Use Of Force vs. Use Of Farce

Donald J. Mihalek | Vice President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation

It’s often been said the longest two minutes in the world are at the end of a football game. For a law enforcement officer, the longest seconds usually occur during a use of force incident — in the blink of an eye the world turns upside down.    

According to the Force Science Institute, a place that actually studies, documents‎ and measures law enforcement responses to use of force incidents, a suspect with a gun in their waistband, lying on the ground can draw and fire their weapon in .8 seconds — that’s eight 10ths of a second to kill.

For a typical law enforcement officer, that same reaction takes 1.4 to 1.8 seconds — meaning the bullet is headed towards the officer before they have a chance to respond. That timeframe increases and makes these situations more deadly when criminals are emboldened and a law enforcement officer is forced to be cautious.  

On January 12, 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) in Georgia, pulled over his murderer for speeding. A few weeks prior, reports indicate that the deputy was verbally reprimanded by a supervisor for being “too quick” to draw his gun on a suspect. During this traffic stop, a verbal confrontation escalated to a shootout resulting the murder of the Deputy.

The murderer loaded his weapon while the Deputy was ordering him to stop. He shot the Deputy nine times, including the fatal shot into Dinkheller’s eye while yelling “die fucker.”‎ The entire horrendous incident was captured on the officer’s dashboard cam and is often shown to new police officers as a reminder — if you hesitate when confronted with a deadly threat, you will die.

Enter the current anti-law enforcement environment and rhetoric. This diatribe has festered and in many ways emboldened criminal conduct against law enforcement officers – for the most part under false assertions. Almost every high profile law enforcement incident that the anti-LE crowd has rallied, protested and rioted against, after an investigation or trial, the officers were found justified and acquitted. Yet some still choose to promote and believe fiction over fact or as J. Edgar Hoover once said, “The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar.”

That fiction has created an aggressive posture against law enforcement. Since the same point last year, we’ve seen a 72 percent rise in shootings of law enforcement officers. Thirty-one officers have fell victim to gunfire compared to 18 at the same point last year. Eight killed within the last two weeks and in the case of Dallas, while protecting those that were protesting against them. The targeting of officers for assassination by criminals has been emboldened by the fiction perpetuated by the anti-law enforcement crowd.  

To be clear, no law enforcement officer in the United States, if given the choice, would choose to use any type of force. Using force is always a last resort — to protect life. It is a decision made in split-seconds, which is why the Supreme Court allows a “totality of the circumstances” standard to be used as a barometer for that force – yet some refuse to appreciate that.  

That doesn’t mean when an officer is wrong, they aren’t appropriately charged and convicted of that wrongful act – as the five former New Orleans police officers who recently plead guilty in deadly post-Katrina bridge shootings found out. They have been in jail for six years and will be there for much longer. 

This hypocrisy lies in the fact that ‎while officers are rightful held to a higher standard for their conduct, individuals that spout anti-law enforcement sentiments and the criminals they embolden hold no one accountable – except the officers.

They choose to chastise law enforcement conduct while not recognizing the factors that led to that force. 1) The individual committed some type of violation 2) In most cases, they failed to follow lawful orders 3) They resisted arrest or fought with officers or 4) a threat or weapon was present. Yet, the anti-law enforcement crowd and their enablers blame the officers based on fiction, which has created this unprecedented danger for officers.  

Interestingly enough, that crowd which would like to minimize law enforcement officers’ interactions have probably caused interactions to increase. Thanks to the heightened threat environment — officers and agencies are more cautious. So instead of one officer handling a call, many agencies will probably send more, on the lookout for ‎an attack.

If the anti-law enforcement crowd wants to fix the justice system, that point is lost with chants of “pigs in a blanket, fry em like bacon” or, “what do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now.” They would be better served working with their local law enforcement agencies, fostering better relationships, fighting crime together and teaching good citizenship.  

A Time reporter on a ride along with the Philadelphia Police Department  said, “You never know how much a second matters – until you are on the street,” and thanks to the anti-LE crowd, that street these days has been made more dangerous for all Americans.

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