“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Past History is not a Justification

For all those out there examining police use of force incidents, and upon finding out that the suspect in question had a long and/or violent history - then saying "See, this proves the cops were in the right!" Stop. Just stop it. You're not helping.

In fact, you're wrong.

A lawful use of force incident is judged by the totality of the circumstances the officer knew (or should have known) at the time of the event - nothing more, nothing less. It means what is going on right then, and what is imminently foreseeable must be used to make those decisions. And, it does NOT mean that the past history of either the suspect or the officer are the key deciding factors (though both may be elements). The same holds true of non-law enforcement encounters - the facts of the moment are what matter, and what an individual must choose to act or not on.

Now yes, if the officer knows that a suspect has a history of violence that certainly may become an element in how things are addressed - but it doesn't grant a carte blanche permission to up the ante. Everything is dependent upon the actions and choices of that particular moment, and will be judged as such.

I've dealt with several arrests of people with long histories and statements of "I'll never go back to jail!" who ended up surrendering peacefully into custody when the time came. I've also had situations where someone with no violent tendencies flipped out at the wrong moment and the resulting situation turned messy.

And the same happens every single day across the nation. Think about the recent arrest of a suspected cop killer in Pennsylvania - they didn't gun him down, or abuse him - they took him into custody in a safe manner and he gets a day in court. Similarly, even suspected child molesters, terrorists, and other heinous people are given the opportunity when possible to surrender as opposed to an immediate leap to violent action. That's part of why we stress use of force training and judgement to officers throughout their career - to give them a solid basis to make these good decisions.

Now I'm not saying a person's past isn't a relevant factor - but it is more so in the lines of how they choose to face such situations. It is in the decisions they make and the actions they do or don't take when encountering police. This is where the violent tendencies, disregard for authority and other elements come into play - but it is on the offender's side, not the officers.

So please quit trying to solve the issue by using factors that aren't appropriate. It's over-simplifying an event which is anything but.

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