BEDSIDE MANNER

Posted in Rants on August 4th, 2015 by Ed

I don't usually do the "content warning" thing, but let me explain a few things about this video before you see it. Despite the alarmist title and the (deserved) reputation of Live Leak as a purveyor of gore, you're not going to see a man fed through a wood chipper. The video was taken by a bystander after a drive-by shooting in Philadelphia. A stray bullet struck the man in the blue t-shirt in the abdomen. His t-shirt has blood on it, but that's the extent of the horror movie gore. The reason I'm posting it is to draw attention to what happens when the police arrive at minute 4:30. The guy survived and wasn't shot by law enforcement, but in some ways I think this video is as disturbing as the many others we've seen where the victim isn't so lucky.

I am certain that being in professions like healthcare and law enforcement requires a good deal of emotional detachment. You will see horrible things every day and getting somewhat numb to it is a coping mechanism. Even if you started out as someone who cares a lot, the constant exposure to death and blood and the horrible things human beings do to one another would wear you down. I'm sure a Philadelphia police officer has seen enough people with gunshot wounds that he or she will no longer react with, "My goodness! This man needs help immediately! Sir, be calm while I tend to your wounds!" Rationally, we would not expect big city cops to fluff our pillows and rub our boo-boos. It makes sense that they would have something of a no-nonsense bordering on gruff approach to yet another shooting. Nonetheless there is a certain level of communication skills we expect in that line of work, and the ability to make some kind of connection with the general public and to calm people in a crisis are both necessary skills.

That said, you'd think maybe – just maybe – that in the spirit of professionalism they might be able to do a little better than "Hey get up, asshole" followed by pulling a man with a gunshot wound in the abdomen to his feet by the collar of his shirt before making him walk across the street to be shoved into the back of a squad car. Maybe act like you care just a little. Maybe wait for an ambulance or paramedic, given that a gut-shot man is at risk of dying and is in a tremendous amount of pain. Maybe give a half-assed effort at saying something calming or comforting. Remember as you watch the video that this guy is not a suspect; he's an innocent bystander who took a stray bullet sitting on his porch. Notwithstanding the fact that cops are supposed to treat everyone, even Bad Guys, professionally, you would expect that a bleeding guy who did nothing wrong would be most likely to get a sliver of kindness.

Short of assuming that this is some kind of one-off occurrence, which crosses the thin line separating optimistic and naive, it's not very difficult to figure out why relations between the community and law enforcement are so bad in urban areas. What do we expect residents to think about the police when they act like trash collectors, grabbing someone who has been shot, tossing him in a car, and driving off without a word? Nobody should be expected to work 8-10 hours per day with a bright smile plastered on their face, but come on. Even when we're neither asking nor expecting a lot of the police they find ways to disappoint.