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When Cops Kill: An Insider’s Perspective

I WAS INSPIRED TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE AFTER reading Michael Shermer’s July 2015 column in Scientific American titled “Outrageous: Why Cops Kill.” I thought readers might gain some insight hearing an answer to the question of why cops kill from a cop himself. I begin with some background and then consider the many circumstances in which we cops find ourselves that can lead an incident to escalate into violence.

I am a 34 year-old white male and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I served in the U.S. Army with the 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. I did a tour in Afghanistan, finished my time in the Army and went on to obtain my college degree. Finally, at the age of 26, I became a police officer with what I consider the greatest department in the world—the Los Angeles Police Department.

One of my earliest memories was of my grandfather’s answer to my question about what I should be when I grow up. His response: “Son, do what makes you happy. So long as it keeps a roof over your head and food on the table, do it.” My immediate response was, “I want to be a police officer.”

Why? I don’t know, and I cannot remember any experiences with law enforcement at that time that would have led me to choose this profession. I guess you could say it was a “calling” for me. I geared my entire life toward becoming a police officer.

As I grew older in my childhood, I always had a strong desire to protect others who were being harmed. Even though I was a skinny little kid, I never hesitated to fight a bully who was picking on someone. I often played scenarios in my head of helping someone in a life-threatening situation.

I did my best to stay out of trouble, never doing drugs and never committing any crimes more serious than a traffic violation or using Napster. I knew a tour in the military would instill in me a disciplined mindset, and it surely did. I knew education would give me the writing and legal skills I would need to survive in my chosen career.

The Los Angeles Police Department was the only choice I considered. While growing up the LAPD’s uniform always impressed me—it seemed like there was no other like it. Seeing how the officers of the department carried themselves motivated me to be like them some day. Most of all, a personal experience with a single LAPD officer set it all in stone.

When I was around 6, my parents were going through a custody battle. My mother was drinking and using drugs regularly, and I did not wish to be around her. One day it was my father’s turn to have custody, and I told him that I did not want to be with my mother anymore. Long story short, a lone LAPD officer showed up and talked to me in private. I told him everything my mother was doing and that I did not want to stay with her. He said, “I’m going to make sure you’re safe, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.” That talk resonates with me today and has been a guiding force for what kind of a police officer I became.

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About Skeptic

CONFIDENCE SCAMS EXCERPT: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for it Every Time; ARTICLES: America’s Stonehenge: Did Highly Developed Europeans Build a Sophisticated Astronomical and Religious Monument on the American East Coast More than 3000 Years Ago?; Is It ET?: Is Star KIC 8462852 a Sign of an Extraterrestrial Civilization?; Hurricane Strikes as Divine Retribution—An Empirical Test; Ruins of Empires: Thomas Jefferson, Constantin-Francois Volney, and the Separation of Church and State; Winning the Vaccination War in California; Prophet Without Honor: Francis Galton and the Birth of Behavioral Genetics; When Cops Kill: An Insider’s Perspective; Guns and Games: The Relationship Between Violent Video Games and Gun Crimes in America; More on Morals: On Science and Morality (1) Deontologists are Covert Consequentialists, (2) Expanding Science to Include Morals, (3) Clarifying Confusions; Alligators in the Sewers! COLUMNS: Who’s Crazy Now?: DSM-5 and the Classification of Mental Disorders; The Delicate Dilemma of Defining Rape; REVIEW: Red Team: How To Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko reviewed by David Priess; JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Haunted Houses; Earliest Ghost Stories; Ghostly Evolution