Working in law enforcement is a very hard job. It’s a job where every day there is a potential of not surviving the shift. Game wardens routinely go to their job knowing that most people they encounter are not only armed but in the woods with the intent to kill something.
The difference is that hunters are mainly law-abiding citizens who respect the game warden, where the LEO doesn’t know who is or isn’t armed and who has the intent to use deadly force against people and have no respect for the LEO.
Although that is groundwork for my comments, it doesn’t answer the question…
My last post addressed a situation that has been in the news concerning a ‘sovereign citizen’ who, during what should have been a routine traffic stop, was shot and killed by the LEO’s that responded to the incident.
On the surface it seems like this one more time a peaceful citizen was gunned down by aggressive LEO’s.
Let’s look at some perspectives.
First, there is the perspective that the average LEO is a hunter in society looking for a person to shoot. The first thought that comes to mind is the number of LEO’s who have an entire career without ever firing their gun outside of the range. A quick search reveals a number between 75-90% have never fired their gun on patrol.
Second, as a firearms instructor I am very concerned about teaching my students the law (as best a non-lawyer can) so they can follow it. What most people don’t understand is that the LEO use of force is just as restricted. They cannot go around pointing their gun at people unless they fear for their life or the life of someone they have a duty to protect.
Another perspective is that the LEO community is comprised of people. As people, they have the potential of having the type of person who has very low esteem and a need to prove their power. Most LEO agencies call these “bad cops” and do their best to weed them out. First in the various academies where they are evaluated, tested, and evaluated again. Some slip through. Some become jaded while working the streets. I firmly believe these “bad cops” are a small portion of the LEO force.
Finally, we must consider reaction time. In concealed carry training you should have received training on recognizing a threat and reacting to it. A LEO in the community has a body camera, protective vest, and several other tools at the ready. In the back of their mind each day they start a shift is “am I going to make it home tonight,” which is a consideration in every encounter. Unfortunately, the answer to that question must be made in two or three seconds. If they hesitate, they may be killed by the gun the person they have asked to show hands has in the hand they don’t want to show. If that person has an object that may be a deadly weapon (gun, knife, pipe, etc.) it is very possible that weapon can be used on the LEO who hesitates. Unfortunately, some of these incidents do not involve a deadly weapon but still result in the death of the person.
When a LEO does cause the death of another person, they are taken off the street and put on administrative leave. While they are on leave their shooting incident is investigated. Each, and every, time. None are just considered a ‘good shoot’ and garner a pat on the back for a job well done.
If it is determined that they acted withing the standard procedures and in defense of life, they are returned to duty. If it isn’t, they can and will be prosecuted. This is a secondary thought following coming home each night. Yes, the job of a LEO is not easy.
The rare LEO that abuses the position of trust tarnishes the whole force. Those that are operating honorably are more motivated than the average citizen to get the ‘bad cops’ off the street.
So, the initial question I posed was not only blatantly wrong, but it is also loaded to paint a picture of vigilante LEO’s running amuck. Our media does little to help dispel this picture when the news stories are slanted against the LEO in most cases. TV programs that depict LEO’s that have little to no regard for due process are the ‘hero’s’ in the program may be entertaining but they are poisoning the minds of those who don’t recognize what they are doing. There are some good shows, but the majority (in my opinion) are not flattering to LEO’s.
Man Gets Shot in Utah
On March 1st, 2023 a young man was on the roads in Utah. He was pulled over by the police for an “illegitimate license” on his car. The young man considered himself a sovereign citizen and not subject to the laws of Utah or the United States. He was uncooperative with the police officer and the situation escalated. Unfortunately it escalated to the point of officers discharging their firearms, fatally injuring the young man.
I am not a firm believer that the media gives us the full or unvarnished story. So, I take the media reports with a whole block of salt. News outlets, in the rush to be first, often get the ‘facts’ of the story wrong. The story reported several things that set off warning flags for me.
First, they guy had a gun in the car and the incident was by a post office. Maybe he was driving by, maybe he was leaving the post office. If it was the latter he had broken a law.
The concept of sovereign citizen is something I have not looked at seriously. The one thing that I can say is that is is very weak ground. I have traveled all over the world in the military. When we were in a country other than the United States I knew I was subject to the laws of the land. I could not tell the law enforcement in that country that I am not subject to their laws since I am not a citizen of that nation. A sovereign citizen, living in the borders of the United States may believe that US law does not apply. However, Wikipedia says “Sovereign citizen arguments have no basis in law and have never been successful in court.” Like media reports, Wiki pages sometimes have errors but they at least have a couple of footnotes for sources.
When we conduct our Utah Concealed Firearms Permit (CFP) training we go through interacting with the police while armed. Had this young followed the principles we teach he would have been arrested but alive. He would have his day in court (which he doesn’t believe in, ironically) to justify his actions and present his case for why the police were wrong for pulling him over.
In case you not aware of or don’t want to look up the story, here is why the story said he was shot. He would not exit his vehicle as directed by the officers. When they tried to extract him he put up a fight. During the fight one of the officers saw that he was armed. That meant that they were in a deathly force incident and could respond in kind.
Anytime a person is in an incident of some sort, who has. The other party in the incident having knowledge of the firearm is not required. All that is needed is for a firearm to be present.
A police officer has only seconds to react when they are faced with an armed person. Those seconds are not for the officer to decide do I want to kill this person or not. Those seconds are for him to decide if he is going home that night. If the officer hesitates the armed person may have the ability to use deadly force.
This is a decision I hope to never have to make. The only way to guarantee surviving a gun fight is to never get in it to start with. This is just as true for law enforcement as it is for the average person.
I don’t know how the investigation will turn out. Will the officers get disciplined or charged for illegal use of force? They had body cameras on. The article mentioned that they were told to turn them off. Here is my cynicism. The reporter didn’t say why, just that they were told to turn them off. Was this to paint a picture of them trying to hide the remaining investigation? Or, was it to preserve the evidence already captured? I suspect it is the latter. Many of us have dash cams. We know they are on a 30 minute loop and if we have something we need to preserve we have to save the loop or turn them off. Could the body cameras have the same requirement?
I am an Air Force Combat Veteran, Certified by the NRA and USCCA as well as the state of Utah.