Monday’s commentary by Jacob Sullum, “High court allows cops to shoot first and think later,” bought in to the fallacy that cops are mad killers. He relates an incident in which a woman was shot because she had a large kitchen knife. Like many officer-involved shootings, there was a question as to whether deadly force was necessary.
Like many Monday morning quarterbacks, Mr. Sullum forgets why police were are at the home of the knife-wielding woman in the first place. They didn’t just show up. They were sent by a police dispatcher who, in turn, had received a 911 call from a citizen who had seen the woman acting irrationally with a knife.
Mr. Sullum’s essay glosses over the fact that cops gave the woman commands, and there is a question as to why she did not follow them. Because police officers are not mind-readers, it comes down to what they see and perceive at the moment of the encounter — plus their experience and training — that dictates what they will do next. To their credit, police shootings are rare.
A chief reason for these tragedies is the failure to follow officer instructions. A second reason is that some people fail to keep their hands in plain sight. Mr. Sullum needs to take part in a police ride-along, during which he can see how people ignore these lifesaving rules on a daily basis.
Police receive a plethora of training on how to interact with citizens. But no one is teaching the citizen how to act. Let’s develop a “How to Survive the Police 101” course. As a retired police officer, I volunteer to give Mr. Sullum his first lesson.