To my dismay, not everyone agreed with yesterday’s article in the Washington Times. The Times printed a letter today by a policeman who believed that lawmen deserve special privileges after they shoot citizens:
I was really disappointed after reading “Let’s start by controlling police gun violence” by Jim Bovard (Commentary, Monday). Apparently Mr. Bovard’s qualifications for analyzing gun violence and, specifically, police use of weapons, is that he has written a book. I feel comfortable declaring myself an expert in this area, having served 20 years as a police officer and police official supervising others.
Mr. Bovard makes a big deal out of the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. He should be aware that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution also applies to police officers. They, too, could refuse to answer any questions they think could be used against them. The desire to have complete information on police shootings is important for many reasons, not the least of which is training. Therefore, allowing an officer the opportunity to cool down after an intensely emotional and traumatic incident and to speak to someone (whether an attorney or union representative) goes a long way in inducing the officer to participate in follow-up investigations. The officer always must consider whether he will be the victim of a politically motivated investigation or efforts to pacify one group or another at his expense.
Mr. Bovard’s statement that “[t]here were hundreds, if not thousands of people shot unjustifiably in those decades” is evidence of not only ignorance, it indicates a bias and irresponsibility on Mr. Bovard’s part.
Finally, I would like Mr. Bovard to know that although I cannot speak for (or against) every law-enforcement agency in the country, the department I worked for required reporting on every use of force, whether by gun, nightstick, Mace or any other weapon.
The use of force, especially deadly force, is an intensely subjective and situational decision by an officer who knows his decisions will be scrutinized by others later. I know officers can and do make mistakes, but mistakes in judgment do not inherently carry with them “intent to commit a crime.” Yet in the case of law enforcement officers, mistakes are often misperceived and end up being prosecuted. A Police Officers’ Bill of Rights seems totally appropriate.
ROBERT A. POGGI Alexandria
There are about 30 comments so far on the Times’ page for yesterday’s piece.
Barry Soetoro groused: “The chance of you getting murdered by a police officer is probably less than that of you being killed by a lawn dart in the middle of winter. We should focus on enforcing laws first before dreaming up fantasies.”
Actually, if more than a thousand people a year were dying while playing lawn darts, then the Consumer Product Safety Commission would definitely be guilty of negligence.
Chad Casale took great offense at the legal terminology:
I take offense that the word “homicide” was used to describe police shootings. The police officer discharged his weapon in the line of duty to protect himself or to protect others. He/She didn’t just pull their gun out and randomly shoot people for the fun of it. I know of no officer, that has had to shoot and kill a suspect, that is not haunted by incident. Lest you forget that police officers are human beings. I know of no officers that wake up and say I’m gonna shoot someone today. That is just ridiculous non sense spewed by those that have no clue what it is to place their lives on the line for others. As I said the officers are human and imperfect and yes they do sometimes do bad things to themselves, family members or others but I believe this is off duty and non public threatening.
Mr. Casale did not offer a substitute label to describe police shootings, but perhaps “mercy killings in the public interest” would suffice.
Several commentors dissented from Mr. Casale’s view, so he clarified on how boundless obedience is the path to safety:
I have had numerous interactions with law enforcement and have never ever had a single incident of them being rude or aggressive. I know why I never have a problem because I listen to and comply with what the officer tells me to do. I don’t talk back..I don’t try to hide my drugs under my seat, I don’t try to shove my illegal handgun under the seat. I put my hand on the steering wheel and wait till the officer approaches to make any moves and then only after telling the officer what I’m doing and then doing it. And 9/10 times I’m cut loose with a warning. Why? Because I show RESPECT. The majority of problems occur when idiots with attitudes don’t comply or suspects run or they try to kill the officer 10 minutes earlier when cameras weren’t around.
There were some zippety comments –
Luger Drmc declared: “We have a gang in blue that can’t shoot straight, yet some want these doofuses to be armed in schools where 19/20 shots may hit innocents instead of someone with a PopTart that has been 1/2 eaten into the ‘shape of a gun‘.”
Matt Bracken observed: “Comrade Bovard, you are indicating a dangerous anti-social attitude. In our new USSA, all ordinary comrades support glorious security officials without question!”
SmittyOhio offered some standards to assess lawmen: “Odd that those tasked with holding us accountable to law are themselves seemingly exempt from being held to account. Here are some questions for police officers that would shed some light on whether they are ‘law enforcement’ officers or ‘peace’ officers…
Please list some orders or commands your conscience or belief system would prevent you from carrying out.
Please list any current laws your conscience or belief system would prevent you from enforcing (or placing at the bottom of the priority list).
Please list any currently proposed laws your conscience or belief system would prevent you from enforcing.
On a local forum I attempted to ask a ‘law enforcement’ officer those questions. I’m still waiting for a response, though I’m not holding my breath…“