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The Police Officer’s Bill Of No Rights

There was a recent incident in Massachusetts where a man went to visit his ex-wife armed with a 12-inch knife. Naturally, the police were called, and Thomas K. Shea, 45, refused orders to stop and advanced on the officer, chasing her across the street, until she shot and killed him.

Shea’s family is not blaming the officer for his death, but is upset. They are saying that had more than one officer showed up, or if the officer had not been a woman, he might have not pushed the confrontation and he might still be alive.

This got me to thinking about something that’s been kicking around in the back of my mind. I’ve derived it from quite a few sources, including TV shows, but I think it’s halfway sound.

The Police Officer’s Bill Of No Rights

1) A cop has no right to lose a fight. A cop is entrusted with a great deal of weapons and equipment that, in the wrong hands, puts the general public in danger. The cop has no right to put those things at risk.

2) A cop has no right to back down from a confrontation. Their duty is to protect the public, and anyone who is willing to confront an armed and trained representative of the community will most likely not think twice about harming the innocent.

3) A cop has no right to fire “warning shots,” or “shooting to disarm,” or “shooting to wound.” Every shot has the potential to kill, and must be treated as such. Shots deliberately aimed to miss, or at smaller targets like legs, hands, or weapons, not only put innocent people at risk from stray bullets or ricochets, but give the target the impression of invulnerability. An officer should not fire until there is simply no other option, and must be prepared and intending the gravest of consequences.

4) A cop has no right to “fight fair.” See Rule #1. If a subject casts down their weapon and insists on continuing the fight “man to man,” they should be disabled in the quickest fashion, with whatever the cop has on hand.

Any other suggestions?


Comments (12)

A cop has no right to "Rodn... (Below threshold)

A cop has no right to "Rodney King" a Suspect just because he led them on a long chase. LMAO!

David, I've seen the Rodney... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

David, I've seen the Rodney King video several times. The guy was hopped up on PCP and would not stop attacking the cops. He's damned lucky he wasn't killed -- he should have been shot. See Rule 4.

You wanna talk police brutality, I'd suggest you cite the case from earlier this week where the surrendering suspect got nailed upside the head with a flashlight, or the case a couple years ago where the cop slammed the handcuffed suspect's head into the hood (or trunk) of his cruiser. Those I'll give you LONG before I'll say anything untoward about the Rodney King case.

I freely admit there's police brutality and unnecessary use of force. Somewhere around here I have a letter from a Police Chief thanking me for coming forward about the time I saw a cop chase down a guy, shove him against a wall, hit him in the head with his flashlight several times, then let him go. He ran past me, and I could see the cut on his forehead.

I thought that if the officer had cause to chase and beat the guy, he should have been arrested as well, so the next morning I went down to the station and gave a report. After two postponements of the officer's hearing, that letter arrived (signed by the chief) thanking me and stating that the officer had admitted his "guilt" and been disciplined.

So, David, I've seen cops abuse their power. But I've also seen them being punished for it. I have a bit more faith in the system than I have cynicism, though.


I have to slightly disagree... (Below threshold)

I have to slightly disagree with #3. There are clear cases where shooting to wound is the preferred option. Case in point (I've seen the police video of this incident several times) - one of our deputies, when he was a local cop, was part of a standoff with a drunk suspect of a rape and attempted murder - he was chased from the crime scene by a couple of cops who responded to a call. The guy was standing in the middle of the street with a beer can in one hand and a gun in the other, and he was waving that gun around in a threatening manner. There were several cops that had him surrounded, trying to get him to calm down and surrender - in the meantime, my friend was setting up with his rifle in case they needed to shoot the guy (my friend is a sniper). At one point, the guy put down the gun and the beer on the ground, where he had dropped to one knee. He was yelling and waving his arms when all of a sudden he dropped a hand to the gun, which he raised up pointed at the two cops closest to him. My sniper friend shot him in the knee that was up and the guy immediately went down. He was subdued, medics took care of him (he was begging to die, btw - asking them to put him out of his misery). That was a good no kill shooting - there was no reason to shoot to kill that guy. Instead, he went to trial and prison.

Jen, I'd have to agree that... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Jen, I'd have to agree that different rules apply to snipers versus face-to-face confrontations. But snipers need to keep in mind their weapons are considerably more powerful than handguns, and a shot aimed at hand or knee is considerably more likely to go through the body and continue on than one aimed at the torso. As long as they have the time to make sure they have a safe "backstop" for the shot, then that's fine with me.

But if it's face-to-face and there isn't time to make sure there's something safe to stop any through-and-through shots, the cop HAS to aim for the torso -- the part of the body most likely to contain the bullet, not deflect it or let it pass through.

In your case, Jen, I'm glad it worked out for the best. But as you said, the guy was aiming his gun at two cops. Every breath he has drawn from that instant until the day he dies is a gift from your friend, and it's a gift he probably will never appreciate fully.


