“Police officers don’t have ‘victims.’ They have perps, scumbags, and suspects. Sometimes they have subjects. But they don’t have ‘victims.'”
As usually happens in these types of cases, the pot was stirred — perhaps by agenda-based reporting on the part of some media outlets. The result was that several folks rallied in support of the “victim,” all in the name of “justice.”
Let’s just state our principles here. TUAK is, it must be acknowledged, not the most cop-friendly site on the web. Indeed, former members of TUAK management have been known to physically attack them on sight.
Nevertheless we are aware of the concept, the theory, that police officers are armed for the protection of themselves and the general population – and to the extent that they’re really putting themselves in harm’s way we’d even concede that it should be in that order. It would be if I were the cop.
Possession of the means of deadly defense is a serious responsibility. Actions can be deadly, and mistaken actions can be deadly to innocents. This is a possibility that should haunt everyone who carries a gun, whether it’s part of a uniform or not. (And at this point the post turned into a lengthy rant, continued below the fold.) This is why responsible “civilian” gun owners train so assiduously to ensure that mistakes don’t happen. This is why so many “civilian” gun writers insist that there’s no such thing as an “accidental discharge,” there is only “negligent discharge.” Such negligence is not tolerated – among “civilian” gun owners.
Police officers are paid, we’re told, to put themselves at some risk for the protection of their fellow citizens as a whole. Therefore they can find themselves in dangerous situations, situations in which a momentary mistake can put them or their comrades in a hospital bed or on a slab. Therefore it should be understood – or so we’re frequently told – that some decisions are going to be of the split-second variety, and that in ambiguous, sudden, low-light, adrenalin-charged situations mistakes can and indeed will occur. If the rest of us aren’t prepared to make allowance for that, only a maniac would ever take the job – and no maniac should ever be allowed to. Okay.
No, seriously. I can buy that. And if you can convince me of it, you should be able to sell it to anybody.
With power comes responsibility. Every gun owner knows this. With greater power would, in any sane society, come greater responsibility. A society of warriors – sheepdogs, if you will – who have dedicated themselves to the protection of the sheep would never tolerate the company of anyone in their ranks who abused the sheep. A society of warriors dedicated to the protection of the sheep would never hide that person behind a shield of “department policy.” Any one such action, even made by understandable mistake, might well be that person’s last. Every single one of those warriors, through pure healthily selfish interest, would be absolutely devoted to the avoidance of any such mistake. In a sane society.
Just as “civilian” gun owners are. Only more so, since the possibility that such a situation might arise is so much greater. In a sane society.
So much for statements of principle. We don’t happen to live in that sane society, and it shows. I have not written about the Andy Lopez shooting before now, not because it isn’t outrageous but because it isn’t unusual. If we popped a vein at every dead dog and “civilian,” we’ll spend the whole of our brief lives dealing with apoplexy. Carl Bussjaeger has ably outlined everything that was wrong with this shooting.
10 seconds. You’re walking along, minding your own lawful business.
7. [police report says deputies called for backup after noticing the “assault rifle”.]
6. Someone yells behind you. Are they yelling at you? What are they yelling?
5. You turn to see what’s going on.
4. You see… are those really cops? Yelling at you?
3. [Deputies fire 8 shots. 7 rounds hit you. The coroner will say two were fatal.]
1. [Deputies call in ‘shots fired’.]
0. You’re dead. Should have obeyed those instructions, eh?
I mentioned sane societies. “Civilian” gun owners are drilled mercilessly in The Four Rules. No law says they have to be. No such law is needed. The Rules are enforced. Failure to follow any of the rules will find you standing in the parking lot of any shooting range in the country, with every shooter’s back turned to you, having been bullied off the line by everybody in reach.
The Andy Lopez shooting would have been prevented by attention to Rule Four, which states, “Be Sure of Your Target and What Is Beyond It.” Is your target a 13-year-old boy with a toy gun? Don’t fire. Problem solved. The so-called Gun Culture is, by and large, a sane society.
I don’t know how police officers are trained in their much-vaunted academies to prevent such shootings. But I suspect that they are not so trained at all. I suspect they are trained to believe without question that “Officer Safety Is Paramount.”
Which brings me back to the article that so pissed me off:
The primary objectives of officers are to do their jobs, be safe and get home to see their loved ones at the end of each shift.
I submit that those primary objectives are self-defeating, in context. Oh, I don’t knock them, don’t get me wrong. I’m very much in favor of getting home safe. Which is why I never joined the Marines. But when you consider the job description of a police officer, you must conclude that the primary objective can be to do the job or it can be to get home safe, but it can’t be both. If Officer Safety Is Paramount, as we so often hear, then no element of risk whatever is acceptable. Which makes ‘doing the job’ simply impossible. Any police officer who has internalized the imperative that Officer Safety Is Paramount will logically shoot anyone and anything that makes him nervous – which is pretty much what we’re seeing.
Seems like a contradiction, and such things must be explained. Or at least explained away.
while standing several feet away, it is impossible to distinguish a replica rifle from the real thing. Several years ago, the California Legislature tried to solve this problem be requiring replica firearms to have a bright orange tips at the end of the barrel.
Exact replicas are illegal here. But of course, those with nefarious purposes can skirt these laws quite easily.
Did this 13-year-old boy ‘skirt the law,’ or didn’t he? The article doesn’t say whether the muzzle of the Airsoft gun was orange. It just says it should have been. I have a couple of friends with some Airsoft AR-15 replicas, and I confess I can’t tell them from the real thing without close examination.
A 13-year-old boy walking down a street in Santa Rosa, California with an AR-15 replica is behaving somewhat foolishly, as this one’s tragic death proceeded to prove. Californians are conditioned to regard such things with fear. Clearly, so are California cops.
But we expect children to behave foolishly, which is why drivers watch so carefully for them to dart into traffic. “I thought she’d stop” isn’t a defense if you just keep going and squash one. No one will have any problem calling that flattened child your victim, if you negligently run her over.
In this case, a thirteen-year-old boy with a toy gun absently did something foolish. If you or I had gunned him down under exactly those circumstances we’d be in a jail cell right now, denied bail and awaiting trial. And we’d deserve to be.
But you or I didn’t kill that kid, a police officer did. And they play under different rules.
Rather than promoting victimization, how about encouraging people to actually cooperate with law enforcement directives? Would there have been a death in this case if this young man had simply complied? Chances are, there would not have even been an arrest!
Indeed there would not, because the boy wasn’t breaking any laws. Adults watch out for the kids around them, or what the hell are they for? Unless they’re cops, it seems, in which case oh well. It’s the kid’s own fault for not knowing that voice behind him was coming from a cop. You can’t expect a valiant police officer to endanger himself by waiting another second or two to see what’s really going on. Empty the magazine into the kid, his parents can make another one that looks just like him. My primary objective is to get home safe at the end of my shift.