The Citizen’s Police Class hosted by LPD has past the halfway point this week as they delved into the realm of Response to Aggression Awareness. This deals with how law enforcement officials have to judge and approach each and every situation and what decisions they have to make, often within seconds of coming up on the scene. It is a scary and daunting task and one that nobody, regardless of years of training or expertise, can fully be prepared for.
The class began by talking about some of the different agencies and organizations that have recently come up with policies regarding what officers should do if they encounter one of these high profile aggression situations. Most agencies today have extensive policies and programs that include required training, weapon re-qualifications, and dealing with what constitutes as less than lethal force and deadly force. These are issues that have been talked and re-talked amongst the law enforcement community at large and some court cases have even been fought over it.
There are two cases in particular that have really brought focus to these issues. The first of these cases is Tennessee vs. Garner, a case which show the very first time that the US Supreme court applied the 4th amendment to an officer/ subject first encounter. However, the case that really made a difference when it comes to acts of aggression and law enforcement was the 1989 case of Graham vs. Connor. This case brought about the standard of objective reasonableness for officers to follow. This is measured by the tree pronged test that all officers must measure when deciding what actions to take. Those steps include the severity of the crime, whether the subject poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, and whether the subject is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade by flight. Only when someone meets all of these criteria in an encounter should the officer then use necessary and aggressive force.
However, these objectives are not always so clear. The class was then presented with a series of dash cam and body cam videos of officers in struggles with civilians that were causing a disturbance or committing a crime. The response from each video from the class was varied. Some thought in this video or the other that the officers were justified and some felt as if though the situation could have been handled differently. It evoked great emotion from the class and proves one thing emphatically: the job of someone enforcing the law is never, ever a sure fired method and that these men and women are forced at times to make impossible calls which could lead to a life or death situation.
Throughout all of the hours of class and the different lessons, the big takeaway thus far has to be that you can never be sure if what you are doing is the best course of action. From a random traffic stop to a full blown shoot out, there are so many different variables that come along. People behind a badge are people just like you and I. They are human and they approach situations with the same minds and hearts as each one of us would. Yes they have extensive training and are prepared for any given outcome but it is truly impossible to be completely ready mentally to pull a trigger or end a life. Those things happen out of necessity and with the protection of others on their minds. This class truly shows a deeper and more profound respect for people that risk their lives in this field every day. They have to make the calls that many of us could not make, all in an effort to save and preserve life. It is a daunting task and one we should be thankful that we do not have to make for each and every day. The people that have to make those calls, they are heroes and they sacrifice so much to do so.
Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer