On July 30, 2014, a husband and father of two was shot at point blank range in a relatively quiet residential area of Mendota Heights, Minnesota.
In the midst of the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, there have been several debates jockeying for position. Last week I spoke to what is perhaps the biggest one— that this tragedy is indicative that racism is alive and well in our country. This is second only to the narrative that there is an extensive problem with police nation-wide.
Let’s step back for a second. Do we really understand what it means to be a cop? And does one altercation between an officer and a now-deceased teen really define it all?
Meet Túlio Tourinho, a Brazilian immigrant, Iraq War veteran and police officer in a large Kentucky metro area. (Tourinho appeared on TheBlaze Radio's Chris Salcedo Show two weeks ago - listen here at minute 20:27 for the interview).
Officer Tourinho is a rare breed in today’s society. When it comes to the truth, it’s no holds barred with Tourinho—and he’s graciously agreed to help debunk some of the widespread myths that surround law enforcement today:
Myth #1: Cops have no feelings; we can’t think of them as human.
Everyone’s been there. You’re blatantly speeding to work, and before you know it, you’re pulled on the side of the road. The officer isn’t exactly Mr./Ms. Congeniality and you’re miffed. “Geez,” you think, “it’s not like I’m some kind of deviant.”
How precisely does the officer know what you are?
“People mistake kindness for weakness and criminals will always be ‘reading’ the officer to see if they can ‘take’ the officer,” Tourinho noted. “And because the officer conducting routine traffic stops or answering to routine runs for service has no idea who the person/people are, or what they’re capable of, it’s imperative that the officer not be complacent and treat all events as a possible threat to his safety.”
Police guard the front of the Buzz Westfall Justice Center where a grand jury will begin looking at the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 20, 2014 in Clayton, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer on August 9. Despite the Brown family's continued call for peaceful demonstrations, violent protests have erupted nearly every night in Ferguson since his death. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Tourinho went on to describe that officers have been killed by the unlikeliest of perpetrators—from the elderly to the disabled and beyond.
“Unarmed” doesn’t always equal “un-dangerous.”
Myth #2: Police should just “shoot to wound.”
Unlike the movies and television we’re all used to seeing, in which a single bullet (wherever it lands) brings a perpetrator to his knees, it’s a little more complicated in real life.
[sharequote align="center"]“Unarmed” doesn’t always equal “un-dangerous.”[/sharequote]
“Because most deadly encounters with deadly weapons occur within 6 feet of the perpetrator,” Tourinho said, “officers are always taught to aim at center mass because it is the largest part of the body. Stopping the threat is always the number one priority. Always. And the threat is stopped when he or she stops moving.”
Apply this principal to your own life. If faced with a deadly threat, your survival is top of mind.
“Back up might be minutes away, and, during a deadly confrontation, minutes are an eternity,” Tourinho said.
Myth #3: Deadly force has no ramifications for the cop, so he/she isn’t likely to think twice.
There is a persistent idea that an officer-related shooting event is commonplace, and that there are no consequences.
“In most cases, months go by before the officer is allowed to return to work,” Tourinho said, “The officer is immediately placed on administrative leave with pay, given right to counsel, and offered an array of services such as chaplain or peer support or FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] legal services.”
In other words, it’s a big deal.
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Myth #4: Police just shouldn’t use their guns.
If you’ve got a suspect who has crossed the line and is willing to attack an armed officer, there’s absolutely no telling what could unfold. Not only is deadly force authorized once an attack ensues, but it is often the lesser of two evils in the situation.
“The officer cannot take any chances,” said Tourinho, who also points out that if “an individual is willing to do that to a police officer, how much more is that person capable of inflicting on innocent civilian lives?”
Myth #5: Race always plays a role in who gets arrested.
It’s simply mathematics. Just as there are probably more white arrestees in a northern Minnesota mining town, there are probably more black arrestees in south Chicago. This is pure demographics.
“The victim mentality will always suggest that ANY and EVERY encounter between an officer and a black person is a racist encounter,” lamented Tourinho, “that’s the default presumption.”
Tourinho continues, “Now, are blacks arrested more than whites [overall]? Yes. Why? Because blacks are committing more crimes. That’s a fact. The sociology and economics of it are another matter.”
Now, take Tourinho’s insight and apply it to Ferguson.
We now have facts (and 12 witnesses) that seem to corroborate the officer’s story.
We’re now privy to information that suggests Brown was no “gentle giant,” but rather that he had roughed up a clerk at the store he robbed (the footage of which Eric Holder himself tried to have suppressed), and that his altercation with Officer Darren Wilson involved a “bum-rush” and a blowout fracture to one of Wilson’s eye sockets—all while he attempted to grab Wilson’s firearm.
Don’t get me wrong—all of these facts form part of a growing understanding of what happened in Ferguson—and we still have to wait for the final verdict.
Police officers man their positions in front of Ferguson businesses just after 10 p.m. on West Florissant Avenue on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. A curfew was to go into effect at midnight. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)
But . . . assuming Wilson’s story is true, and with Tourinho’s points taken into consideration—what would we have had Wilson do? Allow himself to be killed simply because it would prevent Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the Department of Justice from turning this into a media circus and a national race issue?
Tourinho puts it well: “What does it say about us, as humans, when we are unwilling to give a police officer, someone who places their life on the line for the sake of innocents, the benefit of the doubt; when we are so hell-bent on judging, crucifying and burying a police officer without any due process or before all the facts are made evident? If we are willing to give a civilian the benefit of the discovery and fact-finding, why are we so unwilling to give cops the same?”
Even if Wilson is everything the Ferguson protestors say he is, we’ve got a justice system to fix that. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water by making this about all cops.
The reality is that the average cop is no different than the average salesman, accountant, or writer . . . they just want to do their job, and go home alive at the end of the day. How many of us have the luxury of waking up without the relentless reality that today might be your last watch, just because somebody didn’t want to go to jail, or because someone took issue with your profession?
Whether people like it or not, every officer walks a thin blue line for society. There’s very little between the people they protect, and the danger on the other side.
Do a little soul-searching. Would you really walk that line by yourself?
Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com – a political commentary blog, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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