Michael Yon has a go at explaining why any time police open fire, they shoot to kill.
Many people innocently ask why Officer Wilson did not shoot Michael Brown in the legs. The answer could stretch for pages. More succinctly, a couple handfuls of reasons:
1) This ain’t the movies
2) Most police do not fire their weapons much. Most are not great shots.
3) The officer would have to be an incredible shot to be crazy enough to fire wounding shots.
4) Nearly all firefights are “stress shoots.” The other guy is moving. Heart pounding. Often breathless. Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just been punched in the face during a wrestling match for his pistol, according to Wilson.
5) Bullets that miss can hit someone else.
6) You always are low on ammo. Do not waste a single bullet.
7) Time spent reloading is dangerous
8) I have seen many people shot who kept fighting. Shot with weapons far more powerful than any officer’s pistol. Many police and combat troops have seen this and will verify.
9) Police and Soldiers never train to shoot to wound. (None that I know of.) Technically, officers will say they shoot to stop the threat but this is legal semantics. They are trained to fire center mass. All combat shots are center mass of any hittable part of the target. If you see only a foot, shoot the foot. If you see a chest — aim for the middle. If the officer is pointing his pistol at someone, he is one click away from going lethal to stop the threat. There is no in between. I have never seen a target at any military, police or civilian range, that designates legs as a target.
10) This ain’t the movies.
The whole thing.
I don’t think Michael’s explanation is fully accurate or complete. I’d say that other factors playing a key role include:
1. The politicization of police recruiting. In the old days, experienced police chose at will men like themselves to become cops. Their key criteria were size, strength, and combativeness. The kind of man who got into the police was a tough guy who knew he was tougher than 99% of common criminals and who was not afraid of them. The policeman was typically recruited from the same ethnic or cultural community as the older police.
Today, police recruiting is bureaucratized and politicized. Women and minorities, and now even queers, have to be “represented” in the police force. The old-time principles of selection were discarded years ago, so your typical cop today is no longer the toughest guy in town. He’s just some average schlub looking for a paycheck and pension.
The days of “One Ranger (or one Pennsylvania State Policeman) for one riot” are over. Today’s timid police don’t like to serve civil papers without SWAT Team back-up and an armored car. They are scared to death of frequently large and aggressive African American members of the criminal underclass.
2. In days of yore, the policeman was commonly a gun enthusiast. He carried (in most parts of the country) a Colt or Smith & Wesson .38 Special six-shot revolver. He was a dead shot and thought himself perfectly adequately armed. Nearly all police went through entire careers drawing a weapon only once or twice and never shooting anybody. The policeman dealt with nearly all resistance with his fists.
Needless to say, police are completely discouraged today from relying on their fists, and the police officer who beat up the likes of Michael Brown could get into pretty much as much trouble for hitting him as he would for shooting him dead, dead, dead.
3. The Federal Government took over police training and created national standards and procedures. These, today, include police carrying semi-automatic pistols with large magazines and police being trained to shoot “for center body mass,” i.e. being trained to shoot to kill, period, as well as being encouraged, when they shoot, to spray and pray, to empty the (typically 10-to-15-round) magazine at other fellow.
Some of this is simply the transplanting of military-style training for war into the context of civilian police work, but there is obviously additionally at work fear of litigation. The cop who shoots Stagger Lee in the leg knows that, down the road, there is a live possibility of having to face a live Stagger Lee in the courtroom, equipped with slick attorneys, and lying his ass off. If Stagger Lee is deceased, he is never going to sue anybody personally, and the mouth of the potential complainant with the best ability to contest the cop’s version of events is permanently sealed. The truth of the matter is that our polarized, politicized, and litigious modern society has persuaded police, when matters proceed to shooting, to prefer to take no live prisoners.
I’d say that Michael Yon’s theses are largely bogus. It may be that, in the heat of real combat, a crazed jihadi or some other Third World primitive, high on ganja and/or bloodlust, may keep fighting after being shot a time or two, but the typical American low life is just an ordinary criminal and a coward. Shoot one of them in the leg, and you’ll see him scream in pain and the fight drain right out of him. I know, because I once did shoot one… in the leg. Not being FBI-trained, I thought it unnecessary to shoot to kill.