As a cop, there are a few things I’d like to say regarding the shooting video of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke that was recently released.
1. Don’t riot
This video and particular incident will likely ignite tempers; it is no time to fan these flames or the embers of Ferguson or Baltimore. This is a time to be calm, cool headed and collected. This is a time to wait and let the criminal justice system work. A rush to judgement is rarely accurate and it doesn’t matter that the City of Chicago has already given $5 million to the family of the dead man–our place is not that of judge, jury and executioner. Remember that places like Chicago and LA are a little off base when it comes to common sense and firearms.
Nothing permanent is to be gained through violence and hellacious rioting. Stop. Think. Be responsible. Although it may sound calloused given the circumstances surrounding this officer involved shooting, I don’t mean it to be anything but factual: if you follow the lawful orders of police, you won’t get shot.
2. We need to understand the law and police tactics
There are several things that cops want you to know. I wrote at least seven. Some of these being, cops don’t shoot people in the legs and why they always shoot center mass. This is because police are presumably trained to shoot, not to kill, but to stop the threat. What entailed stopping the threat in this situation will be the subject of legal inquiry shortly. Likewise, there are at least eight things officers must consider before using force.
Also keep in mind that though a deadly confrontation involving law enforcement may “shock the conscience” of the public, this does not mean that the action was illegal. That is the old legal standard.
3. The danger of edged weapons
I like to carry knives because they are extraordinarily lethal. People may wonder why cops don’t use pepper spray to stop knife-carrying attackers, like the OIS that happened in Boston not too long ago.
Sometimes less lethal options are the way to go—a Taser, OC spray, a stand off tool, or a 40mm grenade launcher with less lethal capabilities. Perhaps in this incident those things would have been a better choice. Frankly, I’m not sure because I wasn’t there. (Note: My recent thoughts on a salt gun may be worth checking out for those interested.)
The bottom line is within a short distance of a knife-wielding suspect, the legal and tactical justification goes up tremendously for using lethal force. To be blunt, shooting someone holding a knife that is within seven yards can be quite easily justified given a few other parameters within the scope of what the officer understood at that time.
4. Consider the facts
Common sense and gun violence ends knife attacks. In this case, I’ve only seen one video from one angle and I didn’t hear anything. News reports suggest there were over a dozen rounds fired, assuming all rounds hit the suspect, including some after he was on the ground and had stopped moving.
I don’t have a problem with shooting that many rounds in most lethal confrontations. For one thing, who’s to say you hit the person you’re aiming at? Moreover, if a person has a firearm, going to the ground doesn’t mean they are not a threat any longer.
In this shooting, however, given the limited facts I see, that many rounds definitely seems excessive to me.
Police are trained to shoot until the threat stops. That’s why we’re trained to shoot center mass. But once the threat has stopped, the officer should stop shooting.
5. But don’t jump to conclusions
I dare say that of the millions of people that have viewed the video, less than a dozen actually know what happened—know all the facts surrounding the case (e.g., what the call was, if the man was a known threat, etc.). Additionally, strange things happen in lethal firefights. One officer recounted to me once how he saw a stainless revolver during his OIS when, in reality, it was a dark-colored Glock. Our eyes can deceive us during life-threatening, life-altering lethal confrontations.
In another example, a SWAT officer shot and killed a man holding—and attempting to swing—a golf club about five to seven yards away from other officers. The officer thought it was a sword. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.
So, let’s just let this incident play out. Time will tell. Who knows, maybe the officer thought he saw a gun as well as a knife. My gut tells me that he didn’t, but frankly, stranger things have happened after all the facts get presented. And, the media certainly doesn’t present all the facts.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.