Much of the furor has died down over the fatal shooting by a Portland (Oregon) police officer of a drunk transient who came out of a public restroom bloodied and holding an x-acto knife.
But I'm still bothered by it, notwithstanding the most press release from the Portland Police Bureau after an interview with the officer, Jason Walters -- which, disturbingly, didn't take place until days had passed after the shooting.
The transient, Jack "Jackie" Collins, was intoxicated and threatening people at Hoyt Aboretum. After Walters knocked on the restroom door, Collins came out. Pretty clearly, Collins had been cutting on himself. There was no report that he had hurt anybody.
So Walters is faced with a 58 year old drunk guy armed with an x-acto knife. I've got several in my tool box. They're handy for stripping wallpaper and handling other chores. Yes, they have a sharp blade. However, they aren't a "bad guy" weapon of choice.
Walters, after having two days to talk things over with his attorney, says that he was backing up, ran into some barrier, and had no choice but to shoot Collins four times. I find that difficult to believe.
If it's true, then Walters is to blame. Restrooms are for public use. Public walk up to them, and people walk away from them. If Walters made the mistake of backing into a barrier, Collins didn't deserve to die for that.
Walters had called for backup. There was ample opportunity to defuse the situation once the police officer realized that all he was dealing with was a drunk transient, possibly suicidal, who only had an x-acto knife.
I resonated with one of the comments on a KATU story about the killing.
usually i will be able to somehow reason on the police side. That said however I cannot see how deadly force was needed to take down a guy with a razor knife.
And he was shot 4 times? That to me sounds like a cop who just openned fire and didn't even think about non lethal shots.
Pepper spray and a tazor seem to have been more in order than killing the guy.
While I wasn't there i can tell you that as a bouncer at a bar I had knifes pulled on me more than once and I didn't need to shoot anyone ever who came at me swinging one. And the knifes pulled were not just "razor knifes"
This seems like lack of training to me
One of the guys in my martial arts class, who I've trained with for quite a while, also has been a bouncer in several bars. He says that he has had knives pulled on him several times. The guy never had to kill anybody. Nor has he ever been injured.
I understand fear. I don't blame Walters for fearing for his life. But here's the thing: if you sign up to be a police officer, you should be prepared to "protect and serve." That means putting your life on the line in order to protect and serve the public.
Which includes drunk transient guys with mental problems who are out of it and don't know what they're doing. Walters seemed to assume that Collins should have been able to respond to "drop the knife!" just like any normal person would.
Walters wasn't taking into account the specifics of the situation. He seemed to be operating on autopilot, rigidly following some rule that says shoot to kill if someone doesn't obey orders and you feel threatened.
Well, it depends. That's what you learn in martial arts training, as in ballroom dancing training -- which I'm also quite familiar with. There are no rules, except there are no rules.
But in police work, as elsewhere in life, skill comes from assessing what is really happening in a situation, not what some book or previous rule-based training tells you to do.
The rest of this Portland police killing story is easy to figure out, because it has played out before in other deaths of mentally ill people at the hands of poorly trained officers. Walters will go before a grand jury and tell jurors that he felt his life was threatened by Collins.
The grand jury won't press any charges. Case closed. Another disturbed man killed, another Portland police officer cleared of any wrongdoing.
But something sure seems wrong to me here. Police officers in other areas aren't so prone to shoot first and defuse a situation later. Here's an example.
Walter's life wasn't in great danger. He had plenty of other options open to him other than killing Collins.
Here's the uncomfortable truth, as I see it: Walters chose to protect and serve himself rather than a disturbed drunk guy who was cutting on himself with an x-acto knife. He could have taken a small risk of being hurt, and have a big chance of saving Collins' life.
The Portland Police Bureau needs an urgent reassessment of its whole approach to dealing with mentally incapacitated people who don't pose an obvious threat. Killing them isn't the answer.
I agree that a man weilding an exacto knife should not be considered a lethal threat to a police officer. The one proviso, however, is that the random and thus unpredictable actions of a drunk are often harder to parry than those of a trained sober fighter.
Don't the police get any martial arts training?
Posted by: Gil Johnson | March 26, 2010 at 01:30 PM
I agree with everything you say. I also would like to add in my 12 years living in Portland my only encounters with any police here have always left me feeling afraid.
Posted by: Parker | March 27, 2010 at 12:07 AM
You're right in everything you said above but you need to put more emphasis on principles and training. It's not just the fault of Walters, Frashour, Chris Humphry et al. The responsibility runs all the way to the top. That includes the immediate supervisers in these fatalities, the command, the Chief and especially our representative, Commissionar Dan Saltzman. There may be some responsibility here for Scott Westerman for his part in exonerating the officers regardless of circumstances. An X-acto knive may be technically a lethal weapon but I wouldn't bet on it. Especially if I was drunk. And the officer had on a bullet proof vest...and was younger and quicker.
Posted by: Don | March 29, 2010 at 12:03 AM
How about we just close the police department and see how long you survive !! GQ public knows nothing about police work and what it takes to deal with all the crazy people ! As usual Portland it a town thats all about "poor me".
Posted by: me | March 30, 2010 at 10:25 PM
Police are trained to stop the threat! If stupid people did not put THEMSELVES in the position to be shot by a law officer, guess what.....they would'nt be shot! You people call cop's to protect you, they don't come find you! So don't bad mouth cop's because they don't want to play go fish with a person to see if they mean you no harm ! The public's lack of education shows evertime a protest is on the street. Those people have no idea why they are there, they just want to justify a reason to create havok !
Posted by: me | March 30, 2010 at 10:37 PM
Why does jesse jackson need to come to Portland? He needs to go home and preach his s#iI somewhere else ! Until colored people learn to respect themselves they will always be the same. I go to my kids school and all the colored kids call each other the N word ! But if anybody else says it, then we get the jesse jasckson visit ! When an officer kills a white or mexican guy nobody shows up ! So an officer kills a black guy, if he was an outstanding citizen, guess what !....he would still be here !! People need to get over it, all races are subject to messing up their lives, so when the cops come to fix your screwed up situation, put the gun down and live to see another day !!!!
Posted by: me | March 30, 2010 at 10:50 PM
NEXT TIME ONE OF PEOPLE HAVE A EMERGENCY INSTEAD OF CALLING A COP CALL A PLUMBER INSTEAD !
Posted by: mike | May 18, 2010 at 04:54 PM
mike, excellent idea. That certainly makes sense if someone is mentally ill and isn't posing a serious threat to others. I've never heard of a plumber killing someone who was unarmed and mentally disturbed, but the Portland police have done this numerous times.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 18, 2010 at 05:30 PM