Again, It's Not Easy Being A Police Officer

Posted: Jan 13, 2015 7:30 PM

As my colleague Christine wrote last week, it isn’t easy being a police officer. Reverend Jarrett Maupin, who organized protests against perceived police brutality in Phoenix, Arizona, got an eye opening experience when he decided to participate in use of force drills with the local police:

To his credit, Maupin kept an open mind and agreed to take a figurative walk in a police officer's shoes by participating in a series of "use of force" drills for a local Fox affiliate. The drills put Maupin in a series of situations similar to what a real officer would undergo, such as being ambushed by an armed suspect and cornered by an unarmed suspect.

Troy Hayden, a reporter for Fox 10, also went through the drills, with near-identical outcomes as Maupin. Both men "shot" the unarmed man who was approaching in a threatening manner and not complying with orders to back away.

"I didn't understand how important compliance was. But after going through this, yeah, my attitude has changed. This is all unfolding in 10, 15 seconds. People need to comply with the orders of law enforcement officers for their own sake," said Maupin.

Now, we have raw video of a police officer that is emotionally destroyed over the fact that he had to use his firearm in self-defense.

On April 14, 2014, Officer Grant Morrison pulled over 38-year old Richard Ramirez during a traffic stop in Billings, Montana. Ramirez was high on methamphetamine and began fumbling with his waistline. Fearing that he had a firearm, Officer Morrison pulled his service weapon and fired three shots, killing him. It as later revealed that Ramirez was unarmed (via AP):

A jury at a coroner's inquest determined Wednesday that a Montana police officer was justified in shooting and killing an unarmed man high on methamphetamine during a traffic stop.

The five-year police veteran said he became convinced that Ramirez had a gun after the man reached for his waistband during their 30-second encounter last April in a high-crime area of Montana's most populous city.

"I knew in that moment, which later was determined to be untrue, but I knew in that moment that he was reaching for a gun," Morrison said. "I couldn't take that risk. ... I wanted to see my son grow up."

The seven-person jury deliberated about an hour before delivering its decision.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said he does not expect to file any charges given the jury's decision.

Police video showed Morrison repeatedly ordered Ramirez and other occupants of the vehicle to raise their hands. Ramirez's actions were largely obscured in the video. But Morrison said Ramirez dropped his left hand to his side — out of the officer's view — and "started to jiggle it up and down" just before he was shot.

The Ramirez family is obviously upset with the verdict. They wanted criminal charges filed against Officer Morrison, claiming the investigation was biased. Ramirez’s sister, Renee, said her brother’s drugs use was “irrelevant.”

Nevertheless, the raw video shows the pressures police officers face on the job, and the emotions that come when they have to use their service weapons. It’s not something they wish to experience everyday. As with any law enforcement officer, or concealed carry holder, any day that you don’t have to draw your weapon is a good one.

Then again, there are incidents when officers do make mistakes. Eric Garner is could be used as an example. But, recently, two Albuquerque officers, SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy, had murder charges filed against them over the shooting death of a knife-wielding homeless man named James Boyd.

Video from a helmet camera shows Boyd apparently surrendering to law enforcement before being shot.

Boyd had a history of violent run-ins with police, according to KHW, a local NBC station. 

The district attorney decided to forgo the grand jury process and present her murder case to a judge in a preliminary hearing.