“Police Shoot Unarmed Man” We’ve Seen The Headlines, Now Look At The Numbers

Accountablity

Below are the statistics of fatal officer involved shootings according to a Washington Post study that began in 2015.

These statistics and this article serve as the foundation for topics I plan to discuss in the future.

Fatal police shootings, unarmed fatal police shootings, race as it relates to fatal police shootings, and lastly, the media’s coverage of such tragic events.

A highly contested topic, no doubt. But one I feel needs to be addressed, despite the expected backlash from trolls, anti-police haters, and career criminals, who will likely come out of the woodwork, to spew hate in a feeble attempt to feel better about themselves. That’s fine, their hate and how it plays into the cycle of violence in America will be discussed in a future article.

Here are the numbers broken down by year, race, and a second set of numbers focused ONLY on the unarmed fatal shootings:

Shooting Stats Photo

A few things to note regarding the unarmed shooting statistics.

The Washington Post does a great job of taking their data collection one step further when classifying these incidents. They track subcategories regarding unarmed shootings which are, “attack in progress” and “mental illness.”

These contributing factors alone do not justify the officer’s actions. That is NOT what I am suggesting. However, it helps explain why the incident took place and could justify the shooting.

For example, the unarmed statistics include people who were reported to have fought police, attempted to take their gun, or reached into their waistband or jacket. Though tragic, this could justify the officer’s actions in most cases.

I can already hear the haters.

“Fighting the police shouldn’t be a death sentence!”

I agree. I wish it never happened. I wish people never fought the police. I wish the police never had to shoot anyone. Wouldn’t that be a great society to live in?

Unfortunately, that is not reality.

This does not excuse officers who use deadly force unjustifiably. Nor does it negate people’s bad decisions to fight police, attempt to disarm police, or disobey commands and reach into their waistband. The police didn’t force them to make such horrible decisions, they simply reacted to it.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking suggests we are being rational and honest when assigning blame for what transpired. A difficult task in a country fueled on media headlines and emotion. Most people refuse to actually read an article or gather facts. Instead they opt to take a headline as gospel, good, bad, or otherwise.

Somehow it is lost on some people, if you don’t fight the police, you’ll likely be lumped into the 60+ million annual encounters between police and citizens where NOTHING bad happens. Yes, as of 2015, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 60+ million encounters occur annually between police and citizens every year.

Lastly, and most importantly, a narrative exists that suggests police shooting unarmed people has become an “epidemic” in America. The narrative suggests that the trend is increasing or worsening.

However, a quick review of these statistics collected by a third party, a presumably unbiased news source nonetheless, would suggest otherwise.

In fact, it appears to suggest the opposite, a downward trend since 2015 in unarmed shootings by police in America. Interesting to say the least.

Yet the new rhetoric and sentiment remain, “police are the enemy.”

More on this, the media, and related topics to come.

Be safe and thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door

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Police Playing Russian Roulette? Wait Before You Speculate.

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By now most people who follow the news have likely heard the tragic story out of St. Louis, where 24 year-old police officer, Katlyn Alix, was shot and killed by a colleague of hers, while allegedly playing a game of “Russian roulette.”

I have waited a few days to discuss this befuddling tragedy, like most, I was in disbelief  when this story broke.

I want to believe the officer who fired the fatal shot is telling the truth, but I’m not naïve and usually when something doesn’t sound right, it isn’t. Maybe it is the cold hard truth? Maybe not? There’s likely more to the story, but I won’t speculate, for good reason.

That being said, in all my time in law enforcement, I know one thing to be true, you’ve never, “seen it all.” I remember times while writing arrest reports exactly how the arrest happened thinking to myself, “There’s no way anyone will believe this report, this is insane.”  But it was the truth. Sometimes things happen that are nothing short of bonkers and hard to believe. Thank goodness for body cameras, at least now the craziness can be recorded.

Am I outwardly saying that Officer Hendren and his roommate, also a police officer, are lying? No. I’m simply saying we don’t have the entire story right now and this story seems hard to believe. Maybe because we don’t want to believe that officers could be this stupid. They of all people should know better, so that naturally creates disbelief.

Either way, we need to wait. Unfortunately, that’s how our system works. The trial will reveal the facts and I’m sure that between now and then, more information will be released when appropriate.

Let’s not forget that the two police officers who were on-duty when this happened, have been charged with serious crimes. Protecting the integrity of the case for prosecution is paramount in order to have a fair and effective trial.

