The public perception is that police officers have to be right every time they take an action. That is not correct. Police officers have to be able to demonstrate that they acted in a reasonable manner, given the circumstances. Usually right and acting in a reasonable manner go hand and hand. An officer involved shooting over the previous weekend demonstrates a situation where right and a reasonable manner diverged.
The latest LAPD Shooting happened Saturday night. To understand the events one has to go back earlier in the week. LAPD acquired a short video that showed two men stalking a marked LAPD unit. A video captured the officer as he went about his daily routine, unaware that he was under surveillance. The video also showed that one of the participants in the surveillance was armed with a pistol.
LAPD informed all officers that an unknown group was following marked units, the perpetrators were armed and could be gathering intelligence in order to conduct an ambush. The method would be to approach the officers from the rear. This was deemed a serious threat to officer safety.
The officers involved in the shooting were aware of these circumstances and in fact the department continued to broadcast this information at roll calls for several days.
On the night of the shooting the officers were stopped at a traffic light. When all of a sudden the back window of the patrol car exploded. There is no report that they heard a gunshot, but the back window exploding is loud enough to cover the discharge of a firearm, especially close in. The officers exited the car and identified an individual standing at the rear of the patrol car and engaged him. Apparently both officers fired and the suspect went down. He died at the scene. There was no weapon.
What is not stated in the story is the suspect’s demeanor, were his hands visible, did the officers give verbal commands, did the suspect comply with those commands or did he ignore them?
I think investigation showed that the suspect threw a 40 ounce beer bottle through the back window of the patrol car. Experience has shown me in thirty years of police work that suspects do not throw away beer, no matter how attractive the target is. The medical examiner and crime lab will be able to determine if that was the case.
With 40 ounces of beer on board, coupled with throwing the empty at a marked police car, I don’t think it is a stretch to conclude that, “sober as a judge” when describing the suspect will appear in any police reports. In some quarters inebriation is almost inevitably accompanied by a certain degree of belligerence. The busted window is an indicator of that. To double down on the belligerence such classic lines as “you’re not the boss of me, Make Me!, “and any other indication of noncompliance by way of body language completes the scenario of an aggressive suspect engaged in an unprovoked attack.
In the opening moments of this confrontation, two officers who have been informed that patrol officers are being targeted for ambush, that the ambush will likely occur from the rear, are showered with an explosion of busted glass. As they exit the patrol car they are confronted by an individual who is the likely perpetrator. The suspect re-enforces that belief through words and deeds. The officers are reasonable in acting on the belief that they are engaged in a deadly confrontation, the suspect is the cause of the confrontation and he has the ability to kill or injure them. They are justified in using deadly force. The fact that the suspect was later found to be unarmed is not a factor. This is by no means a lay down for the defense.
There will be an investigation and all sorts of questions will be asked to make the officers justify their actions. What about the dead suspect? How quickly the press and civil rights warriors are to dismiss any culpability on the part of the suspect. Apparently there are no standards of conduct for shitheads, especially dead shitheads. There is no requirement that shitheads abide by the law. Is it acceptable behavior for shitheads to assault passers by for no reason other than because they can?
I’ll let you in on a secret, it is acceptable, even laudable behavior to bait the police. If you are, by nature a coward, then baiting cops is definitely the way to go. In minority communities the person to be respected is the bad ass. You have to earn a bad ass merit badge. One way is to fight at the drop of the hat, all comers, all the time. Another way is to be “loco” doing stupid shit and paying the price for doing it. There are people out there who take great pride in the fact that every time they got arrested they had to go to the hospital before they could go to jail. Never won a single fight, but they can tell you how many cops it took to beat them down.
I had an informant who would wander around his neighborhood in pink fuzzy slippers. I noticed that when he was more conventionally shod he was easy going. When he had his pink fuzzies on, he was more alert, made eye contact with anybody that came near and stared down anybody at a distance. It finally dawned on me what was going on. The pink fuzzies were like a neon sign, “I’m a bad dude, and only a bad dude can wear something like this”. Any other bangers could either ignore his footwear or acknowledge his status. Nobody laughed, to do so was to invite a beating.
So what’s a cowardly homeboy to do? To get status he needs a reputation. He can laugh at the guy wearing the pink fuzzy slippers but there is no guarantee that he will survive the encounter. The alternative is to provoke a confrontation with the cops. Unfortunately, the Taser, has made this approach problematic.
The taser shoots two metal darts into a suspect which then completes a circuit so that an electrical charge can be delivered. The suspect on the receiving end ceases doing whatever it was that he was doing, usually falls to the ground and may or may not piss all over himself. The Taser is considered to be a lesser use of force than wrestling with a suspect, hitting him with open or closed hand, any kind of restraint hold, deployment of a nightstick or mace.
In many instances the suspect knows he is going to jail, but as a face saving gesture he needs that last act of defiance, it could be mouthing off, it could be bowing up and struggling not to be cuffed and occasionally it’s a swing and a miss. He just needs the bragging rights of, “if there weren’t two of ’em, or I was pretty fuckin drunk so it wasn’t a fair fight.” A black eye is something to be cherished as long as the bruises remain, a badge of honor. As cops we would agree with him, sure whatever it takes. The suspect may not be happy but he is satisfied.
With the Taser the rules are different. At the first verbal indication of resistance out comes the Taser and it is ET phone home. Do you know how difficult it is to impress a chick as you are being led away in handcuffs, shaking piss down your pant leg? So the would be badass adventure ends in a whimper and a puddle of piss. The Taser deprives the suspect of that face saving gesture and any potential glory to be gained.
What kind of culture demands that a man, even a shithead, put his life on the line to earn respect through an action that is contemptible in the larger society? I guess one where bad means good, providing for your family makes you a chump, and honor is tied to criminal activity.
Don’t let them get you down officers, if it was an easy job anybody could do it.