The horrific lack of insight and objectivity in main stream media continues to go down an extremely dark rabbit hole.
The attacks on Law Enforcement persist unabated even after the recent grotesque targeted assassinations of eight (8) police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.
“There’s Something Disturbing About the Way Cops Act Just After They’ve Shot Somebody,” was the headline attached to an article written by Julia Craven, a self-described “police violence and racial justice” reporter for the Huffington Post.
“But as scene after scene unfolds on shaky screens and in grainy contours, another element of the violence is beginning to come into focus: the pattern of officers showing no concern for the person they have shot, often fatally,” Craven writes.
“The nonchalance around the injured and the dying is stunning in its own way.”
To support her hypothesis, Craven conducted analysis of several police involved shootings, the majority of which were fatal.
“Letting the body lie there is a fairly common trend in these high-profile police shootings. After Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, on July 5, the officers appeared rattled by what had happened.”
I wonder just how “informed” Ms Craven is regarding the use of deadly force and the psychological and physiological effects such encounters have on police officers.
“The officers appeared rattled by what had happened.”
Imagine being a police officer in a life and death, lethal force encounter, using deadly force and not being a bit “rattled” by what happened.
Wouldn’t any normal human being be somewhat “rattled” in such a circumstance?
Ms Craven would do well to heed the advice CNN Legal Analyst and criminal defence attorney Mr. Danny Cevallos offered during the inflammatory reporting in the wake of the Ferguson riots.
“The problem is everyone becomes an expert on human emotion during times of crisis,” he said.
“Watching an Officer walking around after a shooting, I don’t know if that’s as compelling or that gives us as valuable information as hard science.”
So what’s the truth?
Are police officers robotic killers who’ve lost their humanity and see citizens as less than human beings as many of the Huffington Post commenters suggest, or is there more to the story?
Are police officers really “nonchalant” when it comes to the injured or dying?
Sadly, the Huffington Post story is yet another example of the press oversimplifying a dynamic, complex situation to the detriment of the men and women who serve and protect us.
While I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, experience tells me there is much more to the story.
Post Shooting Behavioural Impacts
During my career in Law Enforcement I was involved in many highly intense situations and investigations that included;
- Fatal police involved shootings
- Non-fatal police involved shootings
- Arrests of murder suspects armed with firearms
- Robbery suspect takedowns where shots were fired
- Armed & Barricaded situations (SWAT)
- High-Speed pursuits – involving armed and unarmed suspects
- Foot pursuits – involving armed and unarmed suspects
- Horrific murder scenes – baby deaths, dismemberment, decapitation, disembowelment
- Horrific death scenes – gun shot wounds to the head, hangings, suicides, overdoses
- Fatal traffic accidents
Experience gained during these events tells me there are many factors that affect the behaviour of a police officer at a critical incident or a post shooting scene.
Those factors may include, but are not limited to;
- Critical incident stress
Very few people experience the kind of adrenalin rush police officers are exposed to during a critical incident.
Police officers often experience incredible “adrenalin dumps” in the moments immediately following critical incidents or a deadly force encounter.
While adrenalin can cause a euphoric rush in highly stressful situations, it can also have an adverse effect on the brain’s ability to process information, comprehend the immediate issue and develop appropriate responses to stimuli.*
Once shots are fired and a suspect is down it certainly doesn’t mean the danger immediately ceases.
Armed subjects shot multiple times by police can still present a deadly threat. Goal oriented suspects suffering fatal wounds are still quite capable of killing police officers.
(The 1986 FBI Miami shootout with serial bank robbers William Matix and Michael Platt is a classic example. Both suspects were hit multiple times during the shootout and still managed to wound and kill agents.)
Police officers are trained to be cautious in the approach and to handcuff downed subjects for officer safety purposes.
The hands of an armed dying man can be exceedingly dangerous.
Officer safety has to come first.
Have you ever seen what shock looks like.
Deadly force encounters are extremely intense, stressful events.
These encounters often happen with lightening speed leaving the officer overwhelmed with the after effects of sensory overload, stress, adrenaline and emotional trauma.
When the dust settles police officers are often left in a state of shock and confusion.
Police officers experience fear like anyone else.
A deadly force encounter presents many elements of fear for the subject officer.
- Fear of the deadly force threat.
- Fear of the person who precipitated the deadly force encounter.