This holds true whether police officers are charged with a crime, or a citizen. However, in today’s world, everyone demands ANSWERS NOW! This short-sighted behavior needs to stop. There’s a process in place for a reason and that reason is to seek justice no matter who is on trial, potentially dirty police, an alleged drug dealer or gang member, or a citizen. The process is the same every time, as it should be.

It doesn’t matter who is on trial. The process must be done the same way and with integrity to allow the system to work the best way it can. And no, the system isn’t perfect, but that’s an entirely different subject.

This case is similar to the highly publicized incident in Dallas, Texas involving former Dallas Officer Amber Guyger who came home from work and killed someone she thought was in her apartment. Come to find out, she was in the right apartment, but on the wrong floor. A tragic mistake to say the least.

All of the facts surrounding that case are yet to be made public, but rest assured, the rumors and nonsense have swirled. Why not just wait for the actual facts to come out? Why speculate or spread rumors that there were ulterior motives? Hidden relationships? Or other ridiculous allegations that are nothing but that, allegations. What does that do to help the situation? I’ll tell you, nothing.

I guess we are a society that demands and expects instant answers and gratification. Patience, a virtue according to the most, seems to be a thing of the past. Try sitting at a green light for more than 0.2 seconds after it changes. You’re sure to get honked at and told you are number one. Pretty shameful if you ask me. Relax. Life’s a game you’re bound to finish, so calm down. 

So what’s my point? There’s a few.

This story seems odd, maybe it really happened the way they say it did, maybe it didn’t. Time will tell. Thankfully, the officers involved who appear to be responsible for this tragedy, have been charged and the process of seeking truth and justice are in motion.

Let me say that again for the anti-police haters, the internet trolls, the people who think police support pages and police officers blindly support police officers no matter what, THANKFULLY THE OFFICERS INVOLVED WHO APPEAR TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TRAGEDY, HAVE BEEN CHARGED AND THE PROCESS OF SEEKING TRUTH AND JUSTICE ARE IN MOTION. (I’ve had my share of trolls and haters on social media lately, but I doubt they’re listening, this doesn’t fit their narrative).

I recognize this may be hard to understand, but no police officer wants bad police officers to be employed and active. What good do bad police officers do for anyone? Nothing. It ruins police and community relations and makes the job of the good officers harder. It’s that simple folks.

Had this officer played “Russian roulette” and killed a civilian, my feelings would be the same. If the officer is wrong, fire him and lock him up. If a jury decides he isn’t culpable, then so be it.

Unfortunately, the wheels of justice are slow. Until they turn completely and all the details come to light, we can only wait. But we should wait in silence. Let the case play out, let the facts be sought, gathered, and shared when necessary. Spreading rumors and adding your own speculation across the internet does nothing positive or beneficial.

This was nothing short of a PREVENTABLE tragedy and for that, we should be upset.

May justice be served and Officer Alix never forgotten.

Thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door

Why Do Police Officers Keep Dying?

 

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It keeps happening, because brave men and women get up every single day, strap on a bulletproof vest, kiss their loved ones goodbye, and head to work knowing they may not make it back.

It keeps happening, because police officers are the “thin blue line” that stands between the evil in our society and the rest of us who simply want to live a safe and prosperous life.

It keeps happening, because police officers do much more than write speeding tickets and take reports. They confront unknown dangers, violent gang members, and armed drug dealers.

It keeps happening, because there are people in the world that don’t value life. There is evil among us, willing to kill a police officer in hopes of remaining free and not be held accountable for their criminal acts.

It keeps happening, because police officers confront the most violent members of society each and every day, without fear, without knowing they’re dealing with, what their intentions are, or what they plan to do.

It keeps happening, because when bullets fly, all hell breaks loose, or tragedy strikes, the police run toward it, while everyone else runs away.

It keeps happening, because the media and anti-police “activists” want people to think police officers are the enemy, making the target on their back even bigger. Despite this, they still show up when called, holding the line, keeping you safe.

It keeps happening, because when police officers are cut, bruised, bleeding, or injured, they keep fighting, even if in the end, it costs them everything.

It keeps happening, because police officers are sheepdogs. Sheepdogs live to protect the sheep from the wolves, it’s innate, it’s in their blood.

It keeps happening, because police officers are human and under that vest is a servant’s heart. They’re no different than you or me, but they’re programmed to serve others no matter the cost.

It keeps happening, because the spirit of police officers can’t be broken, the bond is too strong, the family too close, the brotherhood and sisterhood too real.

Some days are quiet and go by fast, others they see things that will haunt them forever.

