Opinion

S**t need not happen through better cop training

S**t need not happen through better cop training

The brass cannot belittle accidental killings in police operations. Calling those “collateral damage” betrays limp grasp of policing. That term is military, for death, injury or damage inadvertently inflicted – especially in this age of precision guided missiles. But cops don’t bomb communities, they work in, with, for them. People want their police to shield them from crime – no ifs or buts. “Salvaging” attempts to soften brutal summary execution, as “S**t happens!” shrugs off the tragic death of a child in crossfire.

“One innocent life lost is one life too many,” said Sen. Ping Lacson. It’s not everyday that a three-year-old like Myka Ulpina is victimized in a police buy-bust. An ex-National Police chief, Lacson knows its cause and effect. The pain goes beyond negative publicity and costly settlements. Families are left in anguish, and communities in doubt of their police.

New senator and also ex-PNP head Bato dela Rosa sounded dismissive. His focus was on two drug suspects killed after all – though sadly too one of the police operatives in Rodriguez, Rizal last June 30. Thus Lacson contradicted: “Incidents like this should be taken seriously so that corrective measures will be put in place immediately, and those responsible must at least be investigated to determine possible lapses or lack of discretion.”

Current PNP director general Oscar Albayalde has summoned the 20 raiding cops. Dela Rosa has apologized to Myka’s kin, in self-criticism of insensitivity. By PNP operational procedure, the investigation that Lacson sought is automatic, to include:

• Reconstructing the events via body cameras the raiders should have been wearing;

• Reenacting little Myka’s accidental killing, publicly; and

• Reviewing the post-operation report if plausible or a whitewash.

Then, long term, is retraining. Not only Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) need firearm and firefight proficiency, but patrolmen too. A half-baked trainee cannot be deployed in raids, lest he cause more harm than good. That includes to himself. There is no substitute for mastery of shooting skill. Adeptness boosts confidence and enables the calm cop to come out of shootout alive – with the innocents. Not one to flinch or panic, he will assess the situation, shoot accurately even through obstacles, avoid bystanders, and rescue hostages.

Trainers too must be effective in sharing knowhow from experience and readings. Books abound about police training. Chapter 1 usually is on shots and shootouts. Imparted is Wyatt Earp’s secret: “Take your time in a hurry.”

“Good cops practice religiously at the shooting range. They perform drills where they draw their firearm across their body and shoot it with their offhand in case their dominant hand is ever incapacitated in a gunfight. They practice chambering a round by using the heel of their boot to rack the slide.” That’s one item in the book “400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman.” What cops know make them competent. Like, that most bad guys can’t shoot because unpracticed, and just spray and pray, or ready, fire, aim. Or, that armed hoods don’t use holsters, and tuck the handgun in the pants hip or jacket pocket, on the right 98 percent of the time. And if they draw they first will spin to the right, so cops need to be observant and ready for action, which is better than reaction.

“400 Things Cops Know” (Quill Driver Books, 2014) instructs not only on gunfights and blood and guts that splatter on the lawman’s face, arms, and shooting hand. With double majors in English and Criminology/Law Studies, American career police officer Adam Plantinga also deals with crime scene evidence search, first aid, talking to suspects and the wounded, use of force, arrests, tactics and hazards. As well, working with the public, juveniles, courts and legalities, chases, drugs and booze, domestic violence, corpses, and relations with fellow cops. (Plantinga graduated magna and cum laude from Marquette University in 1995.)

Police operations books and manuals invariably tackle accidental shooting, of self or innocents. Attitudes and actions are put in context. If only all cops can be like Plantinga, who says: “The whole world doesn’t come to a grinding halt just because a little girl is murdered on some corner in some city... But maybe just for a little while, it should.”

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