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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Patrol

My Response to Ferguson

Officer Darren Wilson did not wake up that morning wanting or intending to take Michael Brown's life.

December 04, 2014  |  by Lynne Doucette - Also by this author

The Ferguson shooting and subsequent riots have stirred up emotions in all of us. As a 17-year police veteran and a use of force/defensive tactics trainer, I held my opinions until I was presented with the facts of this case; I did not base them on suppositions or emotions. Nevertheless, there were a couple details I was certain of: Officer Darren Wilson did not wake up that morning wanting or intending to take Michael Brown's life, and Michael Brown took actions against Officer Wilson that caused his death.

How could I have made such speculations without being presented any facts or circumstances of the case? It is simple, really. Every police officer, no matter what state they work in, has straightforward requirements in which they are authorized to use force; deadly or otherwise. Police officers are trained extensively on use of force, the use of firearms and other weapons, and the policies, procedures, and laws that govern them.

I am frustrated that this incident became something bigger than a police-involved shooting. It had nothing to do with race, gender, age, or any other factors that politicians or the media attached to it. Sadly, Officer Wilson became a target to allow them to shape their personal agendas. Ask yourself this: Would the facts and circumstances have changed had both men been African-American? How about both Caucasian? What if Officer Wilson was African-American and Michael Brown was Caucasian? I am confident the outcome of the incident would have been the same.

The fundamental and critical facts in this case were that the officer was confronted with force which he reasonably believed to be deadly force, that such deadly force presented an imminent threat to his own life, and that the officer believed his only action to save his life was the use of deadly force. Not only that, but the Supreme Court has held, in Graham v. Connor, that an officer's actions should be "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them at that moment. That such "reasonableness" must be judged from the officer's viewpoint at the time of the incident, not with 20/20 vision of hindsight. Furthermore, based on these same standards, the Missouri grand jury that heard the case held that there was insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Wilson, and that he in fact acted within the laws of lethal force.

It is easy for those on the outside to pass judgment on police practices and actions. They spend days, weeks, or even months batting around opinions on what actions should have or could have been taken by the officer instead. Yet, an officer has seconds, or maybe as much as a minute if he or she is lucky, to make a choice that will be the difference between life and death.

Lt. Lynne D. Doucette is a patrol supervisor and defensive tactics trainer with the Brunswick (Maine) PD as well as a member of the POLICE Magazine advisory board. Prior to being the first female promoted at BPD, she worked as an undercover detective assigned to the state narcotics task force.


Comments (32)

Displaying 1 - 32 of 32

Chief Joseph E Young, Sr. @ 12/4/2014 5:11 PM

Very well stated!

Mario Villamarzo @ 12/4/2014 5:22 PM

Well stated Lynne!

Dean K @ 12/5/2014 9:14 PM

little back round I'm white 46 years old, I have a degree in Machine technology and make a six figure salary I have served 6 years in the army ,been married 20 years and have 4 daughters. I have never been arrested for anything, I don't drink,pay my taxes and go to church on sunday now that being said I think you guys are missing something here, I read your comments and see nothing but arrogance and when some body like me starts to question things, their is a problem...32 officers in Cleveland arrested for illegal behavior and so on listen guys it's getting too the point when we the public don't trust you anymore, in fact police scare the hell out of me any more , I feel less safe being pulled over for traffic violation then walking home at 3 am with a 100 dollar bill taped to my head now you can simply blow this off and say i'm another radical but guys I have always respected the Police and honor them but when I see that choke video, you guys need to rethink and change.

Karen b @ 12/6/2014 4:21 AM

How the heck can a white woman say anything about whether this had to do with race? Check your white privilege. I am embarrassed that you're from my home state of Maine. Try living as a black man in a white world for a day, and then let's see how your perspective changes. That's so telling that a white person is trying to say this wasn't about race.

Dave @ 12/6/2014 7:34 AM

The whole mess in Ferguson snowballed out of control from the beginning and turned into what we have today. I live here and believe that if the police had come out in the beginning and made a statement, it may have mitigated the violence early on. Instead, there was eerily silent for way too long, and people started making their own perceptions the reality that others chose to believe.

