The Luck of the Draw

Dare I start this conversation with a way-too-appropriate-to-resist cliché? For cops, it’s all about the luck of the draw. (I know the saying pertains to drawing cards, but that’s what makes it a bad pun, right?) That’s what came to mind when I thought about the treatment of law enforcement officers who’ve been forced into a few officer-involved shootings (OIS) during their careers. Especially in short periods of time.

In a less serious but similar situation, my department’s civilian review cabal took a keen interest in officers who garnered more complaints than the average officer. With no critical thinking, this might automatically raise concerns, especially from the non-police population, and maybe it should. Sometimes, a high number of complaints can indicate a problem officer. But, most times, as soon as you find out the officer with high complaints works in one of the most crime-ridden, high-911-calling, dangerous areas of the city, then the higher complaint stats make sense. Again, if you’re thinking critically.

Well, this concern also follows officers, more significantly, who’ve been involved in multiple OISs during their careers. Again, as with general complaints, higher level and more frequent use-of-force instances can result from the specific area in which the officer works. High-crime neighborhoods are dangerous and often require officers to use more force more often, including OISs.

Another thing to remember is there are always anomalies in life. Most officers never even shoot their weapons in the line of duty, never mind injure or kill someone. Fate, circumstances, whatever you call it might call on a few officers to use lethal force, and sometimes, multiple times.

The potential to use force, up to lethal, as a part of a cop’s job description generally makes it more likely to happen than with the general population. That just makes sense. And when you work an area populated with more bad guys doing more bad things, the odds of using force go up. Like I’ve said many times, some people just don’t want to go to jail and will do just about anything to avoid it. Is that so hard to believe? Sometimes de-escalation requires a gun.

(Credit: Facebook/KGW-TV)

As I said, life’s anomalies occur and not just in an OIS. For example, there are some truly strange stories of people who’ve won multiple lotteries, sometimes over very short periods of time. This happens to some people even while plenty of other people buy lottery tickets every day of their lives, even for decades, and never win a big prize. As with officers involved in multiple “good” shootings, we can’t explain it, but it happens. Last year I wrote about a California cop killed in the line of duty on the same day his police officer father had been killed in the line of duty two and a half decades earlier. Strange things happen.

As for police officers involved in shootings, again, it was a bad pun earlier, and that hasn’t changed. But I can’t help repeating it: becoming involved in an OIS truly is the luck of the draw. Incidents come at cops as they will. An officer might respond to a reported robbery that turns out to be a misdemeanor theft. Another officer might respond to a neighborhood parking complaint that turns into a deadly OIS. Most calls result in paperwork or a computer entry; other calls result in deadly force.

Today, when the anti-cop left assesses OIS incidents, especially with the same officer involved in multiple events, they continue to ignore facts about police use-of-force statistics especially when the stats support the cops. The left seems to prefer the narrative that officers are wantonly shooting people down in the streets, especially people of color, in a Wild West style of law enforcement.

Well, one fact ignored quite often is the incredibly low number of suspects killed compared with the total number of encounters with police. In 2011-2012, five doctors studied the use of force cases from three cities. Their findings were published in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. They found “there were 893 ‘use of force’ cases in 1,041,737 calls, a rate of 0.086 percent. In the 114,064 arrests from those calls, force was used in 1 of 128 cases or 0.78 percent…” Still, groups like BLM and their allies in the race industrial complex continue to perpetuate the myth of rampaging killer cops.

So, let’s introduce into the mix another study from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin website, which should impact those concerned with officers involved in the multiple OIS cases above:

These results [of the study] are pertinent in the discussion of restraint by law enforcement officers and their decision to use deadly force. Officers in the sample were involved in a total of 1,102 situations where they could have fired their weapon legally and ethically as defined by both law and by the organizational regulations of the respective police departments but did not. The 87 total incidents in which officers legally fired their weapon during critical incidents pale in comparison with the number of situations where they chose not to fire. Officers in the sample were involved in 1,189 situations where deadly force was a legal course of action. Officers used deadly force in 7 percent of these situations. In other words, officers in the sample used restraint 93 percent of the time even when not legally mandated to do so. This percentage represents a significant amount of restraint by police officers. Further, in accepting the conservative nature of the data analysis, officers most likely used restraint in deadly force more often than what is accounted for in the data [emphasis mine].

The anti-cop faction makes up all kinds of excuses to dismiss such studies because, despite the academic discipline and bona fides of the people conducting the research, it simply doesn’t suit the narrative: that cops enjoy hurting and killing people. And for people like me, who’ve experienced police work firsthand, certain studies ring true because they match our personal experiences. In other words, I have not used lethal force in situations where not only could I have but also probably should have, as not shooting may have put others at increased risk.

And if you don’t think a scholarly study disputing these findings would have been published, not to mention ravenously consumed and then projectile-vomited by the media, you’re crazy.

So, once again, a discussion of anti-police rhetoric and policies brings us to the phenomenon of de-policing. Don’t be so surprised; after all, de-policing is my schtick, right? Lance LoRusso, a police union attorney in Georgia and also a former cop, says after a shooting, some officers resign from their departments because they don’t feel supported.

LoRusso said, “Lately, officers are more concerned that their administrations lean toward discipline, that they’ll be sacrificed on a political altar.” He continued, “That’s why we’re having recruiting problems around the country. And they [officers] fear being prosecuted for doing nothing wrong. A plaintiff’s attorney will argue they are ‘cops out of control.’”

While Professor Charles Whilhite of Asuza Pacific University believes cops “deserve greater scrutiny after repeated shootings,” he also says, “that doesn’t mean they’re doing something wrong.” Whilhite emphasizes de-escalation is important because it saves lives. However, he also understands that de-escalation requires distance and time, and says, “we have to recognize sometimes the situation doesn’t allow that.”

I’m not sure there is any belief more cynical a person can hold in today’s society than that police officers actually want to kill people. The belief that the jack-booted, knuckle-dragging, nightstick-wielding, badge-heavy cop is the rule rather than the exception in law enforcement is delusional and reckless.

Recently, my colleague, Steve Owsinski, wrote an edifying column about the now infamous left-sponsored so-called “unconscious bias” training Starbuck’s bullied upon its American employees. The politically-driven story went national and garnered way more attention than it deserved. The actions of only one unfortunate store manager and only two uncooperative “customers” in only one store in only one city with no police physical force used sparked this massive overkill.

However, according to Owsinski’s reporting, many attendees called the session “anti-police” training. Apparently, the “training” focused on police brutality, officer misconduct, and unconscious bias. As Owsinski pointed out, during the incident in question, no brutality or misconduct on the officers’ parts took place. So, why the anti-cop bias during Starbuck’s social justice indoctrination day camps? Wait, maybe it was unconscious bias.

When fate puts officers in a position on several occasions to act with lethal force to protect themselves and the public, at great personal risk, they should be praised, not persecuted—or prosecuted.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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