By Ken Gulley
As Wisconsin reels from riots following the viral shooting of Jacob Blake; media, politicians, celebrities, activists, and athletes have not missed an opportunity to condemn America all over again. Major sports have canceled their activities in one big virtue signal, coming to their own conclusion that the officers involved are guilty of wrongdoing before the facts come to light
The story they pitch is the same, “Police kill black people for no reason.” They offer up a new holy martyr on the mantel Social Justice as means to allow Marxist-Leftist policy creep.
Make no mistake, to the average person, the shooting of Jacob Blake is disturbing. It is difficult to watch any human being become serious injured or killed on camera. This is especially when there is a lack of context surrounding the event.
In officer involved shootings (OIS) incidents, it is easy to lash out at the authorities who “are supposed to protect us not kill us.” But the thing that separates us from mere animals is our ability to Reason. Emotional reactions are natural but they must be met by wisdom, not impulse.
In the court of law, judging Police action is purposely limited to the perspective of a reasonable officer within the context of their limited knowledge at the time of the incident (case law: Graham v. Connor). Because we charge police officers with the duty to intercede on life threatening situations, we cannot legally judge their actions with “God’s perspective” – that is to say, we must judge the reasonableness of their actions from their limited perspective at the time the action was taken – not from the hindsight of future knowledge and outcomes.
Below, I’ll attempt to give you the perspective of officers on scene. I don’t have all the facts. My purpose here is not to justify the shooting of Jacob Blake but rather to clarify the situation. It is my hope to explain why some actions were taken and others were not. The goal of this exercise is to help they lay-person understand the mindset of an officer on scene and the potential actions they may take. If you were on the fence and decided to move off of it because this information, I achieved my goal. If this causes you pause before moving to fully condemn the officers actions until more information becomes available, then I have achieved my goal.
Full disclosure: I work in law enforcement. This does not dictate my conclusion. Read the prior articles on this blog and you’ll see that I have clearly pointed out where police have been wrong (see: Philando Castile shooting among others). Police are not perfect and there are downright evil men within the ranks just like there are evil doctors or cab drivers. But the simple fact that the officers involved in these types of incidents were white and the suspect(s) were black does not automatically make the incident unjust, racially motivated, excessive, or murder.
- THE CALL FOR SERVICE
When police officers are dispatched, they receive bits of information about the call for service that are inherently biased. The caller providing information is offering it from one limited or filtered perspective. A simple call of a theft has the potential to to be a hostage situation. You never know truly everything until you arrive on scene.
In this case, police were dispatched to a “Domestic Disturbance.”
The most violent and dangerous types of call for service in all of policing are “Domestic Disturbances.” Domestic disturbance (domestic violence or DV) incidents involve so much danger for a number of reasons: a) the passion and emotional involved between both sides b) they usually occur in homes where weapons and/or alcohol are easily obtainable by both parties c) the abuser often feels threatened by the loss of power when police arrive and d) the abuser feels they have nothing to lose.
While policing technically lands outside the Top 10 for “Most Dangerous Jobs in America” (focused on fatality rates), every single job on the list above policing does not include any significant portion of those deaths as a result of intentional homicide. Between 1980-2014, 64 Officers were killed via felonious assault on average per year. Between 2009 and 2018, an average of 50,000 police officers were assaulted every year resulting in an average of 13,700 injuries ranging from bumps and bruises, to broken bones, debilitating injuries, missing limbs, paralysis, and death. Of the calls taken by law enforcement, Domestic Disturbances are considered the most dangerous. In spite of this, the need to use any type of significant force is relatively rare.
Why is this important? The call for service for officers in route to the Jacob Blake shooting is classified as a Domestic Disturbance. The simple classification plays a vital part into an officers heightened state of awareness prior to arrival.
- OFFICER KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
During the call for service, as information continues to pour in, officers become acquainted with the parties involved. A combination of the radio and computer provide updated information on the caller, the suspect, their local history (if recorded) and any wants or warrants they may have.
Why is this important? This information dictates how police will approach the situation and who they need to focus on in particular.
