Saturday, September 5, 2009

GA Police Shoot First, Ask Questions Later, 2

Continued from "GA Police Shoot First, Ask Questions Later"

As I've prayed for Pastor Ayers' grieving family, friends and Church flock, a solemn truth has crept into my consciousness. It has to do with officer-involved shootings.

Very often, when a police officer shoots a suspect under questionable circumstances, his defenders arise with some pretty compelling arguments:
  1. The officer has just a split-second to make a life/death decision in a crisis situation (with his own life hanging in the balance);
  2. These confrontations usually happen in the dark, so the officer's vision is obscured;
  3. The officer labors under the extreme of adrenaline stress, which reduces cognitive function and can reduce sensory input (i.e., tunnel vision, etc.).
These are good points, and I think that, in light of them, most of us are willing to cut an officer some slack in such situations. But this sword cuts two ways.

Let's look at the Georgia shooting from the pastor's point of view.
  1. Bible college or seminary most probably did not school him in techniques for managing an adrenaline dump (such as police officers receive) as part of his exegesis and theology courses;
  2. Life-threatening crises do not comprise an expected part of his job (as it is with police officers);
  3. The crisis situation took him totally by surprise (not so with the officers involved);
  4. The adrenaline dump reduced sensory input (seeing only the guns & hearing, if anything, only loud shouting) and cognitive function while creating a fight-or-flight response.
Police forced the pastor into making a split-second decision under extreme duress. They created a situation for Pastor Ayers such that, if their positions were reversed, they would plead that they could not be held to a standard that required deliberative reflection and weighing the options.

Let's remember who these officers are: undercover agents. By definition, they take pains to not resemble law-enforcement personnel in any way.

They claim they wore badges around their necks -- which a subject under the stress of an adrenaline dump might interpret as 'bling' -- if he noticed them at all. After all, should it surprise anyone if a panicked civilian sees only the guns pointed at him? No matter how many times they shouted, "Police! Get out of the car," they were only adding to the confusion of the moment.

I have written this because in the aftermath of this totally unnecessary tragedy, the powers that be will do everything they can to shift the blame to Pastor Ayers. They will close ranks and repeat the litany that citizens must learn to become more compliant . . . more passive when police suddenly descend on them with guns drawn, yelling like barbarians.

A number of years ago, I held a security job that included overseeing the fire brigade of a manufacturing facility. At one of the training sessions, we watched a film on explosive entry by law enforcement.

After the first half-dozen or so presentations of the use of explosives to blow a suspect's door in, one of the firemen asked, "Whatever happened to just knocking?" Good question. Moreover, whatever happened to approaching citizens with courtesy?

It's hard to take the police motto "Protect & Serve" seriously, when a significant portion of the law enforcement community seems to operate on the principles of "Cover Your Butt & Dominate".

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