Years ago, an officer speaking at a police-only seminar on crime, a lieutenant I believe, said from the podium, “We’re not killing enough people who need to be killed.”
That sounds barbaric, bloodthirsty, psycho. Until you understand why he said it. I agree with that officer, and this article is intended to make sure that if any reader is ever on a jury trying a case of shooting by an officer, that reader will know what the officer faced and be better able to assess the officer’s actions realistically.
To truly understand how dangerous gunfights are for police, you have to know a little about the way the human brain and body work, and how our legal system and current cultural climate have magnified that danger.
Somewhere I have a book called “No Second Place Winner”, by the late Bill Jordan, former high-ranking Border Patrol officer and one of the fastest, most accurate pistol shooters ever to walk the earth. He understood gunfighting from wide experience. Full text at this link.
Jordan pointed out (p. 45+ at the link above) that the average draw that results in a hit on a man-sized target takes about 2/10ths to 4/10ths of a second. That’s if you time the draw when the shooter’s hand starts to move. But if the “signal to draw” comes from something other than the shooter, it will take the shooter from 3/10ths of a second to one full second.
In other words, the first one to draw will likely be the winner of the gunfight, assuming that his shot hits a disabling or killing part of his opponent’s anatomy.
Luck or God can alter this, of course. But that’s the physics of the matter. Whoever draws first has a high probability of winning the shootout. And as the book’s title points out, in a gunfight, there are no second place winners. And some violent criminals have their weapons in their hands before the officer is aware that there is a weapon.
If an officer shoots someone, especially if he or she kills that person, he or she may very well be suspended from duty while internal affairs, the DA’s office, and who knows what other powerful forces try to prove him guilty of murder, regardless of the facts. His neighbors, maybe even friends and family, may turn against him. There may be harassment or threats against his / her children. The deceased may be a gang member whose fellow gang members will try to take revenge on the officer or the officer’s family. I have unofficially, without permission, accompanied such a family member as she left work. I was not allowed to be armed, even though her employer was aware of the threat. And of course I obeyed my employer.
(Can I interest you in a bridge in Brooklyn?)
Fearing the after-action consequences, officers may wait far too long to shoot, and some of them die because of that. Usually the officer can’t avoid getting too close, and closeness means that even a knife is at least as deadly as a gun. I’ve posted this 3:05 video before:
How often can an officer reasonably expect to have a standoff distance of 21 feet? This is why, one night when I was angrily approaching an officer, he told me to back away. Believe me, I did so immediately.
Add a gun to the mix, and distance is no longer a consideration. Even a snubnosed revolver can be deadly out to a hundred yards.
Add to that mix an increasing number of persons so insane or filled with hate that they will kill an officer without hesitation, sometimes even if it means they will die too. We have an epidemic of crazed murderers in America, folks. How do you deal with a crazed murderer?
At 0:51, this subject opens fire on an overwhelming number of officers who are already aware that he is a potential threat, jumping out of his truck to run head-on into their massed gunfire. But he gets off the first shots, because of the laws of human physics mentioned above. At least one officer was injured.
What happens when an apparently unarmed subject refuses to obey an officer’s commands?
Car stopped at 0:03. Subject instantly emerges and stands with one hand behind back. At 0:09 officer tells subject to “please” get back in car. Three times by 0:27 the officer tells him to get back in his car. Instead the subject walks toward the officer. At 0:29 the subject produces a handgun and instantly begins shooting at the officer. Subject fires multiple shots, hitting the officer at least once, jumps in his car and drives away. It doesn’t look as though the officer fired even one shot.
Without shooting him, how does an officer deal with a subject like this one? He should not have been allowed to escape, but if the officer had shot him, what would have happened to the officer? A Taser didn’t stop him from attacking the officer. If he had gotten the officer’s gun, killed the officer, taken the officer’s cruiser and the weapons it contained … Who else will this subject attack, maybe seriously injure, maybe kill, after escaping? A citizen might let such a person go, but officer have a duty to the safety of the public, and this subject was clearly a danger to the community.
Officers ambushed: who made the call that lured them to what could have been their deaths? One instant talking to a subject, the next instant both officers are being shot at, from point-blank range. Without body armor, at least one of these officers would probably have been killed: he was hit with three shots to the chest.
Domestic calls: the first 57 seconds tells you all you need to know about this one. Five officers present did not intimidate the mentally out of control subject with an AR. One officer killed. “My lungs collapsed and I was gargling blood.” “All of us have been hit at least once.”
Just a routine traffic stop, but the officer never had time to see the gun that shot him.
I’m not suggesting that every time an officer shoots someone, it should just be accepted. IAD can be a good thing. The DA’s office has a legitimate function. Rogues, murderers, should not be allowed to walk, even if they wear a uniform. But when a seasoned police officer makes a remark like, “We’re not killing enough people who need to be killed”, if you agree … your nation is in the worst trouble it has ever faced. And the officers of your nation need your support. Not unconditional, slavish worship, but first, the benefit of the doubt, and second, whole-hearted support when it is justified. That includes things like trying to see to it that public officials are not anti-cop.