Monday, March 1, 2010

Here's an offer you can't refuse

Public offered a chance to walk in officers' shoes

I'll take that offer.  Where's my back up?

This is a carefully scripted eight hour segment of police training that was presented to local notables, not to the general public, AKA the great unwashed.  I gather that Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates was present, as was Lisa Renee of the liberal oriented blog Glass City Jungle.  The taxpayers are picking up the bill for the session.  The motivation for this unusual event is the harsh criticism the Toledo police have had to face over the high number of police shootings.

From The Blade: This is Decision Alley, the final real-life police scenario in a program that invites the public to face the sort of conflict and violence that Toledo Police must accept as part of their job descriptions.

"Mad Jack," said my uncle Bud "Someday a man is going to walk up to you and bet you he can make the three of clubs jump out of a deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear, and the minute you put your money on the line you're going to end up with an ear full of cider."  Put another way, never bet on another man's game, which is exactly what's happening here.  The police department sets up these scenarios, which is fine - right up until you realize that the motivation for this entire eight hour session is to gain sympathy, acceptance and approval for police shootings.  I think it's likely that the motivation tends to color the scenarios.  Contrast this for a minute with a story written by Shannon McDonald who rode on patrol with police officer William Thrasher in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, PA., and who got to watch the police in action (links here and here).  Who do you think learned more about police work, Shannon McDonald or the people in this training session?

Consider the real life scenario involving the late Linda Hicks:

From The Blade: Sergeant Gilmore referred several times to the most recent officer-involved shooting - the Dec. 14 death of Linda Hicks, who wielded scissors as she lunged at the two police officers who confronted her in her group home.

Though the sergeant declined to discuss the case in detail, he repeatedly referred to it as "the incident with the scissors" as he noted the criticism police face after such a shooting. He said officers who face a suspect armed with a sharp object keep in mind the 21-foot rule, which says a suspect could advance 21 feet in the time it takes an officer to fire a gun.

Linda Hicks was a whole lot more than 'the incident with the scissors' as the sergeant delicately puts it.  Linda was an overweight, elderly black woman who was going through a psychotic episode.  She was not armed with a Paul Basal Shadow fighting knife with a nine inch razor sharp blade; she had a pair of common paper scissors.  The police outnumbered Linda two to one, were younger, faster, in better physical condition and (we hope) had martial arts training.  Police could have used pepper spray, a Taser, a baton or their bare hands to subdue Linda, but they chose to use a gun.  Police could have simply closed the door to Linda's bedroom and waited until she quieted down, but that might have implied a compromised police authority.  There are any number of things the police might have done to preserve Linda's life, but it's easier and faster for everyone just to shoot first and clean up the mess later.

Police officers Rebecca Kenney and Diane Chandler were cleared of any wrongdoing and both are back on the job.  We can assume they received unofficial 'atta-boys (atta-girls?)' for their excellent police work.  The worst part about this is that the Toledo police, the Toledo Mayor and the Toledo city council approve of these officers actions, and so will not change any of the policies the police are said to follow when dealing with the mere civilians they are sworn to protect.

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