Monday, January 12, 2015

Speak Responsibly

I came across a story last week that everyone should see.
It details how an adamant protestor in Phoenix, AZ, after calling for the job and badge of a police officer who shot an unarmed man during a traffic stop, was invited to participate in a police officer's use of force training exercise. The protestor, Jarrett Maupin, agreed.

You can watch a video of the exercises in the article, but the gist is that Maupin was placed into the role of a police officer faced with three separate life or death scenarios.

In the first, Maupin did not react fast enough and was 'shot' by the suspicious perpetrator.

The second scenario mirrored the recent incident that Maupin had so fiercely been protesting. The perpetrator rushed on Maupin and, though he did not appear armed, Maupin 'shot' him. When asked, Maupin said he fired because

"...he was in that zone, I felt there was an imminent threat. I didn't necessarily see him armed, but he came clearly to do some harm to [me]. It's hard to make that call. It shakes you up."

He also confessed "I didn't understand how importance compliance was but after going through this, yeah, my attitude has changed. This is all unfolding in 10 to 15 seconds. People need to comply with the orders of law enforcement officers for their own sake."

In the third scenario, Maupin managed to subdue the perp though, after a search, discovered a concealed knife in his waistband.

I share this story for several reasons, but the most important is how crucial it is to understand what it's like for these police officers. They face real and very serious danger every single day. This is something that most average people like us don't fully comprehend. 58 of the 114 police killed in 2014 were a result of assault.

Maupin was incredibly gutsy to step up to the plate and accept this invitation, to experience what it's really like in the shoes of law enforcement. Too many of the voices crying out are pushing their own opinions and agendas without understanding the positions actually involved. For this reason, I have great admiration for Maupin. Because the most courageous thing he did was admit he did not fully understand the situation and that his opinion is now changed because of it. He sent this tweet after experiencing his scenarios:

People can voice their opinions. This is America and we have been given the freedom of speech. But we also have the duty to use it responsibly. Unlike the old 'sticks and stones' spiel of childhood, words carry great power, especially from the mouths of the ignorant. To quote the immortal words of Stan Lee, "With great power comes great responsibility."

People should think a little more before they speak or tweet or update their status, and make an effort to better understand the situation before they add their own fuel to the fire. They could be doing more harm than good.

Don't be ignorant. Be like Maupin. Make the effort to gather the facts past the gossip and the sensationalized news stories.

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