Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Law Enforcement and Armchair Quarterbacking

With the Police and their policies in question lately I’ve heard the ridicules statement “Why didn’t the cop just shoot him in the leg?” Hollywood and pop culture have done it again! The average person’s perception of perception of how guns work and what they do. Most people have no idea what a police use of force doctrine looks like. I want to focus on deadly force. First let’s talk about shooting. Most people’s experience with guns is limited. They have gone out with their Uncle and shot at cans on his farm with a .22 rifle. Maybe they went to a range, maybe not. They may have shot their Dad’s 1911 Colt .45. They didn’t like the kick. A smaller percentage were in the military during peacetime and qualified every year with an M16. Those who have more experience or who have hunted know it’s not that easy to hit a small target. Police train to hit center of mass. This means you aim for the largest part of your target. This is a lot easier to hit than an arm or a leg. Unlike criminals, who don’t really care, law enforcement has to worry about collateral damage, or bystanders.

The goal of law enforcement, and civilian self-defense, is to stop the threat as soon as possible. Because of how the body works, there are only two ways to shut it down, via either an electronic shutdown (hit to the brain or central nervous system) or a hydraulic shutdown (loss of blood pressure due to hits to major organs/arteries). There is a third kind of stop, which is psychological. This occurs when someone gets shot, realizes they've been shot, and decides that they've had enough of whatever caused the shooting to start and then proceed to cease and desist doing what they are doing. Psychological stops can occur with non-fatal wounds from small calibers, or from mortal wounds with serious calibers. They are also not reliable, which is why the police and armed citizens are not trained to rely or even prepare for these sorts of things. We have to understand what happens when you shoot someone in a part of their body that's not the chest or head. There is a very good chance that without immediate medical attention, they will die. Shooting a person in the leg runs a very serious risk of hitting the femoral artery or the femoral vein. Hitting either of those with a bullet will cause rapid and extremely dangerous blood loss, more with the artery than the vein. Even lower leg shots aren't a safe bet, because the anterior tibial artery and the great saphenous vein are in the lower leg. So what about shooting a person in the arm, or the shoulder? Well, up there you have the brachial artery, the axillary artery, and the subclavian artery. There are also large veins in that same area. Real bullets don’t act like their Hollywood counterparts. On TV or movies bullets either do very little, or give instant hot death. Reality bullets do neither of those things usually. Shooting someone in the leg can do some serious damage and still not stop them. This is another reason to not do it. Without immediate help a leg wound could kill someone just with blood loss. If one of the above arteries is severed it’s only a matter of minutes. An adult heart pumps blood at several liters per minute. An adult body has only about 4 to 5 liters in it. We’re talking possibly bleeding out in 3 to 4 minutes. How fast are first responders? There is no national average. But it looks like, depending on the city, anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. I did find that first responders only save 6 to 10% of all calls. SO being shot in the leg is not a good idea. It also doesn’t really stop anyone. Being shot is not good no matter how you look at it.
Before you start “arm chair quarterbacking” a police shooting consider many things. If I am afraid for my life I will shoot 2 to the center of mass and 1 to the head. I want the threat to stop. But I am not in law enforcement. As a police officer just drawing your weapon will result in investigation. Though there may be some cowboys out there, most law enforcement know what they are doing and why. They want to protect others but most of all they want to go home to their families. Also, if you have never been under fire or have feared for your life it’s not a very fair to just dole out advice. Law enforcement in the U.S. are the best of the world but they are still human though highly trained. They are also aware of the great responsibility they have in not making a mistake. But if they are being threatened or someone points a gun at them, I’m not real sure what anyone would expect them to do? Threat and target identification should be taught and re-taught. It must be a priority. If you were armed and someone pointed and airsoft weapon at you I wonder what you would do? Knowing how realistic airsoft weapons look I would probably shoot. I don’t know why anyone would point even a stick at a policeman who has drawn their weapon and is pointing at them? There have been many instances of honest mistakes made. Under certain circumstances airsoft, BB guns, paintball markers, and even toys will look real. A police officer will have to live with killing a teenager or person who pointed a non-weapon at them and they killed them.

In summary, trying to shoot someone and not do harm is a fantasy. Shooting appendages does not incapacitate an assailant. It will more than likely kill them or maim them. It is difficult to hit a small target especially under stress. Next time you hear this lame excuse for a criminal pointing a weapon at police, or threatening them, or resisting them, know that shooting them in the leg or arm is not the answer.
I am not a police lover. I do not hate them, in fact, I have many friends among them. I also feel they are very good at what they do and have great respect for them. They have a thankless job. Some of them need an attitude adjustment but I think that is from working with the dregs of society every day. I think law enforcement needs to understand reality of citizens protecting themselves and do all they can to let us do that. Most do, some are a problem.

If you don’t want to get shot by a policeman I would suggest a few things. First, don’t break the law. And stay away from those who do. Second, when an officer gives you a command, comply. If they are wrong you can hash that out later. Law enforcement have lots of rules to live by. But if you give them cause to use force, they will. They have to use force to survive. Don’t give them a reason. Third, thank them for doing their job well when they do, which is often. If you do not follow one and two, you are an idiot and I won’t say you deserve to be shot, but you may deserve what you get.

Semper Paratus
Check 6