“We wish more people would comply with orders police officers give so that we aren’t compelled to use any force.”
“In Syracuse we’ve been fortunate that our residents for the most part have given the system time to do its job as opposed to other cities.”
With all of the over the top anti-police rhetoric currently going on the Syracuse PBA would like to make a few points that it appears are being ignored. Due to the current climate it is difficult to discuss issues involving race but the politicians, media and now many athletes are painting law enforcement officers as racists when there aren’t facts to support it. Professional athletes boycotted playing in games because they felt the shooting in Kenosha of a black man was racist. At the time of the initial boycotts the race of the involved police officers wasn’t even disclosed. The officers didn’t make any racial slurs or insult the suspect in anyway that I’m aware. These officers attempted to arrest the suspect on a warrant and fought with him.
After breaking free of the officers the suspect proceeded to his vehicle where an officer attempted to stop him by pulling on his shirt; when he couldn’t stop the suspect, the officer fired his weapon. It’s unclear to me if the suspect had the knife that was located near the driver’s seat on him or in the vehicle but clearly a man with a knife is a threat. The part of this case that jumps out to law enforcement is that if the suspect didn’t attempt to get into the vehicle he wouldn’t have been shot. If the suspect didn’t resist arrest and flee he wouldn’t have been shot. Suspects actions determine what an officer will do 99% of the time. If this man had complied with the officers he would have been fine, although he would have been in jail. We wish more people would comply with orders police officers give so that we aren’t compelled to use any force.
This leads me to another famous case that everyone keeps bringing up. The Breonna Taylor case in Kentucky. Why is it that the media never mentions that her boyfriend shot an officer when they attempted to serve the search warrant? The boyfriend’s actions directly caused the return fire, during which Taylor was killed. Police officers do not come to work hoping to shoot a person but instead they hope to never find themselves in a position of needing to use deadly force. In this case once their officer was shot they returned fired and tragically the non-shooter, Ms. Taylor was shot. This death is clearly a tragedy but it was her boyfriend’s actions that caused the officers to shoot. This case is being investigated by the state as well as the FBI. Instead of waiting for the results of the investigation Louisville had officers assaulted, buildings burned and other vandalism on innocent people’s properties.
Now we have the case in Rochester where a man on PCP being restrained by the police died. It’s a tragedy that this man passed away but the Attorney General was immediately notified of an in custody death and initiated an investigation. That investigation began shortly after this incident, not after the riots. This man was brought to a hospital by his family to get him help for his mental condition. Within hours this man was released by the doctors. Why isn’t everyone complaining that they allowed this man out on the streets acting the way he was? In speaking with Rochester union officials their officers followed a DCJS training protocol that all of their police officers recently completed. The City of Rochester would have been saved if the investigation were allowed to be concluded before the video was released. This way the Attorney General would have released the results, with the video, and explained why the officers were either acting appropriately or why they were charged. I believe it would have been accepted better at that time and lessened the damage done to the city. Structures were burned, officers were injured and patrons of restaurants dining outside were terrorized by BLM members. This is the third city that I’m aware of that patrons have been disrupted, tables overturned and property stolen. I never understand how that type of action, or looting or committing arsons makes these groups believe outsiders will feel sympathetic to their plight. Now you have the Rochester mayor handcuffing the police from defending themselves or others, and the Chief of Police and command staff stepping down. This is horrible for the residents of Rochester but celebrated by the groups terrorizing that city.
The same groups are calling for immediate action but these investigations take time and need to be thorough. Even when immediate action is taken, buildings are burned and looted such as in Minneapolis, where the officers were fired and arrested within days of the incident. Look at one of our local cases. An officer was forced to shoot an armed suspect and the entire event was caught on video, additionally there were two civilian witnesses. This case took seven months for the AG to investigate, conclude and clear the officer, even though the video showed why the officer was justified in his actions. These cases are complicated cases because as police officers we are justified to use deadly force. In day to day crimes suspects clearly do not have that authority so that makes cases involving police officers more complicated for the DA to investigate. If the DA is contemplating making an arrest of an officer I’m sure they want to have a rock solid case to avoid issues down the road. Many will recall the rush to judgment in Baltimore that resulted in seven officers being charged in a death; all the officers were either found not guilty or had the charges dropped. This caused more riots for the city and it didn’t need to happen. That is partly the reason for investigations taking a protracted period of time for an arrest of a police officer to occur. The DA needs to make sure they can prove the case or there will be more unrest in the city. A good example of this is the case in Minneapolis a few years ago where a female was shot and killed when she startled a police officer in his patrol car. The female was shot and killed but it took seven months to charge the officer then another year to go to trial before the officer was convicted of killing the woman. The prosecutor there was under the same pressures that all prosecutors are under when an officer kills a civilian but they didn’t rush the case and brought proper charges.
There is a lot of talk of teaching young people what to do when confronted by the police. Statistics will bear out that very few police contacts end in a police shooting. Hundreds of millions of police calls are completed each year without incident but those are always overlooked. I understand the need to discuss the officer involved shootings but the vast majority of those are justified shootings. Politicians and these athletes now want to pass laws restricting all law enforcement officers because of a few cases they feel were unjust; even when the officers were cleared by the DA or the DOJ. We continue to hear about Michael Brown and ‘hands up don’t shoot’ even though it was proven that never happened. That case was investigated by every agency that could investigate it but Officer Wilson was cleared by everyone. However, this hands up don’t shoot fable carries on. Restricting how officers do their job everyday is dangerous for everyone. The same people want qualified immunity eliminated for police officers when we are sued civilly. This protection is applied by a judge during a civil trial after it’s proven that the officer acted appropriately and reasonably. Qualified immunity has nothing to do with an officer being charged criminally so why do politicians want this protection taken away? Many politicians have qualified immunity themselves but now they want to eliminate it for police officers.
When officers commit a crime while carrying out their duties and the DA has proof charges are brought but when the officer is only guilty in the court of public opinion and protest, they aren’t. Unfortunately officers do make mistakes and it can have fatal consequences but not all of the mistakes are criminal. Everyone needs to give the process the opportunity to work without jumping to conclusions and tearing cities apart. In Syracuse we’ve been fortunate that our residents for the most part have given the system time to do its job as opposed to other cities. I also believe that by the department providing facts in a timely manner it has helped us within the community. I’m asking the community to give the system time to do it’s job when the next critical incident occurs. Since I began writing this we had the fatal shooting at the Sunoco and the community received critical information within 24 hours and we avoided any related problems.
Lastly, the advice of the Syracuse PBA for anyone interacting with any law enforcement officer is to comply with the lawful orders of the officer to avoid any physical contact. If the person complies with the officer’s command to not walk away, not reach in their pockets, not to enter or reach into a vehicle, there isn’t any need for the officer to use force. In the overwhelming majority of the times if you comply with the police officer you will not have any issues. Attorney General Barr has a phrase “comply today, complain tomorrow”. That statement is great advice for everyone. A person can always make a complaint against an officer but taking matters into their own hands can be deadly. Do what the officer is asking you to do when you’re being asked and file your complaint the following day. That is good advice for all people, black, white, male, female, young or old for any police encounter. Help officers perform our duties better by listening to what we’re asking of you and complying with the officers lawful orders.
President, Syracuse PBA