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by Peter Moskos

April 22, 2015

"All types come out of the woodwork"

I always welcome intelligent comments from police officers. Here is an email (lightly edited) from a retired sergeant about police-involved shootings in general. I always appreciate thoughtful comments from police officers. I don't necessarily agree with everything he writes (but I don't need to). It's a well stated opinion based on experience.

When it comes to police issues, we don't hear from police officers enough. If you want to understand police, you need to listen to police. I reprint this with his permission:
What irritates me in this brouhaha about police shootings of unarmed people, specifically black males, is that no one as far as I can determine has said anything about the fact that the recent shooting incidents were not egregious examples of trigger happy cops simply deciding to gratuitously confront someone for the hell of it. In reality they are examples of an officer doing his duty and either conducting an investigation, responding to a call for service, or responding to an on-view situation.

For whatever reason, doing the job went south fast, but the shootings were not examples of some psychopathic cop who decided he was going to whack somebody that day to break up a boring day, or have I missed something? Plus, lo and behold, the deceased were not "innocents," for a few had rap sheets to make a mother cry. Did they deserve to be killed? I can only answer that question the way I answered it when I was peppered by friends about my police experiences, especially when I would relate those of the "hairy" kind where justification for using my service weapon was a no-brainier, even if I didn't see a weapon. Some of my friends would say they would have shot the person. My seemingly high-minded response was simply to say that I wasn't raised to be an assassin, but I meant it.

...I joined the force in 1973 at age 29. Prior to this defining life experience, I did 4 years in the Marine Corps, got a BA in American History under the Vietnam era G.I. Bill program, did one year of graduate work in American History and jumped at the Police Agent Program that the [department] initiated to attract clowns like me: college graduates. My wife thought I was nuts, but she relented and continued her graduate work. Why I didn't bag the whole thing after 6 months on the street is a question I am still trying to answer after 40 years of pondering.

As you realize, no matter what position you take on policing in this country, all types come out of the woodwork -- me include -- as well as [others]. In my view the average American harbors an ambivalent attitude about American law enforcement, either loving us or hating us depending who is getting the shitty stick shoved up the ass. I can attest to the fact that even good cops can be real knuckle heads when they can't control their tempers and act professionally, sometimes with tragic results. And cops, or wannabe cops, take any kind of perceived criticisms as an unjustifiable assault on their person. So it goes.
As to more recent events in Baltimore:
Again my point being reinforced by what happened: a seemingly legitimate police action that went South for whatever reason, with two supervisors at the scene to boot, a Sgt. and a Lt. This is a head shaker.
Guys always take off.... They did for me when I worked [there]. The deceased ... had a respectable rap sheet, so he was no cherry. However, capital punishment doesn't apply to drug crimes, unless you live in garden spots like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

This doesn't look good for the Agency, especially with supervision at the scene. What a fucking mess.
[No comments on this one because because it's somebody else's opinion.]