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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Police Make a Mistake, But The Victim Survives

For John, BLUFWhen the policeman shows up, do as you are told.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Washington Post we have a recent (24 July) article on police raids:  "In Iraq, I raided insurgents.  In Virginia, the police raided me."  Mr Alex Horton, the writer, is a thoughtful observer, as you can see from the several early paragraphs excerpted.  And, Mr Horton is not some slug off the street.  He is a recent graduate of Georgetown University and is a member of the Defense Council at the Truman National Security Project.  He served as an infantryman in Iraq with the Army’s 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Here is how the story starts:

I got home from the bar soon after Saturday night bled into Sunday morning and fell into bed.  I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door.  They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers.  The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity.  I’d been here before.  This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment.  As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon.  Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule:  Aim only at something you intend to kill.

I had conducted the same kind of raid on suspected bombmakers and high-value insurgents.  But the Fairfax County officers in my apartment were aiming their weapons at a target whose rap sheet included parking tickets and an overdue library book.

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat.  Instinct told me to get up and protect myself.  My training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.

For those following at home, Mr Horton is a Caucasian.  Your skin color is not some absolute protection from mistakes.  Mr Horton is a college graduate, doing freelance work for the Federal Government.  The police don't see that when they show up at the door.  For the policeman you are an unknown factor and since he or she wants to go home tonight, care is being taken in case you are a problem.

The good news is that Mr Horton stays calm and does what he is told and comes out the other end alive and uninjured.  Not all can say that.  An important lesson we need to teach our children is that the policeman has a gun, he doesn't know what fool thing you are going to do, so the best advice is to do what you are told and figure it out later, in a calmer atmosphere.

For the policeman it is much more complex.  His job is to be polite, to be professional, and to be prepared to shoot anyone who poses a threat to others or to the policeman.  And there isn't a lot of time to switch roles.

The other lesson from this is that the police need to go back to trying to police like the Community are their partners, not the population they are trying to control.

Regards  —  Cliff

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