It is an unfortunate fact that police involved shootings have dominated the headlines for the better part of the last year. Each is awful and tragic because a human life has been lost. The common theme in the aftermath that annoys me to no end is that there is never a shortage of individuals that want to go on television and share their opinion about what happened based on their experience. Whether they are carrying some agenda with them like the anti-gun lobby or merely sitting in judgment of someone that has been involved in a tragic, life changing event from the comfort of their office chair when the greatest danger they have faced recently is an intensely warm studio light, they just can’t wait to let us know what happened in their point of view. The problem here is that virtually all of them have no flipping idea what they’re talking about when it comes to actually what happens in that critical moment when a firearm is discharged. Yes, they may be (or have been) a lawyer or community leader, but that means precisely squat if they have never gone out and taken any steps to better understand the very thing they are speaking so passionately about for the cameras, the use of a firearm by someone forced to make a life or death decision in the blink of an eye. All of these incidents involve the use of a firearm and it is a fairly safe bet that most of these folks pontificating on the subject of the application of deadly force in a chaotic, real world scenario have never fired a weapon and have most certainly never been forced to do it in a high stress situation. So with this as the backdrop for their experience, you tell me what in the high-holy Hell they might have to say on the subject that actually matters. For my money, not much.
That is why when someone does make the effort to better understand what it might be like to be in that moment, it deserves attention and recognition. Atlanta civil rights activist Rev. Markel Hutchins did just that. Rev. Hutchins agreed to an unusual challenge from Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne. He arranged to meet Winne at the Atlanta Police Academy for immersion in shooting policy and handgun handling.
After the recent police shooting and non-indictment in Ferguson, Missouri, Hutchins said “We face an unjust criminal system.” After going through some actual police shoot/no shoot training scenarios, Hutchins outlook was changed saying, “If we are going to have an advocacy community that demands accountability among law enforcement, we’ve got to be reasonable and understand the process.”
Winne asked if having a real gun pointed at him changed the way Hutchins looks at police shootings.
“Absolutely. Having a real weapon in real time pointed at me sensitized me in a way that no other experience could have to the rigors that police officers face,” Hutchins said. “They want to go home to their families too.”
Outstanding and good on Rev. Hutchins for acting responsibly. What’s more, big kudos go to him for stepping forward and admitting that his views had changed. As for us, we are by no means top tier tactical operators, but we have (and do) participate in stressful training scenarios with our firearms. By doing this, we very quickly gain a different perspective and an incredible respect for anyone that has to make the life or death decision of whether or not to use deadly force. It’s a real eye opener. Finally, a tip of the cap to Mark Winne and WSB for putting this piece together. This was an outstanding piece and a wonderful piece of journalism. If only all of our major media did work that is this strong.
Check out the WSB reports for yourself and hear Rev. Hutchins tell you in his own words how this activity has changed his point of view.
CONVERSATION WITH ATLANTA OFFICERS