic felons at bay is just stupid.

    1. Why do cops put up with all of that? There is a certain kind of person, that loves that lifestyle.

    2. But you miss the problem- cops getting away with everything. Nobody says cops have an easy job, but it’s not even in the top 10 deadliest jobs. They have the power to kill or jail and that power needs oversight and containment. Not excusing them from murdering 12 year old boys because COPS.

      1. PH, your assertion that “cops get away with everything” is complete and utter bullshit.

        I know cops that have been fired over Facebook posts that weren’t politically correct, fired for getting a DUI off-duty, etc. Cops regularly, and often, get fired from the job for things that the average person has no job related repercussions. That is a fact.

        You cherry pick a few, and in a country of 313million people, with hundreds of thousands of cops, and millions of police/citizen interactions every year it is in fact damn few, cases to make wide and sweeping generalizations about an entire profession.

        You sir have bought into the narrative, or are mentally ill, one or the other.

    3. “reality is their jobs suck and the average law abiding citizen wouldn’t last a month putting up with the constant BS they receive for a miserable pay check”

      you can apply that to a LOT more jobs than police officer, of course.

  8. I agree, I’m not trying to bash police in general, but as citizens we need to be vigilant about the people we give so much, at times unquestioned, power to. Many police are becoming offended by any critique whatsoever, but they need to remember so they work for, and it’s not the chief, mayor, governor, or president, its WE the people. Just like educators, police need to be paid better to attract better applicants. There’s a long list of reforms that could help make cases like this far less common.

    1. I didn’t want to get involved in this, but what makes you believe that better pay would change the outcome? You think that the so-called bad cop won’t apply because the pay is too much, or that because there would be so many better qualified better applicants (due to higher pay) that the less qualified wouldn’t be hired? Here’s the key, the people hired, were qualified, if they were not, why would they be hired? In Washington State, they cannot find enough qualified people for the State Patrol. Starting pay after graduating from Cadet status is no less than $48,000 a year and may be as much as 10% higher based ($53,000) on your work locale. They get shift incentive, there are specialty increases, etc.. So, how much is enough $75,000, $125,000, $250,000 a year? How much is putting your life on the line 24 hours a day worth? How much is going to create this imaginary perfect law enforcement officer some envision?

      1. How much is putting your life on the line 24 hours a day worth?

        I think they are allowed to go home at the end of their shifts. If their lives are on the line at that point, it’s on them and their family, not the job.

  9. What do you propose then? There’s obviously a problem in the police force, ignoring their offenses and problems does nothing. Giving police blind praise with no acceptance of critique only glosses over the complex reality of the mix of good, bad, or ineffective officers who make up the force.

  10. I agree!, the one statement that drives me nuts is, ” why didn’t they shoot them in the leg, or shoot the gun out of their hands” I pray that were it ever happen to me (being in a shooting situation) that I have the guts, smarts, and awareness to do the right thing.

  11. The solution requires a cultural shift from both sides. We need less of the “hands-up don’t shoot” retards, and more of the constitutional abiding patrolman. The current inversed relationship is what’s causing the Us V. Them mentality. Train cops to be that pillar of the community again, to give a shit about the consequences their actions make rather than depending on “the thin blue line” rhetoric and realize we are all civvies. And when shit goes side-ways, communities need to be able to empathize on both sides before slinging the first arrow. I know, pipedreams and all, but that’s where it can start.

    I grew up with the DARE program and learned to respect and even look up to Policeman in general. Disappointing how far we’ve slipped as a society.

  12. Man… I watched that Cleveland video a dozen times. It’s the *only* one of the recent cop scandal videos I’ve seen that rubs me the wrong way.

    I’m super curious why they thought they needed to roll up right next to him. Once they were that close and they’re telling him to freeze, yeah, shooting is justified by a furtive movement.

    But I put myself in that guy’s place… if I’m carrying and someone sees it and misreports as someone “waving a gun around at people”… damnit I don’t know how I get out of that situation alive. He had maybe half a second to make sure his “holy crap the cops just drove up fast right next to me” to make sure his startle reaction didn’t even *approximate* going to his waistband…

    I’m not saying I know what they should have done, and I’m not going to call for blood… but I do want a good investigation.

