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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

'Hostile' attitude is not a reason to flee

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Two St. Louis police officers are out of a job this morning as a result of a bizarre shooting episode last week. The two cops fired 28 shots into a fleeing vehicle last week only to discover later that the vehicle also contained a woman and three small children in addition to the driver. That "overkill" cost them their jobs and that perhaps is justified.

But the real story to me is the reaction that followed the episode. That alone should send an alarm.

Here's what happened. Last week police stopped a motorist for a traffic violation. The vehicle stopped and two officers approached. But then for some unexplained reason, the vehicle sped away and began to flee police. Not knowing the reason why the driver was eluding police, the two officers fired 28 shots into the vehicle. The driver was wounded in the arm and eventually stopped.

The law enforcement officers were fired for using excessive force. The top cop in St. Louis said no shots were warranted, given the circumstances. And, of course, the topper was that the man had his wife and three children with him.

I can understand and agree with the dismissal of the two cops. They certainly overreacted and put far too many people in harm's way. But the reaction of minority groups in St. Louis is disturbing.

At a news conference Wednesday with police, members of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression blasted improper police actions in St. Louis and said it had resulted in the black community shifting "to a self-defense posture when confronted by police." The group said the actions of police were forcing blacks to "flee for their life when they encounter hostile police."

If we accept an attitude that you can ignore police if you feel they are hostile toward you then our path is certain. If the criminal is allowed to determine when police are "hostile" in their attitude and to flee then we're in deep trouble.

The motorists obviously should not have fled. The police should obviously not have fired the shots unless they were threatened. But most importantly, any group cannot be justified in fleeing if they feel police are "hostile." They simply don't have that right.

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