It’s doubtful that an officer could draw his weapon and squeeze off a round, without aiming, if a knife-wielding suspect began a charge from a distance of twenty-one feet or less. Suppose the officer did properly assess the threat, managing to draw his weapon and fire. How long would it take to think about and perform those two basic tasks?
In a controlled test, the officer with the quickest response was able to draw his weapon from a security holster in a little under 1.5 seconds. The slowest was a about 2.25 seconds. Sounds pretty fast, huh? Maybe not.
The average suspect can cover the distance (21 feet as seen above) to the officer in as little as 1.5 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than the slowest officer is able to defend himself.
Today, officers must rethink the twenty-one foot rule a bit. Sure, the thug is potentially a deadly threat, but not an actual deadly threat until he makes some sort of hostile movement toward the officer. Of course, the officer should have his firearm in a ready position as soon as he perceives the threat. And this is a situation where the officer should always choose his firearm over a non-lethal weapon, such as a Taser or pepper spray. Remember the the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight?” Now there’s a new addition to that rule. It’s, “Never bring a Taser to a knife fight.”
The key to knowing when it’s time to shoot is simple. If the officer feels that his life, or the life of an innocent person, is at risk, then the shoot is justified. However, the officer must be prepared to articulate his reasons for pulling the trigger. Was the suspect making stabbing motions while advancing? Was he charging at, or lunging toward the officer?
There are reasons, too, that may not justify the shoot, such as the suspect being so intoxicated that he couldn’t possibly have followed through with the threat. In short, the threat must be real, or at least perceived as being real in the eyes and mind of the officer. However, if the threat is real and incoming, then there’s no doubt…deadly force is justified.
In addition, the officer must be able to recognize when a threat is over. If the suspect drops his weapon the justification for deadly force ends immediately.
I wrote this three years ago, to the day. I’m still not over it.
Nearly twenty years ago, I stopped at a service station/bus stop to fill the gas tank in my unmarked police car. In those days, the department had a contract with a fuel company that allowed us to fill up at various spots throughout the city, and one of those places also served as this particular bus stop.
Rain was coming down in sheets, but I stopped anyway because but I liked to fill my tank when it hit the halfway mark so I wouldn’t be caught short during an emergency.
I was finishing up, placing the nozzle back into its proper spot on the pump, when I saw three young men approaching a waiting bus. Gusty winds blew the rain sideways at times and I was getting soaked. But the men (all three had a sort of homeless look to them—shaggy hair and dirty, well-worn clothes) seemed to be in no big hurry, splashing and tromping through puddles as they made their way across the asphalt, towing tattered, rolling luggage behind them.
One of the guys held a small puppy in his arms. It was obvious by the way he carried the scared pup that he didn’t care about her. And she was filthy. Her white coat was nearly gray and quite matted.
The first two men presented tickets and climbed aboard the bus. But when the third man, the one carrying the dog, attempted to board, the driver said, “You can’t bring that dog on this bus.” So the man looked around a couple of times and then sort of tossed her onto the wet pavement, and climbed aboard. The bus pulled away with a burp of black exhaust.
The pitiful puppy never moved. Instead, she looked confused and simply stood in the rain, shivering. I ran over and scooped her up and she immediately snuggled deep into my arms. So I carried her back to my car, cranked the heat on high, and headed home to tell Denene that we had a house guest. But I promised that we’d only keep her until we could find her a good home. After all, we already had two active-duty police canines living with us, a huge rottweiler and an overgrown lab that was a true sweetheart. We did not have room for a third dog. No way. Wasn’t going to happen.
Well, we fed the little poodle and gave her a drink of water. Then we gave her a name and a permanent home. She was irresistible. Pebbles (I don’t remember how we decided on her name) quickly found a place in our hearts, and she was by our sides day-in and day-out for almost two decades. She tagged along on each of our moves, on a cross-country RV trip, hikes, to the beach…everywhere we went. In fact, we never went anywhere or did anything without her.
And she was actually kind enough to endure our little quirks, like the time we bought her a raincoat and boots for Christmas. She hated to get her feet wet, but she loathed those boots even more. She tolerated the raincoat, though.
Pebbles was at my feet every day during the writing of my book on police procedure. She was my first “listener.” And she even caused a bit of a stir with my editor, who called one day to ask why, in the middle of a paragraph about fingerprinting, did I write,” Do you need to go pee-pee?” Well, at that time I was using voice-activated software and I’d forgotten to switch it off when I was preparing to take her outside for a break. I guess I missed the odd text when I proofread the chapter.
Denene and I enjoy our dessert around 8pm. Pebbles also enjoyed her own dessert at precisely the same time—four cheese-flavored Goldfish crackers. Not three. Not two. Not five. Exactly and precisely, four. And we’d better not have been a minute later than 8, either, or she’d drive us nuts until we gave her her “fish.”
In the beginning, Pebbles was too frightened to sleep alone, so we allowed her to claim a spot on our bed. You know, until her anxieties passed. Well, you know the name of that tune. She slept with us every single night of her time with us. She had her own tiny pillow and blanket, too. And a cold nose and pointy toenails. She insisted on touching me from time to time during the night, making sure I was there. Or, if she was cold she’d snuggle as close as she could get. Sure, I hated it so much that I’d roll over and put an arm around her until I felt her go back to sleep. Yep, the three of us were as thick as thieves. Best friends. Pals forever. All for one and one for all.
And yesterday, when she suddenly fell ill, we were there when she left us, snuggling close one final time before she closed her eyes and sighed.
And I cannot begin to tell you what a huge hole was left in our hearts. We’ll miss her, always.
Damn, I loved that dog…