In Canada we had two police incidents that have reached the news:
#1. Pearson Airport Tazer
#2. Vancouver Police Shooting
That’s what I’m going to call them – I’m Army, but I’ve worked with Law in and out of uniform and fuck if I know the ‘correct’ professional term for the ‘incidents’.
First off we have a person trying to breach airport security and he’s later listed as mentally ill. The cops tazer him and help him to the ground, take him in custody (aka handcuff), and send the man to hospital. Charges are still pending.
Secondly we have a man going around stabbing folks, who is cornered and shot at five times after he put a woman in critical condition in the hospital. He is surrounded by police and runs only to attack another before one of the officers on scene fires shots at the suspect, killing him.
I get irked when an interviewed witness says they didn’t have to shoot the suspect.
In the first example we see the effect of a Tazer. You hear the cops tell the man to lay down as the current is pouring into his body. They help him to the ground and it’s all over.
In the second example after being chased and falling, surrounded by armed police the suspect picks something up and attacks another person. The police shoot.
'Ask questions' I said in my last post on this subject. Never stop asking questions on the subject of having out peace officers assaulting people. That’s the skinny, firearms and tazers have only one reason to exist – to hurt people. When a peace officer uses one he or she is assaulting someone. That’s simple basic fact.
So here is what I would do in the situations. Note that I am not judging, I’m simply stating what I believe would be my actions in the same situation. There are higher bodies of accounting for peace officers using force that have much more experience than me and more focused training.
Police make decisions and hopefully good decisions when it comes to assaulting someone. With my experience, I don’t know what’s in the case or how dangerous the suspect is. What I do know is he is ignoring commands, he’s trying to bypass airport security, and he has not been overtly violent. If we send officers to take him into custody he could become violent or he could reveal a weapon – the suitcase could be used as one or have one inside. We’re also talking about a container in control of a suspect who is bypassing security at an airport – it could be contraband like drugs or money, a weapon, or a device like a bomb or biological in nature.
Disable the suspect and take him into custody. That’s what I would do in the officers place with my training and experience which by the by is limited. Officers working in airports or other high security areas go through extensive training. I know I’ve had some of it. Your job is to protect the area and the folks around you. So would I have tazed the suspect – yep.
Now about the one that led to death:
The suspect has stabbed two or three people, that’s assault with a weapon - already a bad sign. I am armed and pointing a weapon with at least one other armed officer doing the same. The suspect is fleeing and is still armed. I know they are ignoring the orders to halt – the suspect is still on the move.
I don’t shoot until he gives me reason to. Unless he attacks me or someone else I have no reason to shoot. Fight or Flight may have kicked in and he’s confused, give the benefit of the doubt when you’re talking about human life.
The situation and what I know changes – he attacks someone else. The victim is down and the subject is still moving and showing that they are ready to continue attacking others.
Benefit of the doubt gone, there is no doubt. My options are:
Use a Tazer. I cannot guaranty that I can stop him with a Tazer. It has limited range and it has probably two shots as per the Tazer website. If I miss hitting a running target with both point or if both point don’t stick I’ll need to shot a second time – with the same or worst chances to hit as the subject may start evading my fire. Also the subject is not guaranteed to stop, the energy may course through his system allowing him to move farther than the range of the lines and break free of the weapon.
I can run him down – he is armed with a close combat weapon with no regard for my health. I cannot guess if he regard for his own. I may get hurt or killed, allowing him to gain access to more weapons, adding another casualty to the list, and removing an officer from the pursuit to deal with me being a casualty. I also need to catch up with him. He may outrun me or evade me prolonging the pursuit and adding more assaults to the situation. I cannot guarantee that I can stop him before he harms or kills someone else.
I can shot him with my sidearm. If I miss I can shoot again. One to three rounds should be enough to stop the assaults. Range is not my largest factor, hitting the subject without a round missing and striking an innocent is. A three round grouping of 10 inches is easy for me at 20 meters – I can also fire more rounds if I miss or if three rounds striking the subject is not enough to stop him.
My choice sadly is fire a sidearm. That lady he just stabbed may be dying – that’s the cost of the benefit of the doubt. He’s had plenty of chances but the evidence through his actions is showing that he is a danger and he is not stopping.
I would have made the same choice in the officers shoes. If this was a military situation, I don’t think the lady would have been stabbed but that’s why we work in war zones and not at home, different mandate, simple.
Folks may disagree with me but when you look at what officer and soldiers like me are trained to do and the whole though process outlined above – hopefully shows how hard keeping the peace or enforcing the peace is. Humans are not perfect and mistake will be made – that’s simple statistics.
It’s not less sad.
Now we have a third subject to look at. All we have is the video – we don’t know how the scuffle started. We know a man fled on foot after being stopped by police. He left his car and fled on foot. The Tazer was not accessible by the officer reports and the video shows something falling from both men, it will be discounted.
What I know – the man is physical enough to evade restraint and is not afraid to become physical with me. I am able to catch up to him by running; I’ve done so already once. He otherwise is not deadly or violent besides resisting arrest. I see no visible weapons his back is too me.
I can shoot – the distance is easy to cover with a one to three round that should be able to stop the subject. There is no fear from a fleeing subject, I do not feel that I can shot him with just cause.
I can chase him down – I can catch up with him. If I did this I’d take out his legs with a extending baton and then take him into custody. If I cripple the legs the pain may prevent him from fighting back again. I’ve already lost a physical confrontation with the subject. If I hit his legs once and am able to get another strike on the subject’s arms I may be able to limit his ability to resist arrest long enough for backup.
In my case I’d run him down and apply force to his legs limiting his ability to stand and escape. Once backup arrived if the subject was still resisting I’d get help to take the subject into custody.
In the video the officer chose to shoot the fleeing subject. In a military situation I would have shot the man before even getting into physical with the man. I’d also not be alone and it would be probably in a high security area or a conflict area. It also depends on the ROE’s (Rules of Engagement) which are the legal binding order that come down from the chain of command.
Sometimes it sucks to be a soldier because you can bet on the benefit of the doubt. That’s war and war sucks.
Doing this a second time – is not milking the news. It’s what we call at work an AAR (After Action Report). It’s a tool, a method, for soldiers to learn from each engagement or mission. The outcomes are Lessons Learned that will hopefully help others in similar situations. Breaking events down helps new members benefit from the experience of previous situations allowing, faster positive professional growth.
So sadly we have two deaths since last week – lets learn from this and try not to judge the person. Simple figure out what you would do and trust that professionals are doing their best in the aftermath of the situation.