I put it to you, the public…

QuestionSo it’s been a couple weeks since I published Subject Behaviour / Officer Response and there’s been some great feedback and discussion.  If you’ve read through the post, I’d like to pose a hypothetical scenario to you, the reader.

What if, after 4 hours of our stand off a bystander, or neighbour, realized what was happening, brought out their smart phone and began to record just as the male decided to force our hands, commit suicide by police and charge at us as he stated he would.

The bystander’s video captures;

  • A male sprinting at full pace 15m toward the police
  • The male screaming “kill me!”
  • A dull thump as a bean bag is launched and a shotgun action cycling. The bean bag appeared ineffective as the male was at a full run and goal oriented
  • Immediately after a pop and fast paced tick, tick, tick of the CEW are heard as the second probe goes low & misses because he’s moving rapidly
  • Immediately after a loud bang as a round is fired and the male falls to the ground as the team of police are moving backwards to avoid him.
  • The video is 3 seconds long. There’s no further context.

The media headline the next morning reads “Heavily Armed Police Kill Emotionally Disturbed Man” and includes this hypothetical 3 second video clip.  You haven’t read the previous story and have no back story or context.

What is your initial thought about the headline and 3 second video? What opinion do you think that you would naturally form?

The headline isn’t technically wrong.

  • The police were heavily armed, as described all of the tools in the post were deployed.
  • The male may have been emotionally disturbed or in some form of mental health crisis
  • Police did deploy lethal force.

As much as I personally don’t like the bias placed in the headline, the media wouldn’t technically be wrong.  The media also does have a job to do, they have to sell a story.

What happens in the background, that is likely never mentioned in the story, is that the Police officers involved are now subject officers in a Homicide investigation and can not publicly explain what transpired until the investigation moves through the court process which takes years.

The Police Department has to maintain an unbiased stance and can’t comment on the actions of the officers that are currently under investigation.

The public is left without a full explanation for years.  All that exists for the public to make their own judgement is a 3 second video, lacking context, and a headline.

Now put yourself in our shoes.  Read the comments from the public attached to all of the stories.  Perhaps you’d read some supportive comments, but you’d also see comments like;

  • “Police fired everything they had on a man in crisis”
  • “Why didn’t they shoot him in the leg?”
  • “Police need more training to detect and deal with mental health crisis”
  • “Police should have just grabbed him and thrown him down”

Without context, there’s no doubt that the video would look horrible.  We wouldn’t be able to give context until the investigation and court process is complete (years).

How damaging is it to public perception of the police that we can’t address comments like that?

What I would ask you, the public, is the same thing you demand of the police.  Due process.  Let the accused (in this case, the officer that was forced to fire the tragic round) remain innocent until proven guilty in court.  I’m not asking for blind faith in the police, just understand that there may be more to the story.   I’m also not suggesting that the police are infallible and didn’t make mistakes in the process.  It’s just impossible to critique without the full context.