Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Sept. 21, 2009)

There may be some hope

By Bob Cooper



The latest Officer-Involved shooting in Vancouver on Friday night has been handled quite responsibly by the local news media.  I also noted that the reader/viewer comments following each news story were much more positive and supportive of the police than they have been in the recent past.  Either there were just a lot of off-duty cops supplying the commentary or the general public is actually beginning to understand and appreciate some of the realities of the job.

For instance, we might finally be getting people to understand why we donít try to shoot people in the arms or legs or shoot knives out of their hands.  Itís sort of like a 30 handicap golfer trying to hit a 2 iron.  He might get one good shot out of fifteen and when lives are at stake, those odds just arenít good enough.  The best comment by far, sarcastically suggested that the cop could have shot the chandelier from the ceiling so it would fall on the suspect and knock him out.

Another factor that is often ignored is that in these situations itís the suspect who calls the tune.  All he has to do is what heís told.  In this case, put the knife down and surrender.  Once that occurs itís over and no one has to get hurt.  As several commentators mentioned, kudos to the cops for arriving in less than 5 minutes, putting themselves in peril by kicking in the door and rushing into a dangerous situation and saving a womanís life in the process.

Although I came very close a time or two, like most police officers, I managed to get through my 30+ years without firing a shot other than at the range.  Several of my colleagues werenít as fortunate.  Some were able to put it behind them and carry on while others were never the same and several left the job altogether.  The shooting itself, the investigation, the media scrutiny, including ill-informed and often malicious commentary, coronerís inquest, all combine to form an experience you wouldnít wish on your worst enemy. 

Of all of the Officer-Involved shootings I attended in my years in the Homicide Squad the only criticism I ever had was that in several cases the member(s) waited far too long before firing and gave the suspect too much edge.  Naturally, I kept it to myself but it reinforces the fact that no cop wants to shoot anyone and will do just about anything including risking their own lives to avoid it.

Speaking of horrible situations, I just finished The Last Six Minutes by Sandra Martins-Toner in which she chronicles the brutal murder of her son outside a Surrey Skytrain Station and her familyís equally brutal odyssey through the criminal justice system which still isnít over, four years after the fact.  It is a fascinating read, heartbreaking and inspirational in equal measure.  Her courage and sheer will are a testament to the human spirit and what can be accomplished by one determined person.  I believe that grassroots organizations like F.A.C.T are the only hope for the basic reforms so badly needed in our justice system.

I spent a career dealing with the Robert Forslunds and Katherine Quinns of this world and watched as these feral sociopaths laughed at a system that held no deterrence or fear of consequence for them.  But I always took some comfort in the fact their own system quite often made up for the inadequacies of ours and that the simple law of averages dictated that at some future point  I would be standing over them in a parking lot at 3 am making my notes. 

And getting paid double-time for doing so.

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009