By Austin Schwartz/Western Sun Entertainment Editor
Imagine being in a world where a person is allowed to shoot your dog while it is playing in your gated yard, but they miss and accidentally kill your mother, and they go on to face zero consequences. Oh, and the person that killed your mother happens to be a member of the people who are paid to protect and serve you: the police.
Sadly you don’t have to imagine too hard, because this actually happened in Burlington, Iowa, when an officer was over seeing a domestic dispute in which the dog became excited over his owners arguing. This is just one of many cases in which a trigger happy cop showed no hesitation to pull out his firearm in hopes to de-escalate a situation. Which has the same effectiveness as drinking for sobriety.
What I’ve described is a sad scene, but really, though: does this come as a surprise to anyone anymore? It feels like every other day you hear about a cop who got spooked by a seemingly manageable situation, but instead of using a disciplined approach, they reach for the tool that solves all problems, one way or another. Unfortunately, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
My gripe, however, doesn’t lie entirely with the officers using a one size fits all method in handling their situations. What truly bothers me is the light slap on the wrist an officer may be given, if any disciplinary action is taken at all. Which generally entails time off, with pay.
What do you think would happen to a cop who beats a pregnant woman so bad that she miscarries her child? If you guessed time off with pay, then congratulations: you win this round of depressing jeopardy. Oh, and if you were curious about the charge against the potential mother, her only mistake was resisting arrest—because fighting back when falsely accused is a crime.
But those are isolated incidents, so let’s take a look overall at conviction rates during a criminal trial. According to the US Bureau of Justice and the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, the general public saw 68 percent of tried felons incarcerated. Meanwhile, a measly 36 percent of police officers on trial saw any hard time for their inhumane actions.
In addition to smaller conviction rates, law enforcement agents also spent a lot less time on average while serving a criminal sentence. In 2009, the most recently concluded study on the matter found the general public spent 49 months on average for their crimes, while cops only spent an average of 34.6 months behind bars.
If the police are convicted at a rate more consistent with the general public, and their sentences aren’t softened simply because they were on duty, then we would most likely see a decline in the abuse of power that the police show much too often.
I don’t want anyone to come away from this article with the mindset that all cops are pigs or they are out to get you. I have a tremendous respect for those that put their lives in danger for the rest of us to sleep safely. I am simply pointing out the fact that there is an obvious abuse of power, as well as a system that goes way too easy on convicted officers.
Of course, we all want the same thing: to return home safely each night to our families. However, when your line of work requires split second decision-making where life or death could be on the line, it should be mandatory that those skills are practiced and tested daily outside of the vicinity where public bystanders could be affected.
The best solution for calming these hair triggers is training in exercising good judgment that doesn’t immediately lead to someone grabbing their gun, as well as harsher disciplinary actions against those who do break the law while attempting to enforce it.
If there aren’t any consequences for bad behavior then you can always expect for those actions to persist.
Until you walk a mile in their shoes you should not be so quick to just put national statistics in the path of California …and you may not be privy to ALL THE INFORMATION on prior issues. Falsely accuses…then surrender and it will probably sort itself out rationally and without issues (and gives you more ammo for the lawsuit you can file). The dog may have bitten in the past and if the dow ran into the officers direction it is considered justified…the fact there was a riccoche (which is rare) it is not the officers fault as the owners could not control the dog (and believe me…all oficers ask for the dogs to be removed or controlled. I am the X of an officer and after getting calls to go to the hospital immediately, it took a toll on our life…but twice he was accused by the person he was arresting who shot him saying they were innocent (in one case it was a child molester who was caught with a small child), but for privicy the information was not released so as to not taint the jury pool against the may who shot my x. Don’t just use the stats, look for all the information and read the court documents and prior reports against the addresses before you make a decision