The Myth of the Unarmed Man

If you don't believe media bias plays a role in how Americans interpret use of force by law enforcement, try this simple test. Do a Google search for "police officer kills unarmed man." I did and I got 179,000 results. Searching for "unarmed man attacks police officer," I got this message: "No results found."

M Jon Adler 14

If you don't believe media bias plays a role in how Americans interpret use of force by law enforcement, try this simple test. Do a Google search for "police officer kills unarmed man." I did and I got 179,000 results. Searching "Police officer shoots unarmed man" returned 205,000 results. Finally, I flipped the search around and typed, "unarmed man attacks police officer." I got this message: "No results found."

So does that mean no unarmed men are attacking and seriously injuring officers? Absolutely not.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) says 57,892 law enforcement officers are assaulted each year and 15,483 sustain serious injuries. The most recent FBI "Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted" (LEOKA) report indicates that 80.2% of the assaults against law enforcement in 2012 were committed by unarmed subjects. The 2012 LEOKA report also reveals that unarmed subject attacks are the leading cause of injury for law enforcement officers.

The media's total disregard for these facts in regard to the coverage of the recent Ferguson and Staten Island incidents leads me to conclude that reporters are unaware of the annual NLEOMF and LEOKA reports or read them and ignore them. One conclusion is evidence of unacceptable ignorance. The other is evidence of anti-police bias.

Two federal officers can attest to the bias.

Initial coverage of a 2008 deadly force incident in the U.S. Virgin Islands that involved ATF Special Agent Will Clark suggested Clark's use of deadly force against an unarmed man was unjustified. But what those reports omitted was the fact that Clark intervened to prevent a 300-pound man from fatally battering a woman. Nonetheless, the local and national press minimized the threat of an enraged, irrational 300-pound man charging and swinging a long steel flashlight and focused solely on reporting the dead man was "unarmed." Fortunately, Clark was acquitted at trial.

In 2011, DSS Special Agent Chris Deedy was charged with second-degree murder and prosecuted in Hawaii after he intervened to prevent aggressive subjects from harming a customer in a McDonald's. The initial news reports in that case led the public to believe that a drunken agent killed an innocent, unarmed man. A McDonald's security video disproved the news accounts. So Deedy was acquitted.

All of the subjects in these cases and Ferguson and Staten Island were large men, well over 250 pounds. And three of the subjects allegedly attempted to or actually inflicted bodily injury on law enforcement officers.

This may come as a shock to most reporters, but unarmed men have arms and hands and legs and feet. And if an unarmed man punches or kicks an officer and renders him or her unconscious that officer and the public are in great peril because the unarmed attacker can arm himself with the tools on the officer's belt.

Reporters and commentators are quick to condemn law enforcement for failing to deploy less-than-lethal weapon options against unarmed men. Intermediate and less-than-lethal weapons are viable options when distance and circumstances allow. However, they are not a magical remedy for subduing a violent, non-compliant unarmed man.

News-flash to the media: Law enforcement officers don't get paid to be pummeled by unarmed men. Law enforcement officers are tasked with controlling and arresting violent subjects, and using the appropriate level of force to accomplish that goal. Further, while attempting to arrest non-compliant, violent unarmed men, officers also have to protect and retain their firearms from powerful subjects. And a subject who initially appears to be unarmed may in fact have a weapon.

While some of the examples I referenced involved subjects who were large unarmed men, Hollywood provided an excellent example of how even average-sized, unarmed subjects can be lethal. In "The Silence of the Lambs," the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is not physically imposing, but kills two armed guards. Arguably, an unarmed Hannibal Lecter is potentially more lethal than many armed criminals. Yet if a law enforcement officer were confronted by an unarmed Lecter type, the liberal news media would likely script the headline, "Police Officer Picks On Defenseless, Unarmed Doctor."

I don't want any officers to be unduly influenced by the media crucifying a fellow officer and then hesitate during violent encounters. Irrespective of what the media may publish, violent, noncompliant unarmed men are anything but unarmed and must be handled with great caution.

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