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.

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8 thoughts on “I put it to you, the public…”

  1. Hi Jim,

    To me, this looks like a very, well constructed piece based on years of frustration about one particular event.
    It begs the question, though: Is it easier to change the way people think, or change the system that controls the flow of information?
    Obviously neither is an overnight fix, but is it a stretch to think that a medium ground could eventually be found?
    Then again, maybe I’m way off. What do you think?

    1. Curt,

      I wouldn’t say this is frustration around a single event. It seems lately, especially with the growing adoption of social media, there’s almost a story weekly from somewhere in North America that paints a horrible picture without context involving the police.

      You pose an interesting question; What’s easier, changing the way people think or the system that controls the information flow? Just as you suggest it’s not an easy fix. I think with the proliferation of social media, the police are behind the curve. Part of the problem is balancing information with ongoing investigations and privacy concerns. I do think that we, the police, can do a better job of pushing the relevant information to the community. After all, they are our headlines, perhaps we can find a better way to publish them in a timely fashion.

      With more information being shared (and this blog is certainly an attempt), perhaps the way people think will naturally change creating that balance.

  2. It is always so easy to criticize when not there…. too easy to come to a conclusion based on anecdotal or second hand accounts. Questions will alway arise as to “why” or “didn’t they know”…. Public scrutiny is sometimes a good thing and at times a hard thing to see past. WE are ver lucky to have a great Police force here in Delta, and I for one would be cautious about leaping to conclusions as in the above scenario.

    Keep up the great work DPD.

  3. more than the majority of the public, do put blind faith in the police, with good measure. The job that you and your peers do is a job that everyone else dosent want, and as society’s not just here, but everywhere get more and more violent, those of us who are not tryng to nitpick everything that you are forced to have to deal with,could care less what media outlets have to say, we know its biased, and we know that they are just trying to create controversy, sure not all policemen men or women are created equal and sure there can be situations that could have been handled differently, but those opions are all in hindsight, and made by people who were not put in that situation, like i said the majority of people who pay taxes and try and live a normal life they feel more sympathy for the officer who’s hand was forced and now has to life with his life going forward, we respect our officers, we respect the job that you do, not because its dangerous, not because we sleep better at night knowing you all do everything you can to help us feel safe without even knowing us, but because plain and simple we dont want to have to do your job, to have to put our loved ones through what you put your loved ones through. Thank you for everything that you and your peers are and do, we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts, and on behalf of society that dosent feel like you deserve to be dragged through the mud because of some people who choose to but a negative spin on what you have to endure, rather than the real problem which is the fact that there are countless amounts of people who abuse themselves to a point where they can no longer function properly than want to blame the system, thank you thank you thank you

    1. David,

      You make an incredibly important point and a point I try and share with the recruits I work with. While the policing profession, at times, seems to get beat up by a vocal portion of society, it really is a small portion. We can’t lose sight of the fact that a significant portion of society either accepts or appreciates the job that’s done. So thank you for writing that!

  4. Cst Ingram:
    I understand your frustrations-for whatever it’s worth those in Law Enforcement have my complete and utter unconditional support. I think the majority of people support those in your profession as well.
    I am sickened and frightened by the anti police bias occuring in North America, I would like to believe though, that the vast silent majority is fully aware of the hazards and challenges you and your colleagues face and support you as well.

  5. Aside from the need for instantaneous information today; unfortunately, people tend not to read beyond the headlines and make the assumption anything they read in the news is factual.
    The bias present in the news reporters themselves is an additional factor to consider.
    The incident at Vancouver Airport a few years ago still causes me concern as to how it can appear justice is or was not served.
    The delays encountered awaiting a thorough investigation can be trying but I do have faith in our system. It certainly isn’t perfect but the benefit of the doubt should always be given to any individual who is not convicted of a crime or offence, be they members of the public or those who serve them.

    Consider the alternative.

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