Officer Alex processes the dichotomy of safety versus use of force
“Police work.” By and large, it’s a career of contradictions. Your mandate is to protect and serve, to keep people from harm, yet in order to do so you occasionally have to do just that: bring harm, and occasionally do so by the Chinese containership load. In short, violence is an incredibly inconvenient part of the job when your title is that of “peace keeper.”
It came to mind on the way home from Job #3 last night after I happened to roll by a co-worker as he was chasing a young man that got tazed in mid-flight. One second he was an Olympic hopeful, the next, Wile E. Coyote, frozen in mid-air and feeling a whole different kind of “Bern” as he stoically made his descent into a patch of grass in a frozen cartoon-like rictus, dirt, condom wrappers, and flattened Icee cups piled up in front of him like the soil in front of a crashing spaceship from Independence Day.
He lay there doing what people do after experiencing a 50,000-volt frequency-specific shock that causes all muscles to instantaneously seize, still unaware of the barbed hook in his upper back and ass cheek (respectively), and I couldn’t help but ponder the if’s for a moment, while another cop bent over and almost soothingly asked, “Hey…why’d you run, man? It didn’t have to be this way.”
His reticence was genuine, and while I normally try to avoid waxing poetics while The Good Work is afoot, I couldn’t help but observe the irony of the dynamic. In order to bring peace, whether he was tackled, tazed, or ran in front of a moving car, his choices necessitated a strong likelihood of violence in one form or another to bring those poor choices to a resolution.
Without argument, this contradiction is the toughest part of the job on two different levels. The officers that put themselves in this situation get into the business because they’re decent people. (Yeah, yeah, there’s the less than one percent that make the rest look like crap that some choose to obsess on, but that’s another topic.)
Decent people don’t want to hurt people, but these are the men and women that decide to take a chance on living in that grey area in between being a wolf and being a sheep, and as such when there’s a statistically likely occurrence of good intentions going south. When that happens, they’re screwed both emotionally and publicly. What a great job.
That second level is, of course, outside scrutiny. From the outside, our more two dimensional critics have a field day with the observation of selective facts. The Times Free Press recently released a transcript of a police involved shooting which from what I saw publicly (as in, from citizens’ cell phones), after three to four minutes of being begged to drop his gun, a man charged an officer and a child with a gun and a sword. Reasonably interpreting this as a deadly act, he was dropped like cholera in broad daylight and on film.
According to the news releases, this was witnessed and recorded by neighbors and the local District Attorney declined to press charges against the officers (having acted within their legal boundaries for when people try to kill you with a sword and a gun), but still, marches were organized to protest this as an act of brutality.
Was it brutal? Well hell yes, a man was shot—that’s a fairly brutal act. But was it necessary? That is where facts start to get in the way. And come to think of it, that’s probably why the “march” that was organized attracted up to ten people (if you include the one in the stroller).
Violence. People of peace that have to wear armor and equip themselves with firearms and intermediate weapons. No wonder we’re both easy targets for the agenda driven and never short of work to be done.
Be safe, and if practical…please wear a helmet if you choose to run. (Road Runner doesn’t want to get you, but Road Runner will get you should you choose to go Coyote on us.)
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.