And I put a bullet in the calf of her leg. She sat down—plump! Utter surprise stretched her white face. It was too soon for pain. I had never shot a woman before. I felt queer about it.
"You ought to have known I'd do it!" My voice sounded harsh and savage and like a stranger's in my ears. "Didn't I steal a crutch from a cripple?"
Rather than allow her escape, Dashiell Hammett’s detective shoots his suspect. Although firing on non-threatening fleeing suspects is illegal, it doesn’t stop the Continental Op. It doesn’t stop some police officers either. Hammett’s operative experiences moral uncertainty before putting one bullet in a non-lethal spot. I wonder what Rusten Sheskey experienced as he put seven bullets in Jacob Blake’s back while fellow officers watched. I think he used excessive force. Kenosha County District Attorney, Michael Graveley, doesn’t share my opinion. He declined to bring charges against Officer Sheskey.
A few miles from where Derek Chauvin stands trial for George Floyd’s death, a female officer killed yet another, non-threatening, fleeing suspect. She didn’t kneel on his neck for over nine minutes as did Derek Chauvin. Instead she mistook her gun for a taser. Answering your question is police use-of-force expert, Ed Obayashi, summarized in the New York Times, "… the officer can become accustomed to using the same hand to draw either weapon, a habit that can make it harder to tell one from the other in high-pressure situations when muscle memory and instinct kick in."
Okay, that makes sense, but why didn’t she simply let him drive home and arrest him later. I’ve noticed, in some of these recent police killings, the blameworthy officer had an audience, in several cases, rookies. Does that matter or is it coincidence?
A second’s worth of poor video shows 13 year old, Adam Toledo, unarmed, and with hands raised, just before being fatally struck by a bullet. Neuroscience shows that actions can be decided and implemented half a second before they become conscious. The officer made a split-second decision that turned out wrong. Was he wrong?
Yes, according to the Lone Ranger. “I'll shoot to wound, not to kill. A man must die, it's up to the Lord to decide that; not the person behind the six shooter.”
The Lone Ranger had a steady hand and rawhide nerves. He would not have shot Adam Toledo. Only if Adam were armed would the Lone Ranger have fired a wounding shot.
In an ideal world, police would act more like cowboys or Dashiell Hammett detectives. Sam Spade occasionally disarmed bad guys, but he didn’t carry a gun himself. “Yeah, right. What about racist policing?” you ask.
Well, according to the fifth principal of Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code, a cowboy, “must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.”
At this point you’re thinking I’m talking nonsense You want to remind me that cowboys and movie detectives are make-believe. Yes, I’ll agree, I am talking nonsense. For this I blame the ancient Greeks and Romans. They endowed humans with a rationality that humans don’t always display. In a tense situation, rational responses are less likely to occur than those triggered by reflexes. Perhaps unconscious racism sometimes kicks-in as well.
We need more fool-proof policing methods. For example, instead of having a pistol shape, tasers could be shaped like dildos. I don’t think a cop could mistake a gun for a dildo. Better yet, let’s do away with tasers entirely. Sometimes they fail to subdue suspects, enraging them instead. There must be better mousetraps we can invent.
Lastly, there are many situations that can end peacefully if approached peacefully. Paladin’s calling card read, “Have Gun Will Travel,” but he rarely used his six shooter. He preferred conflict resolution to gunplay. According to Vox, police recruits receive extensive firearms training, but little training in conflict management. It’s time for serious changes in our policing philosophy and methods. The bloodshed must stop.