This whole mess came down to due process. Once due process was complete, the rioters showed their true colors. The "hands up, don't shoot" was shown to be a myth, but the rioters chose to ignore the truth and use it as an opportunity to commit crimes. I feel sorry for the legitimate protestors, because I believe they have a right to protest, but it has been marred by the rioters.

There is no doubt there are bad apples in policing, just like there are in any aspect of society. This is not the case of a bad apple, but of bad information. Stay safe everyone, and PEACE to all.

Dave

TheRookie @ 12/6/2014 7:35 AM

Oh Karen b give it a rest. My half black/half white foster son lives in Minot, ND. He's darker than lighter & has minimal issues there. Why? Because he carries himself with respect, works, doesn't rob people, or try to kill L.E.O's.

Very good article using the facts & information that most people don't/won't take the time to read through. Let's face it, the hacks that are still clamoring about this injustice made up their minds long ago regardless of the evidence, truth, & facts. STUPID IS AS STUPID BELIEVES.

Big Moe @ 12/6/2014 7:49 AM

Yes their are people today from all colors that live with a racist view but, its clear that in this generation, The truth and facts don't matter. I born and raised in the Bronx. I have seen racism in blacks, white, hispanics. I have seen whites beat up just for being white in all black /hispanic neigborhoods. But it seems like this race issue is only amplified when its black and white. That is a double standard. I think if we are going to point fingers and cry racism, lets look at it from all perspectives, Not just blck and white. Because the problem is a heart issue. evil people with evil hearts. Lets save our familys and restore the Homes where Young People are suppose to be taught to respect the law. This issue is bigger than just a race issue. This is a Moral issue. Injustice come in every color. Not just blck and white. This is even spiritual decay. Yes in all profession there is evil. But it all go's back to the heart of man.

CB @ 12/6/2014 8:02 AM

First off, I think Charles Barkley has said all that needs to be said. Since we are no longer liked, needed or trusted, 12 hrs with no police service (purge) should be considered ..lol .national blue flu epidemic..lol..

Jason @ 12/6/2014 8:33 AM

Karen b, you talk about what it is like to be black in a white world. Well I will give you insight on being white in this world. You said it is not fair and I agree with you. I don't think it is fair that when a black officer kills a white or Hispanic then it's ok but when a career criminal get killed by a white officer there is a riot. Bottom line if you are committing a crime and don't listen to officers YOU COULD BE KILLED! Stop committing crimes and there won't be any problems! Racism is very real and it is stupid and uncalled for but believe me racism is not one way. I have been a victim of racism as have many of my friends.

kevCopAz @ 12/6/2014 8:53 AM

Karen B is obviously either a liberal (white) that HAS is privileged and is ashamed of it, or she is a black female that needs to walk in a cops shoes to know whats it like for a person to fear( supported by statistics, not FEELINGs) B/M young men and to always have to play politically correct and racial preference dance at work. So I dismiss her as either out of touch, uninformed, basing her conclusions on "feelings" rather then facts, or she is just plain stupid. She may be a Liberal/progressive and then she may be all three. I am way more concerned with DAVE. He is the type of person who is the backbone of our society. I prey that he does really get out of the Liberal/Mass media box and look to other sources for his information. He is being misinformed and reacting to statements NOT SUPPORTED by statistics. Please Dave, we do have bad cops just as you have bad folks in your profession but you are in error when you fear the police mnore then the thugs, you are sorely wrong.

XXXXX @ 12/6/2014 10:07 AM

You know Dean K this is so ironic. I was just about to go onto a website about people with degrees in machine technology and post what a poor job ALL of them in the field were doing. I mean just about every new appliance in my home is falling apart. I have gotten to the point I'm afraid to plug my toaster in. You guys really need to rethink and change.

JohnC @ 12/6/2014 11:26 AM

"Darren" needed more GYM time. His actions will be causing all of us to be wearing cameras. Take the citizen complaints, but using the baton is better than using that Sig. If you can't hold out against an UNARMED perp till back-up arrives, maybe you should consider the fire department.

