(This column was published in the North
Shore News on Dec. 11, 2002)
A few simple
rules to live by
While trying to apprehend yet another car thief on the weekend, two members of the Vancouver Police Department had to live a cop's worst nightmare; to shoot or not to shoot.
In this case, they fired their weapons and a career criminal won't get the opportunity to get another useless sentence by the courts.
On the day he was killed, the criminal decided not to follow the instructions barked out by the officers pointing their service weapons at him.
So how stupid was that?
Now, wait for the recriminations coming from the hand-wringers; he really wasn't such a bad man.
He had a troubled childhood. He really meant well. Why couldn't the police have just shot to wound? Why did they have to kill him?
Cry me a river.
The dead guy was in a stolen car. He had a gun, albeit a replica, which, by definition, looks like a real one. He had a violent criminal history and had done serious jail time for armed robbery.
He allegedly did not comply with the commands of the police trying to arrest him at gunpoint. Well, whaddya think's gonna happen?
A couple of years ago, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this discussion lest her boss think her rather indiscreet, wrote an easy-to-follow instruction sheet for those who find themselves in situations where they have broken the law and come into contact with those employed by society to protect it from those individuals. She called her little missive: How not to get shot by police.
I'd like to share it with you now:
"I've devised a five-point plan to help citizens avoid being shot by police. This plan may not prevent all shootings, but very few will take place when the plan is rigorously adhered to. So, here are the rules:
Don't commit violent crimes. It seems elementary, but this rule is lost on many. They do the crime, get shot, and then wonder how it could possibly happen. They whine that it is so unfair. Well, Slick, violent crime, like jumping in front of moving cars, is just a high-risk occupation and in case you missed it, committing violent crime makes police officers think you might not be a good person.
If you ignore rule No. 1, and the police confront you, don't run away from them. I know it's hard to believe, but that may make them think you're guilty of something. Hiding in bushes or closets makes some cops (mostly older ones) very nervous. They might even foolishly conclude that you're up to no good!
If you disregard the first two rules, and the cops catch up with you anyway and inform you that you are under arrest, don't make fast movements with your hands. I know it sounds silly, but grabbing a shiny beer can, a dark-coloured wallet, or one of those snazzy and real-looking replica guns may make police officers mistakenly believe that you are about to hurt them.
If you disregard the first three rules, and manage to get what looks like a deadly weapon into your hands, don't point it at the cops. We all know that you're basically a nice person, but that may be lost on the police officers confronting you. In their paranoia, they may even believe they need to protect themselves.
If you disregard the first four rules, don't be astonished if the cops do not instantly turn into your personal confidante. They may be too preoccupied to realize that you're normally a splendid person and that you're just having a bad day. They may also be too preoccupied to see that when you point a weapon at them in a threatening manner, it is just your way of crying out for help. We both know that the whole problem can be traced to the fact that your mother didn't breastfeed you, but some police officers are so cynical they just don't see it.
"So, there you have it. If you really apply yourself and obey even some of the rules listed above, I bet you'll avoid the vast majority of police gunfire."
Too bad 46-year-old, Thomas Evan Stevenson, didn't read this short and simple guide before he stole a car, grabbed a replica gun, and ignored police commands on Saturday night.
On the other hand, Corrections Canada won't get the opportunity to rehabilitate him again.