Just when you thought being a cop could not get worse.

I remember a war story during the police academy when the instructor was covering shootings. An officer was clearing a building and the suspect charge him with a knife. The officer shot the suspect multiple times, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Now there was no question, this was a justified shoot. When the investigators at the scene asked, “How many times did you shoot him?” the man answered, “Six, maybe seven times.”

The investigators handed the man two empty fifteen round magazines. In a matter of seconds, he fired over thirty bullets, changing out magazines twice.

The academy instructor made the point when put into a fight or flight scenario like that, you get severe tunnel vision. You focus on the threat, in this case a man with a knife threatening your life. It’s not like the calm movie or TV cop knowing how many rounds he fired (Sorry Dirty Harry) or taking his time to meticulously aim on the target (The exception to that is a sniper, but that’s another story for another day). You use force till the threat is extinguished.

In the last few years politicians, BWABs (Bureaucrats with a Badge) and other people we would be better off without have tried to micromanage and limit police on the street. Multiple police agencies have lived under the threat of budget cuts, elimination of the agency, or the US Department of Justice targeting them destruction for any infraction, minor or not.

Now we have an incredible case of micromanagement from police bureaucracy to the men on the lines. And the end state is simple. People will get killed.

Back to the shooting and the tunnel vision, quick reaction, and the necessity to stop the threat. Well, the “smart” people in Grand Rapids MI know how to stop police shootings. Just warn the suspects first.

Grand Rapids police will give warning before using deadly force

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids police will soon be required to warn people before using deadly force, and the “sanctity of life” will be their highest priority, officials say.

Those are two of a number of policy changes Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom outlined Tuesday morning, July 26, after a monthslong review and more than 100 meetings with community members.

Winstrom promised the review of department policies and practices, and potential recommended changes, when he was hired as the new chief in March…

“…I have heard those who call for defunding or abolition of the Police Department and I have heard from a majority of residents and businesses that desire better police presence.

“The pathway to change is through the immediate community-informed steps I outlined today and the community-engaged steps for ongoing change and reform that will come through our strategic planning process.”

Officers will begin training for the new policies starting Aug. 2. Those sessions will include training in de-escalation, self-regulation, community-informed training from the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability and understanding historical racism in American policing.

Under the changes, the “sanctity of human life” will be the department’s top priority, Winstrom said. The department will also have a greater focus on de-escalation…

 …Some of the other new policies include a requirement of a warning before an officer uses deadly force; use of deadly force only when “necessary” to do so; and a requirement to use de-escalation and give an opportunity for a person to voluntarily comply.

Winstrom did not give an example of how officers would warn people before using deadly force.

The new policies include an expanded definition of de-escalation. Winstrom said the policy revisions will ensure constitutional policing, implementation of national best practices and the training to back it up…

Where to start?

I’ve never fired my weapon is almost a quarter century on the street, but I’ve come close twice. Once in 2020, a suspect was squatting in a back yard shed, holding his gun under his chin, screaming for his girlfriend. One of my officers was doing an excellent job talking to him, getting him to calm down a bit, so I shut up and let the man keep talking to the suspect. We were hopeful we could get him to drop the pistol.

Then it went to hell.

The suspect pulled his pistol down and pointed it at the officers. The suspect has now initiated deadly force at multiple cops, and they don’t have the time to “warn” him Chief Winstrom. You may have missed this in your meetings with community organizers and such, but the aggressor has the initiative. If he wants to shoot first, he will. The officers needed to make an immediate decision, and they did.

Five cops fired, hitting him multiple times. Tell me Chief Winstrom, how do you warn a suspect with a gun pointed right towards you? Are you willing to let an armed suspect have the first shot at you? Are you willing to risk your life in that situation? Forgive me if I think not.

I recall the wisdom of Churchill, “You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!”

Chief, how many times have we heard this rubbish about de-escalation? Sounds really good, you have the cop talk softer, and everyone gets along, and no one brings out a gun or knife. Well, that’s very naïve, if a criminal is ready to shoot, speaking softer is not going to stop him.

