Officer Safety Uber Alles: The Coercion Cartel’s Prime Directive

by | Jul 3, 2019

Officer Safety Uber Alles: The Coercion Cartel’s Prime Directive

by | Jul 3, 2019

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Officer Safety Uber Alles: The Coercion Cartel’s Prime Directive

The Minnesota state legislature is debating a measure that would amplify that state’s “Castle Doctrine” by recognizing that innocent people have no “duty to retreat” in the face of criminal aggression. 

This would expand existing legal protection for the defensive use of lethal force against home invaders — including, where appropriate, the government-employed variety. That prospect is causing the local tax eaters’ guild to irrigate their skivvies. 

Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, complains that enactment of the measure “could result in dangerous situations for police officers, who regularly enter homes without permission,” reports Twin Cities ABC affiliate KSTP. “We’re fearful that people will react and shoot and our officers could be mistaken for someone that they believe is trying to jeopardize their safety,” simpers Flaherty. In encounters of the kind Flaherty describes, it would be more accurate to say that citizens would recognize police officers as people who “jeopardize their safety.”

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Flaherty stated the matter even more candidly: “Officer safety is the primary concern that we have about this bill…. [E]very day in the state of Minnesota, we have peace officers that are entering on somebody’s property – often times by stealth so that we have the element of surprise. We are extremely fearful that with this shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality that this bill establishes, that we will have officers that will not only be in harm’s way, but in fact will be injured or perhaps killed.” 

The tacit subtext of Flaherty’s complaint is the assumption that in every encounter between citizens and police, officer safety is the paramount concern, and citizen safety is of negligible importance. This is why, in the words of the Rochester Post-Bulletin, “prosecutors, police chiefs and sheriffs across the state are lining up” to oppose the measure. 

When intruders seek to enter a home without permission, observed the Post-Bulletin, “those on the other side of the door don’t always know that it’s a police officer who is entering their residence. They might have been asleep, awakening only when they hear the sounds of a door being kicked in or footsteps on the stairs. Their judgment and awareness might be impaired by drugs, alcohol, mental illness or the belief that an abusive ex-boyfriend or rival gang members many have arrived with bad intentions.”

Minneapolis SWAT operator gets a medal for raiding the wrong house.

A likelier scenario involves the even deadlier possibility that the door has been forced open by state-licensed marauders who can kill anyone within the dwelling with impunity. 

So the appropriate remedy would be to abolish paramilitary police raids, correct? Not according to the Post-Bulletin’s editorial collective: “We’re with the law enforcement officers on this one…. This [expanded Castle Act] would give people the impression that when their front doorknob is rattled in the middle of the night, they have free license to shoot first and ask questions later. That’s not a good thing.”

A license of that kind is “not a good thing” – for anyone other than fully accredited members of the state’s punitive priesthood, of course. Whenever one of the Regime’s costumed enforcers kills a mere Mundane, he can usually avoid criminal prosecution simply by claiming that he “felt threatened” by something – a furtive gesture, a momentary refusal to cooperate, a dirty look, or something else detectable only through the mystical mind-reading facility that comes with a “peace officer” license and a piece of government-issued costume jewelry. 

Critics of the Castle Doctrine bill complain that it is unnecessary, since Minnesota state statutes already recognize that a homeowner defending his property against invaders – other than the government-employed variety – has no duty to retreat. The bill would expand legal recognition of that right to include any circumstance in which an individual’s life is threatened – and this, according to critics, would have disastrous consequences.

“There are just way too many situations that could potentially escalate to the point of using deadly force [in public] where if someone would just walk away, the deadly force could have been avoided,” complains Fergus Falls Police Chief Kile Bergen. “That’s our job; we’re supposed to go in and apprehend these people. You as a citizen, that’s not your responsibility. It might be to protect yourself, but it’s not your job to rid the world of dangerous people.”

