Fault Lines
21 September 2018

Driving to the Sound of Gunfire

Dec. 11, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — We talk a lot about police accountability, and we should. There are police officers who should not be police officers, who make mistakes, who should be brought to the bar and face criminal liability. Who should be fired and prosecuted.

Sometimes we focus so much on these bad officers that we forget the good officers. Most officers fit into this category. These officers run to the sound of gunfire, go into dangerous buildings, and put themselves in between the general public and evil. They do so willingly.

In the terrorist incident in San Bernardino, Detective Jorge Lozano exemplified that type of good officer. He was there to get people out of the danger area, and there was a child in front of him, shaking like a leaf and terrified. So Jorge said something to reassure him, that was caught on tape:

“Try to relax everyone, try to relax, I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damn sure….”

Think about this for a minute. We bitch and moan all the time that the police follow the “First Rule of Policing,” yet forget that they also go into danger to protect others. They do so willingly, without reservation. They know that they could get shot, that they could get killed, yet they go anyway. And they will take a bullet for you. Lozano doesn’t think of himself as a hero for that,

“That’s our job to put ourselves in the line [of fire].”

In the same incident, Officer Nicholas Koahou was shot stopping the rampage of the killers. Koahou was running up to help a deputy where Farook and Malik had been stopped. Farook was already shot and was prone on the roadway. Malik shot Koahou, a former Marine, in the leg and he went down. Showing the type of character needed in this situation, Koahou got back on his feet, determined to continue the fight if necessary.

This isn’t something that is new. There is example after example of this through the years.

  • Deputy Jennifer Fulford-Salvano, in Florida, put herself between two children and two armed home invaders, taking 10 rounds, including one to her shooting hand, before she took out the bad guys.
  • Officer Marcus Young, in California, was making an arrest when the arrestee’s boyfriend, Neal Beckham, attacked him, shooting him five times with a .38 snub nose. Beckham then stabbed the store security guard who jumped in to help, and Beckham then ran to Young’s squad car to get either the shotgun or the rifle that was in the car. Young, his shooting arm useless and his left hand injured, could not draw his gun and had the 17-year-old police cadet who was with him, draw his gun and put it in his left hand. Young then fired four shots and killed Beckham. The cadet, Julian Cordova, is now a deputy sheriff.

Officers respond to help civilians and they respond to help other officers. In the first three years of my police career, I worked in the housing projects of a major city, with all of the attendant problems. During that time, we put out several “assist officer” calls, and other officers dropped what they were doing to come help us. Every single time. I did the same when I heard a call for help, whether from an officer or not.

When that happens, you do everything you can to get there and help. Some times you get there, sometimes you don’t. But every single time you go. It doesn’t matter what you think about the call, someone needs help, so you go. I remember a young officer at my department drove up on the scene of a double homicide, with the shooter standing there with the smoking gun literally still in his hand. The officer could have legally shot the guy and been completely justified, but instead he took him into custody.

Some officers criticized the decision not to shoot, but most did not. They praised him and held him out as an example of how a good officer should behave.

You see, that young officer drove to the sound of gunfire.

He did it to help others, and he managed to do his job without killing someone.

Most officers respond to active shooting calls the same way. I don’t know Jorge Lozano, but I know many officers like him. Most are like that.

We should remember that the next time we think about officers that mess up and need to be held accountable. Those are the exception, and not the rule.

9 Comments on this post.

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  • Scott Jacobs
    11 December 2015 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    “We should remember that the next time we think about officers that mess up and need to be held accountable. Those are the exception, and not the rule.”

    The problem is, they then go and don’t actually report those “exceptions”. They stand by and let them be.

    That’s why I don’t trust cops, Greg. Not because of the ones who are likely to shoot me and try to get away with it (who, sure, I will admit are probably rare), but because of the ones who don’t do anything about the rare ones.

    • Greg Prickett
      11 December 2015 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      “The problem is, they then go and don’t actually report those “exceptions”. They stand by and let them be.”

      Some do. Frank Serpico is probably the most famous example, but there are others, most who are never heard about. We need to encourage the good officers to step forward and discourage those who would silence them.

  • Richard Kopf
    12 December 2015 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Greg,

    Thank you very much for this perspective. It is needed.

    Also, powerful and persuasive writing. You took us to the scene and allowed us to feel the reality of these awful situations. That is very hard to do, and you did very well.

    All the best.

    RGK

  • Cornflake S. Pecially
    12 December 2015 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    “We should remember that the next time we think about officers that mess up and need to be held accountable. Those are the exception, and not the rule.”

    I wonder if somewhere in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, or San Francisco a bunch of old ladies aren’t having coffee and wondering aloud if they could get the police command in their communities to put up a small plaque bearing a very similar quote in all of their armored personal carriers, tactical assault vehicles and maybe even their squad cars?

    Naw, I doubt it. They are more likely swapping war stories at the shooting range and wondering aloud if they up their donation to the Policemen’s Benevolent Association this Christmas wheather or not they will get a ride in the new helicopter gunship that the Sheriff’s Department finally got approved.

    Old ladies these days. … I’ll tell yah, no way they would have ever short changed their grandkids Christmas stockings in the past for a ride in a helicopter gunship.

    P.S. I think there is somewheres about 765,000 police officers in the country so if we were to divide the bad apples by the true hero’s that get booked on the Today Show, do you think we could come up with a probability function that could predict wheather search warrants are more likely to be served with tank squadrons in the year 2025 or whether search warrants are more likely to be an invitional affair delivered with paid reply bicycle messenger services?

  • Cop In A Kilt: Lessons From Cops Who Don’t Kill | Simple Justice
    13 December 2015 at 6:30 am - Reply

    […] observation is far more than fascinating; it’s deeply revealing. While American cops might drive toward the sound of gunfire to save one of their own, or perhaps a damsel in distress, would they suffer any risk of harm at […]

  • Ken Womble
    13 December 2015 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    Outstanding. My favorite of yours so far, Greg.

  • 2015 Jdog Memorial Best Criminal Law Blawg Post | Simple Justice
    1 January 2016 at 9:13 am - Reply

    […] there was some posts by Greg Prickett that really struck a chord. In particular, Driving to the Sound of Gunfire, a post that many of us (myself included) may find hard to embrace, but provides us with much […]

  • Jury Duty: The Ultimate Protest
    7 January 2016 at 9:43 am - Reply

    […] you lie. If you honestly believe that all cops are liars and monsters, then say it.  But know that you are wrong. Saying that all police are monsters or that all police are dishonest is a cop-out (pun intended) […]

  • Cops And The Dangerous Job
    19 January 2016 at 11:37 am - Reply

    […] As Greg Prickett described, a police officer is the only occupation whose job it is to drive to the sound of gunfire. […]