TC @ 12/6/2014 11:36 AM

Police are greatly under appreciated. Who would be to blame if the good ones get tired of all this crap and quit, leaving us with ONLY the bad ones. Then what will we do?

I strongly support my local law enforcement professionals. Those men and women are my heroes. They didn't create this mess our country is in, but they are somehow expected to fix it.

If you do the math, you are 3 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning, than by a bad cop, yet almost nobody is afraid of lightning. Lets put the facts in proper perspective. Bad cop killings are rare events. It's the Internet and search engines that make it seem like this is a daily event.

Lou Niles @ 12/6/2014 11:59 AM

A different perspective. With all the supposedly outstanding training officers are getting, the shooting of Brown should have been avoidable. And the protests we are seeing are not merely about the Ferguson event, but about a trend that has existed in the nation far too long. In the Wilson/Brown event, lets look at the fact pattern: Wilson had called for backup and backup was just around the corner. Brown was a suspect in a petty theft. Brown was a local. Brown was young, brain not fully developed; Brown also committed a felonious act by assaulting a LEO; Brown was built like a linebacker and had youthful strength; Office Wilson proffered he was not a match for Brown’s strength; Brown already allegedly grab for Wilson’s gun; so in the sum analysis of this encounter, this arrests was high risk to a solo officer. So, why didn’t Wilson back off and wait for his back up, and thereby remove or diminish the risk of a deadly use of force?

XXXXX @ 12/6/2014 12:25 PM

Gee Lou, you make it sound so easy. Especially, when you are typing out your strategy from the comforts of your Lazy Boy chair. Things just don't always work that way. However, I can positively say one thing from what I have read. If Michael Brown wouldn't have ROB a store, been walking in the street, punch a cop and attempt to take his gun, Michael Brown would be alive today.

LegAdv @ 12/6/2014 3:47 PM

I have to go along, xxxxx. To expect Officer Wilson to simply "back off and wait for his back up" in that situation is unrealistic and dangerous. In a split-second, Michael Brown could have made another attempt to obtain Officer Wilson's weapon and that officer could have been dead as a result. There was only one person who was in complete control of that situation from the beginning of the encounter. And that person was Michael Brown. His actions, and his actions alone, led to the outcome.

notmeofficer @ 12/6/2014 4:15 PM

John c can't be a policeman...no real copper would be so stupid...
I smell a troll

michael stetar @ 12/6/2014 5:28 PM

i thought this and told other people this as well. i mean a police officer doesnt just see a guy on the street and say "i think i'll kill this kid"!! ridiculous. he grabbed for the officer's gun! hello, innocent people don't do that. media fanning race flames where there are none just to get ratings!!! PATHETIC JOURNALISM!!!!

Cap[t. Crunch @ 12/6/2014 6:02 PM

@Lou Niles, WTF are you smoking strong arm robbery is not a petty theft. What really bothers me is morons like you defending a criminal. Believe me if there were no police guys like you would not last long breathing air.

JohnC @ 12/6/2014 7:31 PM

@notmeofficer: Who was stupid? If Darren had brained Brown he'd still have his job, he'd have 6 in toward his retirement. Now, he's POISON - will never work for another department again. Maybe he'll get lucky and get a book advance. What's left? Mall cop? BTW, 8 yrs Army (95B) & 2 departments. Have seen colleagues go through a fatal shooting, they never recover. If it don't mess up their head, promotion is dead. What are your bona fides?

Lou Niles @ 12/6/2014 9:07 PM

The phenomenon I am speaking of is called psychogenic shock, and it disables clear thinking. Both members of the public and law enforcement encounter it when danger is perceived. I first witnessed this in combat. I ended up disqualifying certain pilots from flying high-risk missions due their proneness to this phenomenon. Not everyone is hardwired for stressful high-risk work environments. And we don’t screen recruits for this. I taught psychongenic shock in the academy to give probies a window of knowledge on how to manage this mental state if they encounter frightening circumstances. The federal marshals and FBI factor this in when they affect an arrest. This is why they pick the place and time of an arrest to reduce risk to all parties. Brown, being a local person and still living with his family, could have been apprehended later, at his home, with a sufficient group of officers to conduct an arrest safely without killing the suspect. That is policy in many depts.