Police work is a calling. They’re drawn to it because being a police officer is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a way of life. A desire to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

As we go forward, remember why “it keeps happening” and support the sheepdog men and women who run toward all the things everyone else runs away from.

Thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door

Media Headlines Matter

 

Kap Kneeling
Colin Kaepernick, right, and Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem before an N.F.L. game last year. Credit Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Today there was yet another news article published somewhere in the United States about the shortage of police applicants in their jurisdiction. Admittedly, I didn’t read the article. The headline stated what we already know, or at least what any reasonable person would suspect. People aren’t applying to be police officers anymore. At least not at the rate they did in the past. (If you could see me as I write this, I’m displaying my best shocked face).

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past four years. Since the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting and the subsequent riots and protests that swept the nation, police officers across the country have been labeled nothing short of racist and blood thirsty monsters. By and large, thanks to the mainstream media in this country. Why? The answer is simple. The controversy surrounding policing in the recent years has made them money. Sadly, it’s that simple. The more people protested, marched, and held rallies, the more the media could give them the microphone to stir the controversy. The more controversial a topic gets, the more clicks, views, and revenue they make. Their job is to make money. Nothing gets more views than something controversial.

How do I know this? I know from experience in writing and posting articles like this one on my website and social media platforms. The number of “views, clicks, or shares” articles get, seem to be directly correlated to the photo or title that accompanies the article. To test this, I’ve posted the exact same article with two different photos and guess which one got more traction? The one with the more controversial and sad photo. Same article. Same title. Different photo. Completely different results in readership. The photo and title I choose for this article will be relevant the first time I post it. Then the following day I will repost it with an even more controversial person in the photo, I’m almost certain, the results will be completely different. We will see how it affects readership and I will update this article. I don’t like or want to be controversial. I started this to be honest, truthful, and give officers a voice. Their side of the story if you will. But, sometimes controversy happens.

Conclusion, the more sad or controversial an article title or photo appears, the more “clicks, reads, or views” it garners. So maybe we as consumers are also to blame? Apparently, America just loves controversy and sadness. This may all be true, but it doesn’t remove responsibility from the mainstream media to be mindful on how they report facts and stories, or worse, how they choose to skew them.

Basically, media headlines matter.

The narrative they push matters and has direct and tragic real life consequences when they create hate that leads to police being ambushed and killed like in Dallas on July 7th, 2016. Other consequences are less tragic, but equally concerning when it comes to the lack of police applicants nationwide. Soon, there will be a crisis. I’m calling it now. Unless the economy crashes and people are in dire need of jobs, police applications will remain low, continually pushing police departments to levels that put officers and the public at risk. Who honestly wants to work holidays, weekends, and be called a monster for doing your job for $60,000 a year? Not to mention the obvious dangers associated with the job.

Sadly, the mainstream media doesn’t care about the repercussions of their controversy creating headlines. They don’t care if people who once strongly desired to be a police officer, are now rethinking their career choice. Can you blame them? After over a decade of wearing the uniform myself, in one of the largest cities in the country, my simple answer is, NO. I don’t blame them. In fact, I think it is wise to really question your desire to be a police officer in 2018 and beyond. If you really, really, want to be one, then do it. Because those are usually the best ones. It’s not just a job, a paycheck, or something you should do half-assed. It’s a serious job, with lifelong consequences for you, your family, and everyone you deal with. If it’s nothing more than a paycheck to you, you’re likely the kind of officer I wish never became one. They generally seem to become officers that make negative headlines in legitimate way.

Buzzwords like “police reform” now flood media headlines and political rallies because somehow “they” believe “they” can change the fact that every day police officers confront the violence most people deny exists. Yet somehow, “they” get upset when the confrontation turns deadly. Well, let’s keep speaking the truth, “they” only get upset if the police officer survives and a citizen dies. However, if the officer happens to be one race and the deceased another, CHACHING!!! Time for an inflammatory headline! Let’s not worry about the facts or circumstances surrounding the incident, publish that inflammatory headline! To hell with the consequences! Who cares about the facts or the fact the entire incident was on video and  likely justified!? Profit through division. Tell me I’m wrong.

Sadly, no matter how many community events police plan, cute lip-sync videos are made, or ice cream cones are handed out in the summer. One even remotely controversial police shooting and we are back to square one with the help of the media. Police are quickly painted with a wide accusatory brush suggesting that because of ONE particluar incident, we must remind you that ALL police are racist, blood thirsty monsters! It’s like a sad game of chutes and ladders.

