Serving, and Preserving, Our Customers

In police advanced tactics training we have a mantra, “Shoot at what you know, not what you think.” In police firearms training we teach to shoot at a credible or known threat. Lethal force is taught to be used in the event of an obvious, overt, active effort by one or more persons to commit extreme bodily injury/death against another or others.

This was the standard of action I was taught and operated under for 20 years as an officer. If this is what the standard is supposed to be, I must ask the question, “Why are police officers shooting unarmed people who are not actively physically assaulting them?”

We have seen several events in the last couple of years which have caused me concern. It has also concerned the public at large, judging by the civil unrest, protests, and riots during the whole of 2020. Some of the events involved an armed, innocent citizen being shot and killed by police during a service call. Some happened during warrant services. One happened as a citizen was escorting innocent bystanders away from a mall shooting.

 Looking at the events I am confused at the seemingly lack of concern on the part of law enforcement that our officers are literally killing our customers for no good reason.

I think it is definitely time to look at how we are preparing and training our officers, if they are being taught about threat or target identification, shooting at what they know, etc., yet are shooting unarmed people merely walking toward them. Or shooting homeowners legally armed in their own homes, but not threatening the officers in any way.

LEOs are also shooting suspects who have told the officers they are armed but weren’t. Or, as recently happened in Colorado, officers shoot and kill and unarmed woman after being told she or someone involved in the call may be armed.

My concern here is the ability for officers to use lethal force in situations where they have perceived a threat to themselves that had no ability to be real. This goes beyond “making a split-second decision in a rapidly changing environment”.

In the unarmed suspect cases the suspect literally had no means to kill the officers. There was no split-second decision to be made, other than to realize the officer was too sacred to be effective in their proper role.

I am frustrated with the ambivalence I see in the inaction by law enforcement to get a grip on what is going on. What I hear from policing is, “Well, we only shot 9 unarmed people last year (2019).” All I can think is, “That’s the best answer we can come up with?”

What you mean is, “We only shot 9. You want us to try for more?!”

This is not the type of talk that encourages trust or lead to increased support. Is it a wonder why people want to defund police?

This profession must take a good look at its practices of teaching new and inexperienced officers, especially, that the prime directive is their self-preservation above all else. Perhaps the mantra, “I go home.” needs some clarification.

We may want to change the message that everyone is a boogeyman just waiting for an instant of guard let down, to assault and kill anything wearing a police uniform. The statistics don’t bear out a war on police and it is causing anxiety leading to short circuits in decision making.

I cannot believe this profession isn’t in an uproar that officers are shooting unarmed, innocent people. The problem is it hasn’t happened to enough peace officers’ family members yet. The impact is distant so it is still dismissible and deflectable. As a profession, we only take things personal when they hit close to home. Maybe this time, we should extend our range of empathy and compassion to include strangers.

What private business could ever survive if it killed its customers through negligence or carelessness?