a reasonable police officer, abolishing the police, D/S/Cs, deadly force situations, defunding the police, Executive branch, human nature, legislative branch, overwhelming force, Police reform, President Trump
As Democrats/Socialists/Communists have taken up the “defund/abolish the police” cry, it’s useful to ask why we have police. We have police to enforce the laws written by our legislatures, which are composed of fellow citizens elected by the people in the manner provided in our representative republic. Remember, however, the police are members of the executive, not the legislative branch. I’ll address this again shortly.
Why do we have laws? We recognize that any society without law rapidly descends into a state of nature where the strongest and most vicious rule. In this, we have thousands of years of history as our teacher—if we’re willing to learn. There are, of course, multiple other reasons, but that’s what it comes down to. Without the rule of law, it’s every man for himself. I do not invoke women, because in such a society, women survive at the sufferance of men
I’ve noted that no legislature should pass a law they’re not willing to kill to see enforced. This may seem outlandish. After all, who dies over a speeding violation? Virtually no one, but not absolutely no one. Almost every citizen stopped for speeding will drive away with a citation, unharmed but grumbling, a short time later. But some will push it until an officer has no choice but to use deadly force to protect himself.
This is what I mean when I say legislators must never pass a law they’re not willing to kill—to use deadly force–to enforce. It’s a real world, human nature, wise realization that some people will force the police to seriously injure or kill them over matters no reasonable person would push. Some people will not accept the social contract and will rebel, that rebellion executing most often against police officers.
As members of the Executive branch, the police enforce the law, but they are also often the prey of members of the Legislative branch when they are forced to use force to enforce the laws legislators wrote. Rather than blaming themselves, it’s far easier to let the full weight of the system fall on some poor cop just trying to do his job. Rather than legislating against criminals, they will tend to legislate against the police. In this, they are happy to keep the public in the dark about the reality of using deadly force to enforce any law, and their role in bringing those laws into existence.
I often find inspiration in the comments of readers, and regular reader Doug in his comment to Rayshard Brooks: The De-Escalation Delusion, has inspired me again, raising pertinent points and questions about the Rayshard Brooks case:
I recall listening to some audio where one officer asked if Brooks had a gun.. Brooks replied he did not. Then an officer asked if he could pat the guy down.. and Brooks allowed him/them to do so. So this might cast some doubt on the officer thinking the object pointing at him was in fact a gun.
I’ve heard/seen no such audio/video, but Doug’s reasonable assertion depends on quick pat downs being flawless. As any experienced police officer can confirm, they are not. It’s very easy to miss weapons. A common academy training scenario finds a police recruit being allowed as much time as they want to search an instructor. Always, multiple weapons of all kinds—even rifles!—are found, and always, multiple deadly weapons of all kinds, including handguns, are missed. This is why officers never rely on a pat down search, and if they arrest someone thereafter, will search them more thoroughly after handcuffing when it’s safer. This is also why jail personnel will also thoroughly, perhaps even intrusively, search everyone at intake. They often have at least two jail personnel conduct separate searches, just to be safe.
I might add my purely ill-informed, inexperienced armchair civilian observation.. if Brooks had been calm up to the point of the officer starting to apply the cuffs.. would two officers be needed making contact with Brooks at the same time of putting the cuffs on? If in fact Brooks suddenly objected and fought the restraints could not the officer putting on the cuffs separate from contact with Brooks while the other officer discharges his taser to immediately immobilize? I suppose I am wondering why two cops had to jump on the guy and do all that extra work. A tased Brooks then might have gotten just a resisting arrest rather than the added assaulting a police officer… and all of a sudden being a ‘felon’, subject to being taken down by deadly force.
Again.. I am no cop nor do I pretend to be one, nor do I play one on TV. Not judging.. just asking.
