Sunday, October 15, 2006

Shooting Reporters

A few weeks ago, deputies at a neighboring county shot and killed a young man. Yeah, he had a knife and yeah, his family had called for the police and yeah, they'd specifically said that they were afraid he was going to kill them,but...

But the minute he was shot, he magically transformed into their darling boy who would never hurt a fly. The ranting and raving and threatening and shrugging off bean bag rounds and finally charging towards the place the family was hiding from him has become "a bout of depression."

The ignorance surrounding incidents like these truly astonishes. Both sides of the controversy- I found out about the incident when scanning through the radio and heard a talk show host say that any decision the police made is fine with him and his caller say that every time he heard about these incidents, the person died so we must be doing something wrong. (On the off chance you can't figure out why that is ignorant, you need to understand that incidents with armed drunk people happen almost nightly and almost never go to shooting. If they don't go to shooting they just don't make the news).

Since then I've heard that two trained officers should easily be able to disarm a younger athlete with a knife (unless they have complete surprise, unarmed against the knife, even two on one almost always will result in serious or fatal injuries), that they should "shoot to wound" (try threading a needle some time while you are terrified and someone with a deadly weapon who is crazy looms over you) or that a little more training in crisis intervention verbal skills would have helped (when was the last time you successfully reasoned with a screaming drunk? You have to shout just to be heard.).

So I sent a note to the PIO (Public Information Officer): Jason, why don't we invite the media to attend some classes? Say, the Use of Force policy class and the Uncontrolled Environments scenario classes.

Jason ran with it. Two days later I was shooting reporters.

The bitch of this whole situation is that I haven't seen the news report. I heard it was good. The deputies said the message got across... I just happened to be dealing with a rookie officer in crisis and missed it. Higher priorities.

One of the scenarios is a distraught person sitting in a park. Clearly upset, crying, bystanders are urging the officers to do something, when the ED (emotionally disturbed) pulls aside a jacket laying next to him and exposes a gun.

The purpose of the drill is to gauge when the officer feels threatened and what they will do about it. The ED is going to escalate the situation into a classic suicide by cop- first expose the gun, pick it up, point it at his own head, start waving it around closer and closer to the officers, then finally aiming and firing if the officers don't fire first.

There are two goals inherent in that- we will show directly after this a drill about the action-reaction gap. Two officers will point weapons at my heart, fingers on the trigger and I will have my weapon dangling from my hand. They will give me verbal commands to drop the weapon. I will shoot both of them before either can twitch to pull the trigger. He who moves first gets the first shot off. They need to know that just because I am pointing the gun at my head doesn't mean that they are safe.

The second goal is to show them the dynamic of this type of suicide.

Like most beginners, the reporters couldn't bring themselves to fire until after I did. They had their guns out, at least, which was better than some. I had to be a little slow since I wanted every one of the Sim rounds on the reporter's armor and wanted to miss his hands (just being polite and safe. Sims can hurt and I didn't want any crying). So, being slow and careful I shot him in the belly three times before he could return fire.

We then did the debrief- what was the threat's (my) Intent? Means? Opportunity? That made me a threat at what level? What level of force does that justify? What level did you use?

We talked about tactics and the difficulty of making the decision to fire. The reporter was upset about getting shot, wanted to know if he should have given the order once and fired, or three times or... Had to tell him there was no right answer. Sometimes, sometimes not...

He was really upset. Not just kicking himself, but actually showing some symptoms I associate with officers who have been in a real shooting. I took him outside to talk.

"Are you happy with what happened."
"No. I got shot."
"What could you have done differently?"
"I suppose I could have ordered him to drop the gun, given him a three count and shot him before he could shoot me."
"You could have. Now tell me, if you did, if you shot this depressed man, would you be happy with what happened?"
"No, I guess not."

That was the point this whole class was about. Sometimes there are no good answers. Sometimes it's simply a choice of who the orphans will be. Sometimes it's a choice between shooting a stupid drunk kid with a knife and going through the legal hell and psychological damage or not shooting as he runs into the house and listening outside while he stabs a little girl and her mother and father and then maybe having to shoot him anyway. Then going through the legal hell for your inaction.

If the reporters took one lesson home that day, I hope it was this.


Kai Jones said...

Yes! I've been posting stuff like this all over the place, and also having this conversation in person with co-workers and friends. It is okay with you if I link and quote off my LJ?

Rory said...

Of course. It would be kind of silly to send out thoughts into Cyber space and then try to control access.

Kai, and anyone else, feel free to link and discuss and share. It's the only way to see new things in new ways.

Mark Jones said...

Glad to hear it. I've occasionally thought about linking to your posts, but I didn't want to bring a lot of strangers to your blog without asking first. I think there's lots of good stuff to be learned here.

Anonymous said...

Ignorance - the most self-centered of all the psychological conditions, and the most common. And the easiest to fix. But ignorance is like youth - invincible, empowering, safe.

Anonymous said...

Blogeois said...

We've got a 20-30 second clip of the story and you talking to the reporters on a PVR (Fox News). Couldn't find it online to get it on computer though. Good post! Thanks for all the insights!