This story has enough silly shit for everyone. A restaurant in Canada was celebrating “Star Wars Day.” I didn’t know that was a thing. A female employee dressed up as a Storm Trooper armed with a blaster is confronted by the police. Hilarity ensues.
Two idiot citizens call 911 or the Canadian equivalent to report a Storm Trooper armed with a weapon was menacing people in the area of the restaurant. Dispatch puts the call out as a firearms complaint. In police speak “man with a gun.”
I was a cop for thirty years. I learned in the first week that what was reported to dispatch and what was put out over the radio are not the final or even best description of what is actually happening.
Over the years I have been dispatched to numerous suspicious vehicle calls such as:
My marked patrol car, a firetruck with flashing lights at a fire scene, multiple electric utility trucks(complete with flashing lights and work lights and the family car parked in the family driveway.
Suspicious persons include anybody occupying space in the lily white community with a skin tone darker than beige. People of color were not suspicious, providing they had a rake, lawn mower or leaf blower in hand.
So the cops get a bye as far as the initial response and approach. Two cops respond, okay. Things start to go south when they arrive and find a “Storm Trooper” armed with a weapon.
There are Storm Troopers and then there are Storm Troopers
If I were to roll up on the guy on the left, I am drawing down on him. No, I don’t believe that the individual is a “real” Storm Trooper. However, I am willing to accept that the MP43 he is wielding is functional. I also know that there are people out there who don’t like cops. Sometimes these people adopt the NAZI persona. Some are willing to act out in a violent manner.
The Storm Trooper, on the right, is a fictional character armed with a fictional gun. This is not to say that a wacko isn’t capable of going out in a blaze of glory dressed in this manner. The likelihood is low.
This is where experience and training come into play. What is the reaction of the suspect to police presence? How are the bystanders reacting? When you see people of color hunkered down behind solid objects, the threat is likely real. White folks aren’t smart enough to duck or run, so they are a lousy barometer regarding potential violence.
The next step is a verbal challenge and the reaction to it. Cops have been conditioned by TV to shout: “Drop that gun!” They are liable to regard any hesitation on the part of the suspect as an indication of hostile intent. It ain’t necessarily so. “Put the gun down” works a lot better. Dropping guns on pavement is not good for the gun.
I almost shot a guy with a shotgun when he didn’t drop the gun after I ordered him to do so. Fortunately, he didn’t make any type of aggressive move. He put the gun down when ordered by my sergeant to “lay the gun down.” His later explanation was that he had just bought the gun for $25. He didn’t want to damage it by dropping it. (It was a rusted 25 year old single shot JC Higgins shotgun with a cracked stock).
When I was with the narcotics task force we used to say that during search warrant executions, “six to sixty, blind, cripple or crazy, everybody goes down,” (Placed in a prone position). It didn’t work out that way. Given the individual, the attempt to comply or other indication of compliance was enough.
Back to the event at hand. The young lady dropped her blaster. She did not immediately assume the prone position when ordered to do so. Look at the picture. Just how flexible do you think she is?
I think I know what happened. If you view the actions of the police within the framework of a response to an armed violent felon, their actions were almost proper. I say almost because two of the officers failed to make proper use of cover and concealment. Hold that thought. The officers were applying policy and tactics at the expense of common sense. They got a man with a gun call, they responded as if there was a man with a gun. Oops no man, no gun, how were they to know?
That excuse doesn’t work once they were on scene. Their observations, the costume, the toy gun, the reaction of the suspect all negated the original premise of the call. The facts they found removed any reasonable belief that the subject posed any sort of threat to them. Regardless of what they say in future reports, the video tells another story. These officers didn’t feel threatened.
Look at the officers. The third officer exits her vehicle walks around the back of it and into the open. As an afterthought she draws her pistol. Sometimes cops draw their weapon due to a legitimate fear for their safety. Other times they draw their guns because everybody else is doing it.
It used to be that “Policy”, “Procedure” and “proper tactics” were to guide decision making. An officer was safe following the spirit of the policy and wasn’t required to march lockstep. Somewhere along the line that must have changed. Apparently, there is a checklist mentality, each box must be checked before one can proceed to the next. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a checklist for a particular situation.
Years before I started working for a particular police department an officer responded to a call that put the department in the national news.
A pet monkey escaped. I don’t know what kind. It was something between a spider monkey and an ape. It went rampaging through the neighborhood. A patrol officer brought the monkey’s reign of terror to an end when he shot and killed it.
Since that incident police chiefs have come and gone. Each Chief came up with his own policy document. No matter how the policy manual changed, one thing remained the constant. No officer was allowed to shoot a monkey without prior permission of the Chief of Police.