After the string of officer-involved shootings we have had over the last few months, I wanted to focus my article on the topic of hesitation. I want every member of the LVPPA to know one thing: I would rather spend $1 million defending an officer in a court of law than show up to a funeral. In my career here at LVMPD, I have attended far more funerals than I ever thought I would. I hope to God I never have to attend one more in the time I have left with this agency. One way to make sure of that is to make sure our officers don’t hesitate when it comes to lethal force.
Across the country, we have all seen the videos of officers waiting and waiting and waiting to use lethal force. These officers ultimately got lucky and never fell victim to the suspect, but I believe it is because those suspects were not committed to doing violence. However, if those same officers came across a suspect who was committed, we would be burying those officers. And because the officer didn’t pull the trigger, although it was 100% justified at the time, the media and police departments around the country praise those officers for “restraint”! That is not restraint! That is bad police work. That is fear of what will be said in the media or by their own departments. That is the potential to put other officers in harm’s way. That is flat out wrong.
If someone is standing over you telling you to kill them, and is reaching in their pocket and saying they have a firearm, and you don’t use lethal force, when will you? And if you won’t use lethal force when it is needed to protect yourself, what if the life you need to save is someone else’s? What if that same suspect is standing over your partner doing the same thing, and you don’t use lethal force until the suspect has already drawn and fired?
I truly hope a police officer is more worried about leaving their children without a parent or their spouse without their other half than worried about public scrutiny or internal questioning that may result in discipline. That is what should be at the forefront of your mind when encountering a potentially dangerous situation.
The hierarchy of importance for any officer should be as follows: 1. Family; 2. Partner’s family; 3. Everything else. I really want that to sink in! Go home at the end of the shift and make sure your partner does the same. What is going to come of a FIT investigation or a CIRT investigation or a Use of Force Board should be far removed from your thought process, and the thought of going home to your family should be at the very front. And when it comes time to face that CIRT interview or that Use of Force Board, you have the PPA standing by your side to get you through that process. I will commit, and have committed, large amounts of money to the legal aid of officers in the discharge of their duties. Our officers are highly trained. LVMPD puts all of us through the wringer when it comes to use of force, firearms qualifications, defensive tactics and vehicle maneuvers. We are given so much of this training to make it second nature when a violent encounter happens.
Many times, when I am with our officers involved in a deadly force situation, they tell me “as soon as the incident took place, my training just kicked in and I applied lethal force almost without knowing I was doing it.” That is the exact goal LVMPD is trying to achieve when you spend countless hours shooting at the range or drawing and holstering your weapon. It is so when your tunnel vision kicks in, your body goes into training mode and you do things subconsciously. Trust that training and all the hours spent making your mind and body go into autopilot. It won’t fail you!
Lastly, I want to say keep fighting the good fight out there. So many people want to talk badly about the profession of law enforcement. I say “so many,” but that really isn’t an accurate depiction of who is running their mouths. The small group of vocal people running their mouths about law enforcement have another agenda or reason for not liking the police. The good, hardworking, honest citizens of Clark County don’t go screaming to the media about how great their encounter was with the police, or how thankful they were that an officer recovered their stolen car or jewelry. But they do appreciate you. The leaders of our community appreciate you. The families who can play safely outside their front doors appreciate you. I wish our community, which is on your side, would start being more vocal in the media. Then maybe that narrative would change and all the good that police officers do will finally be put in the spotlight.