Chief Bergen is particularly offended by the fact that the bill would establish a “reasonable individual” test for the use of deadly force. Although Bergen whines that this would give citizens “more authority than a police officer has to use deadly force,” that provision would actually apply a standard similar to as the “reasonable officer” test. The measure also criminalizes the act of disarming citizens unless this is done pursuant to a lawful arrest — just as the state’s “resisting and obstructing” statute can be used to prosecute a citizen who disarms a police officer. 

If Chief Bergen actually thinks his job has something to do with “rid[ding] the world of dangerous people,” he’s not only unqualified to be a peace officer, he’s a tragically deluded soul who should be kept away from sharp objects. More telling still is his perception that everyday life is cluttered with situations pregnant with potential gunplay. 

That’s how police are trained to perceive the world: They see the public as an undifferentiated mass of menace, an all-encompassing threat to that most important of all human considerations, “officer safety.” This is why they are prepared to employ potentially lethal force at the first sign of non-cooperation, and escalate the encounter until the Mundane either submits or is killed. They are prepared to shoot first in the serene confidence that the questions asked later will be intended to exonerate the officer. 

Bergen’s objections – which are quite representative of the police union’s opposition to  enhanced Castle Doctrine protections – assume that citizens who take responsibility for protecting themselves will start thinking and behaving like cops. No, this isn’t quite accurate: Even in the most extravagant worst-case scenario, the expanded Castle Law wouldn’t be taken as a general license for citizens to conduct home invasion raids, like the December 2007 police assault on the home of Minneapolis resident Vang Khang.

It was after midnight when Khang’s wife, Yee Moua, heard the sound of a window shattering, followed by the quiet murmur of male voices. She frantically dialed 911 to summon the police. When the intruders came upstairs, Vang fired a shotgun at them, provoking a brief burst of return fire. Thankfully, nobody was injured, although some of the officers reported trivial shrapnel damage to their body armor. 

It was after the exchange of gunfire that the couple learned the invaders were the local SWAT team, which had been sent to the wrong address. 

The City apologized for the unjustified raid – and then presented eight SWAT officers with commendations for “perform[ing] very bravely under gunfire.”

According to Police Chief Tim Dolan, “the officers didn’t make any mistakes.” This would mean that they intended to raid the wrong house and expose innocent children to gunfire. 
Apparently, that’s the stuff of which contemporary heroism is made.

“The easy decision would have been to retreat under covering fire,” Dolan declared. “The team did not take the easy way out. This is a perfect example of a situation that could have gone horribly wrong, but did not because of the professionalism with which it was handled.”

 Note how Dolan conferred the commendations on the SWAT team for refusing to retreat when the situation demanded that they do so. It was their refusal to “walk away” that Dolan considered a praiseworthy display of professionalism.

 How often do employees of privately owned businesses receive professional commendations after completely messing up? Are awards of that sort routinely handed out to private employees whose incompetence endangers innocent lives, and results in extensive damage to private property? 

More to the point: Would a private security company hand out bonuses and promotions to employees who terrorized an innocent family and perforated their home with automatic weapons fire? Of course not: Only employees of the State’s coercion cartel are permitted to behave that way.

Chief Dolan, not surprisingly, opposes the “Castle Doctrine.” This is because “lessening the burden” on citizens who confront intruders would mean they might be “more willing to take shots at the people who are behind that door” – just as Vang Khang did the night Dolan’s stormtroopers invaded his home without a warrant or just cause.

The Castle Doctrine “isn’t good for public safety,” insists Dolan, who – like most of those in his profession – appears to believe that the police are the only part of the population worth protecting. 

 Obiter dicta
On February 19, I had the singular honor to introduce Dr. Ron Paul at a campaign event in Boise:

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Dum spiro, pugno!

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About Will Grigg

Will Grigg (1963–2017), the former Managing Editor of The Libertarian Institute, was an independent, award-winning investigative journalist and author. He authored six books, most recently his posthumous work, No Quarter: The Ravings of William Norman Grigg.

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