While early reports (from witnesses) claimed Blake was “breaking up a fight,” the actual radio call stated Blake instigated the situation by stealing one of the involved party’s vehicle keys. This makes Blake the prime suspect. As the prime suspect, Officers would need to detain Blake before the investigation could begin.
The focus on Blake would be heightened even more if a records inquiry in the vehicle’s on-board computer shows prior incidents. For example, Blake had been previously arrested for brandishing a firearm at a woman before he resisted arrest. This then resulted in a K-9 apprehension. This information, if available, will increase an officers state of situational awareness as the officer on scene will know he is dealing with person with a history of being combative.
To make matters even more dire, we are also aware that officers were notified of Blake’s warrants for arrest prior to their arrival. The warrants are not simply unpaid traffic citations but include felony domestic violence and rape (3rd degree sexual assault defined as “un-concentual intercourse without knowledge).” Any interaction with Blake would therefore require his detainment and arrest per order of the court. Blake’s warrant degree (felony) also make his a fugitive from justice.
While some people may rebut, “well you’re just dragging his name in the mud, this doesn’t justify being shot.” Again, on its own, this isn’t a justification but rather a critical element that goes into play for the officers on scene.
In the court of law, when dealing with a defendant, the prosecutor cannot include any past criminal history regarding the defendant if it does not play a factor into the specific case. For example, a gang member on parole will have his parole status hidden unless it provides justification for something he is on trial for (like a search of his person). This is done so as to not sway the jury’s prejudice. While infuriating, it makes sense.
It is not the same for police in the field. Prior history, including warrants are vital to understanding how to deal with someone. For example, If someone called on a suspicious old man wandering the playground with his hand down his pants, it would be ridiculous to dismiss him as a confused old man if a record inquiry showed he was a registered sex offender with repeated recent offenses. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to treat Blake without prejudice (to his past criminal actions) given his propensity to resist arrest, use violence against individuals, and use illegally weapons. Ignoring these red flags would be detrimental to the officer’s well-being.
Unbeknownst to the layman, training and tactics differ for police forces across judicial districts, states, counties, and cities (municipalities). Neighboring cities may have completely different policies that dictate what can be done.
In Los Angeles, “warning shots” were a viable (though anachronistic) action. In neighboring cities within LA County, warning shots were prohibited. In some counties in California, the use of the Carotid Hold was a viable option and tactic in arrest and control techniques while in Los Angeles, the use of such a hold would be considered “deadly force.”
Nationally, training programs and research such as Force Science Institute (in Missouri) have helped officers across the nation understand the science and philosophy behind use of force to a better degree. FSI has allowed officers to understand why and how certain things take place. An example includes understanding the affects of adrenaline and acute stress on the brain and how it can create “tunnel vision”, “selective auditory response”, “loss of fine motor skills,” etc. The institute is staffed by gun experts, officers, scientists, doctors, etc.
Similar programs have done the same. Sergeant Dennis Tueller is nationally recognized for helping officers understand the dangers of close quarter knife attacks. Tueller determined that an a average man can cover the distance of 21 feet needed to stab an officer before said officer could draw and fire to stop him. That average time close the distance was 1.5 seconds and while the drill isn’t a rule per se, it is well understood in the law enforcement community as a viable and practicable understanding. This makes any suspect armed with a knife at 21 feet or less, a lethal threat.
While I am nothing close to a “great shot,” I pride myself in being a fast draw, being able to go from holster to target in a very quick time. Even still, during a training course using this drill on the range, my partner (acting attacker) was standing 3-5 feet away of me by the time I was able to fire my first round, making momentum a factor in the attack well. In fact, every officer (including competition marksmen) were either “stabbed” or within range of momentum by the time they fired their first shot. This is ignoring if they shots were accurate enough to immediately stop the threat. This was the case even when we knew we were going to be attacked. The reactionary response is much slower when it is a surprise.
Officer Rutten Shesky, a seven year veteran, undoubtedly was aware of this fact during the incident with Blake. Despite this, Shesky chose to follow closely behind Blake at gun point and even pulled on his shirt in an attempt to stop Blake from entering into the vehicle. In essence, Shesky attempted to de-escalate the situation by ignoring the Tueller Rule. Shesky placed himself into harms way, within killing range of Blake’s knife, before making the fateful decision to fire his weapon.