Meanwhile police recruiters hastily hold up signs at a job fairs, “Sign up folks! Come join the team! It’s the greatest show on earth! Let’s make a difference! You can help people!” Come on, let’s stay on the honesty train. Times have changed and your good intentions no longer matter. It’s now all about what the media headlines say that define police officers’ actions. The media doesn’t care if you are the best officer to ever wear the uniform, never been disciplined, or have 58 medals pinned on your chest. Ultimately, when given the chance you, the American police officer will be crucified to their benefit.

To my knowledge there’s never been a protest or rally after a police officer was shot and killed. If there has been, please enlighten me, because I am unaware of such an incident. Vigils don’t count. Police haters generally spew the usual despicable response when an officer is killed, “That’s what they signed up for.” Get real. No one signs up to die.

I’ll be the first to say, dirty or racist cops of any kind should be fired and go to prison if warranted. The recent 3 year prison sentence of a Police Chief for framing African Americans for crimes they didn’t commit was too short. The punishment should have been harsher for ruining people’s lives, betraying the trust of society, and tarnishing the badge. His despicable acts have consequences for everyone involved and the damage is permanent and likely irreparable. For that, he should’ve been punished more harshly.

To conclude, I will say this. Police officers don’t become police officers to get rich. They don’t become police officers to hurt people. They genuinely view their job as a way to keep the evil from hurting the good. They know their role is to hold those accountable for THEIR bad decisions. Becoming a police officer, is a way to serve their community and bear burdens of which most people are blissfully unaware. They don’t go into notoriously violent communities – no matter what the racial makeup may be – looking to hurt someone.

The next time you hear about a fatality car accident with multiple people killed, a deadly shooting, or any horrific tragedy, pause for a minute and ask yourself, would you want to be the one rushing to that scene? Do you want to see the dead bodies sprawled across the highway? Do want to see the person taking their last breath after being shot by a rival gang member? How would you feel about the fact the media is able to portray you as a monster or an inherent racist with a few simple keystrokes, despite knowing nothing about you? Despite the fact you rush to those scenes without knowing or caring about the race of the victim. You just want to HELP. Would you be able to handle it? Again, I think we know the answer. When you think about it in these terms, the nationwide police application shortage comes as no surprise. There is an elephant in the room. The question is, how long until it reaches a critical point?

Thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door 

The School Shooting Solution, Is There One?

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Every parent’s worst nightmare, a school shooting. I can’t imagine having to experience it as a kid, a teacher, or a parent. I vaguely remember an incident in my high school where a kid brought a gun to class. Luckily, he didn’t use it and the situation was quickly resolved. It was in the classroom across the hall from me, so there’s little doubt I would have been involved to some degree had things gone bad.

Throughout my career, I went through what police call “rapid rescue” or “rapid response” training on more than one occasion. I won’t get into details, but essentially the training was geared toward how to respond to an active shooter, primarily in a large building like a school. When I was a patrol officer on the day shift, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that an active shooter at a school was my worst nightmare. I thought about the possibility of that call coming out every single day, usually as I put my patrol rifle in my squad car at the beginning of my shift. I knew if I had my rifle, I was equipped to get into that situation and handle business with accuracy and confidence. Pistols are just not as accurate, especially at longer distances and under extreme stress, so I was thankful I had that tool. In preparation of my worst nightmare coming true, I studied where all the schools were and even the ones near the borders of my patrol division. I probably should have prepared more and walked through them a few times, but I didn’t. Thankfully, that call never came.

So what is the million dollar school shooting solution? I’ve thought about it, like most of you probably have and I never quite reached a perfect answer. I would hope if there was one, it would have been implemented by now. Short of turning schools into something resembling a prison, I don’t know if there is a hard and fast, guaranteed way to prevent any and all mass shootings in schools. Can you imagine making all of the school windows bulletproof, requiring access cards to get from room to room, pat downs and metal detectors at every entry point, armed guards with a bird’s eye view of the perimeter? Sounds awful.

Also, before I go any further, this topic could turn political quickly and that is certainly not my intention. I am looking at this solely from a police and teacher perspective in regards to their roles in prevention and in ending an incident quickly, should one arise.

First off, I think school resource officers are paramount in every school. They have so many upsides, I don’t see why a school wouldn’t have one. To start, they are there daily and get to know the kids. By always being there, they know who likes who, who fights with who, and may even have an idea of someone that could be at risk of carrying out such an atrocity. As we have seen in the past, there are usually warning signs, but not always. This doesn’t mean that intervention or prevention by police is a certainty. Hindsight is always 20/20.  Sadly, people fail to realize that law enforcement could intervene in certain situations, however, we don’t live in a full on “Big Brother” society that allows police to follow “those suspected of being dangerous” on a 24 hour basis. Police aren’t always ready to step in at the first sign of trouble. That just simply isn’t realistic. I hate to break it to you, that’s just the truth.

