Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Doing your worst

The "case closed" comments at the Orange County Register website regarding the deaths of Michael Cho, Susie Kim, and others, are dismaying. This one sums up the attitude:
although tragic, why is he walking around a market with the tire iron? if the cops show-up you think he would drop it and obey their commands. After all, normal people would drop the tire iron when there are guns pointed at them. Sounds like Mr. Cho choose his destiny. Having guns pointed at me i can either choose to advance at the officers and have them shoot me or drop the tire iron and submit. He choose to be killed.
No doubt, he shouldn't be walking around with a tire iron, he shouldn't have been breaking windows in cars, he should have listened to the police and put down the tire iron instead of walking away from them, etc., etc. But the idea that the police should use deadly force instead of other options — tasers, anyone? — and that this use of deadly force is categorically justified in virtually all cases where a citizen did not follow police directions, is a scary one indeed.

Whenever we say "case closed" to a shooting just because someone didn't do exactly what the cops say, we're creating a situation where excessive force and — in some cases — wrongful death will occur. And in our law-and-order society, it amazes me how many people don't perceive this danger to the citizenry. Maybe they just don't see how it can happen to themselves or their loved ones.

Imagine yourself on the day when you were at your worst. Maybe you were violently drunk, high, emotionally distraught, extremely upset, or some such thing. I'm not asking what that was, only that you imagine it and create in your mind a situation where you can observe yourself and your behavior in that state. Maybe you were highly distressed over a break-up to the point that you were a bit self-destructive. Perhaps you were so drunk and so resistant to others warning you to take it easy or calm down that you had actually become a danger to yourself (and others). Maybe you were high enough that you lost touch with reality for just a little while. Or even so angry about something that you violently reacted to the admonishments or reprimands of others to chill. Whatever the situation, at that time you were not "normal."

Now imagine that, for whatever reason, armed police were on the scene at the time of your worst. Maybe they were called in because of your behavior. Maybe it was a coincidence that they happened to be in the same place you were at the time you were going through your dark episode. But for whatever reason, they are there.

Now in such a case, which do you think provides a better outcome? Cops who feel they are justified to pump eleven bullets into you if you don't do exactly what they say, or cops who have at their disposal the non-lethal tools needed to subdue you and the knowledge, training, and willingness to use them?

Saying Michael Cho "choose to be killed" is, pardon the unintentional pun, a cop-out. The police are there to protect and serve, and that may mean protecting us from ourselves. Michael Cho was, for whatever reason, out of his head on that New Year's Eve afternoon. That's obvious from the reports about what he was doing (smashing car windows with a tire iron) and by what we saw on the tape (a man with a limp walking away from the police who then followed him). He did not deserve to die for that. He did not deserve the death penalty for not being "normal."

God help you if you encounter the police on the day when you are at your worst. God help your loved ones if they encounter the police on the day when they are at their worst. Do you really want them to be facing down cops who think that any perceived wrong move is justification for shoot-to-kill instead of attempts to subdue?


  1. my greatest fear in the world is that the last thing i will ever hear is a cop yelling 'STOP RESISTING' as he shoots me in the face

  2. Good points and all the more reason to support tasers but plenty of people don't believe they should be used either.

  3. GI Korea, that is absolutely right: If someone were to get tasered, there would be people complaining.

    But that can't really be a reason to shoot them instead of tasing them, right? (Not that that was your point.)

  4. Like I said... I live way too close to where Mike was shot and killed for comfort...

    Please give our brave and hard working cops a non-lethal option... please...


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