JohnC @ 12/6/2014 9:37 PM

Lou Niles makes a lot of sense, wish my dept. would adopt it. Get the adrenaline out of the way of the inevitable arrest. Didn't Col. Trautman mention this to Teasel 30 years ago in Rambo I?

plato's playdough @ 12/7/2014 1:50 AM

Am I missing something, or does anyone else consider the use of the term "African American" to be racist?

If multiple posters began their message with "As a WHITE American..." would that be something everyone can be comfortable with?

How 'bout if I said "As a South African American, we found apartheid had its good points, " would the Ferguson community say "yah we be down wit DAT dude, he be spittin' it fo' real."

It ain't a white world. How frickin' stupid of you to even say it is.

XXXXX @ 12/7/2014 2:24 PM

Lou, you're living in a dream world.

TheCrookie @ 12/7/2014 8:55 PM

@TheRookie.. oh the stories I could tell you about your Foster Son. And xxxxx, you are possibly the smartest person ever. feel smart? (just kidding. you are not smart) Did you know it is a fact that American Police are the least educated police in the western world? That they are the least educated civil "servant" in the states.. The average rookie cop from Mexico city has three times the education as an American Cop? This is not trolling. This is simply stating facts... like white cops kill Black children (and Teens) and get away with it. Did you know the White cops over the age of 35 are more likely to be pedophiles than any other group? Not sure what that means? ask one of your non-cop friends.

Cap[t. Crunch @ 12/7/2014 9:02 PM

Actually, I take back everything I posted earlier... I am Darren Wilson's gay Lover and I want to be clear when LASAGNA twist my camera fountain

kevCopAz @ 12/7/2014 9:05 PM

After reading some of these other posts, I realize I don't have what it takes to be a cop. I only ever did it because of how much I was picked on as a kid.

krisnlc @ 12/8/2014 9:08 AM

John C comments are stupid. yes, gym time is important...but the rest is utterly stupid.

Dr. James M. Buccigross @ 12/8/2014 10:48 AM

I have been following these comments, and in regard to comments by TheCrookie, I am curious as to where he comes up with the statement, "Did you know the White cops over the age of 35 are more likely to be pedophiles than any other group?" - as a forensic psychologist specializing in the assessment & treatment of sexual offenders, as well as being a former police psychologist, I have never heard of any such data - if there is, I would be interested in knowing the source. I know of no such studies indicating an increased risk of pedophilia in white police officers over the age of 35 over other groups. I have been in this field for over 30 years & such a statement appears to be a slur on police officers & nothing more - if I am in error, please point me to the study or studies you are citing, and I will examine those studies.

Capt. Crunch @ 12/8/2014 1:34 PM

@ to the asshole/coward that is using my name, come forward like a man and tell me what have to say.

Concerned Citizen @ 12/8/2014 4:20 PM

My problem with the Ferguson situation is Patriots being deposed of their 2ed Amendment rights. People who use Firearms to protect local businesses have had Police Confiscate their weapons. If any LEOs wonder what The Police State looks like. Were living in it! Being Convicted of a Crime like Officer Wilson, the Media is an Apparatus of the Government. It's not just Tanks, and Soldiers. What happened to Wilson is no different that Hitler attacking Jews. The old Nazis used to exterminate those who were not deemed Aryan. But the "New Nazis" from the NWO want to eradicate the White Race and raise up Minorities. The final solution is Marshal Law and a Lasting Dictatorship. Unless we pray to God and ask for forgiveness. We won't find help in either Political Party. Good can defeat evil, but we need to get rid of Occultism in the USA. And replace it with people who fear God. The Fear of God keeps people in line!

Dean K @ 12/8/2014 9:12 PM

xxxx I am sorry for the ALL comment I know most police are decent, it was an over-sight but your response shows that you care little about what the general public think and the us vs them mentality is only going too sink your boat eventually if you do not wish to here from the genre that has historically been the police ally then so be it, I regress.

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