Yes, you could arrest a bad apple for making threats or getting into fights or whatever it is that the bad apple did to raise suspicion. If you’re being realistic about how KIDS are dealt with criminally, unless they kill someone, they will eventually be released to a parent or guardian and able to carry out their previous threats, should they be so determined. It’s just a fact. Unless people are honestly willing to lock up kids forever anytime they threaten to carry out a mass shooting, then the notion that it is solely up to the police and justice system to intervene is ridiculous.

Should we arm teachers? Initially, I was like, “Heck yeah we should!” And to some degree, I see benefits of it. But like most things in life, there are also drawbacks or unintended consequences we must consider. To start, where do you keep the firearm and how do you ensure it won’t be taken and used against kids in the school by a bad actor? Even if the teacher keeps it on their person, they could be disarmed by a big angry kid who has been bullied for years. Do you secure it in a safe in the classroom? If so, will the firearm be accessible when it is needed when seconds matter? Which teachers should be armed? Do we take volunteers and only allow those who may have a military background, are avid hunters, or have a concealed weapons permit? That seems to make sense, but it may not be the perfect solution, if one even exists. I don’t see the advantage or forcing someone who has no interest in using a gun, to use one. They’d likely be more of a danger than a help, if an active shooter took place.

Maybe if teachers were armed there would have to be extremely strict rules and protocols that had to be followed? For example, if a shooting is taking place, as soon as the school went into lockdown, any armed teachers must remain in the room they are in, no matter what. An armed teacher could only confront a shooter, IF the shooter managed to enter a “locked down room” and it was vital and necessary to take action, in order to protect themselves and the kids in that particular room. Basically, no running around with pistols in your hand trying to save the day. If a teacher is armed and is actively attempting to find and end the shooting while police are also running into the school, how do they know who are “good guys” and who is the “bad guy”? I know the arguement to this will be, “So just sit there while the shooter is actively killing? It defeats the purpose!” Yes, this topic is difficult. No one shooting is exactly the same. You can plan all day and set up measures to prevent a shooting and one could still happen.

In a recent presentation I attended about the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the officer said when he ran into the building it was complete chaos. The fire alarms were going off, water was spraying everywhere from bullets that hit waterlines, and everyone was screaming and running. Communication was nearly impossible. Adding teachers running around with guns into the mix, doesn’t seem like a great solution to the problem, it could easily make the incident worse and lead to even more tragedy. That is why I think the lockdown method may be the most realistic. If nearly every room had a gun, then the hope would be that the threat would be neutralized quickly. Of course, everything always sounds good in theory.

Lastly, let’s not forget, it takes a special person to run toward a horrible event like an active shooter. There’s no other way to put it. Human nature tells us to run away. So we need to consider the absolute courage it would take to confront a shooter in a school. Not to mention, asking a teacher to shoot someone they likely know as a student. Horrible to even think about, I know. I can assure you, the idea of it isn’t any better if you’re a police officer. I’ve said this many times in my articles, police officers don’t want to kill anyone. Period. I don’t care if they’re the biggest monster in the world, in the end, you’re taking a life and that isn’t normal. I don’t care what anyone says, it will change you. The training for this type of incident using fake ammunition similar to paint balls, really gets your adrenaline going. I can’t imagine what it is like heading into a live situation where the consequences are real and permanent. I would like to think that if I was charged with handling that kind of situation, I would have in an efficient and effective way. Luckily, I never had to find out.

So what is the solution? I honestly don’t know. I think every solution needs to be heavily thought out and we consider pros and cons of every decision. I think ultimately it starts with parents, and trickles down to teachers and eventually the kids. Bullying is a major issue. I have yet to hear of a situation where a student likely to be voted “Homecoming King” goes on a killing spree to get revenge on all the people that like him. That isn’t a joke, it just highlights an obvious underlying root cause, being bullied, ostracized, and picked on.

So what can parents, teachers, and kids do? Well you know the answer to that. Be smart, be vigilant, and be kind. See something, say something. All the clichés are already out there. Also, we can’t ignore the harsh reality that there is a certain percentage of humans that are just pure evil. There’s no other word for it. Evil. Someone that is pure evil, likely can’t be stopped if they are determined to be evil. If I figure out how to prevent or stop someone from carrying out acts of pure evil, I will let you know. Until then, stay safe and take care.

Thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door