I'm not as up on police pro... (Below threshold)

I'm not as up on police procedures as I should be. Do most police officers still generally carry a gun, a baton, and not much else in terms of weapons to use in an arrest? If so, it strikes me that there needs to be some sort of intermediate option, something that allows a police officer to disable somebody without having to resort to lethal force.


I am a cop and I just wante... (Below threshold)

I am a cop and I just wanted to let you all in on something you may have all overlooked. Watching videos and reading newspapers doesn't qualify you to intelligently discuss law enforcement issues such as use of force. I think you're all in la la land.

Most police officers also c... (Below threshold)

Most police officers also carry pepper spray. It varies from department to department, but in most situations, it is roughly equivalent to a baton, that is, if you would be justified in hitting someone with a baton, you can certainly spray them with pepper. Some places have it even lower on the force continuum, you can use pepper if the person is actively resisting...

It is important to realize that a knife is a very dangerous weapon. A person with a knife within 21 feet can get to you and stab you before you get a gun out of your holster and shoot them. This is a deadly force situation.

If you can legally shoot someone, you can also run them over with your car. Deadly force is deadly force.

The other reason police shoot for center mass has to do with adrenaline. A shooting situation is very high stress. Human beings lose contol of their finer muscles when under stress. Aiming at the center of the available target is possible, aiming at someone's hand and hitting it is virtually impossible with a handgun at the range, never mind with your heart rate having gone to 200 and adrenaline coursing through your veins.

Oh, and sometimes it is a good idea to create distance until some more people have arrived.

The cops who tried to arres... (Below threshold)

The cops who tried to arrest Rodney King also had tazers, IIRC. They had no visible effect, apparently (from what I read at the time) he was on PCP.

I understand there are documented cases where suspects on PCP have been fatally wounded by gunshot but continued fighting right up until they died.

Scott, I freely defer to yo... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Scott, I freely defer to you on the topic of police use of force, but I am an expert on one related topic: a civilian and taxpayer's expectations of the law enforcement authorized and paid for in my name. I don't have the insider's perspective you do, but I have no qualms about pointing out when someone (such as the family I cited in my original posting) demonstrates even greater ignorance than mine (and I admit that is quite a stretch). It's not a very high platform from which to speak, but it's what I got.


Jay, I would be careful he... (Below threshold)

Jay, I would be careful here, talking about that LA case. I saw the videp, the striking thing is that, in it, we cannot see his hands. It's standard procedure to whop on somebody as long as they're fighting the cuffs.
Just because the politicos in California roll over for any bunch with a letterhead doesn't mean those officers were not right.
The worst injuries I ever got on the job were gotten in fights with unarmed suspects. I missed the birth of our twins because I was in the hospital after a fight with a 250 pound PCP monster. I won, I only had five cracked ribs, a concussion and a broken arm and four knocked out teeth. If my stick hadn't broken he would've been dead.
Thanks to the ACLU prisoners spend hours a day on the weight pile, while waiting their turn they practice the moves to disarm an LEO. More than half the fights I got into the asshole tried to get my gun out of the holster. Police brutality? Any asshole that tried to fight me, I had a simple goal, two actually. The first goal was to go home at end of watch. The second goal was to make damned sure that the SOB would never think of fighting an LEO again. Nor would any of his asshole friends and relations.

I know this thread is a bit... (Below threshold)

I know this thread is a bit old, but I just stumbled upon this site, and I really am enjoying reading the conversation.

I think your "LE Bill of No Rights" is dead on. And also, after years of work in criminology, I am not the least bit surprised at the reaction of the family in your initial post. Truth is stranger than fiction, and domestic disturbances will never fail to leave a career officer with tales a-plenty to tell long into retirement. I seriously doubt "Scott" read your post correctly... or more likely, if he is actually in law enforcement, I doubt he has ever drawn his weapon.

Though your friend certainly did an admirable, life preserving act, I'm not sure his show of humanity was the correct decision. Often, very inebriated people fail to "go down" even under conditions such as a gunshot wound to the knee, especially those also under the influence of other drugs such as PCP. Had the suspect not collapsed immediately, he could have taken one of the officers with him. And, in the long run, it really only leaves him to live to rape, and succeed at murder, another day. His victim might have recovered more fully (rape victims never completely recover, only survive) had the police made the decision to put him down like the rabid dog that he was. Forgive me if this sounds melodramatic, but often there simply isn't a good way to speak the truth, only an honest way. This man's victim, his future victims, most likely his past victims, and the public at large, make up the population that law enforcement is charged with protecting. Chances are, if your sniper friend stays on the force long enough, he will one day find his compassion leaning in a much different direction.

Clearly, the handcuffed tra... (Below threshold)

Clearly, the handcuffed traffic offender in these photos and video can be seen beating the hell out of 4 police officers using a giant gash on his head as a weapon. One desperate officer used the only defensive tactic available when he wrapped his hands aound handcuffed man's throat. He nearly fractured several fingers after the handcuffed man used the old violent gag maneuver on the defenseless officer.

Just out, the newest security camera images of the Evanston Police at work. Evanston is just outside Chicago.







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