Regarding the decision in Ferguson, Missouri, there will be repercussions throughout this country.
Having been involved in investigating police shootings for a number of years, there is one thing I know is certain: No police officer wants to shoot and kill ANYONE! I don’t know if the officer in Ferguson acted legally or not. If he overreacted, that is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life. If he was justified in shooting the young man, it doesn’t matter. His life is over as a police officer. He will still be sued for wrongful death and still be investigated for civil rights violations and will have to move out of Ferguson and find new work. No one becomes a police officer to shoot and kill people. You become a police officer to help and protect the public. What will come from this incident will be police officers underreacting. Every police officer is trained to react to a threat and not think about consequences. I know that sounds terrible, but if you see a threat or you believe that someone is going to harm you or another member of the public, your training must take over. Thinking about what will happen if you have to shoot someone will get police officers killed. If they think about what has happened to this police officer in Ferguson, they might be killed.
I really don’t know who was right or wrong in this tragic shooting, and that is not for me to decide. That is why we have a judicial system. Don’t try and put yourself in a police officer’s position when they have to make a life-or-death decision. You can’t and neither can I. We can only hope that real justice is served in this case because it will affect how every police officer does his job in the future. Put yourself in this position: Someone is holding a gun to you or someone in your family. Do you want this officer to think about what will happen to him if he shoots the suspect, or do you want him to do the job he was trained to do? Police in this country are faced with having to shoot someone every hour of every day. We hope and pray that they all make the right decision.
retired chief, Baton Rouge Police Department