Friday, October 12, 2018

Where does line lie determining when/if police officer justified in using force?

Paul Bauer was a police commander who literally walked into an incident that put him in the line of sight of a man fleeing the Thompson Center state government building, with that man then pulling out a pistol and shooting Bauer dead.
'Hero' cop Bauer versus … 

While Jason Van Dyke is the patrol officer now rotting away in a jail cell in Rock Island County, awaiting sentencing on the criminal charges that say he committed murder of a teenager whom he tried claiming posed a physical threat to his life.

VAN DYKE TRIED to make much of the fact that the teenager whom he shot to death had earlier in the evening been kicked out of area fast food restaurants for his erratic behavior, had slashed the tire of a police squad car and may or may not have been waving about that knife with its three-inch blade in a menacing manner.

He would have liked it if the jury that decided his fate would have sympathized with his thoughts that he could easily have wound up in a situation similar to Bauer – who earlier this year happened to be near the state government building when he heard a radio report of a suspect, then saw that very same individual run past him.

A brief foot-chase ensued, followed by a struggle, with the suspect then firing seven shots at Bauer.

Now I realize Van Dyke’s incident occurred nearly four years ago, whereas Bauer’s incident was back in February of this year. It’s not like Van Dyke would have had a memory of what happened to the police commander – which was still just over three years off in the future.

BUT IT HAS me wondering about the legal fine line that exists for when a police officer is permitted to use deadly force on the job – based on the logic that he’s protecting the public safety by doing so!

There are those who argue that had Van Dyke waited a little longer, a colleague with a taser gun could have arrived at the scene, used that weapon to stun the teenager in that incident, and he could have been subdued still alive.

For all we know, he’d have been someone celebrating his 21st birthday in prison, as a convict with a criminal record, instead of becoming a cause celebre who some will forevermore envision as an innocent-looking teenager in his bright-red graduate cap-and-gown.
… 'felon' Van Dyke -- how different are they?

Although I also suspect that many of the same people who have protested the teenager’s death would have protested just as loudly about what they’d want to view as merely another incident of police brutality.

JUST WHAT WAS the point that would need to have occurred before Van Dyke’s use of physical force would have been considered legal and justified.

Would the teenager have literally had to slash at the cop with his knife before a single shot could be justified from the Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic (the weapon that Van Dyke carried on the job)?

Would he have literally had to risk becoming the “hero cop” we now think of when Bauer’s name is mentioned? Would we have been willing to spare Van Dyke the public disgrace and humiliation he has endured if we literally had been able to hand his wife a medal for “giving his life” in the name of the people of Chicago?

Now I’m not trying to imply there was anything heroic about the way Van Dyke handled himself that night in 2014. If anything, his actions are more those of a man who gave in to his fear – with his over-reaction being something that he will now pay for with the next few years (if not several) spent in incarceration.

HE WAS TRYING to do a job, just as I’m sure Bauer all those months ago was trying to perform his own duties during his moment of truth that got his name etched in stone as a law enforcement tribute.

While Van Dyke awaits sentencing far from Cook County, out of the fear that inmates at our own county jail might have singled him out for abuse and brutality before he could ever have been sentenced to prison time for his crime. A fate that some may sickly believe is totally appropriate.

It’s a fine line that exists between use of force for protection and for abuse – one made all the more vague because the reality is we DO give law enforcement the authority to use force, and on occasion to kill.

Anybody who has a problem realizing that reality likely is just trying to support people who are just as much criminals as they proclaim Van Dyke to be.


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