Monday, September 19, 2011

Harry Callahan Weeps*...

Thanks to Stretch for the story *and the title of the post.

2 Bystanders Wounded In San Francisco Officer-Involved Shooting, 1 Arrest

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A suspect who allegedly pointed a gun at police officers during a foot pursuit on Broadway in San Francisco early Saturday morning has been identified as 20-year-old San Pablo resident Jesus Paredes Rodriguez.

Two bystanders were struck when officers fired at a fleeing subject seen conducting a drug deal early San Francisco morning in North Beach, San Francisco police said Saturday.

Okay, look. Dad G. is a retired MA State cop, and as such my perspective might be a little different from those without a LEO or similar background. Adrenaline does funny things to your sight picture; add in someone who may very well be trying to kill you and I can't fully condemn these cops for their poor marksmanship. I've never had to fire my gun while someone was taking aim at me, and I hope I never have to find out if I could even hit minute-of-berm under those circumstances.

The suspect had a gun and pointed it at the police, the gun was later found to be loaded, so it's entirely possible that the reaction from the officers prevented him from firing. While we'd all like to think that the police officers - with their superior training that the anti-freedom forces tell us allows them and only them the ability to safely carry a firearm - would be able to hit their target and be mindful of the backdrop, the reality is that sometimes the rules take a back seat to survival.

Now, on the other hand... If they were firing as he ran away, that's a different story entirely. If the threat is no longer immediate and imminent, then the extra half-second to make sure that your backstop isn't an innocent bystander is appropriate. I can understand a little errant marksmanship under fire - even the best training in the world isn't going to include people shooting back at you, and that's something that only happens in the worst situations. If the threat was no longer immediate, then greater care should have been exercised.

The point of the post, though, is contained in my second paragraph. The forces that would like nothing better than to disarm all Americans would have us believe that only the police should be armed; that their superior training and familiarity with firearms makes them the only candidates suitable for carrying firearms. Stories like the above show that putting on a badge along with a sidearm is no guarantee that when the ball drops all that training won't go out the window - and that police officers, just like the rest of us, are subject to the same external forces that us non-LEOs are subject to; just without the consequences...

We grant police officers extra powers not available to the private citizen. They can detain suspects; they can use lethal and less-than-lethal force; they are granted qualified immunity so that they personally are not liable in cases just like the above where their actions - even accidentally - injure others. These are the tools we give the law enforcement community so that they may perform their job - which is often thankless, gritty, and frequently places them in contact with the very worst elements of our society. It's when an instance like Officer Roid Rage in Canton, OH comes to light - where a pattern of over-the-top abuse becomes evident - that these tools start coming into question.

Situations like the above in San Francisco are very easy to armchair quarterback. It's easy to claim they shouldn't have fired, or should have been mindful of their backstop (which they should, of course; even the extreme stress of a live fire shoot doesn't completely excuse the breaking of the rules), or any number of other faults when it's not your face in which the thug's gun is pointed. It's when we've been subjected to any number of stories - the school police officer shooting in TX comes to mind - where the trust between the law enforcement community is broken by an individual, and then upheld by the "thin blue line", that folks start to question *all* the tools give law enforcement.

There's a thin line here, and it's not just blue. Without police officers to enforce the law, we have anarchy. Without good police officers to keep the bad in check - and just like ANY other segment of human society there will be both good and bad cops, it's human nature - the anarchy solution starts to look more and more appealing. When a police officer can have years of disciplinary action taken and still be an active member of the force; when a clear pattern of abuse becomes evident; when it becomes clear that the person wielding the badge is a thug and petty criminal and yet no action is taken? It tarnishes - yes, unfairly - everyone with a badge.

Much like I can't stand to see morons racing their motorcycles in and out of traffic with no regard for others on the road - because it puts me, a responsible motorcyclist at risk for retaliation - the good cops (and Matt G., LawDog, and others spring readily to mind) pay the price. It becomes a vicious circle - the bad cops make folks distrustful of all cops; people start badmouthing all cops; even the good cops start to wonder just who's on their side. It's when we get incidents like the cop in CA reacting perfectly appropriately to an open carry participant that we need to realize that they're not all bad nor against us - but that the heat can and should be applied to self-police the bad apples out of the bunch.

And yes, the San Fran PD might want to re-institute the pistol competition...

That is all.


Old NFO said...

Jay, 'training' is the real issue... I 'think' according to my sources, SFPD only qualifies once a year, and has no required range sessions in between, and they don't provide ammo for practice.

Robert McDonald said...

They should face the same consequences I would in the same situation. Being a police officer should mean you have a higher burden when it comes to protecting innocents, not a lower one.

Bill Nance said...

The real question here is how many shots were fired. If they struck not one but two bystanders, I would bet they probably both fired *at least* 5-6 rounds.

It's one of my constant complaints about police firearms training. The norm is to "shoot them to the ground," which translates to basically panic-firing 5+ rounds at a shot.

NO ONE except a genuine pistolero can rapid-fire that many rounds under a full adrenaline dump with any serious accuracy at range. Especially not with a moving target.

I train a lot, including the WA State Patrol firearms instructor qualification test. THAT test includes a rapid-fire failure drill that wants you to put THREE rounds into the head.

Seriously. Try to put three head-shots into a moving target under adrenaline dump. Maybe Jerry Miulek can pull it off, but not your average cop.

Almost always in these situations it comes down to a failure of training. I would bet these cops shot exactly as their department trained them to shoot. I would also bet that that training is inherently unsafe in a situation where there isn't a backstop.

Chris said...

Sorry Harry. You hit a good guy.