As a cop that has never had to use pepper spray in an altercation with a suspect before, I can not speak for those that already have.
As a cop that has never had to draw his baton in an altercation with a suspect before, I can not speak those that already have.
As a cop that has never had to draw his gun in an altercation with a suspect before, I can not speak for those that already have.
As a cop that has, however, dealt with a lot of verbal abuse directed at his person before I can say that to mentally be strong is so much more important than having muscles or knowing how to fight with somebody.
I know I have repeated this a thousand times already, that dealing with people's (sometimes irrational) attitudes can be so very exhausting, but it truly is. Imagine something simple;
A car is standing still in front of a green light with several cars behind it, including us, all waiting for the first one to leave. One of the cars behind the first one honks to indicate that they can go on, but the car doesn't move. Right after the honk the light turns yellow, then red. A few seconds after it turns red, the first car finally drives passed the light. We turn on our lights and sound and go after the car.
The car stops and we tell the driver that she just drove passed the red light after standing in front of the green light for a couple of moments. We ask her if she had been occupied with her cell phone to which she sheepishly nods.
We pull her over to a safe parking lot and she steps out of the car (I don't understand people that do this, just stay put in your car?) going on that she admits to driving past the yellow light. We tell her that we had seen something so very different but she refuses to admit to standing still in front of the green light and only driving off after the light had turned red. We continue to discuss it a little to which she puts up her hands and says "well, it is my words against cops, so I am not even going to try and discuss it."
My partner tells her that even driving past a yellow light when you are able to stop (which she could, she was standing still in front of it) is also a violation. Finally, she seems to realize there is nothing she can say to help her defense. We ask her again about her using her cell phone, but now she switches her story and says she hadn't been using it.
It's of those interventions that isn't worth mentioned, but for some reason, this one got to me. Compared to the hundred people I have pulled over before this one, where I was emotionally detached and no amount of bullshit could get to me, this woman's inability to admit her fault just pissed.me.the.fuck.off.
It was apparent in the words me and my partner threw at her, it was apparent in our body language.
Do I think it wasn't worth getting 'upset' for? Hell yeah. Could I have changed my demeanor in that moment? No. It's what I felt at that time and I am a human that runs into his own limits/borders once in a while.
Now. Do I think cops in America have it way, WAY harder than cops in Europe? Fucking hell yeah. Just the gun law alone would put me on high alert 24/7.
I am not saying European gun laws are better, it's not what I want to discuss here, but it does make it easier to be a little more lenient on the streets when you know the possibility of one carrying a gun is about 0.2%.
Do I think the cop that shot Philando Castile was feeling an immense amount of pressure? Yes. I do. Does it excuse what he did? It's.. too delicate a situation to say.
If I understand correctly Castile was reaching for his permit in his back pocket after he had told the officer he was carrying or had his gun nearby.
Why... Would you inform an officer you are carrying as you reach for your wallet. Just thinking about that situation makes my heart beat rise.
Would I shoot at the man, with his wife next to him and a baby in the back seat, in that moment? I HOPE not. Right now, I imagine myself perhaps pulling my gun and retreating back to my car until I assess that the situation is safe.
Look. Guys. I wish these situations were black and white. Truth is they're so gray that in those moments all other colors seem to evaporate.
I am not talking about those moments where 5 cops are running after one guy and shoot him in his back. NOTHING can excuse those actions. *Whenever we do shoot in Belgium, you can bet your ass we're charged until proven innocent. Our uniform is stripped off, they put us in a room away from our colleagues and 'keep us inside' until the situation has been scrutinized endlessly.
I want to talk about an intervention I had two weeks ago, which, I am not going to lie, was one of the most impressive ones I've had in my 3 years of being a cop. Though I am sure this does not even compare to some of the situations American cops go through on a daily basis.
Our dispatcher asks us to go help out another precinct that are dealing with a small riot of about 50 people. They had come together to watch soccer and were now being obnoxiously loud and fighting with each other.
Right after we get there another fight breaks out. I see my partner, and the other cops, run to try and calm them down so I follow. Let me just say, I am a big mother, ok lol. People either talk tough to me and puff their chest or they cower away. In that moment it was as if everybody wanted to pick on the big guy. Lucky me. There was no fist fighting, but during the tumult, I did feel hands on my belt trying to unlock it and hands on my baton. Then, I get slapped on the back of my head.
Did I feel, at any point in time, that I wanted to reach for my gun? No. Even tho my belt is sacred and nobody but me may touch whatever is hanging on it, I did not feel the situation called for arms. Of course, this is easy for me to say. I'm pretty strong, a lot will need to happen for me to use my weapons. But, out of the 7 of us there were two female officers that were in the fight as well.
They were about 5ft6 and getting pushed and pulled around, getting verbally abused and even kicked whilst being surrounded by 50 men bigger than them. Did they feel, at any point in time, that they wanted to reach for their gun? No. Did they maybe consider using pepper spray? Yes. But she told me she eventually didn't because she saw flashes of other uniforms and it would have been too risky using it.
I am not comparing anybody to anybody. But if they can keep their head cool in a potentially lethal situation and DEBATE internally if the use of a specific weapon is called for whilst getting pushed and pulled around.... I mean. Nothing but respect and acknowledgment that mentally they are fucking winning.
Now, I will end with this:
Do I think racial profiling is real in America? Yes. Do I think racial profiling happens in every country, city or town? Yes. It's sad, but it's the truth.
Do I think it's easy to point fingers when you haven't dealt with a situation even remotely close to what some cops deal with every minute? It's the easiest thing in the world.
I just hope next time, when you talk about how you would've maybe handled things differently, you calculate in all the factors; emotions, fear for your own life, etc.
Gray. The world is gray.