5 Mar 2015

Violence - Break

Today's post was pushed back - I read something yesterday and it inspired quite the response that I felt might work here instead.

I'd like you to first read from the following link: https://weathervanesisterhood.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/a-call-for-change/

After the break I wana talk about what Toni said.

There was a shooting in Central LA.

A known man with mental illness resisted an officer who tried to detain him and he was shot in the process.  Five cops versus one man, struggle and five shots later – a death on the street.

I can talk about what I saw on the video and can tell you what an armed uniformed person should do. I can’t tell you or justify to why a man is dead – that’s the role of the shooter and his bosses.

One of the more poignant responses came from one of the Weather Vane Sisters.

I figured I’d put in a response on their site but it needs more time, more space to explore the possible and the actual comes forward. I am not defending the actions of either party - and other than in one occasion I am not passing judgement, in the end I was not there. I am, and my opinions and observations are after the fact.

There are a few epectations here and it’s not the lovely blogger’s fault. Media and misinformation help cultivate interesting expectations from the public who do not work in those fields. So while I cut up her statement, it's for clarity to keep my point organized, I’m not attacking the challenge that comes later in her post. Instead I’m hoping to remove some of the falsehood in the thinking with the situation, then I will address what I feel is the crux of Toni’s post.

“What I have a problem with are the four, fair-sized men, armed with multiple weapons and professional training – some of the worlds best and finest as we are told – losing control of one man.“

There are a few illusions in this statement. It doesn’t matter how many weapons a soldier or officer has, weapons do not protect people they kill people. When a soldier goes to war the rifle, the grenade, the machine gun, does not pass on a sense of security or invincibility, those who do quickly find that feeling to be false. Weapons are scary and are powerful death bringing tools to wield.

Losing control of one man even if outnumbered is not uncommon – it’s far too common. Police have to restrain themselves in order to minimize the damage they could impart on a subject; the subject is without those restraints. This is a real problem for prison guards who sadly fall victim to inmate’s attacks even when they can be highly trained persons.

Police have to keep life, in the case of the military it would have gotten more violent faster – Soldiers are not cops, they shot people, it’s part of the job. It’s also much simpler to do that, keeping a subject alive is much harder. So with that in mind the cops even though outnumbering a person are there to not harm the person while the person is without limits.

Speaking of training – practice is needed to keep up the methods that the officer has been trained in. In many cases here and in the various US police services, the time to practice and train that is allocated to the patrol officer is limited. It’s the sacrifice made in order to have greater numbers of officers on the street.

“One man that while/shortly after being tazed to the ground was apparently able to manage the energy and strength to wrestle an officer’s weapon from them – in some accounts he only reached for it and did not actually have hold of the weapon.”

Here is another issue. Tazing is not a be all and end all. That’s comes with the TV adds and media coverage of electric weapons. I’ve been tazed and some tazers are set to be a deterrent, not a stopper. To guaranty that a Tazer will drop someone it increases the chance of death on the part of the tazed person. Many folks issued with tazers use lower settings in hopes to not kill anyone they taze. I’ve seen coworkers take a tazing like a champ and keep coming – tazing is a step that slow most people down, but not everyone. Add in some drugs and some mental instability and its effectiveness drops quickly. 

Lastly going for a weapon is the most dangerous part. Honest fact – if someone went for my weapon or the weapon of one of my troops I would have shot him. Sadly that is a fact. If at any point that gun was in the control of the subject many more could have died. I will never gamble on the lives of other when someone is trying to become more dangerous. It’s a sad fact.

Watch in the video as the officers react as a bistander picks up the batton. They split up. I dunno why the officer put it down maybe it was in the way or the person reached for it early in the struggle. I do not know.

Look at Brain Nichols, 11 March 2005. Took control of an officer’s weapon and killed over a half dozen people escaping from a courthouse. That is one of many examples and each one is sad and disturbing. The world is not black and white, it’s way too many shades of grey and is far too often stained with red. There is a reason I have the kanji for Grey tattooed on my dominant hand. It’s a reminder of those invisible lines.

“What I have a problem with is the man who was fatally shot was known to officers as was his history and struggle with mental illness.”

Knowing that he is mentally ill does not make the approaching the subject safer or less dangerous. Being prepared does not make one less in danger – it can help but it does not reduce the level of danger. Think of a bomb, knowing how to disarm it does not make the volume of energy it can expel less if the bomb goes off.

Now I do have an issue here – Medics should have been already on site when the police approached the subject. If there was any chance of things going wrong, becoming dangerous or even evolving into something deadly (like what happened) – the paramedics should have already been on site to deal with any casualties.

“What I have a problem with is the way it seems lives are ranked in order of importance in a situation such as this – determining that the homeless man deserved to die for resisting and struggling with FIVE shots being fired at him, into him. That the officers chose to shoot FIVE bullets into an unarmed man. I have a problem with this being the solution. FIVE shots.”

