If it wasn’t so sad, I would laugh every time I heard someone say that a police officer’s job is to protect them.
Perhaps I should explain…
Although we wish it to be otherwise, I doubt there is any police officer who believes that he or she can protect any individual citizen from being harmed by criminals. Well, maybe the chief might, but I think that is just something he says in front of citizen groups to make the city manager happy.
If somehow I could really protect people from crime, I would be notified 30 minutes in advance, so I could be on time to intercept the cretin, and slap the cuffs on him. But, Minority Report is a work of fiction, and so is the phrase “To Serve and Protect” on my patrol car.
A 75-year-old woman was battered by a 30-something male in my zone tonight. Seems she had the audacity to stop, and yield right-of-way to intersecting traffic (which had the right of way to begin with.) The male, who failed to stop before striking her vehicle, was upset, and after they had both pulled over, he shoved her out into traffic, causing significant injury to her arms and hands when she struck the asphalt. Fortunately, no one struck and killed her.
The male, who appears to work out regularly, then fled the scene. When I arrested him later, he claimed she was the aggressor.
I wish I could have protected her. But…the idea of police protection is a myth.
Police departments are responsive to the needs of the citizens. In other words, we respond to shootings, burglaries, domestics, and all sorts of crimes that have already occurred. But we never respond to “an auto burglary that will happen in 20 minutes.”
While officers make preventative patrols when they can, the reality is those patrols merely delay or move criminal activity from one area to another. No actual crimes are prevented – at least not in the long term.
The real tragedy is that the citizens have bought into the political bluster that police officers can protect them. So, many citizens willfully give up their responsibility to protect themselves, for the false sense of security offered to them by politicians.
The reality of self-protection is obvious to any street cop: you must protect yourself, because no one else can.
If a person is being attacked, and actually is able to call the police, how long will it be before the first unit arrives? An exceptional response time may be three minutes. If an armed attacker has three minutes, how much damage can he do? How many people can he hurt or kill?
It has been said that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Unfortunately, this is a true statement.
I hope that all of us do our part to encourage our citizens to take an active roll in their own survival. A lot of officers know that a citizen who owns a firearm, and receives good training with it, can play a positive roll in their own survival.
However, a lot of citizens simply don’t understand the laws regarding self-defense. When asked about self-defense, try to take the time and help them understand these laws.
An excellent resource that I normally suggest to people is Massad Ayoob’s book Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense. In Deadly Force, Ayoob discusses firearms and the issues surrounding self-defense. Ayoob covers the legal and ethical issues surrounding self-defense and the use of deadly force.
Deadly Force is an update to Ayoob’s original and often cited book In the Gravest Extreme.
If you really want to protect your citizens, teach them to protect themselves. This seems like such a common sense solution, yet is one that is feared by politicians and the chiefs appointed by them.
My concept is simple and goes back to biblical times: Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.
I believe the same is true with self-defense. If I manage to get to someone in time to save them when they call 9-1-1, then great! I have rescued them from peril…tonight. But, what about the next night?
On the other hand, if I take the time and train someone how to lead a safer, more self-reliant life, then I may have helped to prevent them from becoming a victim every night.
Don’t think citizens are able to defend themselves with firearms? Think again. Gary Kleck, Criminology professor at Florida State University, has written a series of books, that quantify the number of times that citizens defend themselves from dirtbags with a firearm: millions each year. Most go unreported, and few ever result in an actual shooting, so we rarely hear about them.
Take, for example, one of my calls a few nights ago. A citizen calls 9-1-1 to report that a man is trying to kick in his door. The good guy, fearing for his life, tells the would-be intruder that he is calling the police. The intruder continues to try and make entry into the home. The good guy changes tactics, and retrieves his pistol. The good guy now yells that he has a gun and will shoot the intruder if he comes in. The bad guy immediately ceases his actions and runs away.
Telling the criminal the police were coming did not stop his unlawful behavior. However, telling the criminal that he would be shot if he insisted on continuing down this violent path…well, that got an immediate and desired reaction.
Leaders Showing the Way
Because of politics, few agencies offer citizens training. Those that do sometimes offer bad training and advice.
Not all agencies ignore the needs of their citizens, however. There are some departments that take an active roll in training their citizens on self defense – including the use of firearms.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey of the Brevard County (FL) Sheriff’s Office offers a no nonsense class to the public called “Self Defense Through Tactical Shooting and Decision Making.” It is an 8 hour course that covers the legal aspects of self defense and the use of force, mental preparedness, tactical shooting, weapon retention, firearms safety and even includes shoot/don’t shoot scenarios.
Every person that Sheriff Ivey’s deputies train in this class has an exponentially greater chance of surviving a violent encounter. Isn’t that what this job is all about?