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I used to be a cop, now am a minister. My thoughts on the recent shootings.

I recently did a talk about the Orlando shootings and being a former law enforcement officer, I have a different perspective on police shootings. I will admit first that I have not nor will watch the video that the girlfriend took of her boyfriend being shot. I won't even give my thoughts on that aspect of it. But I do know that police don't want to shoot someone and despite the perception of many, are not trained to shoot people of color. We were taught to look for things unusual, to stay safe and to be aware of a movement that could be a threat to ourselves or others. I lived in a constant state of paranoia and we were shown videos and participated in simulations where an officer paused before drawing their gun and it resulted in their death. We were told over and over, if an officer waits to see a gun before they draw theirs, they are almost always going to be dead.

Now the other side of that is that sometimes when they don't wait they shoot someone who may not have been a real threat, but were perceived that way. Which is what brings me back to the talk I did on the Orlando shooting. I would suggest that we send love and compassion to everyone involved. The families have lost a loved one and the officer is more than likely is in shock, emotionally distraught and will never be the same again. Yes he is alive, but there are many days he will wish he wasn't and there are many who can't take the stress of having killed someone and end their own lives. And though we can say statistically, people of color are shot more often than white people, we don't know what the officer's perception was at that moment in time in THIS particular instance. We can theorize, we can look at videos taken from someone else's view, we can guess why they did what they did. However, other than what television and social media choose to show us (which may or may not be accurate and always has a bias of it's own), we do not know what happened. We don't know what the officer saw that made him react with the belief that his life was in danger. We don't know what the officer knew or didn't know about the individual.

I had a friend once upset that an officer had pulled her from the car and thrown her on the ground. After she told us the story, I told her be thankful it wasn't me because I wouldn't have pulled her from the car - I would have shot her. If an officer stops you, NEVER put your hands where they cannot see them. NEVER put your hands where they tell you not to. NEVER move without them instructing you to and then do so only slowly and in plain view. Otherwise, they are going to assume the worst and act to protect themselves. I wish they didn't have to do that but too many officers have been shot and killed because they hesitated so the goal of training currently is for officers to go home at night and not be in body bags.

The tragic result of that is that sometimes they shoot someone who would not have been a threat but they didn't know that and they wanted to live so acted to protect themselves - the same way we all would if we thought our lives are in danger. VERY few would just sit still and wait to be killed and this is a decision officers have to make every single day of their lives. I've met officers who went to houses for a minor disturbance and were hit with a shotgun blast through the door before anyone even answered. I knew an officer who was tortured and killed because he went to check on a call of trespassing at a property outside of town. This is the daily reality they live with.

I'm not saying any of the recent shootings were justified. What I'm saying is WE DON'T KNOW what happened in these specific instances. Even those involved really don't know what all happened because it's all perception. There are things that NEED changed. Black lives DO matter. AND let's acknowledge that we DON'T know and to become angry saying we are victims in a particular situation that we DON'T know about except for our perceptions based on media is only to hurt ourselves. It won't bring change. It brings more violence and now police are on even higher alert and more paranoid and feeling they need to protect themselves because the public has turned on them without us really knowing what happened or acknowledging the tragedy that happens when people of all colors and ALL officers live in fear for their lives.

I don't know why people of color are shot more often or treated differently. I know as an officer, we would watch for things that appeared unusual - sometimes that was skin color in a certain neighborhood sometimes not. That doesn't justify shooting the person but if that person then acted in a way that too often has meant the death of a fellow officer, I would definitely react if seemingly in a similar situation. I didn't want to kill but I didn't want to die either and that's the decision they face. They don't know what the person is doing or they see something that looks unsafe and they react in less than a second to save their lives and also the lives of others as you don't know if others will be shot if the person has a gun and starts shooting. It's sad. It's the choices they live with constantly.

PLEASE respect law enforcement and know that they are doing the best they can. They are afraid of dying too. They are tired of seeing their friends killed. They feel the same way many of the public do except instead of the color of their skin it's the uniform they wear trying to be of service to their country and communities. It's a no-win situation when anyone thinks their life is in danger - colored or badged. Follow their instructions EXACTLY if you are stopped and don't do anything without letting them know first and doing it slowly. I am not saying it is anyone's fault they got shot, but doing those things will lessen your chances considerably of being shot and find peace in knowing we DON'T know what happened in these specific cases. Instead we need to move overall towards finding a way to extend love to ALL beings without judging based on media propaganda (I say propaganda simply because I believe all media is propaganda - they produce what will keep them in business and that is their agenda amongst other things).

As an FYI, I arrested people of all races and colors. The closest I ever came to shooting someone (gun drawn, finger on trigger) was at a very white, hassidic jewish man in full hassidic regalia) who was not following instructions and in his car with it in drive and pointed towards my fellow officers. Scared the crap out of me and my gun was drawn before I even realized what had happened but the training just kicked in. If someone had been in the car video taping it then, I would have looked crazy and like he was a very religious, totally innocent man yet, I knew his history towards violence, I knew what we were there for, I knew he had already ignored my directions multiple times and pulled the car forward. I was scared for my fellow officers and it was only when some others moved in and got him out of the car (initially I encountered him alone) and handcuffed that I reholstered. Scary moment of my life but had he put his foot on the gas again, I easily could have seen myself shooting.

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