Police are trained to shoot first – but it hasn’t always been that way!

Editorial Article by Jim Lantern, Lantern Timeglass Journal, Monday morning 11 July 2016

Both of us born in 1956, I had a friend during some of my school years who joined the Marines after graduating from high school. He served for a couple of years. Then he got out and became a uniformed police officer early in 1978 after attending a police academy late in 1977.

He informed me that at the academy the training included self defense – hand-to-hand combat, and how to disarm another person who has a gun or knife or other kind of weapon. Of course he already had that training and experience from having served in the Marines for a couple of years. At the police academy they were taught to first use oral commands and how to do that in a confrontation. The next step, if talking fails, is to use physical force – first with bare hands, and then if necessary with a police baton. Then if that fails to use mace or pepper spray, or to use electric shock with a stun gun. Police were given nonlethal weapons and trained how to use them. If they must use a gun, then they were taught to first fire a warning shot. If that fails to then shoot to wound in such a way as to stop the target from further being a threat. Then if the target continues to be a threat, even after being wounded, police were authorized to shoot to kill – preferably as an act of self defense or to protect the lives of other people who might be in life-threatening danger from the target.

Many years later – I don’t recall which year now – I crossed paths with my old friend – we hadn’t stayed in contact over those years. I found out he had been married and divorced three times, and had custody of two daughters – then teenage – living with him.

He finally ended up on a desk job, still in uniform, as a sergeant, at the Patrol West substation. Of all the cops in that city, I liked the Patrol West cops the most, because they did the job the way I’ve always believed law enforcement should be done by uniformed cops. They partly reminded me of some of the cops portrayed in 1960’s-1970’s TV cop shows, and partly reminded me of Old West marshals or sheriffs portrayed in actual history and fictional westerns on TV and in movies. Most of the citizens the Patrol West officers encountered on the west side of the city were white and middle-class. While I worked at a job on the west side, I lived in the south area of the city.

The Patrol North cops pioneered “Community Policing” and did an excellent job of it – bringing peace to the Asian, African-American, and Hispanic communities in the north area of the city. Most of the crime that had previously been associated with them and their gangs then shifted to the south area of the city and poor white communities.

The Patrol East cops catered mainly to upper class blue book social snobs living on the east side of the city, where I’d grown up – lived during childhood. I graduated from high school, had a year of college – hated it – opted for an electronics repair job on the west side of town, on-the-job training for hands-on experience. I became a believer in apprenticeship. I believed college to be an expensive scam. I’d rather get paid while learning than to accumulate a debt while learning. Even so, by not having a college degree, as the years passed by I was denied higher positions with higher pay. A kind of discrimination I felt to be very unfair. I had more experience than those idiots fresh out of college who were put in charge of me. Some people are intelligent beyond their education and some people are educated beyond their intelligence.

The Patrol South cops mainly encountered low income white people living in the south area of the city, where most of the drug-related crimes were ongoing. I estimate the majority of Patrol South cops there are corrupt – engaging in drug-related illegal activities with some criminals – protecting those they like and putting out of business the competition of those they like as a kind of protection racket. That is one of the reasons why the so-called “drug war” has been a failure – that it has been undermined by corrupt people in law enforcement. As I was low income, and could not afford to live elsewhere in that city, that’s one of the reasons why I chose to move to Norman, Oklahoma, in May 2008. More affordable housing in a smaller city with a lower crime rate.

Anyway, when I last encountered my old friend in law enforcement, I had cause to remark about a news story. A number of uniformed police officers in a larger city had cornered a male – suspected of robbing a convenience store with a knife rather than a gun. He was waiving the knife around in a psychotic threatening way when they caught up with him, and he refused to put it down. So all of them – I don’t now recall how many but maybe four officers – pulled their guns and shot him – hit at least by 30 bullets – blew him to Mars. I remarked to my old friend that I had wondered why that many officers with their training could not have disarmed him – surrounded him, whacked him with their batons or used pepper spray or shock him with a stun gun, or even just shoot him once in the arm of the hand holding the knife. He said they are no longer required to do that. He told me officers are now taught in police academies across the country to shoot first and to shoot to kill.

I mentioned how much that would change the history of veteran officers who had gone their entire career without need to draw their guns – were always able to handle people with nonlethal physical force. He then explained the new attitude – that if as a uniformed cop you never draw your gun then you are not doing your job correctly.

He also mentioned something about police wanting to avoid law suits by victims who were only wounded or injured while being apprehended – wrongfully so – to then have to pay their medical bills and ordered to pay other compensation. Kill them so they can’t bring a lawsuit. Money police departments and cities can’t afford to pay out. I asked him, what about relatives of victims? That’s still a problem, he said, but they can usually be intimidated into backing off.

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