It’s Halloween, and for law enforcement, this holiday presents its own unique set of problems. In addition to the added crowds, alcohol-fueled stupidity, and constant risk of tainted candy, officers must also worry about whether what they’re seeing is real, or just another “trick.”
How do you differentiate between harmless costumes and people intent on causing real harm? This question is on all of our minds, especially in the wake of the tragic death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez this past Tuesday in Santa Rosa, CA. Lopez was carrying a toy AK-47 rifle and was shot and killed by an officer after failing to comply with an order to drop his weapon. We’re deeply saddened by this event in which a young boy needlessly lost his life, and we’d like to help make sure that a situation like this one never occurs again.
Unfortunately, our available information is usually very limited in situations like the one in which Lopez was killed. Officers can evaluate a subject by looking for parents, seeing whether the subject complies with commands, and looking for cues that would indicate revelry vs. criminal activity, but often, it’s up to us to use imperfect data and our best judgment to arrive at a decision in a matter of seconds.
Doug Wiley, PoliceOne.com Editor in Chief, points out that though many are quick to blame officers in situations like the one that occurred in Santa Rosa, officers do their best when deciding whether to use deadly force and often their own lives are at stake. With today’s toy guns looking virtually indistinguishable from the real things, we need to encourage families and schools to talk to children about gun safety from a young age and teach them the importance of obeying officers of the law. It’s a sad reality that in today’s world, officers can no longer use age to rule out the possibility that a suspect might be an active shooter. Bottom line: we need to teach kids that it’s never ever acceptable to point a toy gun at someone, especially a law enforcement officer.
We wish everyone a happy, safe Halloween.
For the full article on PoliceOne, please visit their website.