Here is my point of view. Losing your life in the line of duty (if you are a police officer or are employed in jobs even more dangerous than policing) means that you were BRAVE enough to face the dangers, but does it necessarily make you a hero? If a police officer dies of a medical problem while taking a report, is that heroic? If a policeofficer drives too fast (when not necessary) and dies in a fatal accident, was he a hero? If a police officer falls asleep on duty (or driving home after a graveyard shift) and is killed, are his human frailties heroic? If an officer is on vacation out of town and becomes the victim of criminal violence and dies, is this heroic simply because he worked as a police officer? They all deserve to be honored, but they are not all heroic. Doesn’t it depend on what actions occurred? I always thought that being a hero meant that you made a decision to risk your life to save others or to intervene in a time of crisis facing overwhelming odds.
Many deaths are preventable. Consider the following: If you ignore training and make tactical errors exposing yourself to death or serious injury, are you a hero?
If you make poor decisions (force entry into private property without legal justification or exigency) which results in death or injury (to the police or citizens), are you a hero?
If you fail to follow clearly established policy (i.e., not waiting for backup when there is no urgent need for action) and end up involved in a fatal encounter (you die, your partner dies, or a citizen dies), are you a hero? It will always be tragic when police officers lose their lives while SERVING and they deserve to be honored for their sacrifices. There are
also plenty of HEROES who have distinguished themselves by their actions — we shouldn’t keep diminishing the true meaning of heroism.
MOVING ON FROM HEROES TO ZEROES
There is plenty of analysis going on because of ‘police incidents’ and it is possible that there will be positive outcomes because studies are revealing new information. The problems vary and there will be different corrective actions in our cities and states. There is no national ‘cure-all’ for policing. Today’s national news detailed significant increases in violence and death in Baltimore, Chicago, and New York. Some argue that the causes of the increased crime is attributed to de-policing. I am sure of one thing: if you engage in a police strike (de-policing), you are not a hero — you are a ZERO!
The six officers charged in Baltimore are NOT going to all be convicted. If there was intentional wrongdoing or negligence then it is only right to address the problem and move ahead and not ‘sell-out’ the safety of citizens because of politics.
WISCONSIN POLICE LEADERSHIP
Once upon a time I was a small town chief in Wisconsin. Compared to my career in Las Vegas, I couldn’t believe how ‘unprofessional’ policing was in a small town in a different state. Now, some police professionals in Wisconsin seem to be at the forefront of police reforms. Chief Ed Flynn (Milwaukee), Chief Mike Koval (Madison), and Sheriff David Clarke (Milwaukee County) all seem to be getting attention. Clarke talks ‘tough’ if all the stars, stripes, pins and awards on his uniform don’t distract the viewer. Fox News seems to love him. Flynn and Koval each articulate a different approach.
Flynn speaks out about social problems and causes of violence and kidsgetting killed ‘sitting on grandpa’s lap’ at the same time his officers are criticized for trying to quell the violence and maintain order. He doesn’t just ‘talk’ tough. He acts! He fired an officer for failing to follow policy after a fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed person. The officer was not charged with any crime, but Flynn viewed the death as preventable — it was not the same old refrain, “If he would have followed commands of the officer he would not have been killed.”
Koval articulates a message about a different type of policing. He was heavily influenced by former police chief David Couper, and probably Professor Herman Goldstein as well. One of his officers recently shot and killed a young black man but is not being charged with any crime.
The suspect was on drugs and acting crazy. The officer entered his home and was punched in the head. He fired in return. The suspect was not armed with any weapons. Video seemed to show the officer acted alone and had entered the home. He was firing as he backed out the door and as other officers appeared on the video. While that officer
may have been ‘cleared’ for the use of deadly force there may be issues of whether his entry was constitutional, whether he waited for backup, and whether better tactics could have ‘saved’ the man’s life.
Because of his non-conventional message he has been criticized as ‘Kumbaya Koval,’ but all lives should matter and police leaders are in a position to change their organizations — if they survive long enough to do so.
Couper recently wrote, “We must now publicly and strongly reinforce our respect for life — all lives — and that we are committed to using the least amount of force in carrying out our duties. We must emphasize that it is permissible for officers to do everything possible to avoid taking a life while, at the same time, making sure they are protected when they choose not to use deadly force. In the past, that is why we restricted high-speed pursuits, shooting at moving vehicles, required our officers to wear seat belts and body armor for their protection. We must be the force experts; able to slow things down, de-escalate, and use creative alternatives. Our commitment is to save lives, not take them… Let me emphasize this: I want our officers to know it is permissible for them to back off, to de-escalate, to take cover, to use other methods and instrumentality that will not result in a death.” I wish I had the chance to work for Flynn or Koval where being open-minded and having a different vision doesn’t lead to targeting and termination.