“Totally unnecessary.” That was my reaction to the story in yesterday’s Oregonian about how two police officers killed a crazed, naked, unarmed man after he had jumped on the roof of their patrol car.
A witness to the shooting, Paul White, said that at no time was the man (Fouad Kaady) threatening or combative. He was just standing on the roof of the car, hands at his side. Undoubtedly the grand jury investigating this case will be told by the officers that they believed their lives were in danger.
Give me a break. Being afraid is a lot different from being in mortal danger. I know. I’ve been a martial arts student for about fourteen years: nine in traditional Shotokan karate, four in a mixed style, and the past year in Tai Chi (I’m getting steadily softer with age).
It isn’t fun having someone throwing punches and kicks at you, or confining one of your limbs in a painful joint lock. But almost certainly you’re not going to die, even outside of the dojo or training hall. Especially not if there are two of you and one of him, and the “him” is confused, injured, unarmed, and non-combative.
I’ve read too many stories where an Oregon policeman shoots someone without a weapon because the officer believes his life is threatened. I realize that it isn’t possible for every member of a police force to be a highly trained martial artist. However, at the least they should regularly spend some time on the mat having punches thrown at them and learning some simple grappling techniques.
Most street fights end up on the ground. That’s a martial arts truism. Maybe that naked guy standing on the roof of the patrol car was about to jump down and rush the officers. OK, so what? One of them could have taken off his gun, handed it to his partner so it couldn’t be used against him, and gotten ready to engage in a good old-fashioned fight with Kaady.
If that had happened, almost certainly the worst that would have happened is a bloody nose, black eye, or some bruises. The cop would be a hero and Kaady would still be alive. Two policemen should be able to handle one injured man, especially if he’s not being aggressive. If you’re afraid to get into some hand to hand fighting when the situation calls for it, maybe you shouldn’t be a police officer.
My wife and I saw the play “Bus Stop” last weekend. Set in the 1950s, as I recall, in the second act a small town sheriff puts a belligerent cowboy in his place. Not with his gun. With his fists. Now, if you’re a 110 pound policewoman, that probably won’t work. But if you’re an average-sized man with some martial arts training, it probably will.
A Salem bicycle patrol officer, Grant, recently joined my Tai Chi class. I don’t know what his motivation is for learning Tai Chi, but I can guarantee that his training will be useful if (or, more likely, when) he gets into a confrontation on the street. Tai Chi is highly effective in self-defense if it is taught by a well-trained martial artist, as my class is.
Warren, the instructor, was talking last night about how Tai Chi’s emphasis on meeting hardness with softness works well in both physical and psychological conflicts. By keeping calm in a threatening situation, you can change the situation to be less threatening. Fear begets fear, anger begets anger.
One of Warren’s Tai Chi teachers, a Chinese man, told me that he used to train the Hong Kong police. I wish police departments in this country put the same emphasis on learning unarmed self-defense skills. Quite a few people would be alive today if they did.
And Portland Copwatch makes a lot of sense when they say that state law and city policy should be changed to emphasize that an officer who uses deadly force with the "reasonable belief" that there is a threat to his or another's life must be able to prove there was an objectively reasonable belief that such a threat existed. In the Kaady case, that doesn’t seem to be true.