Law Enforcement, Force, and Civility

An excerpt from Humbling and Humility

Excessive Force

As I waited in a corridor of the intervention program offices with others, for the earlier session to finish up, Paul approached me and started a conversation. He said that his judge refused to believe him, denied his request for a restraining order against his ex-girlfriend, and told her instead that she could call the police if she saw him anywhere near her, which would result in Paul, the plaintiff in this proceeding, going to jail for six months. I advised Paul that he should seriously consider leaving this place if at all possible to avoid further danger, particularly if his ex-girlfriend was indeed baiting him as he informed us all.

Conversation in the session this day began with a tragic instance of gun violence. A Dilbut cop, a sixteen-year veteran Lieutenant of the force, a detective, had been shot and killed recently. He had pulled over a car with an obstructed license plate. Something he probably need not have done, said a group member.

It’s a dangerous job…” said Sid.

There were fifty cops chasing these perps,” Lopez objected.

A typically quiet group member piped up and said that while he felt bad for the cop’s family, the attention given to this incident seemed overboard.

Look at the fire engine there and all those glossy pictures. I bet, if it was some Joe Schmo, there won’t be a fraction of that level of attention or care, as they show for a cop,” he asserted.

Another spoke up, agreeing with him. “What about the Peoria situation, a sixty-seven year old man, tasered twice, and shot to death for DV? And what about the homeowner, fighting an armed intruder, shot six times by a responding cop? Six shots with a police weapon––do they shoot to kill, to leave no witnesses?”

That homeowner, who’d wrestled an armed intruder down and was taking his weapon, survived, but was confined to a wheelchair, permanently, due to his wounds. It was clear that cops focused on how not to get killed, or sued, in performing their law enforcement duties. Reminded me of Fred’s suggested method––in resolving a wife-in-bed-with-another situation––employing extreme prejudice.

I related a personal incident in which I woke up at night, in my house, in my bed, with three guns pointed at me by three Dilbut cops. This was some years prior to ’07, resulting from a door not properly closed by my wife that had swung open in the night. The home alarm system activated while everyone slept upstairs. My wife slept with our children in the kids’ bedroom. No one heard the loud alarm downstairs. The cops came by a while later to find the door open. They’d come in, come upstairs, and found me sleeping in the bed alone.

Sid disagreed with my implication. “How would you expect the police to respond? Maybe you were in bed with a knife at someone’s throat.”

I didn’t provide any further details; it seemed pointless for us to debate police methods. It is easy to realize that the gun-happy cops could, quite readily, have shot me multiple times, without any further thought, had I reacted in a nervous manner that they could have interpreted as a threat. And, with three guns pointed at a target less than a body length away, I wouldn’t have had any chance at survival.

As it happened, I’d woken up, very much aware of the guns pointed at me, with my hands raised, and asked them if I could check on my family before anything else. They allowed me passage to the kids’ bedroom, where I found the door locked, and upon inquiring if everything was fine, I heard a muffled response from my wife, while the door did not open. By this time, their guns lowered and holstered, the cops explained that the alarm system signal brought them over to check on the house. I asked them to help me search the house to ensure that nothing was amiss, which they did. They left afterward with sheepish looks on their faces, or so I remember.

I did recall that two of the cops who came by appeared to be young, and were likely in training. But three guns? All pointed at someone obviously sleeping, and alone, in the big bed in the big bedroom of the house? What were they thinking? Memory fails me now, but I think they offered an explanation that they thought I might have been a perpetrator who’d decided to take a nap after a crime. Did they get that from the Dilbut training manual for cops?

• • •

 February 18, 2015 update: The State of Alabama offers an unreserved apology for excessive force employed by the cop – BBC article link

Sept. 11, 2015 update: An Alabama jury deadlocks over the cop’s prosecution, a mistrial is declared. The prosecutors plan to try him again.

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About Rian Nejar

Rian Nejar is an Indian-American author. He trained and worked as an engineer in India, lived briefly in the Middle East, and arrived in America in the early 90's. After a Master’s degree in electrical engineering in America, he worked as an academic instructor, engineer, entrepreneur, and technical writer over the two decades since. Humbling and Humility is the first heartfelt written expression of his varied life experiences. He lives and writes in the Southwest United States.
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