Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Police Shootings Under the Microscope

Police shootings of suspects has received a lot of attention lately. There are the never ending cries for greater oversight, more scrutiny and stricter policies when it comes to use of force. Police critics want quicker reviews by prosecuting agencies and demand more criminal filings on officers involved in controversial shootings. The shootings themselves are investigated by the police agency itself, the district attorney’s and/or state prosecutors office and oftentimes by the FBI. Each second involved in the incident, from the moment the officer arrived at the scene till the last shot is fired, is minutely gone over.  Police officers feel under siege, and resent the fact that their job, career and freedom could hinge on the view of an appointee to a police board who has never spent a minute in a police car or has ever been confronted by a violent suspect.

I’d like to tell you about a personal experience I had years ago when I was a young police officer.  I was still on probation and working in a high crime area in Los Angeles.  It was late in the afternoon on a warm day when my partner and I received a radio call of a man with a rifle, shots fired. As we drove up and parked near the location, I saw it was a group of about six small bungalows in an inverted U.  The address of the call was one of the middle residences.  As we deployed towards the house, I took the shotgun with me.  If a situation involves a gun and an indication that shots have been fired, you want to be ready if things quickly escalate. 

As I walked towards the center bungalow, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement near the residence to my immediate left.  At the same time, the front screen door of the residence flew open and hit the front of the house.  As I turned towards the movement and the noise, I saw a person in the doorway holding what appeared to be a rifle, followed by an explosion like a gunshot.  As all this was going down, I was instinctively raising the shot gun to my shoulder to engage the shooter and started to pull the trigger.  As I sighted in on the target, I saw it was a seven year old child with a Daisy air rifle. I immediately let go of the trigger. 

To this day I can still remember how weak kneed I felt with the realization that I almost shot a child.  I didn’t have any time to think, it was over in a micro second. I was acting strictly on training and instinct.  It was only by the grace of God that a terrible tragedy was averted.  A dangerous situation, coupled with instinctual reactions is something to ponder the next time you hear about another controversial shooting.