Military and Police

Yet Another Case of Holding Cops to Irrational Standards

A recently released video showing March 25, 2019 footage of an officer involved shooting (OIS) in Charlotte, N.C. continues a disturbing trend: the public’s irrational expectations of and biased assumptions about police officers. You can watch the video and decide, or, since it is graphic, read the following brief description of what the officers faced.

On arrival, in a parking lot outside a Burger King restaurant, the contact officer, assisted by at least one cover officer, encounters the suspect who is armed with a handgun. He’s crouched between two cars beside the open front passenger door of the car to the officer’s left. The suspect’s hands are out of view between his thighs.

The officer and her partner repeatedly shout for the suspect to drop the gun. The lead officer says, “Sir, put the gun down.” For the next 40 seconds, as the officers plead with the man to put down or drop the gun, the suspect refuses to comply.

The officers would have been authorized, and so much safer, to have shot him immediately when he did not put down the gun—but they didn’t. Concerned for a bystander’s safety, the officers warn an apparent female Burger King employee who’d wandered near the suspect, dangerously within the field of fire, to “get out of the way.”

After those seemingly eternal 40 seconds and two dozen commands to drop the gun, rather than drop it, the suspect moves his gun hand forward. The officer fires shots, which strike the suspect. Following the shots, the officers continue to shout for the suspect to drop the gun.

The suspect slumps against the car door and then to the ground. The officers approach the suspect. An adult male is sitting in the front passenger seat. They instruct the man to put his hands on the dash. The man complies and —this is important— the officers do not shoot him. The officer who fired the shots retrieves the gun from beneath the suspect.

Numerous newspaper headlines and incident accounts declare their staggering ignorance of police procedures and hostility toward cops. But, of course, they do not neglect to mention the suspect is black, insinuating police racism and perpetuating anti-cop myths.

For example, an activist newspaper concludes, “North Carolina Police Officer Shoots Black Man as He Was Lowering His Weapon.” From the Charlotte Observer: “Danquirs Franklin appeared to be lowering a gun toward the ground at the time a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer fatally shot him…”

Another video published by the Charlotte Observer, which is still up on YouTube, shows a woman described as a “witness,” declaring to the world “I’ll show you exactly what this man [the suspect] did.” She said the man who police shot had just defended a female employee, and the cops shot him even though he had “no weapon.”

In her defense, from her position, she may not have seen a weapon at the time. But the officer’s body-worn camera clearly shows the suspect was armed with a gun. Why hasn’t the Charlotte Observer taken such an obviously erroneous and enflaming video down? How many people will watch it and assume it is a correct version of the incident. At the beginning of the video a man can be heard saying, “A man was just killed by [the police], they’re not here to protect us.”

Well, let’s assess these conclusions in the real world: “appeared to be lowering the gun.” Are you willing to bet your life on someone “appearing” to lower the gun? I also watched the video. But I watched it as a trained police officer and field training officer (FTO).

I’ll concede, maybe the suspect, having refused to drop the gun after at least 24 commands from two officers over 40 seconds, was indeed about to drop the gun. But maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was about to raise the gun and shoot her or her partner—or an innocent bystander—or himself. Officers in the moment do not have the luxury to guess what the suspect might doespecially since, up to this point, he’s been totally uncooperative.

If his intent was to drop the weapon, he should have just let it drop from his hand. Actually, he should have complied with the officers’ commands about a couple dozen commands earlier.

Do you realize just how fast a person can raise and shoot a gun? Remember, the suspect knows what he’s going to do. The cops do not. The suspect acts, and the cops must react. Are you telling me the officer should have bet her life on the fact that a suspect who’d been refusing to drop the gun for so long would finally put it down? Would you have bet your life he was putting the gun down? Sounds like kind of a dumb bet to me.

For every second the officers hesitated —giving the suspect plenty of time to drop the gun— they put their lives in jeopardy in consideration of the suspect’s life. They obviously did not want to shoot that man. In this anti-cop/”perfect” policing expectations environment, I likely would have similarly hesitated in this instance. Aside from not wanting to take a human being’s life, it’s hard for officers to ignore the anticipation of the political and media mob waiting to pummel them—for doing their jobs.

Of course, those folks will condemn the officer after they watch multiple times, in slow-motion and from a safe place, a life or death decision the officer had to make in a fraction of a second standing in a parking lot peering at an armed man through her gunsights.

Now, the usual suspects in politics, community activism, and the media are second-guessing that officer. The milder critics are calling for more training. Training? For what…mind-reading? Others want her terminated, some want her prosecuted. Again, for what? I found it’s easy to find the officer’s critics but very difficult to find her defenders. The radical, anti-cop factions calling for such nonsense are at least understandable—it’s kind of in the anti-cop radical handbook, right?

But the politicians and the mainstream media should know better. They should know the techniques and tactics taught at the academy. The instructors would be happy to show them. Cops are tired of politicians, activists, and the media declaring a use-of-force tactic taught to the officer as “unacceptable” but only after they use it.

I found one video of some comments made by Professor Kenneth Williams of South Texas College of Law. This is where I get a bit irked by those who know better but can’t seem to help Monday morning quarterbacking cops. Professor Williams correctly presented all the reasons why the shooting was justified. But then he couldn’t stop himself from offering what he felt the officers might have done “better.”

His suggestions included having the officer tell the suspect to put his hands over his head, and if he moved toward the gun, they’d shoot him. He said they could then walk over to the suspect and get the gun. He said they could tell him, again, if he moved toward the gun, they would shoot him.

I have one question for the professor, who, by the way, seems like a kind and thoughtful man: Didn’t the suspect fail to comply with the officers for 40 seconds? Forty seconds is an eternity in that kind of situation. Does anyone think the suspect, who wouldn’t drop the gun when he was told to do so two dozen times, would suddenly obey a command to stand up and put his hands over his head?

It’s frustrating when even people who can legally justify an officer’s use of force seem compelled to add a “solution” they believe the cops didn’t think of. You know…the officers who were trained at a police academy and were there on the scene.

And if the politicians, anti-police activists, and media think this officer did anything wrong here, all they need to do is speak to her training officers to find out why she was right, and they are wrong. Or, they could always apply to become law enforcement officers, complete a battery of qualification requirements, graduate from a police academy, swear an oath, complete more months of training, and then begin answering those 911 calls themselves. Then they can show cops how real police work should be done.

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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