Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

How would you like to die?

Living well is best. Dying well is next best. Living badly is worst.

On Valentine's Day of this year, a horrible person murdered 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, kicking off an enormous clash about gun control, almost immediately.

The murderer was 19 a years old man, and had been identified as a dangerous person before. In fact, friends and counselors had called the FBI about him. He slipped through. It happens. He committed these crimes, and no one else is blame.

During the murders, there were heroes. A coach who shielded the bodies of children as he died. A 15 year-old ROTC student who held the door to get more kids evacuated out of the building. There were others.

One of those heroes was not School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who "took a position" outside a door of the building where 900 students were, and listened to the shooting continue for four minutes. To make this clear: this man was an armed, sworn deputy, who was made aware of shooting in a school, where his primary duty was to see to the safety of students there, and he did nothing.

There are those who would argue that a man with a pistol has little to no chance against a man with a working AR-15. As a rule of thumb, it is true that any rifle is superior in a gunfight to any service pistol. And I could argue right back that in a majority of the cases in which a shooter was confronted by armed response, the shooter has either given himself up, or killed himself, ending the killing in either instance, for the vast majority of the cases.

But the odds are not the issue. The duty is. Each shot is potentially a student dying. Each moment's delay can mean yet another mother's child being taken. It is imperative to not-walk-but-run toward the sound of that gunfire, and stop the killing.

This deputy has trained with his weapon for over twenty years. If he hadn't settled this in his head beforehand, he was criminally negligent in his duties.

Some might say that the issue was his training. Back when I went to police academy in 1994, the training was to form a perimeter, and wait for SWAT. Certainly a single officer wasn't supposed to go in alone. (I clearly remember sitting in the back of the classroom, and thinking that this was a hill that I would die upon; I would take whatever write-ups they cared to throw at me, but I was going in.) The massacre at Columbine High School in 1998 changed that doctrine forever. The doctrine since the turn of the century has been to go in hard and fast and take the shooter out. We are specifically trained to step over and past the wounded, to rapidly close distance with the shooter, and take him out without any warning. This is as it should be. It is not a secret. It is how you help the bleeding and those yet unwounded.  How could a man or woman assigned to the duty of being a School Resource Officer not have studied this topic?

It is rare in one's life that one can recognize such an important crossroads, illuminated so clearly as this one.  One could absolutely guard one's own life, forsaking his moral duty to act, and die several decades later in one's bed, aware for the remainder of his life that he was living the life of a coward. One could swallow one's fear, and attack the killer, and fail. This would be horrible, because it would mean that one didn't stop the killer. But it's a worthy death, to die in the attempt to stop the murder of children. In fact, if an officer stopped the killer, but the officer was killed as well in the engagement, that is not a failure.  It is sub-optimal, but the goal was achieved: the killer was stopped. Dying while SAVING the lives of children is so much more preferable than dying of old age, after failing to even try. I am not suggesting that one should martyr one's self; I'm simply saying that one should fear the long life of a coward, rather than the quick and worthy death of a peacekeeper.  

My excellent friend and colleague LawDog said it better, here.

I was discussing this with friends recently, and one good friend cautioned (correctly, of course) not to give the impression that one should hope to find such an event occur. I agreed, but shared the following:
Back when I was a rookie working evening shift, I caught my first Sexual Assault case. My chief happened to drop by the police department at that time, and he took it off my hands. I had been flustered and out of my depth. My chief at the time was an expert at such cases. He said afterwards, “I am sorry that the event occurred, but I am so glad that it happened when and where I could do something about it.” He had skills that the average beat cop did not. He applied those skills to take care of the problem (the actor got 20 years, IIRC). I probably would have muffed it.
Living well is best. Dying well is next best. Living badly is worst.

Choose wisely. And train.

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