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Democracy

Former police officers share important truths regarding shooting of Jacob Blake

Former police officers share important truths regarding shooting of Jacob Blake

Any time a police officer shoots someone and it's captured on video, the people of the internet debate whether or not the shooting was justified. Some automatically give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt, citing the split second decisions they have to make in potentially dangerous situations. Others point out that it's not a police officer's job to serve as judge, jury, and hangman, citing the due process of law that forms the basis of our judicial system. The reality is that, according to the law, police are allowed to use deadly force under certain circumstances. The problem is, few of us have the background to intelligently weigh in on what actually constitutes a justifiable use of deadly force.

Monday morning quarterbacking is a problem...unless you're actually a quarterback, of course. There are people who do have the background to comment on police shootings—people who have served as police officers themselves.

Former police officers are weighing in on the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week.


Josh Hicks, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky and former police officer, kicked off a Twitter thread by stating, "As a former police officer I can tell you that shooting someone in the back seven times is not the right use of force for an unarmed man walking away from you. I can't believe I have to say that."

The tweet resulted in a flood of responses from other former law enforcement officers agreeing with his statement.

"As a former officer I agree," wrote Paula Gaca, "and do not understand these officers who pull their weapons out because a subject did not immediately comply with the their order. I truly feel that many young police officers today have not experienced life in general and how to talk with people!"

Former Georgia Deputy Sheriff Dawn Johnson wrote that she has to tell people the same thing. "Deadly force has now become the response to someone walking away from police. Failing to comply isn't the same as resisting."

She and another former officer explained that shooting someone in the back just isn't done, unless there is an immediate deadly threat the person is engaged in.

And another former officer described how they had worked in a high crime area arresting people who for sure were armed and committing felonies, and didn't have to fire their weapon.

Rick Gibbs, a 40-year law enforcement veteran, asked if it was an issue of training. "I too am confused as to what is happening within our police agencies all across the nation. Has training become a joke? Is a militarized force, where citizens are considered enemies, more important than community policing of neighbors, family & friends?"

Others concurred.



Meanwhile, a current police officer shared the Kenosha police department's own use-of-force guidelines, showing that the department's own policy doesn't allow deadly force for someone who is resisting. (It's worth noting here that simply resisting arrest is a misdemeanor in most states, unless there is active violence coming from the subject which ups it to a felony. Non-compliance in and of itself never warrants a death sentence.)

"Brosephus" and another former officer pointed out that since Blake was outnumbered and unarmed, the officers should have physically taken him down if he really needed to be stopped.

Speaking of WWE, professional wrestler Mustafa Ali (Adeel Alam) who worked as a cop near Chicago for four years, weighed in.

Not only did former law enforcement share their thoughts, but so did military veterans. Aric Reddington pointed out that police officers have less stringent rules about engagement and use-of-force than soldiers in a war zone.

Retired Marine D.J. Lutz, added, "As a retired Marine, when I see someone shoot more than twice, or shoot at someone not posing a threat, I see someone who has rage and or fear along with a lack of trigger discipline. More training or better entrance screening needed!"

Undoubtedly, there are officers and former officers who will say Blake's shooting was justified for various reasons. But even if he had a rap sheet a mile long, even if he was resisting arrest, even if the officer was afraid he was going for a gun in his car, until there was an actual deadly threat present, what was the justification for shooting him? Some people seem to think that cops are free to shoot people simply for disobeying their orders. (Yet many of these same folks purposefully disobey legal public health orders issued by the authority of the state and would consider it tyranny if agents of the state shot them for non-compliance.) Blake wasn't even the subject in the original police call that brought the officers to the scene in the first place. And his children were just a few feet away in the car, watching the whole thing. If they needed to arrest him, there were ways to do that without resorting to deadly force.

My opinion doesn't mean much, of course. But the opinions of experienced law enforcement officers certainly do.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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