Now you might be saying, “they found the knife inside the car, how would he know it was in there?”
This is not necessarily clear nor is it necessarily a fact. If you listen to the audio of the shooting, you can hear Officer Shesky and his partner yell, “Drop the knife” and “Don’t do it!” These statements mean that Officer Shesky saw (or believe he saw) a knife in Blake’s hands prior to him entering into the car. In a still shot, one can clearly see a black edged object in Blake’s hand. Whether this was the knife found in the drivers floorboard (dropped during the shooting) or whether it was sitting in the floorboard prior to Blake’s entry, one thing is clear – Officer Shesky identified a knife as a lethal weapon at the scene prior to the entry into the he vehicle. Officer Shesky ignored normal policing tactics against an edged weapon in an attempt to get Blake to obey commands, and then took action based on the threat at hand. One could say, Officer Shesky hesitated until he could not wait any longer.
Now some will say, “Well, seven shots is excessive, is it not?” Well, let me ask you this, what is the goal for LEOs when they discharge their firearm? The answer is this: To stop the threat. Had one shot killed Blake, there would still be outrage. Seven shots stopped Blake and he is alive, albeit paralyzed.
- WHAT WE ARE MISSING?
Reports have shown that Kenosha PD has not joined the ever growing community of Body Worn Cameras departments. This alone should not garner suspicion but agenda driven media will frame it that way. Let’s not forget, activist began to complain when body worn cameras were revealing how awful people acted – thus harming their own agenda.
Because of the lack of body cams, we are missing a significant portion of the altercation between officers on scene and Blake. Many asked why the Taser device was not used. This was debunked later when a second video went viral showed Blake fight with officers and the unsuccessful use of a taser (later confirmed by the investigating agencies).
The lack of body cams means the narrative gets to be bent by anyone who wishes to project their own cause. Of course, the now debunked claim that Blake was “breaking up a fight” has gone by the wayside.
Facebook personality “Officer Mike” stated insider information suggested Blake stated he was going to grab a gun – which is something to consider especially given the location of the Blake’s reach.
While no gun was found in the vehicle, gun’s are often hidden within reach of the driver’s cabin. Beside DV incidents (explained above), vehicle stops and incidents surrounding vehicles are the most dangerous type of police encounter. This means, officers on scene were dealing with the top two most dangerous type of police incidents: domestic violence and a vehicle encounter. This is another huge consideration that officers on scene understand. This adds to the increased state of awareness and danger that is missed by the layman.
Lastly, we are also missing what may have been said by Blake (beside the mention of a gun alluded to by Officer Mike). Did Blake threaten to steal the vehicle? Was Blake intent on harming the children? Were the Officers aware of the children’s presence? These considerations may be even more telling as to why Officer Shesky took his course of action. Was he trying to stop a volatile situation from becoming even worse with the introduction of innocent children?
I have heard, “They were his kids! Cops fired into his vehicle and put them into danger!” Well, not technically. Shesky fired away from the kids (toward the front of the vehicle and into Blake). If anything, if you were thinking Blake would not harm his own children, Blake placed his children into harms way by ignoring repeated commands and leading officers to the vehicle.
The investigating agency in charge is not Kenosha PD. While this is a good thing (to rid of any opportunity for impropriety) the information coming out of their office has been horribly slow and infrequent. Like larger agencies, updates may be best to slow the stream of false information but they are so infrequent and tight lipped, it has been doing the opposite.
Mind you, part of the reasoning may be the lack of, or a delayed, interview from the officers on scene. This is understandable. FSI (referred to above) suggest that 48 hours (at least) is the best amount of time needed by an officer that has faced an acutely stressful incident (like an OIS) before a statement is provided. Such time allows the brain to relax, reprogram, and recollect thoughts from the stress of the incident. The layman does not understand what stress and adrenaline does to the most experienced officer in an acute stress situation. The body and brain reverts to baseline training and there are lapses in memory, time, hearing, and peripheral vision. The “reset” rest time allows some of those missing pieces of information to be restored and thereby allow the officer to provide the most accurate statement. An accurate statement helps the investigation best.
