Every few weeks I read that the cops somewhere have shot a felon, or someone acting like one, often in the course of a pursuit, and have been charged by the press with the use of unnecessary force.
Maybe. Sometimes it happens. Always it is made to seem to have happened. The cops may perhaps lie about what occurred. The criminal will probably lie. The media will almost certainly lie — lie by omission, by half-truth, by artful quotes, but lie nevertheless. So it’s hard to know the truth.
Now, my own recommendation is that cops never shoot anyone except in defense of themselves or their partners. In fact, they would be well advised to avoid any involvement whatsoever with violent crime, and indeed never to get involved with any crime unless they have calculated the political consequences. The danger of lawsuits is too great. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a cop’s being charged with use of insufficient force.
However, it occurs to me that some advice for criminals, and suspects, on how to avoid being shot by cops might serve a useful purpose. For some time now there has floated around the Internet a missive of suggestions on how not to be shot by the police. It embodies a great deal of truth, and sounds as if it was written by a weary cop. I have no idea where it originally came from. Still, it seemed to me worth printing. It goes as follows:
If you don’t want to risk being shot:
“(1) Don’t commit violent crimes. It seems elementary, but this rule is lost on many. They do the crime, get shot, and then wonder how it could possibly happen. They whine that it is so unfair. Well, Slick, violent crime, like jumping in front of moving cars, is just a high-risk occupation, and, in case you missed it, committing violent crime makes police officers think you might not be a good person.
(2) If you ignore rule No. 1, and the police confront you, don’t run away from them. I know it’s hard to believe, but that may make them think you’re guilty of something. Hiding in bushes or closets makes some cops (mostly older ones) very nervous. They might even foolishly conclude that you’re up to no good.
(3) If you disregard rules 1 and 2, and the cops catch up with you anyway and inform you that you are under arrest, don’t make fast movements with your hands. I know it sounds silly, but grabbing a shiny beer can, a dark-colored wallet, or one of those snazzy and real-looking replica guns may make police officers mistakenly believe that you are about to hurt them.
(4) If you disregard rules 1, 2, and 3, and manage to get what looks like a deadly weapon into your hands, don’t point it at the cops. We all know that you’re basically a nice person, but that may be lost on the police officers confronting you. In their paranoia, they may even believe they need to protect themselves.
(5) If you disregard rules 1, 2, 3, and 4, don’t be astonished if the cops do not instantly turn into your personal confidantes. They may be too preoccupied to realize that you’re normally a splendid person and that you’re just having a bad day. They may also be too preoccupied to see that when youpoint a weapon at them in a threatening manner, it is just your way ofcrying out for help.
We both know that the whole problem can be traced to the fact that your mother didn’t breast feed you, but some police officers are so cynical they just don’t see it. So, there you have it. If you really apply yourself and obey even some of the rules listed above, I bet you’ll avoid the vast majority of police gunfire.”
I recommend the foregoing. Whether people choose to believe it or not, cops as a rule don’t walk up to people and open fire. You know, maybe it has been a slow shift and they just want something to do. But they aren’t mind-readers, are not well trained for combat, do not shoot much as a rule, either on the range or on the street, and seldom have the semi-pychopathic coldness you sometimes see in serious soldiers. And they don’t want to be killed. I know it’s unreasonable, but it’s how they are. Don’t force them to decide whether to shoot. Try giving them your ID instead.