On Police Shootings and Deaths In Law Enforcement Actions

rookie cop jpegFollowing a year away from this blog, I’ve decided to come back to my keyboard.

From recent events, an Orwellian lie, encouraged and promoted wholeheartedly by the mainstream media, not to mention several public comments from friends of the Obama Administration, if one did not know better it would appear that America’s rank and file police officers have declared an open season on Americans of color – particularly African Americans.  Whether the cause of death has been law enforcement gunfire or the misunderstood “choke” hold, which is really a grip designed to briefly close off blood supply to the brain by constricting the carotid arteries, thereby rendering a combative arrestee temporarily unconscious, an immensely untrue story is now in widespread circulation:  White cops simply want to kill black people.

The photo above was taken during my rookie year as a patrolman in Longmont, Colorado.  As a part of my twenty-plus years in full-time American law enforcement, I worked in marked police patrol cars, dealing with the absolute worst of people in the absolute worst of situations.  I worked as a suit-and-tie detective and in detentions, supervising incarcerated people who were either convicted of crimes or awaiting trials.  I was in my share of physical fights, none of which I enjoyed, and all of which I would have preferred not to have been dispatched to handle.  I went to life and death situations more times than I can recall.  There were times, I must confess, that I was scared by the level of violence in progress, and by the chance that I might be killed on the job.  I never had to take a human life, for which I’m very thankful.  I never fired my weapon in the line of duty, although I can recall three separate situations where I could have shot people and been justified.  I made a lot of arrests at gunpoint.

I met hundreds of American cops during my career.  But I never encountered a police officer or sheriff’s deputy who actually wanted to leave roll call and go out to find a citizen of any creed or color to kill during the work shift.  I can’t tell you that there is no such animal.  I just never met one.

Short of being killed or permanently disabled, killing someone in the line of duty is the very worst event a police officer can encounter.  The first thing that happens is an immediate suspension from duty, confiscation of his firearm and a very distressing bifurcated investigation – above and beyond the knowledge that he just took a human life.  He may be indicted and tried, even if the killing was entirely justified.  And the current atmosphere in which the media are only too ready to jump on such a story makes the episode nothing short of a nightmare.

Real-life police work is not anything like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies.

Uniformed officers follow orders.  They are in a para-military situation.  If given a lawful order by a superior officer to arrest someone, or with an arrest warrant in hand, they do not have the discretion to just walk away from the incident and do something else they’d rather be doing.  The warrant doesn’t say you may take the person into custody, if you feel like doing it, or if he’ll cooperate with you.  The warrant says “You are commanded” to take the person into custody and bring him before the Court.

If the cop is dealing with a citizen he knows or believes in all probability just committed a violent felony, as in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, he can’t take the whole rest of the evening off and go home, rather than to make the arrest.  To avoid an assignment which involves potential violence is inviting a career-ending internal affairs investigation for dereliction of duty and cowardice.

Here’s the tragic truth, which is at the focal point of recent police killings:  Sometimes people call the cops to handle a problem and a human being ends up dead.  It may be a petty minor offense which prompts the call to the police department, such as a man selling cigarettes illegally.  Or it may be a man brandishing a loaded firearm and threatening to shoot someone.  It doesn’t matter.  The cop has to go and handle the call.

Once any situation has escalated to the point where the police are summoned, if the potential arrestee does not cooperate and go along with what the officers tell him to do, all bets are off.  The cop has a duty to make the arrest.  The citizen has a duty to go along with what the officer tells him to do.  Resistance or combat may end up in a death.  That is the reality.  In wars, people die.  And sometimes, in law enforcement actions, people die.

The place to argue and defend one’s self as to the illegality or non-justification of an arrest is not on the street during the arrest.  There is a place in our system of governance to fight the police.  It is called a Court of Law.

Books by John L. Work

About John L. Work

John Lloyd Work has taken the detective thriller genre and woven an occasional political thread throughout his books, morphing what was once considered an arena reserved for pure fiction into believable, terrifying, futuristic, true-to-life “faction”. He traveled the uniformed patrolman’s path, answering brutal domestic violence calls, high speed chases, homicides, suicides, armed robberies, breaking up bar fights, and the accompanying sporadic unpredictable moments of terror - which eventually come to all police officers, sometimes when least expected. He gradually absorbed the hard fact that the greatest danger a cop faces comes in the form of day-to-day encounters with emotionally disturbed, highly intoxicated people. Those experiences can wear a cop down, grinding on his own emotions and psyche. Prolonged exposure to the worst of people and people at their worst can soon make him believe that the world is a sewer. That police officer’s reality is a common thread throughout Work’s crime fiction books. Following his graduation from high school, Work studied music and became a professional performer, conductor and teacher. Life made a sudden, unexpected turn when, one afternoon in 1976, his cousin, who eventually became the Chief of the Ontario, California, Police Department, talked him into riding along during a patrol shift. The musician was hooked into becoming a police officer. After working for two years as a reserve officer in Southern California and in Boulder, Colorado, he joined the Longmont, Colorado Police Department. Work served there for seven years, investigating crimes as a patrolman, detective and patrol sergeant. In 1989 he joined the Adams County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office, where he soon learned that locking a criminal up inside a jail or prison does not put him out of business. As a sheriff’s detective he investigated hundreds of crimes, including eleven contract murder conspiracies which originated “inside the walls”. While serving on the Adams County North Metro Gang Task Force and as a member of the Colorado Security Threat Intelligence Network Group (STING), Work designed a seminar on how a criminal’s mind formulates his victim selection strategy. Over a period of six years he taught that class in sheriff’s academies and colleges throughout Colorado. He saw the world of crime both inside the walls and out on the streets. His final experiences in the criminal law field were with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, where for nearly two years he investigated felonies from the defense side of the Courtroom. Twenty-two years of observing human nature at its worst, combined with watching some profound changes in America’s culture and political institutions, provided plenty of material for his first three books. A self-published author, he just finished writing his tenth thriller.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Police Shootings and Deaths In Law Enforcement Actions

  1. Alana Woods says:

    John, so true. Here in Australia we have the same calls of police brutality from, as we call them, the do-gooders. The first thing my husband always says is ‘They didn’t have to run’ or ‘They didn’t have to fight.’ We also have police hurt or killed–one only recently — when they respond to a call. The do-gooders always seem to have nothing to say in those situations. But it’s tough being a member of the public when our only access to information is the media which will always seek to inflame things for their own purposes. Unfortunately many people take media reports at face value and don’t dig for extra information. Wish I could say that things will improve.

  2. John L. Work says:

    Your husband is so very correct. Tragically, the trouble is only beginning here in the USA, I’m afraid. Thanks so much for reading along and taking the time to comment. JW

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s