Military and Police

Police Use of Force: Less Focus on Fear for One’s Life and More Focus on Policy

My morning perusal of the day’s news briefs almost made me spit my coffee across the room when I read this news blurb from The Seattle Times Morning Brief : “Police and deadly force: Major changes are coming to the way King County handles police inquests. One of the big shifts that County Executive Dow Constantine will unveil today: less focus on whether officers feared for their lives, and more on whether they followed policies [emphasis mine].”

Is there no depth to which cop-hating, leftist politicians won’t sink?

I’ve written two articles opposing Washington State’s Initiative 940. If passed, police officers who use deadly force, even having acted in good faith and without malice, could still be prosecuted for homicide.

Well, Constantine is not waiting for a vote of the people to go after cops. Nope. He skipped right on by all that messy democratic process. Instead, like a feudal lord, he’s ordering the county, by fiat (executive order), to change how inquests judge law enforcement officers, following a deadly force incident—intended to make it easier to prosecute cops. Don’t be surprised if leftist jurisdictions across the country follow suit.

Here are some changes:

  • A sitting judge will no longer preside. Temporarily appointed administrators will now preside.
  • The county prosecutor will no longer present the evidence. Evidence will be presented by a “qualified specially selected outside attorney.”
  • Families of those killed by police can call their own witnesses (through their lawyer).
  • The family’s lawyer and “other parties” may give closing summary statements (no longer solely a fact-based hearing).
  • No more opening statements (which provide context). Constantine said opening statements “could cloud the proceedings…”
  • There is no longer a focus on an officer’s reasonable fear for his or her life. The new focus: “Did the use of deadly force fall within the department’s policies and the officer’s training?”

Obviously, if referred for homicide charges, the officer will still stand conventional trial. However, it is also obvious that County Executive Constantine wants to make it easier to charge and prosecute police officers who were forced to shoot a suspect because they feared for their lives. He believes anti-police groups, like Black Lives Matter, that promote the myth that police officers commit too many “unnecessary” shootings, despite FBI/DOJ statistics that prove otherwise.

Constantine doesn’t appreciate the reality that, though rare, a cop’s job sometimes includes shooting bad guys. His edict shows an obvious contempt for law enforcement and an apparent belief police officers are shooting people when they should not. This is what leftists do. They fabricate caricatures of thug, brute cops, then they insert the officers into a violent myth, where they are supposedly hunting people to shoot.

Oh, side note: If, at this point, you’re wondering if Dow Constantine is a despicable human being, the answer is yes… yes, he is (in my humble opinion). Believe me, this is not the only leftist guano this man is spreading all over the county he’s “serving.”

King County sheriff’s deputies and municipal police officers who work in cities within the county can now face prosecution if they shoot because they felt the suspect would have killed them if they didn’t. That’s not enough for the left. Not when they can so easily extrapolate the officer violated policy or training.

Have you read a policy manual from a law enforcement agency serving a leftist jurisdiction, lately? Well, you should. And, if you do, just try and imagine keeping in mind not only the sheer volume but also the leftist ideological content of the policies—while someone is pointing a gun at you.

Just look at an incident from earlier this year. A Seattle cop tackled an axe-wielding suspect, ending an incident with no one injured. The officer was clearly authorized to use deadly force in this incident but chose to risk his own safety to disarm the suspect without using lethal force.

Following the incident, the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) accused the officer of violating department policy. They recommended discipline. Fortunately, as they say, cooler heads prevailed—thank you, police Chief Carmen Bestand the officer was not punished.

If a law enforcement agency’s civilian oversight will recommend discipline for an officer’s non-lethal action where no one got hurt, what will happen to cops who do use deadly force? Let’s say an officer fears for his or her life but protecting his or her life might violate department policy. In those cases, are cops supposed to allow suspects to kill them?

Only God could know what inconceivable circumstances could arise where an officer fears for his or her life but might have to violate policy or act in a way they weren’t specifically trained to do, to survive.

That’s right, isn’t it? How else could you interpret what this county executive is doing? The left won’t even entertain the notion that the reason so few police officers are prosecuted for “bad” shootings is because the vast majority of cops do the job properly.

If the inquest’s focus is now going to be on policy and training and not on an officer’s fear for his or her safety, what outcomes can we expect? People usually do things for a reason. In this case, if a person, Dow Constantine, makes it easier for cops to be prosecuted for uses of force, then logic tells us that person, Dow Constantine, doesn’t think enough officers are being prosecuted. Dow Constantine must want to send more cops to prison.

What does this mean? More cops will go to prison. How could that not happen when it is the left’s stated goal? The far left doesn’t like that most officer-involved shootings are legitimate, and most involve shooting armed suspects. But, even worse, more cops may hesitate when confronted by life or death situations. This means more cops will be seriously injured or killed.

Cops are no longer allowed to fear being killed by a suspect. Hold on…let me be fair: Cops may defend themselves if in fear for their lives but only if it doesn’t violate department policy.

How will cops digest this toxic gruel? More de-policing? How could it not lead to that?

Now it’s official—at least in King County. Law enforcement officers are no longer allowed to be human beings with rights to self-defense.

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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