Update note: If you do not read all the way to the very end, you will not learn who "they" refers to in the title. Hint: it is not the police.
This was left as a comment on FB by a former police officer named Michael. I will not use his last name here.
True story : 911 call, son is threatening family with knife, me and 4 other cops on my team show up. I go around back of the house as others go in the front. As soon as I turn the corner the kid is on top of me with a knife. I fight with him and get stabbed in hand but we were able to get him handcuffed. He goes to get psyched clear before arraignment. DA lets him out. He returns home and stabs his father to death the same night his family comes and bails him out. Something to really think about.
I am thinking of the police shooting of black man Walter Wallace in Philadelphia last Monday.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police shot and killed a 27-year-old Black man on a Philadelphia street after yelling at him to drop his knife, sparking violent protests that police said injured 30 officers and led to dozens of arrests.
The shooting occurred before 4 p.m. Monday as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police spokesperson Tanya Little said.
Officers were called to the Cobbs Creek neighborhood and encountered the man, later identified as Walter Wallace, who was holding a knife, Little said. Officers ordered Wallace to drop the knife, but he instead “advanced towards” them. Both officers then fired “several times,” Little said.
Wallace was hit in the shoulder and chest. One of the officers then put him in a police vehicle and drove him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, Little said.
Riots followed, of course, demanding justice for Wallace, justice which included burning down a Vietnamese church.
So here are my questions for ordinary people - not activists - to ponder about police:
- If you call 9-1-1 because you are under threat of actual harm or death, do you want the police to respond?
- If police do arrive and are placed under imminent danger of harm or death by the suspect, how do you think police should respond?
- Use deadly force as the Philly officers did.
- Wait until one of them is actually harmed before using deadly force.
- Try to subdue an armed assailant, perhaps under the influence of drugs, and hope that they don't get injured or killed while doing so. After all, "that's what they signed up for," right?
- Get back in their patrol car and leave.
- Get attacked by a white guy and shoot him to save their own lives: no controversy, standard investigation, routine media report and suspension of patrol duty while the investigation is done. Then back to work.
- Get attacked by a black guy and shoot him to save their own lives: immediate enormous controversy, intense investigation, intense media scrutiny, extended suspension of patrol duty while the investigation is done. Receive death threats against themselves and their families. Enormous legal costs. Be blamed for destruction caused by rioters and looters beginning that day. Not returned to regular police duty for many months after the investigation is finished, perhaps not ever.