Aug 152016 2 Responses

The Nobility of Police Restraint

Police brutality is a worthy discussion. It happens. It’s detrimental to justice. And we must figure out ways to lessen the incidents in which it takes place.

Within departments and throughout communities, we must continue to talk about use of force. De-escalation training must continue. Community policing must increase. And new strategies must be developed so that the police can police their own without it hindering morale or threatening trust within the ranks. The discussion is necessary.

But there is another topic to be raised–police restraint.

While it’s understandable (though not excusable) that some officers in some instances use excessive force, what’s amazing is how often most officers in a majority of instances restrain their force.

An Example of Restraint

Last week in my hometown, two officers responded to a routine call–a son pulled a gun on a father. When they arrived on scene, this routine call became anything but routine. The gunman opened fire on the officers. One was grazed by a ricochet bullet and his head began to bleed. Another officer was fatally wounded. (See: The Power of a Second Responder)

When the words “officer down” went over the radio, units from across the region responded. As they came on scene they were met by a hail of gunfire. Many had to abandon their cars and take cover in the ditch. Others were trapped just yards from the shooter without any ability move. For five hours some were trapped.

Do you know how many rounds they fired back? Zero.

Fearing innocent bystanders were near the suspect and unable to get a clean shot, they did not return fire. They risked their lives for five straight hours, but did not return fire. One of their friends was wounded. Another was dead.

The shooter intermittently continued to fire until all of a sudden he didn’t. After hours of attempting to inflict as much harm as possible, the suspect suddenly decided to surrender. He waved a white flag.

What did law enforcement do in response? They let him.

They didn’t kill him.

They didn’t wound him.

They didn’t beat him.

They handcuffed him and then got him medical attention. Recognizing their own grief and anger, they then arranged him to be held in another county so that none of their deputies would be faced with the temptation of abusing the suspect.

It’s a prime example of police restraint.

The Nobility of Restraint

I have a friend who has a thought–anyone who flees a police officer should get punched in the face three times. Three punches. If the officer can catch the suspect, that officer gets three free punches right to the face. He can’t kill them. He can’t seriously injure them. But my friend feels a broken nose and a sore face should be the penalty for running from an officer.

The feeling is understandable. And on occasion it happens. Most of the time it doesn’t. Officers are ignored, taunted, accused, and abused by citizens every day, yet most of them never throw an extra punch, use extra force, or use the strength they have to inflict pain on another.

They show restraint. That restraint is noble.

Nobility is a word which has been largely lost in our society. It distinguishes something as being from a higher class, distinguished, or of exalted character. (See: Why Would Anyone Wear a Badge?)

Sadly, some police officers aren’t noble. They are in the profession for the wrong reason or have allowed the horrors of the job to harden their hearts. They act in a way which disrespects the badge. However, no one is repulsed as much by a bad cop as a good cop. Those who try to do the job right are sickened by those who do it wrong. Society is wrong when we confused the two.

The Praise of Restraint

The national discussion of police brutality is necessary. The attention given the issue over the past few years is bringing into the light a problem long experienced by many in our country.

However, it doesn’t diminish the necessary discussion of police-overreach by also praising good policing. Even as bad actions are criticized, good actions must be praised with an even louder voice.

Every day, good officers restrain their strength in order to serve their communities and honor their code. Their restraint is noble.

And for their nobility, we are grateful.

2 Responses to The Nobility of Police Restraint
  1. Paula Strachan Reply

    Thank you so much for this excellent post.

  2. […] Lethal force is sometimes necessary in a world full of evil. It’s a tragic consequence of livi... https://www.kevinathompson.com/weep-dont-rejoice-at-the-good-guy-with-a-gun

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