Fault Lines
16 January 2019
policeone hancock shooting

PoliceOne Declares Bad Shoot. Court Disagrees

March 14, 2017 (Fault Lines) — When a dog bites a man, it’s normally not news, but when a man bites a dog, there’s film at six and ten. You get used to the same thing from the guys over at PoliceOne.

When a police officer shoots someone, like Officer Phillip Hancock of the Opelika, Alabama Police Department shot Airman Michael Davidson of Texas in 2014, you would expect that the PoliceOne group would be firmly in Hancock’s corner. Surprisingly, they are not, even though both the U.S. District judge and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of Hancock. There is something wrong with our legal system when the everyday street police officers say that a shooting was bad, yet the courts absolve the officer of any liability.

You couldn’t make a determination before, because the police refused to release the dashcam video or the Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s investigative findings. The video has finally been released, and like most uses of force, it’s not pretty. We’re going to focus on the actual shooting, and nothing else, so if you want to discuss the lack of first aid and care for the young airman, this isn’t going to be the place to do it. Here’s the video:

The first thing you notice at :021 in the video is that Hancock immediately starts calling to see Davidson’s hands. Davidson has a black wallet in his hands and within 5 seconds, Hancock has fired two shots, one into the ground[1] and one into Davidson’s stomach.

Before we get to the legal opinion, let’s hear what the officers at PoliceOne have to say:

I don’t know what’s wrong with these new officers their hiring they’re shooting to quick. This was a bad shooting.

There is a fine line between being cautious enough that you don’t wind up in a slab or seriously injured and knee-jerk paranoia.  Sadly, I think some of the training, which rightly instills being prepared for the unexpected, sees a lot of newer officers terrified of their jobs and the public they serve.

‘Justified’ and ‘cleared of criminal liability’ are two different things. He might have an ‘out’ on being prosecuted for shooting this guy, but he certainly was NOT justified.

I’m sorry, but that’s a bad shoot all day long.  You guys can beat up on me if you want, but I didn’t see anything that would justify popping this kid.

Not sure how this officer operates on a daily basis when he’s clearly overly panicky and easily frightened.  He may want to find a desk job.

Lou Hayes, one of our writers here at Fault Lines, has said over and over that our police officers are being trained to fear the public, not to protect them. He thinks we need to scrap our current model of police training and start over, and he’s right.

The officer said that he put his hand on his pistol when he started to exit the car. I don’t believe that, and neither did the Eleventh Circuit.[2] I don’t believe it because the shots were too fast; it sounded to me like he was coming up from a low-ready position. That wasn’t just my opinion, either. Again, from PoliceOne:

What the heck. Did the officer already have his weapon at low ready as he got out of his car at the accident scene, because that was a very fast shot.

Thanks for articulating that!!!!  I wondered if my perception was off or what.  Did he get out with the gun in his hand on a traffic accident?

Ya, IMHO that was way to fast for an accident call… Man with a gun or something maybe but too fast for an accident.

As a reminder, these are street cops who are saying that something’s wrong here. These are the guys who are rabid about officers making split-second decisions, that the admin and courts are too fast to throw an officer under the bus, but that’s not the case here. One made a comment that Hancock shot way too fast, that Davidson never had a chance to process the commands, much less to comply with the officer’s order to show his hands to Hancock.

The judges, on the other hand, are bending over backwards to give the officer every possible benefit of the doubt, even given the “disastrous mistake” made by Hancock. That’s the language the court used, by the way. Davidson’s attorney, Brian Mosholder, was blunt about his feelings, saying, “I think they got this one wrong.”

He’s right. The courts got this one wrong. But it will happen again and again. Until we change two things. First, the way we train officers; and second, the way that courts hold them accountable.

[1] Before someone chimes in about warning shots, the one into the ground wasn’t a warning shot. It was a shot that went off as Hancock was drawing his gun, because Hancock was rattled.

[2] At least for the purpose of qualified immunity it didn’t believe Hancock, noting that a witness stated that Hancock exited the vehicle with his weapon drawn.

4 Comments on this post.

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  • Chris Seaton
    14 March 2017 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    I’m without words on the sheer fact PoliceOne commenters aren’t jumping for joy over a shoot.

  • Anon
    14 March 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    “He thinks we need to scrap our current model of police training….”
    Yes, but I can’t think of a worse analogy than Crossfit (including it’s many lawsuits and pointless injuries). Shooters plus Crossfit = https://youtu.be/jOg25HlBNiU

    Also, if that were a warning shot, there’s no way he wouldn’t have been fired. Either way, he’s lucky he didn’t hit the truck driver.

  • Soft Cops, Hard Cops | Simple Justice
    14 March 2017 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    […] Fault Lines, Greg Prickett wrote that even the cops at PoliceOne weren’t […]

  • Mephistophocles
    14 March 2017 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    One way to judge a shoot, IMHO, is whether or not a citizen in a “gun-friendly” state would likely be convicted of a crime and/or sued for taking the same action. Hardly a legal standard, but it’s an interesting intellectual exercise at least. In this case, if anyone other than a cop had done that, their life would probably be over.

    I work with (good) cops every day. The reactions of the guys on PoliceOne to this aren’t unusual for good cops, not remotely. Every one of the guys i work with just shake their head in disgust when this kind of thing happens. It makes their job way more difficult than it already is, because good law-abiding citizens see videos like this and start to think all cops are monsters.

    The only training this guy got was how to stuff his gut into a 52-inch waistline. He’s in pathetic physical condition and his mind is weaker than his trigger discipline, and yet he’s on night patrol – solo, no less. Shame on the idiot(s) who let this fatass on the force. He’ll ruin a lot more lives (assuming some gangbanger doesn’t take advantage of his lack of basic ability and kill him) now that not only his bosses, but judges are too stupid and/or cowardly to at least put him behind a desk.