I’m not going to get into a debate on use of force but I will say, a confrontation, un-armed or not, is still a confrontation. Threat management is a big factor to consider. The NYPD officers reacted instictively to a tough situation. An accident happened with Eric Garner. If you think those officers intended to kill this man, you’re insane. If that was the case, they would have just smoked him straight away when he was resisting his arrest. Anyone who’s been in high-threat environments understands this, and knows how difficult these situations are.
And don’t expect five-star customer service from the NYPD when you’re being aggressive and confrontational.
In 2001, prior to deploying to Afghanistan with my SEAL platoon, we were conducting non-compliant ship boardings (Visit, Board, Search & Sieze-VBSS) off the coast of Iraq, enforcing the UN sanctions against Saddam.
When I wasn’t in the helicopter sniper providing overwatch for ECHO platoon, I was on the main assault team. Boarding ships underway in the middle of the night is extremely fun, but also comes with some sketchy situations.
One of the ships we boarded had what we call some “non-compliant prisoners.” I remember one big Iraqi bastard, pissed we just woke him up via flash bang, came at me. I looked straight at his hands, he was unarmed, and I didn’t want to shoot him. However, he was a very real threat. I was on the wrestling team as a kid, and knew I was out of my weight class, so I side-stepped him and put the volts into his bare rib cage under his white T-shirt. He crumpled to the deck. I gave him another zap for good measure, this time on a wet steel deck. He got the idea pretty quick. I zip-tied him up and reported in on my MBITR radio.
In the military, we’re usually far better off when it comes down to Rules of Engagement (ROE). Being a police officer is a tough and thankless job. I love New York City and admittedly, being a NYPD officer has got to be one of the toughest police jobs in America. Eight million people of all types, and all sorts of threats. Junkies, terrorists, drunks, crazies, and criminals.
I thought about the situation and started asking questions of some of my NYPD contacts. Right away, I asked why they didn’t use non-lethal. I was shocked when an NYPD friend informed me that only supervisors have TASERS, a very real non-lethal threat management option.
My conclusion is that it’s time for the political the leadership of New York to give their officers, all of them, a more appropriate tool to deal with unarmed confrontations. If not, the Mayor can expect a lot more of “I can’t breathe” in the city.