- Fear of the continuing threat.
- Fear of dealing with serious or fatal injuries with only basic first aid training.
- Fear of other potential threats.
- Fear of hostile onlookers in the case of urban deadly force encounters.
Fear is known to impair judgment and the cognitive thinking processes.
Hence the expression “paralyzed by fear.”
It’s a real thing.
Most people live out their lives without ever having to defend themselves from people who try to kill them.
I’m sure that’s true for Ms Craven.
No one has ever violently attacked her or tried to kill her because of her work as a Huffington Post journalist covering “police violence” and racial justice issues.
Yet she sits in judgement of those who have experienced such attacks.
Police officers are frequent targets of violent assaults, with and without weapons. Attacks on police officers can be highly intense, emotionally traumatizing events.
That aside, it can be very difficult to switch from using lethal force to defend yourself from a deadly attack to playing the role of a paramedic to save the life of someone who just tried to kill you.
The expectation is that police officers should be able to flip that switch in a matter of seconds.
I can assure you it’s easier said than done.
Police officers are not immune from work related emotional trauma.
Police officers involved in deadly force encounters are almost always traumatized. The degree and severity of the trauma varies depending on a number of factors.
PTSD in Law Enforcement is only starting to be recognized as a serious issue for police officers.
People react to trauma in variety of ways.
Trauma can have many effects on a police officer involved in a deadly force encounter:
- it may impair the officers cognitive ability
- it may trigger intense emotional responses, or conversely, may cause the officer to withdraw or become numb
- it may cause the officer to suffer distortion of time and space, auditory exclusion or tunnel vision
- it may enhance feelings of depersonalization, dissociation or derealization
- it may intensify feelings associated with the siege mentality
Critical Incident Stress
Police Organizations are only beginning to understand the vast impacts of critical incident stress and PTSD.
The impacts of critical incident stress are generally categorized in four distinct areas:
- Physical Signs
- Cognitive Signs
- Emotional Signs
- Behavioural Signs
Relevant cognitive sign impacts have been identified, but are not limited to the following:
- Poor attention
- Poor decision-making
- Poor concentration
- Increased or decreased awareness of surroundings
- Poor problem solving
- Loss of time, place or person orientation
- Disturbed thinking
Critical incident amnesia (memory impairment) can also be caused from exposure to critical incident stress.
In reality, you can find plenty of examples of police officers rendering first aid to suspects who’ve been shot or injured in deadly force encounters with law enforcement.
I suspect any competent researcher could find far more examples of police officers rendering 1st aid or CPR to fatally wounded suspects than instances of ambivalent officers standing around watching people die.
But that doesn’t fit the narrative in the Huffington Post story.
There’s another tremendously disturbing angle in the story.
“If black lives truly mattered, the police would make an attempt to save the dying. If black lives truly mattered, the dead would be afforded more dignity. It is this lack of caring for a fellow human being in his last moments, over and above the violence itself, that reinforces the belief that black lives don’t matter.”
There you have it, another false narrative is born.
The writer found a way to inject allegations of police racism into the equation.
Not a paragraph later she writes;
“Videos of police behaving nonchalantly after shooting white people have also come to light.”
So I ask, which scenario is it?
Is it black lives that don’t matter or are we going with white lives don’t matter?
It’s hard to believe the Huffington Post would print an article with such an extraordinary contradiction separated by a mere sixty-one (61) words.
What we have here is another blatant example of main stream media publishing poorly researched, race baiting, anti-police rhetoric designed to alter the public perception of law enforcement officers.
These kind of articles sow the seeds of judgement, hatred and discontent with police that manifests itself in the streets of Cities like Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.
You need only read the comment section in the Huff Post article to get the point.
The anti-police vitriol is alarming.
There was a time, long ago, when journalists conducted research, engaged in investigative reporting and published well written, fact based, non-biased accounts of meaningful stories, current events and political issues.
There was a time when journalists presented the facts and left it up to the reader to form their own conclusions.
There was a time.
“Letting the Body Lie There is a Fairly Common Trend”
In the aftermath of a fatal police involved shooting the decision to move the body becomes the sole discretion of the Medical Examiner Investigator (MEI) who has complete jurisdiction over the decedent at the crime scene.
The MEI works closely with Police Crime Scene investigators.
The body becomes evidence and must be treated in accordance with proper crime scene processing protocols.
