Eleven Seconds
May 21, 2009

Cops have a difficult job, there are no two ways about that. We all know they put their lives on the line for us every day, but even knowing that, it's easy to get caught up in the frustration of getting a speeding ticket or grousing about a cop speeding through town without lights or siren. And it can be easy to get caught up in the cynicism of corrupt cops and power-hungry cops who are out to get the common person, particularly since everyone has a camera or video camera now.

There was the recent case in Dallas of a young cop, on the job just three years, who attempted to pull over an SUV near the hospital after it slowed down for a red light, was waved on by someone who had a green light and then went through the intersection. The cop lit up his rack and pursued. The SUV slowed, but continued on. To the hospital. To the emergency entrance.

Now I understand that it is freaking scary to a cop to chase someone even in a low speed pursuit and then have people boiling out of the vehicle when it finally stops. But come on, it's a HOSPITAL. Maybe someone inside is hurt and needs attention. This young cop didn't care. By golly, that driver ran a red light and NEEDED a ticket. You can't have private citizens just running red lights (whilst watching to make sure he's not going to hit anyone) willy nilly. That would be anarchy.

Turns out, a family member was in the hospital, dying. The hospital had called the family and told them to hurry, as she was slipping away quickly.

The cop kept the driver (tried to keep them all, despite the fact that the hospital staff came out repeatedly to tell the cop the mother was dying), he kept the driver for 15 full minutes after knowing the situation. The driver was not there when his mother-in-law died. His wife was finally "allowed" to go (actually, she just ignored his dumb ass and ran in with the hospital staff).

This only made the news, I feel certain, because the man who ran the red light and who actually handled a highly stressful situation pretty well, was an NFL player. He never once used that as a way to try to get out of the situation, so it's doubtful the cop knew he was walking into a story likely to hit the news. His dash cam shows 15 minutes of him throwing his weight around and being, in general, a dick. Another officer tries to gently talk the kid out of pursuing the ticket, pointing out they just wanted to be with the dying woman.

Luckily, the driver kept his head and was not thrown in jail - which the cop kept threatening - and the city has since vacated the ticket.

And it's easy for us to get caught up in the stupidity of that cop. Not everything is black and white - not even their cars anymore. There are extenuating circumstances and they ought to have the ability to make that judgment call - which is what the Dallas police chief said upon viewing the dash cam tape.

Most cops, do an exemplary job - or at least they do a good job. They don't throw their weight around. They don't take bribes, they aren't corrupt. And they rarely make the news. They do their very dangerous, very stressful job and they do it, for the most part, on camera and with a fair amount of review.

But private citizens also have to understand that they are human and they are doing a job that jacks up their adrenaline to ungodly levels on a fairly regular basis.

I am appalled at the story coming out of Birmingham this week. A high speed chase ... an officer knocked to the ground by the insane driver of a van ... the cops chasing the guy were doing it by the book - no one had actually been hurt as they tried to stop this idiot.

By all accounts, they'd done an absolutely exemplary job in a tough situation.

But, their adrenaline was high.

When the van was finally stopped, it bounced off the road and rolled, ejecting the driver. He looked like a doll, tossed from the van. Even knowing what was coming when I viewed the video, I admit I was shocked. The man looked like a limp rag doll tossed from his van. He lay there in the ditch, motionless.

The cops begin rushing up.

As the mayor of Birmingham puts it, the next 11 seconds are unforgivable.

I understand their adrenaline was going. I understand they were pissed and scared that one of their own was knocked to the ground. But it took them several seconds to reach the limp, unmoving driver. It should have been enough time to recognize he was not moving.

Instead, they approached, batons out and began beating the shit out of the man.

Five officers, in a moment of adrenaline overload, fifty years of police experience between them ... and they did the stupidest thing they'd ever done on the job, costing them their jobs.

There is no excuse for what they did. There are some mitigating circumstances - the adrenaline overload I keep talking about - but police officers are supposed to be trained to handle that overload and make more reasonable decisions than the average joe despite the adrenaline.

Eleven seconds of allowing themselves to get caught up in the moment ... and they've destroyed their careers.

It's not so much that we need to vilify cops - even with this reprehensible behaviour I also find that I have sympathy for them. We need to spend more time and invest more money in making sure that they are not overworked and undertrained. Yes, this is their fault. They must accept responsibility for their actions and they are going to have to live with some less than happy circumstances due to their actions.

But we also must take responsibility. How many cities are feeling this economy's bite and are cutting back on pay, letting officers go because there is no money? Training goes by the wayside. Equipment.

Even in a good economy, we bitch about the taxes that pay a cop's salary. We get holier-than-thou and think we can boss a cop because "we pay your salary."

We also bitch about the state of education in the U.S. ... but teachers are expected now to be counselor, babysitter, parent to a growing number of children. And we bitch about paying them more than $20 or $30,000 a year.

Nothing is cheap, folks. TANSTAAFL

We run a better chance of police officers who are better prepared and more balanced if we spend more money on training them, equipping them and making sure they earn a decent living instead of scraping by. We run a better chance of improving the education system if we pay teachers a decent living.

We can either pay the cost in our taxes ...

or we can pay the cost in eleven poorly executed seconds.

The choice is ours.

Posted by Red Monkey at May 21, 2009 5:26 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


saintchick said:

This was a thought provoking post. I wish I had the right words for what this post made me think about. But all I can say is as I read it, I just sat in awe of how you were able to put into words how you really felt.
Well done.

May 22, 2009 11:27 PM
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