Five days ago, officers of the LA Police Department opened fire on a pickup truck that "matched the description" of one driven by headline-dominating murderer Christopher Dorner. At least 20 rounds were fired, many of which missed the truck by several yards and hit parked cars and nearby homes. Miraculously, neither occupant of the truck (two women, 45 and 71, delivering newspapers) was killed or seriously injured.
Later that same day, Torrance police officers intentionally rammed another pickup truck "matching the description" of Dorner's. One of the officers got out and fired three shots at the driver for good measure. Miraculously, the decidedly non-Chris Dorner driver was not killed.
The description given to police was of Dorner's gray Nissan Titan. Dorner is a large, muscular black male weighing over 250 pounds. So it is not clear how all of the cops involved managed to confuse a teal blue Toyota Tacoma driven by two Hispanic women, one of whom is elderly, for the vehicle in question. Nor is it clear how the police mistook David Perdue, a short, wiry, white male driving a pickup truck that was neither gray nor a Nissan, for Chris Dorner. It's almost as if the police were completely out of control.
This is when the media (and most of the public, in fairness) jumps in to remind us that these officers are under a lot of stress so, you know, accidents like firing 20+ rounds at the wrong people are going to happen. Apparently we are supposed to be sympathetic. Apparently when cops feel like they are in danger we're supposed to excuse their violent, undisciplined responses. If only the same rules applied to us. For example, how much sympathy do victims of mistaken identity get? Let's say you look like Suspect A and the police jump you. A natural reaction by a person being manhandled for no reason might be to throw a punch or fight back, at which point they've bought themselves about a dozen felony charges for resisting arrest and assaulting officers.
Does anyone, let alone the police, look at a situation like that and say, "Well geez, I understand why he fought back, it's very stressful and he certainly wasn't going out of his way to attack the police"? For all the hand-jobbing nonsense about how police are highly-trained experts in law enforcement / American Heroes, they have a shocking tendency to act like a posse rounded up from the local bars. Shoot first, ask second. Draw your weapon just to be safe. If you shoot, be sure to empty the entire magazine. Details such as the identity of the person you're firing at can be determined later.
I know being a cop is a hard job. I also know that the reason we pay people to do this difficult job is so that the law is enforced with professionalism and restraint. But I guess as long as there's some great excuse like "They were scared" or "They believe the victim in this tragic accident looked like Suspect A" we're supposed to be comfortable with them patrolling our streets, having authority over us, and being given the power to kill when in their clearly impeccable judgment it is necessary to do so. Certainly the Dorner case is one in which we can all understand why the cops are on edge; what is less clear is why we no longer expect the police to do their job properly and with professionalism as soon as they feel scared or stressed in what is an inherently dangerous job.