The interwebs are all upset about some targets being made for law enforcement types that depict pregnant women and children. I can’t agree with them.
Now, I’m a former Only One, but please hear me out, and don’t dismiss me because of my previous life. I think I can add some perspective.
These particular targets may be a new product, but training material of this type is not new. Back in my PD orientation days, our trainers brought out this very fancy (and probably federally-funded) interactive video training system that involved a projector and some sort of light gun. The gun had an air hose running to it and would recoil semi-realistically as you fired it. The scenario would play out in front of the officer, who was instructed to attempt to interact normally with the actors on the screen, using his weapon if necessary. The computer would tally hits, give you some percentages about the time from danger to the officer’s first good hit, etc. A trainer would sit to the side with a video-controlled turret which launched something like airsoft pellets. If the situation went bad and he saw that you were out of the provided cover, he’d aim the turret and the simulation would fire at you to match the bad guys on screen.
Handy, right? It’s force-on-force, but presumably with more consistency since you’re not relying on the proficiency of Team Bad Guy. The training was less about marksmanship and more about using the appropriate level of force at the appropriate time. As much as you did not want to get shot by the machine, you knew that it would not go well for you if you ventilated a blue-hair who was brandishing a Sears catalog. In some scenarios, nothing happened and your gun never left the holster.
(Well, we tucked the guns into our pants. Only half of us had remembered to bring our gun belts, and we decided that it would be better to all go down together than to make a few of us pay inordinately for poor instructions from our trainers. The bluff worked. No pushups.)
I’d like to recount one of the sessions we saw on this trainer. It’s been years, so I hope that any readers who were there will forgive minor details. One of my fellow rookies had a domestic dispute scenario. The camera entered the room to find a male and pregnant female. The male was agitated and the female was crying. If you’ve watched an episode of COPS, you know how the domestic calls tend to go. After a lot of denials and confusion (you’re supposed to have a conversation with a scripted video, so it doesn’t work so hot) the male admitted that he hit his wife and will go with you, if only to get away from that crazy bitch, who he’d been looking for an excuse to leave anyway.
I’ve set it up, so you know that the twist is coming. The wife screamed and threw a book at the husband. She then reached into a dresser drawer and withdrew a revolver, firing one round into the husband, and the rest into our brave Only One. She had killed hubby and got three rounds off at the rookie before he finally shot her… in the elbow.
The simulation ended. The lights came up.
The LT was clearly not happy, nearly choking on his dip. “What the hell happened, officer? Why didn’t you shoot her!”
The rookie, visions of scissor kick marathons dancing in his head, was apologetic and uncertain. “She was pregnant, sir! I can’t shoot at a momma with a baby!”
“The hell you can’t! She had a gun! She killed dood, then you!”
Then we all went for a good
punitive motivational run. The lesson was clearly received.
So we’ve found the answer to the fictional prosecuting attorney‘s question, ”Have you, or have you not, actually been conditioning, programming even, your officers to shoot small children?”
Yes. Small children pointing guns at other humans will be fired upon. And pregnant women pointing guns. And senile nuns pointing guns. As the anecdote above demonstrates, hesitation can be a problem that leads to tragedy. Just like you have to do a lot to convince a rookie in PIT training to bump the training junker into the rear quarterpanel of the other training car, you have to convince those who sometimes take lives for a living to overcome a lifetime of being told by society that shooting kids and pregnant ladies is never, ever OK.
It is distasteful. It is unpleasant. It is heartbreaking. It is, despite all that, a reality. Sometimes officers have to stop people who are about to do terrible things to other people. Unfortunately, the most practical way to stop someone who is intent on killing you sometimes results in the death of that person. I wish it weren’t so. But it is.
These targets aren’t new, but the current public opinion tread is distrust of the police. Frankly, it’s mostly their own fault. Whether it’s no-knock warrant service on the wrong house, or shooting the family pug, or surrounding a building and taking a page out of the Federal Bureau of Incineration’s Standoff Negotiation Playbook, police in the news lately haven’t exactly been showing themselves in the best light.
It doesn’t help that the cult of officer safety is used by higher-ups and elected officials as an excuse for all kinds of un-American behavior. I can at least assure you that that’s not universal. On one wall of the academy I attended is a reminder: “SAFETY THIRD.” If officer safety was the number one priority, they’d find a way to telecommute.
So I’m on board with the whole don’t-talk-to-the-police thing. By all means, tell the officer who wants to search your car on a traffic stop to pound sand. Want to come in? Get a warrant.
But if you tell me that you’re not OK with an officer killing a kid who’s about to hill him, then I’ll probably suspect that your good sense is being overshadowed by your distrust of the cops. I’m all for distrust of the cops, but what you’re asking for is even less effective training for them. Yeah. That’ll help.