So the Washington Post published a couple of articles in the last week, one entitled “The Cops Who Keep Killing” (as opposed to the more realistic but slightly less inflammatory title of “The Cops Who Have Been in Multiple Justified Shootings”). The other article was given the headline “A year of reckoning: Police fatally shoot nearly 1,000”. The gist of the first article is that the Post found 55 officers across the entire United States of America that were involved in shootings in 2015 that had (gasp!) been involved in prior deadly force incidents in their careers. They go on to cite the media's favorite anti-cop policing “expert”, one Dr. Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, whose sterling academic credentials provide him a soapbox for weighing-in against cops in news stories about police pursuits and use of force. I've searched high and low, through bios, news articles, an impressive curriculum vitae, and case briefs in which he lists his credentials as a paid expert witness testifying on behalf of people suing police departments (of which there were many). I found no information that shows Dr. Alpert has ever personally experienced any of the issues, from the perspective of a police officer, that he pontificates about. I have found not one solitary shred of evidence that he has ever so much as answered a police call for a barking dog, let alone engaged in a pursuit or felt the adrenaline-pumping, life-altering effects of a highly volatile use-of-force incident. In the “Year of reckoning”, Dr. Alpert kicked the level of chutzpah into orbit when he said “Good cops judge when they can hold back, So what if you get pushed in a volatile domestic situation? You’re justified to use force, but you tactically withdraw, calm them down and move on.” That's right, a career academic who has apparently never so much as stepped foot into a real-life domestic violence call, let alone been “pushed” in one, holds forth on what “good cops” do and do not do in such situations. "So what" if you get "pushed?" Because a push can turn into a fight for life in the blink of an eye, a fight that takes place in real-time with real deadly consequences, as many officers and their families know first hand. It's apparently Dr. Alpert's opinion that using justified force might be an example of being a “bad cop”, since “good cops” exercise the option to “tactically withdraw”. Sheer and utter lunacy, people. You literally have to be educated into this level of ignorance, it is far too advanced to be naturally occurring. There simply is no other way to put it. Be that as it may, Dr. Alpert says that it is a “national embarrassment. We don't even know how many times cops pull their triggers.”
Here's why it is neither a matter of national importance, nor an embarrassment: Despite rhetoric to the contrary from both extreme ends of our political spectrum, we do not live in an actual police state (to compare, see also: North Korea). What the police do in Fresno, CA is of no import to the taxpayer who lives in Dothan, AL. The officers, deputies and officers of state agencies of a given location are under the purview of the citizens they serve and their own respective STATE and local level officials. When Dr. Alpert says “we” don't know, what he means is that there is no overarching, bloated federal bureaucracy that expends tax dollars to keep track of “how many times cops pull their triggers”. Yet. Nor should their be. In this regard, though, the critics of police want to have their cake and eat it, too... They don't want scary “military tanks” (yes, that's how numerous journalists have described the MRAP) in police hands, yet they want a national federal police force to monitor local police so that the local police don't become... a national military police force. But the reality is that there is no “The Police” on a national level, anymore than there is a “The Firefighters”. Police departments are made up of individual human beings under a local government framework and each situation they encounter stands on it's own, within the confines of it's own unique circumstances. That is the reality. It is no more realistic or fair to refer to “the police” when ascribing motives or describing intent in a single shooting than it would be to chalk up the intricacies of a domestic homicide to the perpetrator's basic ethnic characteristics. But a vast number of media outlets do this consistently. They do it under the most despicable of pretenses, claiming to be a watchdog for the taxpayer while trolling for the all-important ad revenue generated by click-bait headlines and “truthy” sleight-of-hand semantic games. They would have you forget, or preferably, never realize, they are profit-driven entities that thrive when people are angry. The rest of the "...Keep Killing" article goes on to list a number of situations in which officers were involved in mostly clearly justified, legal and necessary shootings. The problem according to the Post, although they never articulate clearly why it's a problem, is that this infinitesimally small number of officers have “taken part” in previous deadly shootings. One of these situations involved a rapist who set his victim's house ablaze who, when located by officers, pointed a BB gun at them. You can guess the result. The issue for the Post? Three of the officers in this incident had all been involved in shootings before. All justified, both legally and morally. The uninitiated reader is guided by the article to the conclusion that being involved in multiple deadly force incidents is somehow an automatic indication of an officer's inability to deescalate a situation at best, or an inherent desire to kill at worst.
It is patently obvious that the media/activist tag team has no intention of letting up in the war on cops. There is a concerted and relentless push by malefactors within the government at all levels, media pundits and “community organizer” types to effectively nullify the law in favor of a “social justice” standard for shootings. In this new standard, the only thing that matters is the result, not the actions of the perpetrator nor the information police did or did not know in the moment shots were fired. If tomorrow the writers of the Post article could snap their fingers and reverse decades of case law that protect officers from liability in situations that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving, I have no doubt that they would. If they could ensure that an officer who shoots a person pointing a gun at them is charged with murder once it's discovered, after the fact, that it's a BB gun, I have no doubt they would. It's not happening at finger-snapping speed, but we are seeing first hand how prosecutors, feeling the heat of a media-fueled firestorm of hashtag outrage, are charging officers with crimes while flagrantly disregarding the precepts of seminal SCOTUS decisions like Graham v. Connor and others. How far will the pendulum swing and how many officers will be hurt or killed trying to figure out what this new shifting standard is, only time will tell.