Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You say, "I'm a cop!" I say, "So?"

A man on a motorcycle hits a 4 year-old girl crossing the street. Perhaps the girl darted out into the street (his version and, frankly, something small children do). Or perhaps she was carefully crossing the street with a teenage cousin (her family's version and, frankly, something any person who hit a small child would want desperately to believe wasn't true). The child's father, understandably distraught at having witnessed the accident, comes running and gets into a confrontation with the motorcycle rider. Which prompts the rider to pull out his gun and shoot the father, killing him.

Here's my question: does it make the tiniest bit of difference that the motorcycle driver is an off-duty, out-of-uniform cop? Because I'm not sold on the idea that it does. "Authorities" say he identified himself as a cop before pulling his gun. An eyewitness says otherwise. But so what? The fact that the guy on the bike is a cop doesn't make it ok that he hit the little girl and undoubtedly wouldn't have affected the father's reaction. Whether the guy was a cop or not, it wasn't ok for the father to attack him. While many people can understand that reaction, it wasn't acceptable. The father should have stopped attacking the driver, regardless of the driver's profession. From the father's perspective, the fact that the man who hit his daughter was a cop is irrelevant.

Now, from the cop's side of things, maybe it does make a difference. The difference it should make is that he should be better trained than most to deflect an attack and hold his cool in a tense situation. I just want to believe a peace officer would be more likely than most to be able to diffuse the situation and restore, ahem, peace. From the brief stories that I've seen, there's not enough information to judge this cop's actions, whether he really could have protected himself by using something less than deadly force.

I don't quite understand, though, why these nameless "authorities" are so insistent that the officer did identify himself. This is where I'm a little troubled. Because I would hate for officers to think (and act) as though being police officers shields them in all situations, even when they're off-duty and in the wrong. (Not to say we know whether this particular cop was in the wrong, because we really don't know much yet, but speaking generally.) I would hate to think that police officers think it should make a difference that the driver-turned-shooter was a cop. I would hate to think that cops think the mere fact of being cops and identifying themselves as such buys them greater leeway to pull out guns and shoot people in non-work-related confrontations. And I would hate to think that cops think any civilian being pummeled on the street by a distraught dad has less right to defend himself than a cop would.

So to sum up. From what little information I have at this point about this story, I don't think it much matters that the man who hit the girl and then shot the dad is a cop. But I think it might matter a great deal if people, especially if cops, think it matters.


BellsforStacy said...

He should be charged with murder. At the very least he shouldn't be a copy any more. He hit a 4 year old. I don't care if she was running screaming and doing loops in the road, she's the pedestrian and he's on the vehicular device. AND A COP. How does that make him less culpable? I think it makes him more so!

What a tragedy. :(

S said...

That's the bottom line, right? It's a tragedy. And I just don't see him being a cop making it less so.

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