Armchair Quarterbacks Should Back Off When It Comes to Police Action

AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

Loyal readers will know that I’m the son of a police officer. My father retired from the force years ago, but for the vast majority of my life, my dad came home with a badge on his chest and a gun on his hip. Quite a few of his friends were police officers and they became like family.

As a result, I can’t help but see police officers as humans first. I know, thanks to quite a few conversations with my dad  So when I see body cam footage on Twitter, I always tend to give the officer the benefit of the doubt or try to question what drove his actions. Sometimes, I can discern what happened in a lot of situations before more info even comes out just based on what my dad told me about policework in the past.

That’s not to say I don’t think cops ever do anything wrong. They absolutely do. Oftentimes I find their faults are just human error. Adrenaline is great for fight-or-flight responses but not great when it comes to fine-tuning those decisions and actions. The purpose of training is to make responses a bit more routine in those moments, but training for a thing and experiencing that thing are two completely different scenarios.

The sad fact is that police experience these things at a much greater frequency than normal citizens. In fact, if normal citizens are lucky, they’ll never have to experience it at all thanks to the police officers experiencing it on their behalf. If you didn’t have to shoot anyone trying to harm you or break into your house today, thank a police officer.

But the fact that most people don’t experience what police officers do has created a layer of ignorance. Add to the fact that you have too many people who’ve watched action movies, and you get a citizen ready and willing to tell law enforcement what they did wrong in any given scenario, especially those that involve violence.

Take this scenario below, for instance. In this video, you can see a law enforcement officer exit his vehicle and order people to “get down.” He runs over to a situation where a man is attacking a woman on the ground with a knife. Once the officer gets to an angle he finds satisfactory, he almost unloads the entirety of his service weapon’s magazine into the assailant. He begins to shout “shots fired” into his radio but stops to fire one more round into the perpetrator.

The officer quickly reloads his firearm before pointing it back at the perpetrator and requesting backup. He demands the assailant, now bleeding on the ground, to drop the knife. He also addresses the crowd telling them to back up.


The comments within this video are a mix of responses. Many are defending the officer but others are criticizing him for his use of “excessive force.” Some believe the officer should have given the knife-wielding man a warning before he fired. Others say he should have fired only one or two rounds instead of emptying his entire magazine.

I’ll spare you the details of how the officer’s response was correct bit by bit, but suffice it to say that the officer did everything right. It was clear the knife-wielding man had no intention of stopping and the officer neutralized him in a quick fashion to stop him from doing any more harm than he’d already done. If he had even waited just a little longer, that woman being attacked could have suffered a fatal stab or a wound that would have complicated her life forever.

What I want to focus on is the overt confidence in the ignorance many people have.

A lot of people will never be in a situation where they literally control the outcome of someone’s life through their immediate actions. They will never have seconds to decide what to do to save their own life or the lives of others. They will know what it is to feel that spike of adrenaline and know that white knuckle moment where the mind recedes and the physical body takes over.

These are the people who scoff at officers for unloading a full magazine instead of a couple of shots. These are the people who ask why they can’t just shoot arms or legs, or even more absurdly, just shoot the gun or knife out of someone’s hand.

It’s easy to watch the video and draw conclusions but it should be noted that most people are drawing conclusions on what should have been done with the idea that the person they’re watching is a character right out of an action thriller.

But these are just people. They have faults and flaws just like everyone else does and while they may not always get it right, the mistakes are hardly enough to cover the good they do.

It’s trendy to hate the police. Even conservatives have become far judgier in recent months, but it should never be forgotten that police officers aren’t inhuman robots. They’re men and women with families, likes, dislikes, favorite foods, favorite movies, and hobbies. They might be dog people and love to cook. Some like to garden or hunt. Some like to play video games or collect baseball cards.

They get up and put their uniform on, spend 90 percent of their time dealing with 10 percent of the population having their worst day, and come home to try to be as normal as possible given the circumstances. More and more, they fear that doing their duty will have them wind up being the next national headline that kicks off a movement and destroys their lives forever.

More education about and respect for police is needed in our society.


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