If you know me well, you know that my job has given me good reason to be cynical, skeptical, and very critical of so many law enforcement officers. I have seen, first hand, that the only thing that separates certain cops from criminals is a badge.
You will also know that, as an organization, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is high on my list of agencies of which to be especially cautious.
In my practice alone, I have had a deputy shoot a client who was not a threat, much less an imminent threat; I have had a deputy lie to my face about a cooperation exchange; I have watched a deputy lie on the witness stand about the content of a video we could all clearly see; I even had one deputy testify that he has an independent recollection of every traffic stop he has ever made in 16 years on patrol…and let’s not even talk about the creative writing projects they call “arrest reports.”
The aforementioned notwithstanding, there are people I am proud to call friends who are deputies and law enforcement officers – and damn good ones, too – which is why I felt compelled to write this piece.
Earlier this week, the unspeakable happened. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy shot and killed an unarmed, innocent crime victim.
The local media is acting with an uncharacteristic degree of restraint and compassion, while the internet, blogs, twitter, etc. is blowing up with hatred and vitriol toward the officer who pulled the trigger and it is to all of them that I direct the following:
STOP! LOOK! THINK!
In that fluid, fast-moving, critical situation where a life or lives were on the line and the threat was real, that deputy had to receive, perceive, process, respond, and react to millions of bits of sensory input in a fraction of a second.
In that moment, the data suggested that pulling the trigger was the proper and only choice – a choice that deputy will never forget; a choice that deputy will always regret because now an innocent man is dead.
No computer has yet been developed that can adequately simulate that scenario, yet the righteous people of the world are, once again, in an uproar.
Now, I’m all for joining a worthwhile uproar, but you armchair quarterbacks who have never faced a situation more dangerous than picking between Coke or Pepsi need to just step back and hush up long enough to see that this uproar is misplaced.
You are mad because political correctness demands that you be so, not because the deputy did anything wrong.
The sad reality in this world where the existence of a god is questionable at best is that accidents happen; people – human beings – make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes do not become apparent until after it is too late.
Like you, I am also saddened that a young man with a bright future lost his life and leaves deep, unfillable holes in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.
At the same time, I am equally saddened for the deputy who will have to live with this mistake and the specter of this tragic accident for the rest of his life; the deputy whose future will be forever stained by a single event that could have happened to anyone; a mistake that only revealed itself in hindsight.
I hope the families and friends of both men will someday know peace and forgiveness…and I hope the deputy will, someday, find a way to forgive himself.