April 5, 2018

EXPECT MORE:

Shouldn't Police at Home Exhibit at Least as Much Discipline as Soldiers at War? (DAVID FRENCH, April 4, 2018, National Review)

Over the past three years, as the issue of police shootings has come to periodically dominate American discourse, I've noticed a disturbing pattern. While many controversial police shootings are lawful and justifiable, many others would be surprising to see in a war zone, much less in the streets of America's cities. [...]

First, it's important to understand that the mission must come before personal safety. When you sign up to wear the uniform, you're tacitly acknowledging as much. This doesn't mean you're required to be reckless with your own life, of course: Prudence and self-protection still matter. But they come behind the purpose of the police force itself. If you have any doubt about this fact, ask the Broward County Sheriff's office. The armed deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School certainly succeeded in protecting himself during Nikolas Cruz's massacre. But he failed to do his job, placing his own safety above the safety of the innocent kids he was sworn to protect, and he rightly had to face the consequences afterward.

Second, it's important to fully understand the mission. When your job is to preserve the safety, security, and -- crucially -- liberty of a community, each individual encounter is conducted against the backdrop of those broader, over-arching goals. So, a call to pursue a suspected vandal and trespasser (like in the Clark case) presents a multi-faceted challenge: Apprehend the suspect, protect his civil liberties, understand the community you're policing, and protect the liberties and security of those others who live there, as well. Every confrontation is potentially dangerous, sure, but every confrontation is also complicated by the multifaceted balancing act we ask of our cops. One may argue that we ask too much of our cops, but I don't think so; younger soldiers perform the same balancing act in more dangerous circumstances for less pay every day.

Third, the prudent rules of engagement should vary by the nature of the encounter. As I wrote in my initial piece about the Clark shooting, situational awareness demands different kinds of risk tolerance. Pursuit of an armed robber is different from pursuit of a vandal, and both are dramatically different from rolling up on an actual firefight, like the incident that claimed the life of a Sacramento sheriff's deputy in 2017. While each situation can potentially turn deadly, it's a simple fact that some kinds of encounters are more fraught with peril than others, and greater inherent peril demands greater latitude for police use of force.

Fourth, fear must be subject to reason. Public defenses of police shootings tend to revolve around questions of fear. Officers consistently escape conviction, prosecution, and sometimes even discipline altogether because they are able to effectively articulate why they were afraid for their lives the moment they fired the fateful shot. The legal standard to escape conviction, however, is that they must prove not just that they were afraid but also that their fear was "reasonable." Articulating reasons for your fear is not the same thing as articulating "reasonable fear."



Posted by at April 5, 2018 3:54 AM

  

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