The Difference Between a Good Cop and a Bad Cop
During my career I have been in countless high speed chases and I must say that when the perps finally bail out of the car and start to run your heart is pumping pure octane. When you catch them (or they surrender) it is very, very difficult to resist the urge to slam them to the ground and beat them to a pulp on sight. Policing is a very violent job, most of what you deal with is people suffering and/or people trying to take advantage of other peoples suffering. Even so I'm not gong to give some sob story about how stressful the job is and how that stress makes you do things like shoot an unarmed man 3 times, because it doesn't. The job is stressful and sometimes you do go overboard, but that is when your professionalism and your ability to transcend your own emotions comes in. If you cannot manage your fear and stress then you do not need to be in law enforcement. If you don't like dealing with peoples problems day after day no matter how petty, then you don't need to be in law enforcement. And for Gods sake If you don't like being around poor people and minorities then you don't need to be in law enforcement!
Yes I am a lefty but in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I have "tuned up" my share of perpetrators who were trying to resist. So I can say from experience that there is a big difference in having to fight some one that is resisting and brutalizing someone that is not. That is what defines each officers red line and his or her use of force and more importantly the degree to which that force is applied. To put it bluntly it is where your authority begins and that persons rights and acknowledgment of your authority ends. Admittedly I have snatched people out of car windows in anger after they have lead me on high speed chases through school zones at 2:30. I have goaded perps who would swallow crack cocaine rather than get caught with their third felony possession. I have done a lot of things none of which where illegal but to the casual observer may have appeared cruel. It is a grimy job and in some respects you have to get grimy to do it effectively.
However there is a distinct difference between confronting a 20 year old passenger in a car chase and actually having to fight a 6ft 7in, 350lb paranoid schizophrenic who has been off of his medicine for 3 days. Especially when the first thing he does is look you straight in the eye and without flinching calmly tells you "I'm not going nowhere Motherfucker, you are going to have to kill me". In all my experience I have never seen nor heard of an incident like what happened in California. As a matter of fact if that incident had happened in my department the officer would be brought up on aggravated assault charges by the local D.A within 12 hours. The first thing that jumped out at me from the tape was all of the tactical errors that the officer that shot him made. I immediately noticed how he was gripping his weapon (defensively) in front of him like he was trying to hold off Dracula with a crucifix and not securing the suspect.
Rule#1: Make the scene safe. That means assess the situation, ensure your own safety, secure the area and secure the suspect. If you have a perp on the ground YOU SECURE HIS ASS ASAP. The fact that he stood there yelling at the guy says to me that he had no idea what he was doing. His posture, the way that he was holding his weapon, and the fact that he already had a cover unit with him and they were still trying to verbally gain control of the situation shows me one thing. These officers were not well trained, nobody took primary control of the call and they quite possibly were afraid. Cowardice in policing is much different than simply being nervous or afraid.
I have been afraid before I won't even lie about that. Although I have been on the street for a while generally I can still go to a call and be uneasy 1 to 2 times a week. Im not talking about "oh I might have left the iron on at home" uneasy, Im talking the "oh shit this MF might try and hurt me" uneasy. When I get that feeling it just means that I need to be extra careful and tactically aware. But cowardice is a different story. Cowardice paralyzes you and makes you do things like what happened on that video. Cowardice eats away at you and makes you hate the poeple whose community you patrol everyday. When you have that many officers at the scene and the subject is obeying your verbal commands you holster your weapon and secure him. Thats it. I have been in several chases where I never even took my weapon out, I just immediately secured the perp.
Back to my original example. When I got the call of the 6'7" crazy dude and he began to fight, it took myself and 2 other officers 4 minutes just to get a pair of handcuffs on him. Even with cuffs on he fought and kicked for another 4 minutes. Anybody who has wrestled, or done any sort of grappling will tell you that 6-8 minutes locked up with someone is an eternity. Especially when that person is in an altered state of reality. That said when we were talking about the incident afterwords not one of us had ever even considered shooting him. Those officers should be fired because they are a danger to themselves and the citizens.