Damned if you do, perhaps dead if you don't. Put your hand up if you want to try your luck at being a cop, even for a day?
The past decade has witnessed a new breed of criminal. They are brazen, ruthless, armed and have no hesitation in killing, including police officers. Not so long ago three scumbags armed with machetes were knocking over a Sydney pub when police intercepted them. The result: One punk shot dead, one wounded and one on the run. The police officers were lucky, they went home to their families that day.
Society is again put on notice that too many police officers don’t go home after their shift. Considering the many hassles police endure while on duty it’s a wonder anybody would want the job.
If only for the time spent reading this column, place yourself in a police officer’s boots, but to understand how they fit, you need to know a few things.
In June 1997, police fired at Frenchman Roni Levi on Bondi Beach. Mr. Levi died in hospital shortly thereafter.
Although circumstances of the incident were not known at the time, that did not stop the do-gooders and bleeding hearts from launching vicious and insensitive attacks against the police involved, to the point of violating privacy and hounding their wives.
Then came unruly mobs armed with ignorance that stormed and occupied Bondi police station (an illegal act) in protest, demanding that the officers involved be publicly exposed as cold-blooded murderers and sacked. Facts of the incident were still not determined.
Add to that the loud and ever-present armchair experts who screamed for official inquiry as to why the two officers who shot Mr. Levi aimed at his body and didn’t simply shoot the knife from his hand. Mr. Levi ignored all pleas by police to drop the weapon. He did not drop the large carving knife but instead, responded with menace.
As usual, police bashing hit fever pitch via an opportunistic media and do-gooders who have little or no idea whatsoever about firearms, their use and their capabilities, or the realities of police duties. And, you can wager that none of them have ever faced anything more dangerous than an angry worm on an organic apple.
Real life situations of firearm use, particularly those with handguns, are vastly different to the exciting scenarios depicted on TV screens. Movies and television regularly glorify unrealistic, if not impossible use of firearms.
This has taught the public and most media reporters, erroneously, that firearm use can be a thrilling event in which ropes are severed with a single shot from the hip, sparks cascade from ricochets, walls collapse, cars explode and people are thrown through the air like rag dolls by the impact of a single bullet.
Such effects are specially staged and wildly exaggerated for viewers as they stuff their faces with popcorn. Real bullets slamming into objects and human flesh are not an animated event and are generally an anti-climax that leaves most witnesses wondering what actually happened.
Do-gooders squeal about how the police should be disarmed, how they should have an assortment of special bullets, the virtues of pepper sprays and a raft of ideas which are mostly designed to protect the crazy perpetrator at hand, never the police officer. The officer is expected to face armed, hardened criminals, drugged-out lunatics thrusting infected syringes, and the mentally disturbed wielding knives and swords, all without causing them harm.
Despite what do-gooders think, our police don’t play roles in the antiseptic air of a movie set where faked scenes, ballistic effects and collapsible knives entertain us. Our police officers face the unexpected and unimaginable actions from whackos in a violent and mentally disturbed society in which lawbreakers don’t play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules.
Place yourself, if you can, or dare, as a trained police officer confronting a subject who is threatening to kill you. He’s holding a knife—a big one. Do you fumble for the pepper spray or taser, both of which may not work or do you draw your gun? Seconds are passing and if you don’t already have your gun drawn and aimed you may be in serious strife because that subject is capable of charging seven metres and stabbing you through the heart, all before you can release the safety strap, draw your gun, aim and fire. That’s a fact!
Consider the subject is 25 metres away pointing a firearm at you. Your service pistol is drawn and aimed while you scream frantically for them to drop their weapon. You don’t know if the subject will shoot or when. You don’t even know if their gun is real or if it’s loaded. Many factors must be computed within a split second.
You are now shaking with fear because you may be dead in a second having never heard the fatal shot. You begin to pressure the trigger but the several-kilogram trigger-pull causes your hand to shake. You search beyond the subject wondering what might be hit should you miss.
You recall in training that if the foresight trembles more than a hair’s breadth you will not stop your subject at that distance. You wonder how the killing of a person will affect you. Have you followed all department rules of armed confrontation? What about the consequences to your career and the savage inquiry that will follow? It’s a split-second decision; the result is eternal. Do you shoot?
Until faced with that real-life situation the answer will always be a mystery. Be thankful that you are a civilian and may never have to make that life altering decision.
Mr. Levi’s friends described him as a gentle person who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, he had a history of mental instability that escalated during days before his death. Those police on the beach that day were not privy to such matters and after exhausting all available options to disarm and subdue Mr. Levi, at 7.30am. two officers who had to make that irreversible decision fired four bullets that changed the lives of all concerned forever.
My mate was a police officer who once told me that his duty as a policeman was to protect the public and preserve law and order. He also said that his first duty was to his wife and child. That meant going home to them after each shift—ALIVE.