17 Jul The Aftermath of an Officer Involved Shooting | Part 1: Public Criticism
On July 15, 2020 an officer-involved shooting took place in Lafayette, Louisiana involving a member of the Lafayette Police Department. Following the incident, the Police Association of Lafayette requested that you ‘keep all in your thoughts and prayers’, but otherwise have remained silent on the topic. Now in an effort to aid our followers in understanding what occurs after an officer involved shooting, we present you with this series – The Aftermath of an Officer Involved Shooting.
Although not unique to only officer involved shootings, what is certain to follow is a level of public criticism. As public officials a critique of our performance based on facts and evidence is expected and necessary if we are to improve in our methods and practices. However, this is hardly the type of criticism that immediately follows any use of force encounter with law enforcement. Typically, the criticism erupts long before the actual facts and evidence are known to the public or are even obtained by the investigators. This occurs for a variety of reasons which may include political reasons, media bias, anti-police sentiment, etc. For the sake of brevity, we will not expound on each of these items in this piece rather we intend to focus on the general content of the criticism.
A common criticism following any use of force encounter by the police is whether it was necessary to use any force at all. ‘The officer did not have to handle it that way.’ ‘Why didn’t he try and talk with him first.’ ‘He could have tased him, instead of shooting him.’ ‘Why didn’t he aim for his arm or leg?’ These comments are made by individuals who generally lack an understanding of police training and practices and by individuals who almost always lack knowledge for the actual facts and circumstances of the situation. However, it is important to understand that police officers are trained to recognize and neutralize threats. If an officer perceives a non-compliant subject to be reaching for a weapon, in actual possession of a weapon or is being fired upon by a subject with a firearm in his possession – he is trained to counter the threat with all necessary actions in order to prevent injury to himself or others.
Americans have become avid consumers of all things that appear in the media, whether traditional media or social media. Regardless of being rooted in fact or fiction people tend to lean in favor of items that fit their belief system. We have abandoned the traditional American principles of ‘innocent until proven guilty by jury of peers’ for ‘guilty as indicated by the social media mob until proven otherwise.’ This is a very dangerous trend.
At the other end of the thread of comments criticizing the officer who had to make a split-second decision to shoot or be shot, to kill or be killed – is a person. Regardless of the work garb donned he is still a person. And the criticism launched from irresponsible, uninformed and ignorant individuals can sometimes be just as harmful as the flash of bullets being fired at him.
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