    And that’s the root problem we’re running into — people don’t feel (rightly or wrongly) that police investigations are fair compared to the public. In legal terms, I think they’re right — not that police proceedings are unfair, but that the treatment everyone else gets by the legal system is. Most of that isn’t on the cop directly, they’re just the most visible part of the system.

    Thing is, the solution to fixing that system isn’t “make it suck to be a cop” it’s make it fairer in general.

  13. “Yes, folks, there are barbarians among us. Ugly, savage brutes for whom unjustified violence is as reflexive as drawing breath.”

    Trouble is, maybe 15% of the population realizes that. The rest live under the impression such human savages are Hollywood fiction, and that even animals on two legs with equatorial sized rap sheets “are people too”.

  14. People blindly armchair quarterback what they see without realizing what they’re missing. For instance it is routine to be dispatched to a call and then discover that the information twice removed (from excited or stressed witness, then to a dispatcher who does the best they can with what they get, mostly) is generally inaccurate. Especially involving precise locations and suspect descriptions. With the kid shot in the park, my impression is that the officers drove aggressively to the location and then it was a case of thereheis!OSHITGUN. And responding ‘aggressively’ to a gun call where an individual is randomly pointing it at someone to protect the public was once considered a good thing. I suppose they could have sat a few blocks away and call the initial witness who reported the call to get better intel. The only problem with that is that if it is a nut off his meds and he shoots someone while an officer is sitting there on the phone how do you justify that? “Coward Cops on Cell While Mental Patient Caps Civilians.” “This wouldn’t have happened in ____(insert nice neighborhood) because the cops would have actually responded.”
    Lose. Lose. Lose. Welcome to our world.

  15. Not a cop but have had lots of exposure to the simulators they use for training. This is very tough stuff. The reporter and activist were absolutely right about how fast stuff happens. A trainer (Ayoob, I think) once wrote about doing the Tueller drill in a class. He had a guy in a wheelchair who could close the 21 feet before the trainee could react. And remember the cops not only need to watch the person they are approaching but scan for confederates, innocent bystanders, under-cover officers and who knows what else. I would like to see a lot more use of simulators for non-sworn training (and commenting). I challenge anyone to do a number of these simulations without ever making what, in hindsight, might be considered a mistake.

  16. The anti cop biased comments in this discussion offer a snapshot of the no win situation LE Officers are up against. The ease at which the extreme right and radical left spin and fabricate facts to fit their police hating perspective is mind boggling.

  17. I’ve read all of the replys about what should have and should not have been done. Unless you have worked law enforcenent or have worked on law enforcement simulators you should not be arm chair quarterbacking, because you havent got a clue what goes on out there. I am a retired law enforcement officer and have been there. The biggest complainers wouldn’t last a week on the streets as a cop. It’s strange that a cop can do no right but when things go south, who is the first person you call. They don’t pay the cops enough to get killed. One of the notes said that it is not a cops job to get home at night it is to protect the people. Yes it our job to protect everybody but to do it in a way that keep people safe and so we can go home too. Contrary to popular belief, most cops have a family to. And as far as a twelve year old getting shot by a cop is a tragedy but some cops in the big cities come across child gang members all the time that are packing. I will stop ranting for now, but unless you’ve been there you should think before you talk, because it really shows your ignorance.

    1. Could it be, that some people just think, some aspects of police training and culture are dysfunction? No. They just hate cops, they don’t think cops do anything right, they want to see them fail! Climb down off the cross, already.

  18. Twelve of us went through a police video training simulator as part of CCW training. We all died. Only a few “innocent bystanders” were shot. Everyone who wasn’t at the Cleveland shooting, et al, should try the simulator before they expound on “they shoulda done it this way”. And as I understand it, a policeman’s job is not to protect us per se, but to enforce the law.

    I have opinions on the French shootings, but I don’t wanna break my keyboard trying to type ’em…

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