Another illusion and a problem. The problem is folks without constant practice, in heightened situations will fire more rounds then practiced. Look at the shooting at Parliament – all of those officers firing with little what the military calls ‘fire control’ – which is not practiced as much with the military. Sadly this is a problem with armed folks who get little practice and exposure.

Secondly it’s easy to miss at closer range – get into a fist fight with a pistol and watch the missed rounds fly. Also one bullet does not a man stop. When doing pistol drills, you fire twice, called a double tap. Some folks practice what became called the Mogadishu drill, where the shooter fires twice, pausing to retake aim then followed by a third and final shot. Also if a shot missed, the average shooter will pull the trigger an extra time – that’s instinct.

Lastly there is a priority. The people around the subject are the priority because they are, innocent. Next in line is team trying to keep the peace. Lastly the subject, the dangerous one is the lowest on the list – it’s sad but that has saved lives. The life is not less important or precious but how many people should be allowed to be hurt if a situation gets out of control before it needs to be stopped… I know that’s not a good answer but it’s a coldly logical one.

“Over what one witness claims was the repeated request for the removal of his tent. Here’s where I had to ask myself; How do unarmed nurses, orderlies and doctors deal with mentally ill patients that are clearly out of control or physically threatening them or another patient? And how do they stay safe without killing them?”

I’ve spoken to a few nurses and orderlies about this one over the years. One they are not armed making the level of escalation limited to fist, feet, elbows, knees, head, and teeth – unless the patient brings something like a pair of scissors. I just checked with a nurse and her reply is ‘You just get hurt, I’ve been stabbed. We just keep calling nurses and security to pin the person down.’ So if an armed person is incapacitated from one of those wounds – we are now in dangerous ground of a possible uncontrolled weapon, I’ve already explained above how that gets worse quickly.

“They tactically take them down by each grabbing a limb – in ignorance of never being through it, is this not part of basic training for the police?”

It is basic police training, for at least the schools I’ve worked with but that same logic means that soldiers who are competent and take to heart all their training won’t die. Eric Czapnik is an example of no matter how well trained and experienced, the trained person can get hurt and at worse die.
The crux of Toni’s post is here:

“I do not understand where our society went wrong. When this type of response became acceptable. When this level of violence, of force was a reasonable reaction to this kind of situation. When did this story become more and more familiar as we become numb to it. And while I do understand that the media tailors the main stream news to whatever cause or conflict they would like us to be fearful over at the moment, I also understand that the role of an officer is to ‘serve and protect’ the people of a community – it seems the many kinds and characters it takes to make up said communities is sometimes forgotten, specifically the mentally ill. When a man pleads for his life stating he can’t breathe, or a child raises their hands in surrender, or a homeless man struggles with police in broad daylight, yet their lives are still swiftly taken, I cringe that this is a world where I live. That this is the reality of our society today. That we agree this is how a ‘crime’ should or even can be punished. The extremeness of our society scares me, as it should you.”

As someone who’s carried a weapon – you don’t become numb to it and it’s never ‘right’. Toni is right the mentally ill are left behind in our communities. It (the world) is scary – but it’s worse in other places. As Toni writes at the beginning of the paragraph those words are the most powerful, she asks but she fails to understand.

Sadly the world we live in is much worse – we just don’t see those extreme as often due to the luxury of our setting. The world is not pretty, it’s gross ‘we all poop’ a veteran and friend of mine keeps telling me. He says this because it’s a nice way of saying the world is ugly, violent, and sometimes horrid. Yet folks should never stop trying to make it a better place.

Toni is a smart lady. She is bright and brilliant like her sisters. Seriously read their posts and you’ll find insights you may not have expected – unless you know them. I have tons of respect for Toni and her sisters. She has every right to rage and question, demand answers of why violence happens. Sadly there is never a good answer – having that answer would hold the key to world peace. It would solve everything.

I had a friend who just recently had Quebec local law breakdown his door to his room and point a slew of pistols in his face. Blinded and just waking up – worst way to wake up by the by, he was very shaken up. It took him a day to get over having a live weapon pointed at his head. As much as the media says folks get desensitized - once thrown in the Lion’s den you quickly regain that sensitivity. He had never seen this up close in reality, always in video games and on TV, in movies… never in his life did he think he was going to die. Lucky for him he did not.

Violence is a hard thing to live with but it’s here. Humans are really good at violence and it’s one of our faults. Even combat veterans can’t deal with the violence. They fight with themselves and rage with the world around them because it fails to make sense.

Sadly that’s the worst part violence does not make sense – it simply is. What makes it worse is when compared to the rising of the sun or the weather it seems like unlike those things that just are, violence could have been avoided. Everyone asks why? What could have been done?

I hope people like Tony keep asking. It’s important that everyone keeps asking, no matter if the shooting gets explained or - I hate the term, ‘justified’. The questions that Tony puts forward always need to be asked. We as humans need to look at the violence every time – we need to never stop asking.

I hope the rest of the video fottage from the officers camera vest helps clear things up. I also hope people like Toni keep asking questions. I hope the world learns to be less violent to each other... I hope we get better as a race.

- Cheers