It’s strange when we live during a time in history when rank and file cops praise their police chief for exhibiting common sense? While conducting a domestic violence incident on New Years Eve 2014, several Seattle police officers, and the citizen with them, came under gunfire. Three of the officers returned fire toward an approaching vehicle from where they believed the shots were coming.
What the officers knew at the time
Though the vehicle the officers shot at was soon determined not to be the source of the gunfire, in order to correctly analyze this incident it’s important to understand the totality of the circumstances. While we cannot know what was in the mind of each officer at the time, we can know some of what they did know.
- It was dark, and the patrol car’s headlights, as well as those of the car headed toward them, had further compromised the officers’ night vision.
- During roll call, officers were informed that social media was touting this as “Kill the Pig [Cop] Night.”
- A drive-by shooter had already taken a life that night, and that suspect was still at large.
- Other incidents of shots fired from a vehicle had recently been reported in this neighborhood.
It’s time to return to blaming the criminal, not the cops
When tragic things happen to innocent bystanders during the commission of a crime, some people want to blame the police. In the vast majority of instances, crashes during police pursuits and unintended gunshot victims are the criminals’ faults, not the police officers trying to do their jobs. Place the blame where it belongs.
The officers acted to protect the citizen with them—first!
Not only did the officers do a fine job and remain remarkably calm while under fire but also officers acted to protect the man they’d been interviewing when the gunfire erupted. Before returning fire, one of the officers pushed the man down to the protection of the patrol car. In the video, that man can be heard expressing his sincere, if raw, gratitude for the way those cops protected him. With all of this good police work on display, why such an absurd finding? Well, maybe it’s because the death toll was so high. It was zero. Then, surely there must have been serious injuries? Well, no. No one reported any injuries. Hmmm, maybe the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) Director Pierce Murphy has no idea what good police work looks like even when it’s staring him in the face.
An incompetent decision
I was still on the job when Murphy first came to Seattle to head OPA—I felt anything had to be an improvement over his clueless predecessor. I thought his having served as a reserve police officer might give him a better understanding of what officer’s face on the streets. Then, why such an idiotic determination from this non-cop and his non-cop comrades? According to a Seattle Times article written by Steve Miletich, Murphy, the OPA director, “…found insufficient evidence to show the officers had a reasonable basis to believe anyone in the approaching car posed an imminent threat of death or serious injury, the report said.” Wow! This is a stunningly ignorant analysis of police actions that night and could be used as a caption for a poster opposing civilian oversight.
Think about it:
If the car in question was driving toward police, its headlights washing out anything behind it, and another unseen car was shooting at that car, where would the rounds go? Yes, they’d zip past the car, and then toward the officers, who, as written in police reports, “…heard, and felt, gunshots whiz by their heads….” In split-second, life and death incidents such as this, it would be impossible for officers to believe anything other than someone in the car they could see driving toward them was shooting at them. In fact, they’d have been derelict in their duty if they hadn’t acted to protect themselves and the citizen with them.
SPD brass get it right
I’ve been waiting for years to see SPD’s leaders–from the very top–forcefully support their cops. As we’ve seen with the SPD brass’ reaction, which, along with the chief overturning OPA’s finding, had a deputy chief, an assistant chief, and a precinct captain, officially contest Murphy’s findings. The OPA director has proven himself incapable of rendering a rational decision regarding serious police actions. Still, I want to be fair. If, rather than a lucid finding, his goal was to impress Seattle’s anti-cop lefties and their allies in the DOJ—then, good job, Murph!