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An Hour in Their Shoes

July 7, 2016

I wasn’t going to post this, because it will be misconstrued as support for the actions of police officers, when I neither support nor condemn them, but I can’t help myself.

Facebook is a-weep at the latest police shooting of a black man. I saw the video same as everyone else, but the video isn’t the whole story. Not even close. It doesn’t capture anything that went before, it doesn’t capture anyone’s emotional state, it doesn’t even capture all angles.

Was the cop wrong to shoot him?  I don’t know and neither do you.

You have to be a cop, or worked closely with them, to understand the mindset. There is no scarier non-military job. Firefighters know the fire is their enemy. A cop isn’t sure. The nice fellow in front of him could want him dead. The scary-looking guy may be pure-hearted. A cop’s experience, right or wrong, informs their actions. They know the neighborhood, they know what they’ve encountered before, they know the prevailing mood of the public and the community.

And they want to make it home alive.

In an action situation, focus narrows to a point. They assimilate clues as to what may happen. Reports of a gun, a street claimed by a gang, and the humdinger of them all, resisting arrest. It could be a suspect is resists because he fears for his life, but can a cop count on that? Chances are high that resistance means the suspect has something incriminating on them, drugs, knives, guns, bombs, or is wanted and therefore dangerous. The cop has no way of knowing. Every officer knows that day may be his last.

A young woman I respect said on Facebook, “They should undergo simulations to see how they react before ever getting a gun.”  They have and do, often. They also have real-world experience.

I wish everyone who immediately condemns a cop would go through an hour in the cop’s shoes, in tense situations, before commenting on social media or forming an opinion.

Police officers do kill black men. I’d bet a few are racist, but most are great cops in bad situations. Few will fire their weapon for no reason. Hesitation may mean they go home in a box.

As for resisting an officer, never a good idea. A cop can’t just say, “Oh, you’re being difficult, I guess I’ll go away.” They can’t. They have to control the situation if they’re ever to control it going forward. Don’t put cops in bad places.

A cell phone camera or even several don’t tell the whole story.

I don’t know what happened the other day. Neither do you.

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