The Atlanta police department is in the left's crosshairs

The district attorney for Fulton County,* where Officer Garrett Rolfe fired the shot that killed Rayshard Brooks, told CNN that Rolfe might face murder charges.  Perhaps information that's not available to the public shows that those charges are warranted.

Still, the available footage suggests that even if the police officers who responded to the call from a Wendy's in Atlanta might not have handled the initial interaction with Brooks perfectly, by the time Brooks fought with them, snatched a taser, and tried to shoot them, the officer's decision to fire wasn't beyond the pale.  In any event, now's as good a time as any to remember the speed with which police have to assess situations and react.

What we know from the available information is that Brooks was sleeping in a car in the drive-through lane at a Wendy's in Atlanta.  When the officers arrived, they woke him, had him move his car, and called for help from Rolfe, an officer with the High Intensity Traffic Team DUI task force.  Testing revealed that Brooks was quite intoxicated.  Rolfe, therefore, said he should not have been operating the vehicle and tried to cuff him.

Brooks resisted arrest, a fight that ended with him rolling on the ground with two police officers and punching at least one of them.  Brooks managed to steal an officer's taser and started running.  The police chased him, at which point he turned toward Rolfe, pointed the taser, and fired. Rolfe responded by firing three times at Brooks, killing him.  Two of the shots were in the back, something that could have happened if he spun after the first shot was fired.  All of this was caught on video.

I'm not going to offer a judgment about those facts, mainly because I'm sure we'll learn more in the days to come.  This post, instead, talks about the fact that police, unlike most people in America, routinely have to decide within a split-second whether they're in a "kill or be killed" situation.

Many police departments have computer or role-playing simulations to help train police in shoot/don't shoot situations.  Periodically, both reporters and anti-police activists take this training, and they are invariably surprised by the speed with which situations develop.  They shoot unarmed people and get killed by armed people.  Here are few of those videos:

This third video is especially interesting because it shows how confusing it is when members of the public, complete with a video camera, put the police on the spot:

In each of those videos, the people in the training situation shouldn't have had their lizard brains triggered.  They knew, after all, that there was no real risk.  Nevertheless, all of them discussed how their bodies reacted as if there were a real threat.  Our lizard brains, which harbor our deepest survival instincts in a predator/prey world, do not distinguish between simulations and reality — and reality is much worse.

In the real world, the one that police face daily, that deep part of our brain, when faced with a dynamic situation that can mean life or death within two seconds, makes an instant situational assessment and then does whatever is necessary to survive.  Repeatedly, the people merely going through the simulation were surprised both by how quickly the simulated predators killed them and how quickly they shot the simulated predators.  Two seconds — that's all you've got.

America's police are watching Rolfe's case closely.  All know that they may end up in situations with people who are non-compliant or stupid and be forced to make a split-second decision as to whether the person is a risk or not.  If the new presumption when a black man is shot is that the police officer committed murder, police will make one of two sensible choices: (1) they will quit the department immediately or (2) they will continue to collect the paycheck while failing to do any meaningful policing.

If the police make either of those choices, that does not bode well for America.  We already saw with the Ferguson Effect how many more people died as the police withdrew from proactive policing.  Additionally, when things get terrible, vigilante justice will step in, and vigilantes don't have police training.  They'll always shoot first.

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*The prosecutor may have his own problems and be anxious to shift the spotlight away from himself:

Howard himself is under investigation following Channel 2 and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters' discovery that 80 percent of some $250,000 sent to Howard's office for crime prevention programs ended up in the district attorney's pocket.

"I asked the city of Atlanta for a supplement to my salary and they agreed to it," Howard says. Howard faces a strong election challenge from fellow Democratic rival Fanni Willis.

Howard finished second to Willis in a recent primary and the two now have a runoff race on August 11.

The district attorney for Fulton County,* where Officer Garrett Rolfe fired the shot that killed Rayshard Brooks, told CNN that Rolfe might face murder charges.  Perhaps information that's not available to the public shows that those charges are warranted.

Still, the available footage suggests that even if the police officers who responded to the call from a Wendy's in Atlanta might not have handled the initial interaction with Brooks perfectly, by the time Brooks fought with them, snatched a taser, and tried to shoot them, the officer's decision to fire wasn't beyond the pale.  In any event, now's as good a time as any to remember the speed with which police have to assess situations and react.

What we know from the available information is that Brooks was sleeping in a car in the drive-through lane at a Wendy's in Atlanta.  When the officers arrived, they woke him, had him move his car, and called for help from Rolfe, an officer with the High Intensity Traffic Team DUI task force.  Testing revealed that Brooks was quite intoxicated.  Rolfe, therefore, said he should not have been operating the vehicle and tried to cuff him.

Brooks resisted arrest, a fight that ended with him rolling on the ground with two police officers and punching at least one of them.  Brooks managed to steal an officer's taser and started running.  The police chased him, at which point he turned toward Rolfe, pointed the taser, and fired. Rolfe responded by firing three times at Brooks, killing him.  Two of the shots were in the back, something that could have happened if he spun after the first shot was fired.  All of this was caught on video.

I'm not going to offer a judgment about those facts, mainly because I'm sure we'll learn more in the days to come.  This post, instead, talks about the fact that police, unlike most people in America, routinely have to decide within a split-second whether they're in a "kill or be killed" situation.

Many police departments have computer or role-playing simulations to help train police in shoot/don't shoot situations.  Periodically, both reporters and anti-police activists take this training, and they are invariably surprised by the speed with which situations develop.  They shoot unarmed people and get killed by armed people.  Here are few of those videos:

This third video is especially interesting because it shows how confusing it is when members of the public, complete with a video camera, put the police on the spot:

In each of those videos, the people in the training situation shouldn't have had their lizard brains triggered.  They knew, after all, that there was no real risk.  Nevertheless, all of them discussed how their bodies reacted as if there were a real threat.  Our lizard brains, which harbor our deepest survival instincts in a predator/prey world, do not distinguish between simulations and reality — and reality is much worse.

In the real world, the one that police face daily, that deep part of our brain, when faced with a dynamic situation that can mean life or death within two seconds, makes an instant situational assessment and then does whatever is necessary to survive.  Repeatedly, the people merely going through the simulation were surprised both by how quickly the simulated predators killed them and how quickly they shot the simulated predators.  Two seconds — that's all you've got.

America's police are watching Rolfe's case closely.  All know that they may end up in situations with people who are non-compliant or stupid and be forced to make a split-second decision as to whether the person is a risk or not.  If the new presumption when a black man is shot is that the police officer committed murder, police will make one of two sensible choices: (1) they will quit the department immediately or (2) they will continue to collect the paycheck while failing to do any meaningful policing.

If the police make either of those choices, that does not bode well for America.  We already saw with the Ferguson Effect how many more people died as the police withdrew from proactive policing.  Additionally, when things get terrible, vigilante justice will step in, and vigilantes don't have police training.  They'll always shoot first.

________________________________________

*The prosecutor may have his own problems and be anxious to shift the spotlight away from himself:

Howard himself is under investigation following Channel 2 and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters' discovery that 80 percent of some $250,000 sent to Howard's office for crime prevention programs ended up in the district attorney's pocket.

"I asked the city of Atlanta for a supplement to my salary and they agreed to it," Howard says. Howard faces a strong election challenge from fellow Democratic rival Fanni Willis.

Howard finished second to Willis in a recent primary and the two now have a runoff race on August 11.