Opinion

States Putting Cops at Risk—on Purpose!

I wrote an article back in March about a Washington State initiative: I-940. This effort is what proponents obliquely call the “De-escalation Washington” bill. As if cops don’t de-escalate already. Statistics show that cops do not use lethal force in 93 percent of the situations where they are clearly authorized to do so.

But, for anti-cop zealots that’s not enough. Now, California’s lefties are trying to do their part, looking to make cops, thus the public, less safe. And they’re doing it all the while promising to make the public safer. I can promise you, it won’t.

Policeone.com is reporting that, like Washington, California is also moving to change the state’s use-of-force standards. California’s current criteria for when law officers may use deadly force are the oldest in the nation, unchanged since 1872.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat, says, “[The standard] must be guided by the goals of safeguarding human life.” This comment provides a window into an anti-cop, leftist politician’s flawed thought process. Law enforcement use-of-force standards and policies have always been about safeguarding human life—not the least of which, hopefully not to the left’s chagrin, includes the cops’ lives.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation, which has just been passed through the Senate committee, “would allow police to use deadly force only in situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death to the officer or another person.”

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, hold on. This standard leaves way too much room for Monday-morning- quarterbacking an officer-involved shooting (OIS). What does this standard do to the officer’s perception of danger? What happens when a suspect points a toy gun, or an object he wants the officer to think is a gun, at an officer? Will shooting an unarmed suspect, regardless of other circumstances, be an automatic ticket to prison for an officer?

(Credit: Pixabay/geralt)

Under the new statute, will the prosecutors have to take into consideration that, in reality (but unknown to the officer) there was “no [actual risk of] imminent and serious injury or death,” since the suspect had no real gun? Will juries have to consider that the officer somehow should have known the gun wasn’t real or the remote control or cell phone wasn’t a gun?

The AP notes that the current standard makes it rare for an officer to be charged or convicted after a shooting. They cite the doctrine of “reasonable fear.” This doctrine essentially allows prosecutors in charging, and jurors in deliberating, to consider the officer’s legitimate fear for their or another person’s safety as a factor in using lethal force.

If you’re a police officer, you know how critical the reasonable fear standard is. How in the world can a cop be charged or prosecuted for something that can only be learned after the lethal encounter? Like that the gun wasn’t real, was unloaded, or the cellphone wasn’t a gun.

The Democrat politicians’ comments throughout the AP story illustrate what cops are up against these days from a party that has surged so far left. “Democrats on the committee acknowledged that officers have difficult and dangerous jobs but argued the bill would make everyone safer by promoting de-escalation and fostering trust between police and people of color.”

Oh, man…I really want to say bad words here. Police already de-escalate when possible, and how are cops supposed to gain trust with liberal “people of color,” when the left is constantly fabricating anti-cop myths to further their biased agenda and narrative?

Yes, the left is creating yet another leftist myth about the police: that cops don’t use “de-escalation” now and are too quick on the proverbial trigger. The mistaken belief that every time an incident requires a use-of-force the officer has failed to de-escalate is infuriating.

I went to the police academy over 25 years ago. Instructors emphasized de-escalation then and continued to emphasize it during advanced training sessions throughout my career.

Today, cop critics on civilian review boards, chosen by leftist politicians, are using unrealistic failure to de-escalate standards to ensnare officers whose uses-of-force leftists consider politically incorrect. They use failure to de-escalate as a catch-all when they disagree with a police officer’s legitimate actions.

For example, I recently wrote about officers who, instead of using deadly force, which would have been appropriate, followed an armed robbery suspect who was carrying a deadly weapon, an ice ax. The cops followed the suspect for blocks before one officer put his own life at risk to tackle and subdue the suspect.

Despite no one being injured, not even the suspect, and despite the officer being awarded Officer of the Month, a civilian review panel accused him of a failure to de-escalate the incident. Such an impractical arrogance about police work coming from the very people law enforcement officers must trust to investigate their uses of force honestly is grossly negligent and irresponsible.

I don’t even know what to say about this comment from a Democrat state senator: “It always blows me away when law enforcement only fear for their life only when they’re facing black and brown people. We don’t have a problem with law enforcement, we’ve got a problem with racism.”

Oh, man. My eyes are getting strained from rolling up into my head so often. Once again, a Democrat politician delivers a huge insult to California’s police officers and tells a big lie with absolutely no evidence to substantiate his reckless, political grandstanding.

This is yet another article that brings up shootings that haven’t been adjudicated or where the officer(s) have been cleared of wrongdoing. One example raised was that of Stephon Clark, shot while hiding from police officers in a dark backyard near a picnic table, holding an object in his hand, what turned out to be a cell phone.

This was after allegedly committing property damage to cars in the area, running away, and then hiding from the police. I saw the video; it didn’t look good—for Clark. However, if the Assembly institutes this new California standard, those officers could be prosecuted and convicted for being unable to determine—for certain—the suspect had a phone and not a gun, after a foot chase, in a low-light environment.

Of course, the officers who shot Clark have been accused of racism despite one officer being black. Since both officers shot, it’s logical to assume both perceived a similar threat to their lives. It’s not race, people—unless you’re talking about the human race. Then, it’s that for sure, very human, which, despite the left’s apparent view, include cops.

California Peace Officers Association lobbyist David Mastagni bolsters this view, saying, “the proposed language creates ‘a hindsight, second-guessing game that puts not only the officers at danger but puts the public at danger as well.’” But, as we’ve seen so often lately, the new Democrat Party does not respect laws they don’t like, and they have even less regard for those whose sworn duty it is to enforce those laws.

Senator Jeff Stone, a Republican, was the only member of the committee to speak in opposition to the proposed use-of-force standard changes. Citing what I call de-policing, he noted that the new standard could make attracting police recruits even more difficult than it is already. He also said it could “deter officers from responding to calls for help.”

If not deter, I agree it will certainly affect their ability to respond effectively to dangerous incidents that may call for using force. After all, hesitation kills cops, and this law, should it pass, will cause cops to hesitate—how could it not?

Democrat Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, concerned about what she sees as “California’s high incidence of police shootings…” joined Scott Wiener, also a Democrat, in the belief that the changes clarify when cops can use force and also addresses law enforcement’s concerns, “adequately.”

Well, how nice of them to have come to that conclusion. Tell me again when they graduated from the police academy? Once again, an example of how people who know nothing about police work think they know better than the professionals how to do the job.

Jackson added that everyone agrees they don’t want cops in harm’s way (of course not) but sharpening the edge of her barbed concern she added, “but we also don’t want to put the public in harm’s way,” meaning harm from the police. Now, you tell me the left’s true intentions toward law enforcement behind this change.

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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