Thinking multiple officers are “ganging up on” someone is a common misconception. Any officer making an arrest would love to have at least one other officer present, but that’s not always possible. Having another officer present can often prevent resistance—people might fear witnesses and not be anxious to take on two cops–but unfortunately, not in the Brooks case. Officers prefer backup on any alcohol or drug involved call, because both substances make people unpredictable and/or violent. In any struggle, officers want to have overwhelming force so they can overcome resistance quickly, and with minimal risk of injury to anyone, not so they can injure people.
Unlike TV and the movies, officers do all they can to avoid having to punch or kick people. These days they know they’re being filmed, and what looks heroic and manly on the big screen can look abusive in reality, even if it’s entirely justified. No police officer can afford to lose a fight, because it could very well mean the loss of their life. A single officer might have to resort to tactics that several officers do not need to employ. Remember, officers have to formulate tactics and act on them in milliseconds. Their actions will be judged by others without tactical knowledge, with the convenience of hindsight and video, in complete safety, under no stress and with unlimited time.
On the surface… and only on the surface, your explanation here of policy and thought processes in the field, while I have no doubt is accurate… makes me wonder that while all that has been the policies and procedures for generations, does it not now warrant some review given in fact I fully agree that maybe we do ask our police to do the humanly impossible? The job itself really is not a job to be in error even once.. despite all the successes and lives saved. Any single encounter begins with the ‘serve & protect’ mantra.. and can end up a ‘self-defense’ him-or-me death situation… all in a matter of seconds. That’s quite a mindshift.. and one could ask if it’s even humanly possible to presume every cop in the field can respond accordingly each and every time.
Doug has hit on the underlying problem. Many policies and procedures have been in place for decades not because anyone is lazy, but because they are necessary and work. Times change, human nature does not. We agree we need law, and we appoint the police to enforce it, but sometimes—most recently for political advantage using race as a vehicle—we disagree on the authorities given police. They need to have resort to deadly force—as a last resort—but politicians all too often want to deprive police officers of the ability to use virtually any force, yet still expect them to fully enforce the law. They expect them to arrest the most vicious, violent criminals—actually some don’t want them to arrest criminals, only their political enemies—without using violence.
D/S/Cs are demanding changes in policing that will ensure no one—particularly no Black male criminal—will ever again die at the hands of the police. They demand changes to ensure no one will ever again face even the appearance of unreasonable force at the hands of police.
They demand the impossible. In a very real sense, they ought to get what they so thoughtlessly demand—good and hard. Unfortunately, that would plunge society into abject desperation and violence.
What most people don’t understand is the police are not required to act 100% perfectly 100% of the time, even though most people mistakenly expect just that. They are required to act 100% reasonably, to do what any reasonable police officer would do given the same circumstances.
There is no law, no policy, no procedure that will produce absolute perfection in policing. We are dealing, after all, with human beings. However, better training, and law requiring officers be given full due process, including judgment of their actions not by boards of “activists” or ”community organizers,” but by people who understand the legal and operational issues officers face. This is commonly done by having significant use of force or deadly force incidents investigated by outside agencies. In the Brooks case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation—essentially Georgia’s FBI—is investigating the case. In most cases, this is an adequate method.
I’ll provide, in the very near future, some basic suggestions for police improvement. It’s heartening to realize that of the tens of millions of police contacts with citizens every year, very, very few result in injury or death. The police do, in fact, de-escalate situations every day. They prefer to resolve any situation without force, and for the most part they do.
Believing however, it’s possible to avoid any deadly force situations, is naïve or politically motivated. It holds the police, and society, to an impossible, unachievable, standard. In any confrontation in which the police are involved, the person being confronted has the absolute ability to resolve that confrontation peacefully, or violently. Even so, the police can often talk such people out of violence, but not always.
So thanks to Doug for his good observations and questions. As regular readers know, I often refer to Andrew Branca, who is the contemporary expert on the use of force, particularly deadly force. In this week’s podcast, Branca addresses the Brooks case, and particularly this issue of whether a Taser can be considered a deadly weapon. He touches on many of the issues I raised in the article about which Doug commented. It’s worth your time.