PUTTING MY LOVED ONES IN DANGER
By Officer Deon Joseph
To elected officials in Sacramento, California: You are putting my loved ones in danger.
As a law officer, I must let you know who my loved ones are before moving forward. They are the 700,000 men and women across this nation whom I serve with from all walks of life, and the people we are sworn to protect across this nation.
As we speak, an incredibly irresponsible (and in my opinion unlawful) bill is being pushed forward to change language as it relates to officers protecting themselves and the public from imminent and immediate threats of serious bodily injury and death.
In my strongest of opinion, this bill is driven by pure hatred for law enforcement officers and political pandering. Clearly the elected officials who support this bill, under the guise of “saving lives,” have eerily become influenced by fringe groups who desperately want to see more officers killed by suspects and jailed for even justified shootings to satisfy their bias toward law enforcement.
Do we not have rational leaders in Sacramento anymore? No more critical thinkers? Though clearly intellectual, it appears they have become increasingly intellectually lazy, as many refuse to understand the realities of police shootings, which are not slow-motion breakdowns in hindsight, but split-second decisions in tense moments, involving human beings, with fears, made of mortal flesh and blood.
What hope do we have when our elected officials become headline thinkers?
Not only is this move incredibly dangerous, but unlawfully removes the objectionable reasonable standard for officers in the heat of imminent danger to more of a subjective view of people in the controlled environment of hindsight.
In essence, a police officer’s freedom after having to defend him/herself or the public will literally be placed in the hands of Monday morning quarterbacks with either no real world experience, or a deep-seated hatred for police officers under the disguise of having a moral high ground.
As tragic and shocking as a few of the more controversial police shootings have been, we cannot put officers and community members at risk by hyper-focusing on the few of shootings that shock us all.
Why do I call them the few? Well, for those who will disingenuously draw from this that I am minimizing police shootings or somehow have a juvenile thought that I am advocating for police to be allowed to arbitrarily “murder with impunity because I have a badge,” please allow me to introduce myself to you.
I am a 23-year veteran of law enforcement. I have worked in three of the most crime-ridden areas of Los Angeles County. In one of those places, in the early 2000s, 3,800 parolees, 3,000 people on probation, 500 sex offenders and hundreds of gang members roamed in a 50-block radius. I spent 21 years there at its worst and never shot anyone. I’ll admit I came close on four occasions, but by the grace of God, and a suspect’s split-second decision to stop their dangerous actions, I was able to holster my firearm and not do something I dreaded since joining the force nearly a quarter of a century ago.
In that same division, most of the hundreds of officers employed there over those years can claim the same, and the ones who did had no choice based on what they were faced with.
In another division I worked for nearly two years, where murders from gun violence of black and brown people were at a staggering high, if there was a “Man with a Gun” call, you could be assured that when you arrived there, the suspect would either be there waiting for you, or somewhere in the vicinity lying in wait for you. Yet still, in those two years, I can count the number of police-involved shootings on one hand.
An average law enforcement officer anywhere in this nation and even in the most dangerous communities will go their whole careers without shooting anyone.
I am thankful to God that so far, I am not one, yet knowing the reality of the dangers of my profession, and the unpredictability of human beings, I still would like to maintain the right to give myself, my partner or a community member in imminent danger a fighting chance to survive it based on that reality. Not emotionalism, over reaching outrage and delusional idealism.
The verbiage in this new law runs counter to a Supreme Court ruling that recognized the humanity of police and suspects during uses of force, as well as intent and surrounding circumstances that trigger fight or flight instincts in any human being, especially cops who have to push past the urge of flight to stop imminent threats to the public.
If police unions do not challenge this disturbing circumventing of case law, then shame on them.
Years ago, I would never have expected something like this to come to fruition. But based on the current climate against law enforcement, nothing surprises me. I fully expect it to push through as politicians continue to pander to extreme leaning groups to stay in power.
I should rightfully expect a challenge to it when it happens. Lives depend on it.
No police officer I ever knew wakes up in the morning with criminal intent to take anyone’s life. What cop today would want that scrutiny? Especially if the person we encounter is a person of color?
This move is irresponsible; I get the intentions of the people behind it, but for our civic leaders to fall for it is frightening.
This decision will cause officers to second-guess themselves in instances where their decisive action or the lack thereof could mean they or a citizen in danger won’t go home.
Nonetheless, we as officers will always willingly put our lives on the line, but we should never have to choose to risk giving it away to satisfy public perception.
As I said, my fellow officers and the people they serve are my loved ones. I want them all to have every chance to get home.
I recognize mistakes can happen, and in even extremely rare cases, malice, but that is no excuse to put the honorable in harm’s way. It is just wrong.
There are other ways to reduce tragedy without causing the potential for more.
For more of my thoughts on policing, check out the blog section of my website at www.deonjoseph.org
Deon Joseph is a 23 year veteran of law enforcement in Southern California - 21 of those years working in the homeless community to create an environment conducive to change for those in recovery, as a Lead Officer. He’s been recognized for his work locally and nationally, and news stories and documentaries surrounding his work in crime fighting and community relations, featured him. www.deonjoseph.org