I’m a father of three sons. They are all in their late twenties or early thirties. As every good parent knows, raising your kids will turn your hair grey and give you ulcers. However, you also probably realized at some point that you raised them as best as you can and gave them the best tools to go out into the world and survive. You trained them to do their job and be successful. At some point you just let them go and hope for the best, even if it rips your guts out watching them stumble along. In the end, they learn and survive, and you can be proud of them and their accomplishments.
Now imagine what it would do to them if after their twenty-fifth birthday you informed them that they now had to wear a body camera so you could evaluate their every move throughout the day. Let them know you will be second-guessing every decision they make. You will be Monday morning quarterbacking everything that happens in their life from now on. When they ask why, you tell them it is to hold them accountable for their actions. Let them know all the training and schooling they received wasn’t good enough and even though they have been successful in their work and life it isn’t enough because they might make the wrong decision and you will be held responsible for their actions. Even though they may say they know what they are doing, let them know you don’t trust them enough and you need to watch over their every move. Imagine how they would feel.
Here in Chicago, besides wearing a body cam and having GPS in your cars, officers will soon be required to notify the 911 dispatchers when they have pointed their weapon at someone. In some towns and communities, it might be rare for an officer to point his gun at someone but in many cities and areas, it is a regular occurrence. In some areas, you might be pulling your weapon and pointing it at people several times in a single shift.
As all police officers know, Mayberry was a fictional TV town where Andy never carried his gun and Barney carried an empty firearm with one bullet in his shirt pocket. I don’t know any police officers who have worked in a community like that. It would be amazing to work in a town like that. After all, my father always complained how his holster wore a shiny spot on his uniform trousers.
Fun and games aside, we all know that it can be a measure of milliseconds that make the difference in you getting off the first shot or getting shot first. I remember being taught to keep my gun unholstered at my side. It might save me that millisecond I need it. Over the years I brought my weapon up and aimed many times. On my revolver, there is no safety and when I carried a semi-auto my safety would be off. My finger was the safety. I never accidentally shot anyone.
My peers did the same and for the most part, the only people shot by us were those who threatened us or someone else with deadly force.
Now Chicago is saying we want to know every time you point your weapon. Even though we have trained you as best we can and you have had years of experience, we want to know how often and when you point your weapon.
Perhaps they may respond that they will be better able to train officers in the future with the data gathered but you know better and so do I. The only time you will see that data is in court when an attorney is trying to make you out to be a crazed gun nut looking to shoot someone. The data will never be used to help you. Instead it will be cast out to discredit you in court. ‘Look at that bloodthirsty police officer. He always points his gun looking to shoot someone.’
Sure, they say the officer will have to give their beat number instead of star number when they notify the dispatcher, but that’s all linked. Identifying the officer will be simple. Using it against the officer will be even easier. That’s not saying an officer did anything wrong. We have all seen a good attorney use any officers action against the officers.
So, what will be the result? Simple: officers will either under-report when notifying the dispatcher or they will point their weapon less often. In the end, it will be the officer that suffers from it. Failing to have their weapon pointed when needed may mean we go to another officer’s funeral. Officers will feel the department and society has no faith or trust in them. They probably already do.
The next step is to require documentation any time the officer unholsters the weapon just to hold it down at their side. See where I’m going? The result is the officer is slower to draw his weapon when needed.
I must wonder, are there that many cases where people are shot by officers because they accidentally pulled the trigger while the gun is aimed? If that were the case, I might understand the need for this. A handgun is primarily used as a defensive weapon by police officers. We are allowed to use it when our life or the life of another is in jeopardy. The old days of shooting a fleeing felon are long gone. We don’t go out hunting. We are carrying that weapon to ensure we go home at the end of our tour.
The only thing to be gained by this record is as data in lawsuits and evidence in court. This isn’t going to save lives only cost them.
How do you feel, officers? Let me know where you stand on this issue!
Stay safe. Run Low and zigzag.
Robert Weisskopf (ret. Lt. CPD)
P.S. You can find all my articles published in Law Enforcement Today by following the links at https://bobweisskopf.com/l-e-t-articles/