THE DANGERS OF INTERVENTION
There has been a lot of space devoted in the Stopping Power Message Board and other message boards to the presentation of hypothetical situations and a request for solutions. The problem with such imaginary situations is that there is none of the untidiness and ambiguity that exists in the real world.
Please understand that Iím not ridiculing those who present such situations or
those who attempt to solve them. I consider those who post on this board as
friends I havenít met yet. As your friend I feel a moral responsibility to
share my observations based on my actual experiences in real incidents. I donít
want to see good guys and gals get their selves in a jam by jumping into
situations that are unclear and fraught with danger.
Let me be perfectly frank. Those who think that intervention will bring fame,
honors, glory, etc., are delusional. I once prevented the rape of a woman by
butt stroking her attacker with a shotgun while he was in the act of
penetrating her. Weeks later she made an excessive force complaint against me.
She thought I should have been more restrained in my behavior! On another
occasion, my partner and I chased a holdup man into a store where he took a
woman hostage. He then threatened to kill her (he had just shot two people in a
bank and we believed him!). My partner shot the bad guys three times. One of
those bullets slightly grazed the womanís finger and she sued us for
If the rescued individual doesnít make life miserable for you in the courts,
they just might kill you. Iím aware of four instances where officers responded
to a domestic violence situation and when the wife realized the breadwinner was
going to jail she assaulted and killed her would-be rescuers.
My Tac Unit partner and I backed up a precinct unit on a domestic assault
arrest. As the husband was being handcuffed the wife disappeared down the
hallway. I motioned to my partner and we followed her down the hall with guns
drawn. We found her in the bedroom loading a Winchester .30-.30 lever action
rifle. We quickly disarmed and cuffed her. As we brought her into the living
room a precinct sergeant ordered us to let her go. When we refused to do so, he
attempted to remove her from our custody. When told him that if he didnít back
off we would arrest him, he left to complain to our supervisors.
If ingratitude isnít enough we need to understand that things are almost never
what they seem. What appears to be a car jacking may be the attempt by a father
to recover a child from a noncustodial mother. Our intervention may not only be
ill advised but we may be acting in violation of a court order. The fact that
we are unaware of a court order will not save the day.
Even if the situation is exactly as it appears and youíre even in accordance
with the law, you need to understand one simple fact-the law is what the local prosecutor says it is. Do you really want to spend 7 years in jail
waiting for an appeal to be heard and your conviction overturned?
I once got sued for in excess of $100,000 for handcuffing a suspect. The city
settled out of court even though my actions were totally legal. Anybody who
read about this settlement in the paper would assume I was guilty of
inappropriate behavior or some illegality. The city paid the settlement and
provided legal counsel. Had I been acting as a private citizen I would have
subjected my family to decades of poverty in order to pay the judgment and
Situations that involve significant injury or death are frightenly expensive. My
partners and I were sued for $17.5 million dollars in the fatal shooting of a
holdup man. The legal fees alone would have run into seven figures. We were
accused of being blood thirsty, trigger-happy racist cops. The media
conveniently forgot we had intervened in the severe beating and robbery of an
All that being said and experienced, I continued to intervene. However, people
should be reminded I was a cop-it was my job. I spent 20 years going in harms
way for total strangers. Would I do that today? Probably not. I no longer have
the deep pockets of the City of
behind me. Sound callous? Well, would you be willing to jeopardize everything
you own and your familyís security for a total stranger? Would you be willing
to lose your home, your cars, and your retirement to play Knight of the Round
Apparently some people are certainly willing to fantasize about intervening in a
hypothetical situation. Some may consider this harmless musing, but I find it
troubling. Tactical planning involves assessing all the potential problems
carefully and realistically looking at the cost of such intervention.
Role-playing or gaming looks at it through rose colored glasses and ignores the
cold hard reality of a personís involvement in a deadly force event.
I carry a gun to protect myself and the people I love from the Monsters that
roam the earth. When Iím away from those that mean everything to me, I carry so
I can return to them. Are there circumstances where I would intervene to help a
stranger? Yes, but such intervention would be on my terms at my pace. I am not
going to jump into a situation with gun drawn.
Rather I would seek cover and carefully evaluate the totality of the
circumstance. When I was convinced I knew what is really going on I would
respond with the minimum amount of force necessary whether that required
drawing my cell phone or my pistol. If all we have is a pistol we have severely
limited options. I carry three pistols, oc, cell phone, and a flashlight, and I
am a PPCT Defensive Tactics Instructor. I am willing and trained to respond
with the appropriate level of force even if that is ďonlyĒ a command voice. I
understand the force continuum and know what the appropriate level force is in
a given situation. Ignorance of such critical parameters can have horrific
Those who think the mere display of a weapon will stop hostilities are naÔve in
the extreme. The same people we will be confronting know what an appropriate
level of force is and when we make outlandish or unjustified threats weíll show
our true colors. These people can tell when weíre serious and we will quickly
find ourselves disarmed and in real trouble.
Again, we need to avoid rushing in where Angels fear to tread. Remember the most
endangered species is good guys and gals. Go with God.
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