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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life and Death for Police Officers

Today's New York Times has several letters to the editor about the verdict in the Sean Bell case, where three police officers were acquitted on all charges associated with Sean Bell's death and the wounding of two others.  Here's an excerpt from the first letter:

The verdict repudiates the very notion of police as protectors. . . .

If this situation is to change, we must compel police officers to hold our interests and our lives above their own. They must accept the threat of harm as part of their jobs and their oaths. And they must demonstrate restraint even at the expense of their lives. Our society is served only when they take bullets for us, not we for them.

True, police officers do accept increased risks of harm when they take their jobs.  And, of course, their specialized training and ability to assess situations may even affect the way that the law is applied to them in some situations.   But I don't think it is fair to ask a police officer to value the life of someone else more than his or her own.  A police officer is not obligated to jump into the line of fire to save a civilian.  In any event, it's hard to know how one would "compel police officers" to act differently under conditions where they believe that their lives are imminently in danger.

Posted by Adam Kolber on April 29, 2008 at 03:30 PM | Permalink


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