Blowback, unfairly second-guessing the use of force E-mail
Written by Dr. Lawrence N. Blum   

But they did so well past the time that verbal controls ceased to be viable responses to the threats they faced from resistive, assaultive, disturbed or criminal subjects. I was also struck by the one-sided nature of the Times’ Dec. 28 story about Inglewood police officers’ uses of force. You referenced several instances in which the subjects’ weapons “turned out to be toy guns.”

Would you have officers wait until the subject shoots them to determine that, yes, they were being threatened by a real gun? Have we reached a point in society at which we are willing to sacrifice peace officers to ensure our (unrealistic) sense of fair play to persons who don’t comply with an officer’s commands? I pray not, as I have held the survivors of fallen officers too many times as they sobbed for their losses.

I have testified in a number of trials in which officers were accused of using lethal force inappropriately. Invariably, I was asked, “After all, aren’t police officers trained to deal with situations like these?” Police training as it has been traditionally performed cannot re-create the immediacy of the conditions faced by police officers when confronted by lethal threat:

Here it is. Right now. Live or die.

If you shoot, you will be scrutinized and second-guessed with an eye to punish, not train. If you don’t shoot, the individual who shot you because you didn’t act quickly and decisively enough will spit on you as you die. Chief of Police Jacqueline Seabrooks has brought a new leadership to the Inglewood Police Department, and has initiated 120 hours of department-wide training in proficiency skills for officers to use during tactical encounters.

The officers who participate in this training have lives and families they do not want to lose by becoming another name on a police memorial. The Times’ story mentioned the department’s training efforts within one sentence, and spent paragraphs quoting academics on police uses of force.

If you are going to quote “experts” on the use of force by Inglewood police officers, I would ask that you write with an eye to fact and fairness, rather than the self-serving quotes I read in the Dec. 28 article. Trained or not, human beings wear the badge, with all the instincts, nervous system reactions, emotions and judgment thereof. Life-and-death decisions must be made by these human beings with insufficient time and information available to aid in their decision-making.

I regret that you did not think to include these crucial factors in your discussions of law enforcement. I am waiting, like Godot, for a balanced treatise on this important issue.

Lawrence N. Blum is a clinical psychologist in Los Alamitos who specializes in treating police officers.


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Digg! Reddit! Del.icio.us! Mixx! Google! Live! Facebook! StumbleUpon! TwitThis