Through their politicians and police department administrators, society has systematically and continually restrained police officers throughout the United States. Police work has changed dramatically since I started the Chicago Police Academy in 1977.
The references you hear are ‘they have put the kit gloves on police’ or ‘they have handcuffed the police.’ I believe both these catchphrases are appropriate and are linked to two fundamental reasons: television and politics.
After a thirty-year career with the Chicago Police Department, I taught for ten years at the local college and every day I reminded my criminal justice students not to accept anything they view on television as real. On the police shows, the subject is always compliant or is easily defeated in a physical arrest situation. The bad guy is overpowered and handcuffed without much struggle before the next commercial is aired. In reality, it’s not unusual for a knock down, drag out fight to take place until an overwhelming amount of force is applied or the ‘Calvary’ comes to your rescue.
The old saying that politicians are whores is not too far off. Most politicians will do and say anything for a vote. They sway in the breeze like a sapling tree in a robust wind. When a pivotal moment arises negatively impacting law enforcement, the likely avenue for the politician is to side with the noisy anti-police activists and sacrifice the officer to the political gods in order to gain favor in the voting booth. Law enforcement is punished, and society suffers, albeit, unknowingly.
My favorite adage is, perception turns into reality when repeated enough. Example; hands up- don’t shoot. In this example, investigating officers, with the world watching, interviewed seven non-white witnesses to the shooting of a very large unarmed black man; one person even admitted that she hated the police, but all seven witnesses stated that the subject shot did not have his hands in the air as described by an unknow newspaper source: in fact he was attacking the officer at the time of the defensive shooting. But, as lies are repeated continually without verification from the news media, perception turned into reality and the hands up movement was born.
My next complaint of the false narratives spewed by the media is threefold: the officer beat him after he surrendered, he didn’t have to shoot him – he could have just tased him, and the officer shot him in the back.
The officer beat him. The news media and anti-police movement wants the public to believe that officers are punching bags, void of emotions. When a police officer is involved in a violent physical confrontation, he must win at all costs or possibly sacrifice his life. There is no other viewpoint. If he loses a battle on the street, he very likely may lose his life. The offender has nothing to lose; he can fight and if he wins, he’s a free man. If he loses, the likelihood of being charged and convicted on a felony are rare in today’s world. Also, when fighting an offender, the fight is never over until he is one hundred percent secured. Often the arrestee feigns surrender in order to dupe the officer and attempt to overpower him once more. Once an offender is subdued, the officer should stop his aggressive actions, but understand, officers are human and do not have an on/off switch. After fighting for one’s life, there may be residual physicality offered and I for one believe an officer should put the finishing touch on all violent arrests made without the fear of reprisal discipline or law suites.
When an officer is confronted with a shooting situation, he will most often refrain from using deadly force and attempt anything else to alleviate the threat. If at all possible, the use of any other defensive weapon available is a priority. Police officers do not like to shoot people, contrary to the media’s opinions. Sometimes there are no other alternatives and a shooting takes place. For the number of guns on the street and the amount of confrontations between police and bad guys, shootings are extremely rare.
Lastly, the complaint saying the police didn’t have to shoot him in the back. As I stated earlier, I taught one hundred college level students per semester for ten years. At the beginning of the semester I would seek the police-hater in the class and would invite him to the front of the room. With prior authorization, I had purchased four replica .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols with orange tips to show that they were not real. Once cocked, they would make an audible click when fired, but are otherwise harmless. I would invite him to be the police and I would be the suspicious person that he received a call about. I would hand him a gun and say; you are now the police and I am the guy on the corner. The call is a man with a gun, and I fit the description given to you by the dispatcher over the radio. I turn my back and say do what you need to do.
Generally, he walks up behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder. I shout ‘don’t touch me’ and refuse his order to turn toward him. He takes his hand away and orders me to turn around and I simply say no and walk out of the room. The class erupts in laughter and he stands there with a black stare. I re-enter the room and say that didn’t go too well. Want to try it again?
This time he orders me to turn around and as I do, I pull the replica from my waist and shoot him point-blank. I announce, one dead cop. I ask if he wants to try again. I turn my back and he orders me to turn around. As I turn around, I quickly fire a shot and immediately turn to run. Naturally he shoots me in the back. I shout you just shot a person in the back. You’re going to jail. Want to try again?
He commands me to turn around and give him my weapon. I obey his order and turn around, as I reach out with my black cell phone to hand it to him and he shoots me. I say, that didn’t go too well. You shot an unarmed man and now you’re going to jail. Want to try it again?
I turn my back to him and this time he orders me to stay still, don’t move and hand him the gun. I remove the gun from my waistband and gingerly raise it above my head holding it by two fingers. As he attempts to take control of the gun, I pull a second gun from my inside sport coat pocket, turn and shoot him again. I announce that he is dead once more and we will have a funeral for a dead police officer. I ask again, do you want to keep trying?
By this time, he’s exhausted from this drill. He orders me to hand over the gun, which I do without hesitation. I hand over the second pistol without issue and as I stand in front of him with my hands raised over my head, I nod to a student in the front row who stands up and shoots him. I announce that the student is my security and he is dead once more.
I take the replica .45 from the defeated student and have him sit back down. I summarize the activities that we just went through. One person just walked away without any effort. He was shot and killed three times while shooting an unarmed man once and shooting another man in the back.
The most anti-police student in the class just helped debunk all the myths about police shootings. Now I could start teaching the truth about law enforcement.
Perception is reality when repeated enough and today’s society has no conception of real police work.
To all my brothers and sisters in blue, lock and load and protect each other. And as always, stay safe.
View Larry Casey’s website at www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com and review his book by the same name.