Last month I wrote an editorial that mentioned the need for law enforcement having armored rescue vehicles (ARVs) in active shooter operations and terror attacks and how President Obama's restrictions on the 1033 program that provides law enforcement agencies with military surplus vehicles could cost lives.
Less than a week after I wrote that piece, everyone in America saw how armored rescue vehicles saved lives during the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack. Lenco BearCats were used during that incident to evacuate the wounded, to shield officers as they approached the building to make tactical entry, and to take down the suspect. We also saw numerous ARVs in operation during the response to the San Bernardino attack.
Now, it doesn't look to me like any of the ARVs used in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino were supplied to law enforcement through the 1033 program. They were all purpose-built police vehicles. But terror attacks can happen anywhere in the United States. And as we all know, not every law enforcement agency is fortunate enough to receive the grant monies necessary to buy purpose-built ARVs. Which is why the 1033 program is so important. I urge you to let your elected officials know how you feel on this issue.
Back in 2010 the San Francisco Police Commission rejected then Police Chief George Gascon's request to equip officers with TASERs. The city is now paying for that stupid decision.
On Dec. 2, San Francisco officers confronted Mario Woods, 26, on the streets of Bayview. Woods was suspected in a non-fatal stabbing and was wielding a kitchen knife and acting erratically. Multiple officers responded to the scene. They then attempted to use OC spray and at least one beanbag round to subdue Woods, but he refused to drop the knife. At 4:30 that afternoon—after repeatedly ordering Woods to drop the knife—officers shot and killed the man.
The Mario Woods incident has sparked protests, vigils, calls for firing the police chief, demands that the officers involved be prosecuted, and, of course, a lawsuit. The department is also planning to revise its use-of-force policies and training to emphasize de-escalation. In addition, Chief Greg Suhr has announced plans to equip officers with 60 riot control shields like those used by British police during knife confrontations. Oh, and Suhr is also asking that the Police Commission reconsider TASERs.
Now any discussion of TASERs in a community like San Francisco always leads somebody to say that the less-lethal tools can replace deadly force when officers face armed people. And that's just nonsense. In most cases, officers would be sacrificing their own safety and the public's safety if they brought a TASER to a gunfight or even a knife fight.
However, in the Mario Woods incident, a TASER might have worked. There were multiple officers on scene, so lethal cover was available and one officer could have tried to get close enough to deploy a TASER against the knife-wielding suspect. If that had happened, Mario Woods might still be alive and San Francisco would have been saved from all of the fallout that followed this officer-involved shooting. Unfortunately, because of stupidity, San Francisco officers don't have TASERs.
There's been a lot of talk since the 2014 Ferguson shooting that law enforcement officers in America should think of themselves as "guardians," not "warriors." That talk comes from people who don't realize that every guardian—every law enforcement officer—must be a warrior. You can't protect unless you are willing to do violence and stop the threat.
When terrorists attacked the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino last month, the officers who arrived on the scene went into the building as warriors anticipating combat. They then adjusted their mission when they encountered no suspects and found only dead bodies, wounded victims crying for help, and people afraid to move.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Det. Jorge Lozano was both a warrior and a guardian when he told a line of people who were terrified of moving down a corridor for fear of being shot that he would lead them and take the bullet for them. That's what has been asked of warriors from the beginning: to guard the weak and the frightened and fight to protect them, to take the bullet. No officer can protect or serve unless he or she has that warrior spirit.