But more to the point, it requires not the cop offering a softer voice, but the recipient (i.e., the suspect) to be willing to tone it down and receive it. I saw an excellent sergeant (A member of the hostage negotiation team) talk a barricaded suspect out of a building. The officer built trust, and got the suspect to walk out even with a hostile (To the cops) crowd outside.

But the point, the sergeant had the time to create the trust, the suspect was not actively resisting, and did not present a deadly threat to others. When a suspect is trying to grab your Taser, is grabbing a pistol as you’re trying to get him into custody, is punching you and resisting detention like a cat being put into a pet carrier, the “de-escalation” is nothing. Sounds good, but when you’re trying to not get yourself killed in the next two seconds, it’s academic.

Chief, one of my field training officers gave me a lesson I’ve taught countess rookies as a field trainer myself. RJ (Using only initials) responded to a bar fight and he was the first officer to arrive. As RJ walked into the bar, one of the men punched him three times in the face before his eyes adjusted to the lights. The suspect was about to knock him out, so RJ took his baton and cracked it over the suspect’s skull. Tell me Chief Winstrom, how could that officer “de-escalate” the situation before he got killed? BTY, how could he warn the suspect he was about to use deadly force on him? Please, share us your wisdom from the community meetings.

I’m not about to say police cannot handle incidents better. After action reviews, lessons learned from previous incidents, etc. are invaluable. But this is not improvement, this is preventing officers from using force when needed. No question a cop should not fire a warning shot, but when the suspect is grabbing for a gun, the officer needs to shoot and now.

To the officers in Grand Rapids, you are now the target. I suggest you join the fire department immediately. Log on, get to your safe space, answer your calls for service, write your reports, and take no risk at all. It’s not worth it anymore. If your new to this career, look at moving to another agency where the brass is not looking as an offering to the local politicians. If your older, get out as soon as your pension is in, and don’t look back. It’s a shame, but you cannot trust a command staff that would put you in this position.

Michael A. Thiac is a retired Army intelligence officer, with over 23 years experience, including serving in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He is also a retired police patrol sergeant, with over 22 years’ service, and over ten year’s experience in field training of newly assigned officers. He has been published at The American Thinker, PoliceOne.com, and on his personal blog, A Cop’s Watch.

Opinions expressed are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers.

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6 thoughts on “Just when you thought being a cop could not get worse.”

  1. I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Sounds like it was grabbed right off an old black and white tv show. “Halt, or I’ll shoot!”
    I imagine it is rather difficult to de-escalate when you have a gun pointed at you. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.
    Grand Rapids might have done better by dismissing the entire police force, and left justice up to carry holders. Now, it is up to carry holders to defend themselves and others, because there is effectively no police there.
    Unarmed British style Bobbies. Wow!

    Reply
    • I have a close friend, a retired London PD sergeant, and we discussed this issue a few years back. At the time London was having issues with riots, and Bill was getting in late every night. We chatted on IM, and he said London PD was discussing issuing firearms to all patrol officers for the first time in history.

      I took Bill to the range ages ago (Did pretty well with my Sig), and be explained to me his PD has four armed response teams available 24/7, that can be anywhere in the city “within ten minutes.” My response, “Bill, that can be one long ass ten minutes.” But they were looking at arming every officer daily. That’s how bad crime was getting there.

      Reply
      • London would need a hundred or more armed response teams to maybe come close to a ten minute response. That’s a strange city. I can’t imagine a cop without a gun, except on Andy of Mayberry, can you?
        I’m also surprised that London doesn’t have knife armed response teams. Cutlery is a thing over there, I hear.

        Reply
        • No argument, the traffic is insane. Didn’t ask, but maybe they are deployed by helicopter.

          Yes, I’ve heard knife attacks are very common. I had a discussion with more than a few people, “Means, motive, opportunity.” Why is the critical factor? Motive. I want to kill you, I will find a way, and time to do it.

          Reply
      • Didn’t London have as many murders as NYC at one point? Yeah, the murders were with knives in London and guns in NYC bu still a dangerous place to be.

        Reply
        • You are just as dead, yes sir. Not to mention in France, where guns are basically outlawed, in November 2015, over 100 were shot by militant Muslims. I recall video of Paris Police facing armed militants with Tasers. Didn’t go over well.

          Reply

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