What Would You Do?
Assume you are a white cop. You get a call to go to an apartment in a black neighborhood. A frantic mother reports she came home and found a black male leaving, who had just raped her 13-year-old daughter. He threatened her with a knife, so may be armed. The alleged rapist is about 6' 1" tall, 200 lbs. wearing a red tee shirt and baggy jeans. About three blocks from the apartment, you spot two black guys ahead of you. One is tall, and wearing a red tee and baggy jeans. You are alone, and call for backup, but you are told it is at least ten minutes away, maybe more. You pull up next to them, and with your gun out, order, "Stop, Police." The suspect turns, see you, and says, "F**k You, Pig Motherf**ker. I didn't do the bitch." No weapon is in sight, so he appears unarmed. He turns back around, and they start walking rapidly towards an ally 100 feet ahead. Thoughts of more little girls being raped run through your head, followed by thoughts of Furguson, Darren Wilson, riots and a murder charge with conviction in the media if you shoot him, and you have no witnesses. What do you do? From a retired cop: "First, the governing law: Officers may shoot a fleeing suspect if they reasonably (don’t forget that word) believe that he has committed a forcible felony and that the suspect is likely to escape if the officer does not shoot him. Rape is a forcible felony. Absent evidence that the person describing the situation is lying, officers may rely on the statements of citizens in making arrests and using force. Now to the facts: The mother’s statements give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the man the officer later encounters has committed a rape. The suspect is in the right area matches the description, so the officer has probable cause to arrest him. The suspect’s res gestae statement is an admission of guilt. There’s one necessary fact missing from the story, and that’s the question whether the officer can catch and arrest the suspect without using deadly force. If the officer is an amateur sprinter and a karate expert, deadly force is not justifiable unless and until the suspect resists. Conversely, if the officer is not in physical condition to catch the suspect, his use of deadly force would probably be OK. Now, to the real question: Would I shoot? Because I have a thorough understanding of the laws regulating police use of deadly force, I might. I’m not certain that I would, though, because of the aggravation factor that will follow if I do shoot the suspect. Officers who are less confident about the law than I am might not shoot, and shouldn’t. Officers who don’t care much about the law might shoot, and they also shouldn’t. There is no question that offenders guilty of serious offenses will go free because of the aversion of the officers to the avalanche of uninformed amateur criticism that is certain to follow the shooting of a black suspect by a white officer. Within the definition of “amateur”, I include any politician or commentator who has not served as a police officer or criminal attorney, whether in prosecution or defense." --GS. From a retied CHIP officer: "In this day and age--You let him go." --DH. There are two ways to handle the situation. What you choose to do depends on your honest evaluation of your own capabilities and the equipment available to you. You can confront the suspect or you can observe and follow, your choice. They usually get away, if you choose option #2. Should you choose option #1, remember, the longer you can keep contact with the suspect the better the chance that cover will arrive. Notify, via the radio dispatcher, your decision to confront, providing your location and ask for Code 3 cover. Drive past the suspects and block their progress with your patrol car. Get out and prepare for battle. Verbally inform the suspects that you consider one of them a felony suspect, armed with a knife. Tell HIM to submit to arrest or be taken by force. Make sure your gun is out, but hidden behind your leg. Tell the other guy to not get involved, or you will consider him a felon, as well. They won't listen, so when they jump you, let them make contact and start firing when they are within inches of the gun barrel. They will be dead, your story is the only one told and both the law and the forensic evidence is on your side. It would also help if you wear an audio recording device to show that your conversation with them was accurately depicted by your story. --JP