Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Was No Split Second Decison

I want people to understand this about police shootings.

So often we hear the police rationale that in a "life or death situation" police have to make "split second decisions" on whether and what kind of force to use in any given circumstance. Sometimes, of course, those decisions lead to "unfortunate loss of life." Oh well. Police "should be able to go home to their families at night." Case closed.

So often we hear the excuses. So often the excuses are false.

The decision to kill is not made in a "split second." Sometimes these decisions are made hours, days, months and even years in advance, not based on what is happening but based the on protocols and policies of sniper squads and special weapons and tactics teams.

Once deployed, the death of the suspect is all but certain. It has nothing whatever to do with "split second" decision making. It has everything to do with the expectations and training of those assigned to do the killing.

KRQE in Albuquerque has done detailed reporting on how it worked in the case of a mentally ill homeless man, James Boyd, shot to death in the Sandia foothills last March. That shooting triggered months of protest and the release of a scathing report from the Department of Justice on the routine violations of civil rights and the many other failings -- some of them clearly criminal -- of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Boyd was shot to death as he was surrendering after a multi-hour standoff between him and as many as 42 officers and a police dog (a dog which was sicced on Boyd and bit him severely after he was shot and paralyzed.) Two of those officers, Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy, shot Boyd to death. Sandy, at the least, has now been documented to have made the decision to shoot him hours before the deed was done. It was his assignment as a member of the elite Repeat Offender Project.

Recently, too, another APD killer, a police sniper named Sean Wallace, has been awarded a commendation by Police Chief Gorden Eden for his outstanding service. So far, he has shot and killed three -- or is it four -- unarmed men. It's his assignment on the force. Of course, the award was for helping to take armed men into custody without shooting them to death, so maybe it's a sign of progress. Maybe not.

Many police forces employ snipers and elite officers and units whose main function is to kill. Once they are assigned and deployed, the suspect will more than likely die.

There is nothing "split second" about it -- except when the bullets enter the person's body.

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