On July 4th we woke up to these three headlines: “Man killed in officer-involved shooting in Poulsbo,” “Seattle police shoot woman in Chinatown,” and “Police shoot knife-wielding woman at Tacoma restaurant.”
In each of these stories, police officers were called to handle random dangerous situations that threatened the lives of many innocent people. And in each of these cases, officers had to make split second decisions that impacted the safety and lives of other individuals, as well as themselves.
These three local examples of police using force are the very rare exception when law enforcement is confronted by those who intend to inflict harm. In nearly all circumstances, the incident ends peacefully. Most of the time this is the due to an experienced, well-trained officer taking corrective action to neutralize the episode. That same experience and training also provide the knowledge of when it is necessary to use lethal force to protect innocent bystanders.
Nearly all humans are unqualified to correctly handle these occurrences. It takes a mild temperament, courage, empathy, training, and experience, which are all rare to find in one individual. These people are valuable to any community because their existence makes people from all backgrounds safer from violence.
In urban areas, an experienced officer should be even more treasured. The opportunity for random acts of public harm are greater due to population density and a higher concentration of those with mental or addiction issues.
It is for these reasons the mass exodus from the Seattle Police department of experienced officers is most disturbing. Members of law enforcement are leaving due to city policies that hamper the officers’ ability to do their job and because they feel they are not supported by Seattle’s elected leaders.
Not only are experienced individuals leaving the Seattle Police force, but the city is having difficulty attracting new officers for the same reasons. In fact, because of Seattle’s bad reputation within the law enforcement community Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed bonuses up to $15,000 to attract recruits.
Thus, because of the actions of our Mayor, City Attorney, and City Council, Seattle must pay more for police protection. If our politicians better supported our police and their ability to keep Seattlites safe, our police protection would be less expensive. We could instead use those precious public funds to help those less fortunate.
An experienced well-trained officer makes everyone safer – the possible victims, the suspect, and the public. The ability to defuse dangerous situation and the aptitude to use limited force to neutralize others, should be supported and respected by those who we elect to office.