Man shot after AC police chase is much more than just a headline
Recently a news story was posted to our site that caused a bit of a stir on Twitter. The headline referred to a man being shot 45 times by police after a high speed chase. Given the current climate that cops have to endure every day as they are often presumed guilty until they prove otherwise, I understand why objections were raised. If you read the article, Dan Alexander did an outstanding job presenting the facts in the March 2014 shooting which resulted in the death of the perpetrator. Then watching the video gives a clear picture of why the cops had to act the way they did. The judicial system sided with the cops and there will be no charges, thankfully. I was reminded of the case in Belleville a few years ago when a man was killed after being struck 24 times. In this case the officers were not charged as the man posed a direct threat to the officers who had been called after his wife went to the police saying he was physically abusive.
The bottom line is that since Springsteen brought the "shot count" issue to the forefront in popular culture with "41 Shots" as a reaction to an NYPD shooting, police have often been on the defensive regarding their lawful and necessary actions. In the case of Amadou Diallo, the cops were acquitted because there was a reasonable expectation of a threat leading them to kill the unarmed man. What Springsteen did was nothing other than exacerbate a tension between the community and cops that he continues to push today.
Speaking with lawyers and law enforcement professionals over the years I've learned that part of the training is to end the threat. A man running a cop with a knife, or even an unarmed man trying to physically overpower and officer and get his weapon constitutes a threat. Mistakes are actually few and far between. In the case of the man shot in Atlantic City in 2014, the man, with PCP found in his body during the autopsy, was clearly not stopped after the first several shots. A man with a gun shooting at police in the middle of a street in broad daylight is almost a textbook definition of a public threat. The cops don't have time to wait to see the efficacy of the first few rounds. They unload, stop the threat and then move forward. It's not about the number of shots taken by police. It's about goals-oriented police work. The defined goal is to protect public safety at all costs.
People are busy and there'a a lot of competition for reading time. They will grab a headline and oftentimes not read any further. My job is to fill in the gaps between the headline and the story. The good news is people saw the headline, reacted one way or the other and then read the article. Hopefully everyone who read it and saw the video concluded the same thing that the criminal justice system concluded. The cops acted appropriately.
Again, instead of focusing on the number of shots, perhaps we should start focusing on the dangers and critical mission of police work. I'd like to see more headlines touting the success and heroic action on the part of our police officers. How many people would stay calm and shoot straight after a high speed car chase ends with a man charging and shooting at you?
Anyone with a business or traveling through Atlantic City that day would surely thank each and every one of those brave officers. #BlueFriday
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