Police do not intentionally leave deceased bodies laying in the street to emotionally damage family members or send a message to the community.
Police in Ferguson, Missouri faced tremendous criticism in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting after they left his body lying face down in the street for four hours.
“I am not trying to in any way excuse or justify why this took so long, I’m just saying this is what happened,” explained Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Issues that affected the expedient removal of Brown’s body included;
- Limited personnel (The shooting occurred on a Saturday)
- Safety issues created by a large hostile crowd
- Shots fired in the area after the shooting
- Tactical Operations – SWAT team called out to secure scene so Medical Examiner Investigator could work in a safe environment
- CSI investigations – detailed, time-consuming work
The Michael Brown case is an extreme example.
The Final Analysis;
The Huffington Post article raised a legitimate question regarding police officer post shooting conduct during the aftermath of deadly force encounters.
The lack of investigative reporting and decision to engage in sensationalistic race baiting is regrettable.
Perceptions of police officer indifference must be taken seriously.
Police agencies must be alert to the issue raised in the article and ensure police officer training addresses the need to immediately engage in life saving efforts once a suspect is downed in a deadly force encounter.
Police officer and public safety must remain the primary consideration before life saving efforts can be safely performed.
It’s important to remember police officers only receive basic first aid training and do not have the skill sets or equipment to perform advanced life saving techniques.
That’s why dispatchers send EMT’s and Paramedics to shots fired calls.
It’s equally important to remember that perception isn’t always reality.
I’ll let you make up your own mind on that.
Police Involved Shootings Noted in Article
Charles Kinsey – North Miami
- African-American behavioural therapist accidentally shot and wounded by officer responding to 911 call regarding man with a gun. The case is still under investigation.
Alton Sterling – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- African-American armed with firearm fatally shot by police during struggle for control of weapon. The case remains under investigation.
Michael Brown – Ferguson, Missouri
- African-American man shot and killed after committing robbery and trying to disarm police officer. The beginnings of the narrative “hands up, don’t shoot” subsequently proven false by forensic and witness evidence.
Cedrick Chatman – Chicago, Illinois
- African-American teen shot and killed by police after fleeing from a stolen car obtained during a car jacking. Police indicate Chatman had a black cell phone case in his hand officers mistook for a firearm.
Tamar Rice – Cleveland, Ohio
- 12-year-old African-American youth shot and killed by police responding to 911 calls indicating the boy was pointing a gun at people in a park. The gun turned out to be a replica firearm.
Eric Harris – Tulsa Oklahoma
- African-American man accidentally shot and killed by a Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Charles Bates (73) while being subdued after he fled from police. Bates intended to use his taser and had no intention of using deadly force. He was subsequently found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
LaQuan McDonald – Chicago, Illinois
- African-American teen shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke after McDonald refused to drop knife. Reports indicate Mcdonald was armed with a knife, was breaking into vehicles, slashed a tire on a police car and damaged its windshield. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in 13 seconds. He was subsequently charged with 1st degree murder.
Walter Scott – North Charleston, South Carolina
- African-American man shot and killed by police officer Michael Slager after Scott fled on foot during a traffic stop. Slager fired 8 shots at Scott as he fled with 5 projectiles finding their mark, 3 in the back, one in the upper buttocks and one striking one of his ears. Slager was charged with murder after a video surfaced that contradicted his police report.
Andrew Thomas – Paradise, California
- Caucasian man shot and wounded by police after he rolled his vehicle in a DUI pursuit. Thomas’ ex-wife was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. Officer Patrick Feaster drew his firearm to challenge Thomas as he exited the damaged vehicle. Feaster accidentally discharged his weapon striking Thomas in the neck instantly paralyzing him from the neck down. Thomas died of complications from the gun shot wound. Feaster was originally cleared of charges only to be charged with manslaughter when the case was re-opened.
Kajieme Powell – St Louis, Missouri
- African-American man shot and killed by police in St. Louis after stealing from a store, brandishing a knife and aggressively approaching and challenging police to shoot him.
Freddy Gray – Baltimore, Maryland
- African-American man fatally injured during transport with police in a prisoner transport van. Six police officers charged with a variety of offences by DA Marilyn Mosby. All officers subsequently cleared in the case. Mosby now faces allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
*Policeone.com article by Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL. (ret)