I imagine there will be conclusions drawn that there were errors in the Kendra James shooting and the officer is not completely guiltless. See the link above about police shooting. I have said before that I am keeping an open mind on the case and allowing myself to learn from it.
So far, what I have learned is extremely frightening, and have considered reconsidering this job (notice I have not actually reconsidered this job yet, though).
I am concerend that I may be forced to shoot someday. I have already been involved it 3 shoot/don't shoot situations. Here they are:
1) I had merely 7 months on the department at the time when I approached the sliding door of a minvan after complaints that this van was associated with people causing a noise disturbance at a party. When I came around the side of the van, partner on the other side, there was a group of 6 people in the van. The one seated closest to me had a .357 revolver in his hand that he was either a) tring to stuff into his pants to hide or b) tring to pull out of his pants to shoot me with. He appeared about 16 and obviously a gang member.
Knowing that he could raise that gun to my head at a range of 3 feet and pull the trigger before I'd have time to react, what do you do? Would I be justified in shooting him immediately, even if he was actually trying to hide the gun rather than shoot me with it?
I put my own life at great risk. I drew my gun and told him to put his hands up. He dropped the gun and put his hands up. Had he decided to shoot me, I'd probably be dead right now, but as it turned out, he was only trying to hide the gun. Afterwards, I've tried to imagine the newspaper articles, the distrust that would be generated because a white policeman killed a hispanic man.
2) 8 months on the department, I received a call from 7-11 clerk that 2 black men had just been in his store. From a distance of 50', the 2 men had been in the parking lot and one lifted his shirt revealing a shiny metallic object in his wasteband. The clerk was convinced it was a chromed gun and called police.
My partner and I discovered the 2 men 2 blocks from the store. We exited our car and went to gunpoint, ordering both to put their hands up. The man I was responsible to cover didn't put his hands up, he immediately drove his left hand into his sweatshirt pocket and pulled out a metallic object. Gun or no gun? Does this man not want to be arrested and would rather try to shoot me and my partner to evade capture? Why else would he dive into his pocket like that?
I gave it an extra second, at a perceived great risk to myself. He put his hands up and showed me he simply had a metallic Motorolla flip phone. Why did he feel he needed to get his phone out before he put his hands up? I didn't tell him I thought he had a gun, he just assumed it and pulled it out. Again, imagine the headlines. White cop kills an unarmed black man in North Portland.
3) I have 13 months on when 2 white men were assaulting a woman at an apartment complex. I arrived and the fight was over, but both men were obviously high on something and very agitated. I took cover behind a dumpster and drew my weapon and waited for cover. I began a series of commands, ordering one man at a time to put their hands up. They refused and paced wildly. One was not wearing a shirt. He decided he wanted to go back into his van which he was standing next to. He reached over the seat, maybe where a gun could be stashed, but pulled out nothing. He ignored all my commands and went to sit on a nearby porch, still within my view. The second was wearing a sweatshirt. He finally dove into his sweatshirt pocket in a way in which he appeared to be reaching for a gun. He was completey uncooperative. He pulled out nothing. I believe he was trying to toy with me and frighten me. It worked, but I didn't shoot. Finally more cover arrived and we got them into custody without further incident. I imagine the headlines....there isn't one because a white cop shot a white man, even though he was unarmed.
Now, especially because of the latest department shooting, my watch has had roll call discussions about not letting the possibility of major backlashes from the community affect decisions to use lethal force. Why?
Suppose I come across that person who really does want to do me harm. What if he is a minority? What at if the moment of decision I hesitate because I worry about what the community may think? Have I not considered everything or done everything I can to prevent a deadly force situation? And suddenly, BANG! An officer falls over dead leaving behind loved ones. And why? Because he wondered what the community might think. He died trying to avoid a community backlash. Noble or stupid?
And what if it isn't me who dies, but my partner, or some other inncocent person.....because I hesitated?
It is a real concern for me that I may hesitate because I am worried I may end up a community pinata.
If you haven't been exposed to this type of insight, take a few moments and place yourself in the shoes of an officer trying to make the decision. You can use the 3 scenarios I posted above if you can't develop your own. Change them around. Make the bad guy really a bad guy who wants to hurt you. Consider that you are not John Wayne and would not be able to shoot the gun from the hand of the bad guy. Consider that you may be so frightened that you may even miss the first shot you take, let alone shoot a leg.
See how the outcry of the community could cause the unfortunate side effect of the death of officers by forcing them to reconsider the shot that may have saved their lives.