- DEBUNKING NONSENSE
“If he was white he would still be alive.” If you have browsed social media at all since the shooting of Jacob Blake, you may have seen a tactically atrocious video of Australian officers attempting to round up an armed suspect.
The lumbering fat suspect is eventually taken down by being hit with a car. While every officer on scene is within 21 feet, no one shoots. Despite being foreign, this one of of “many” incidents people have been using to prove racial disparity.
But the facts and statistic do not stand up to these claims. A black Yale professor Ronald Fryer completed a study that showed white cops were LESS likely to use lethal force on black suspects even though black suspects committed a disproportionate amount of violent crime for their population size. Why is that important? Well, people who commit violent crimes have more to lose than those who commit non-violent crimes and therefore violence crime suspects are more likely to resist arrest.
The notion that police officers would be willing to give more leeway to a potentially violent situation just because the suspect is white is woefully asinine. It suggests that the officer will risk a greater chance of dying simply because they favor the suspect‘s white skin.
Facts show that a police officer has a greater chance of being killed by a black suspect than the other way around. Does that therefore dictate officer reactions? Well, again, the statistics above say no for white police officers. Ironically, this means white police officers tend to be more hesitant (rather than “trigger happy”) likely given the political outrage behind using lethal force against minorities.
Taking a video of a different encounter and comparing it with the one at hand just to prove a subjective point proves absolutely nothing. People talk about Dylan Roof and how he wasn’t killed despite his atrocious crime yet they ignore the dozens of black men taken into custody every year for killing police officers. They also ignore the key fact in making an apprehension peaceful: COMPLIANCE.
Every major notable incident spoke about today by BLM involved a lack of compliance by the suspects killed by police. Michael Brown fought and injured police officers. Garner fought officers. Alton Sterling attempted to kill police officers before he was shot and killed. Blake fought officers. Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend shot at officers (she was caught in the crossfire though she indeed was a suspect in the case). George Floyd resisted arrest but his demise more-or-less had to do with his intoxication of fentanyl rather than the widely condemned inactions of Officer Chauvin.
Dylan Roof surrendered. You know who else surrendered despite their horrible crimes and were safely taken into custody? The DC Snipers. A tag team of black serial killers. Who else? Tavares Henderson, Eugene Washington, and James Edward Bell, all three are black men who were accused of killing police officers at the time of their arrest. All three are alive to face a judge in spite of the disdain officers had for them at the time of their arrest. They’re alive because they complied.
A) Officer’s were called to a volatile situation and Jacob Blake was the suspect, not the “Good Samaritan” mediator.
B) Officer’s knew Blake’s history and Felony warrants which included domestic violence and rape.
C) Officer’s likely know of Blake’s criminal history and weapons charges and combative nature.
D) Officers attempted to use a less-than-lethal device despite awareness of a lethal weapon.
E) Officers gave multiple verbal commands (heard on video) for Blake to drop the knife. Blake refused.
F) Officer Shesky ignored police training against knives by attempting to grab Blake’s shirt and stop him from entering the vehicle: a de-escalation tactic.
G) Officer Shesky likely understood the immense danger of allowing Blake to enter into the vehicle and potentially retrieve another dangerous weapon.
H) Officer Shesky stopped an imminent threat and a fleeing felon – which is covered by the court as a viable seizure if the felon poses a danger to police and the public: (Tennessee v Garner).
When civil rights leaders boycotted buses – they tried first with Claudette Colvin. Colvin had an image issue though so they tried again with Rosa Parks. Today, it seems like image doesn’t matter. Everyone can be a martyr even if they’re a rapist and domestic abuser who resisted. Alton Sterling tried to grab a gun in his pocket to kill police. Sterling had just brandished his gun at a woman, was on parole with a warrant, was an active gang member, sexual predator registrant, and prohibited from firearms yet his name is listed next to Emmet Till… facts matter. Stop dismissing them.
https://abcnews.go.com/US/charleston-shooting-suspect-dylann-roof-21-apprehended/story?id=31851054 (Left lean)
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53927756 (Liberal Centrist)
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