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Posted: 1/11/2003 10:22:06 AM EDT
From the [url=www.armedliberal.com/archives/000548.html#000548]Armed Liberal [/url]weblog (no relation, I think, to [u]our[/u] "ArmedLiberal".)

I appended the Smoak family story below as an example of why we needed to think carefully about passing laws that make us all violators. It has generated a fair amount of traffic and comment, so I ought to make my stance on this specific incident more clear.

I’m typically a friend to cops; literally in may cases. I often train with them in firearms, first aid, and martial arts, and I’ve gotten to know a few pretty well.

So my reaction to this story is broken into three distinct parts.

First, I think the cops did a mediocre job, but my guess is that they don’t do a lot of felony stops there, and it’s not like they get sent to Bitchen Cop School on a small town’s budget. [red]One broader issue is the fact that small town forces get grants for equipment to gear their troops up like the SWAT guys we see in the movies, then tickets to the movies are most of the training the town fathers spring for.[/red]

I wasn’t there, have only watched the (full-length) video and read the local accounts, etc. etc. But it certainly seems more than a few things could certainly have been done differently once the decision was made to make this a felony stop. But even in saying that, [red]I’m second-guessing on very limited information.[/red]
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As are we all
The reported laughter of the officer who shot the dog could have been the kind of laughter you get after you've been scared to death and had an adrenalin dump (it’s happened to me), or the cruel laughter of an asshole with a gun who’s just murdered a pet. I don’t know, but it’s going to be investigated to death and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it on Court TV for a while. I think the cops acted badly, but not necessarily criminally and will withhold judgment in favor of those who will study this incident harder than I will.

Second, the dumb but critically important fact is that [red]any time guns come out, the potential for tragedy is there.[/red] As soon as this became a felony stop (where the responding police draw weapons in advance, and generally act as though the people being stopped are True Bad Guys), the door to a tragedy was opened. [red]Officers have negligently[/red] (I never use the term ‘accidental discharge’ in talking about guns; it is a ‘negligent discharge’) [red]shot the people they were handcuffing, or themselves, or their partners.[/red] The people who are stopped sometimes are uncompliant and do things which make the officers believe that a gun is being drawn. There are a million ways for this to end badly, and on the scale of those things, this one went poorly but not tragically.

[size=3][red]The issue here is the overall police pattern of behavior that overuses felony stops and dynamic entries[/size=3][/red] (the whole banging the door down in the middle of the night by SWAT teams thing). [red]Because they are so inherently dangerous, their use needs to be judicious, [u]and right now, it isn’t;[/u][/red] this is from a mixture of legitimate ‘officer safety first’ strategies and a pure cowboy mentality. It’s certainly more fun to be SWAT than to be Barney Fife.

But Andy and Barney managed to get stuff done, we should remember. [red]And officer safety is most of all impacted by the respect and connection that the overall community has for the police.[/red]
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See my repeated postings of Sir Robert Peel's "Nine Principles."
It’s certainly possible to make officers act in a way that makes every interaction with citizens less risky for the officer, but nonetheless raises the overall level of risk by creating a greater number of hostile interactions.

Finally, it raises the issue of communication between citizen/witnesses and the police. One of the most valuable skills a great police officer can have, I’ve been told, is the ability to stop, listen and figure out a situation, rather than constantly trying to make a situation fit into a preconceived pattern.

I wasn’t opposed to something like TIPS, if it was about teaching citizens what to look for, giving them someplace to communicate what they see, and having someone on the other end of the phone who knows how to listen.

It’s not clear whether any of those was present in this incident.

I like and respect cops. Most of them are great people who work damn hard to help keep me and mine safe at night. I appreciate what they do, and hate to see something like this that damages their profession so badly.
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(All emphasis mine.)

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