As police officers learn in the academy, every physical confrontation with a suspect involves at least one firearm: the one officers carry. Cops view every confrontation, at least in part, through the prism of the possibility that their firearms could be taken from them by an armed or unarmed suspect or suspects and used against them.
People make a big deal out of “unarmed” suspects. Most often, officers (and everyone else) know for certain that the suspect was unarmed only after the confrontation is over. People seem to think that officers have some sort of x-ray vision or should somehow know a suspect is unarmed. Just because suspects don’t have weapons visible in their hands at the time of the initial encounter doesn’t mean they are unarmed. Officers sure don’t know this for certain, and they would be stupid to bet their lives by assuming suspects are unarmed.
I recently wrote about a suspect I dealt with, who, once he’d dropped the knife he was holding, some people seem to think I should have considered unarmed. By the end of the incident we’d found the suspect was armed with another four knives, including one banded to his wrist with hair ties. If I had considered him unarmed after he dropped the knife in his hand, I, or one of my fellow officers, could have been seriously injured or killed.
Some people seem to think that an even playing field should exist between police officers and suspects during violent encounters. It’s as if some people expect it should be a “fair” fight. If the suspect has no weapon, then the officer should not use one. Again, putting the fact that officers can’t know for sure any suspect is “unarmed,” before and during an incident, it is a considerable offense for a person to resist arrest or assault a police officer. In the vast majority of recent high profile police shootings, it was the suspects’ actions that generated the use of deadly force. Even in the more dubious cases, the people shot were criminals breaking the law–not heroes.
Police officers, while in the performance of their jobs, are not just like everyone else. When on duty, cops act as the sword arms of the criminal justice system and, thus, of their communities. Cops represent a community’s law-abiding citizens when they act to thwart criminals. When criminals assault police officers, they assault civilized society. They are conveying the message that they have no respect for their communities. When some in the community react by rioting after such cases, racial crisis entrepreneurs should not reward these community-destroying criminals by granting them some sort of warped legitimacy based on general historical injustices for which their violent actions are, if not overtly condoned, at least given the respectability of being “understandable.” Yes, like the Baltimore mayor did–and, in her case, overtly.
This is why it is important that when officers are required to use force against suspects whose initial crimes are “minor,” people understand that the use of force was not employed for the suspect having committed shoplifting, jaywalking or drinking in public. The use of force was for the violent actions taken by suspects against police officers, which are felony crimes. It is the suspects who elevate the force by their behavior and disrespect for police officers.
In Olympia, Washington recently, two “unarmed” black men were shot by a white police officer. To read, watch or listen to some of the reporting one might determine the two were shot for, either, being black or for shoplifting–or both. The fact that the two criminals had assaulted the officer and tried to take his gun—substantial facts, indeed—was not given the same weight as the, being-shot-for-a-minor-crime-and-for-being-black, narrative.
This routine lack of proper context in media reports drives cops nuts. Now, as with the case in Ohio of the white officer acquitted in the shooting deaths of two black suspects, the suspects are often not referred to as suspects. I heard one report referring to the two Ohio suspects, in this case, who led officers on a lengthy, high-speed pursuit and used their vehicle as a weapon, as “motorists.” Really? “Unarmed, black motorists?” This despite the fact they committed multiple infractions and misdemeanor and felony crimes including putting the public at risk by driving recklessly, at high speeds and failing to stop for over 100 stop signs and red lights. I think they abdicated “motorists” as a primary descriptor when they initially attempted to elude the cops.
Michael Brown became the “unarmed, black teenager.” Well, this could be the description of most black teens walking down the street. Michael Brown, though it was later determined was unarmed, was also a felony, robbery suspect who assaulted a police officer and attempted to take the officers gun. But, somehow, the media continue to peddle this distortion. I think the sword arm of society deserves more respect than the perpetuation of this bogus narrative.