Viewpoint 1/6: When police force is justified

Earlier this week in Texas, eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez was fatally shot after brandishing what turned out to be a pellet gun. The 15-year-old boy’s parents and some others have criticized the police for their decision to use lethal force.

If there is someone holding what appears to be a real gun, in a school, and he refuses to comply with the police, or drop the weapon, the police should be able to respond in the way they feel best fits the situation.

Gonzalez was holding a gun which looked to be real; he pointed it at the cops. The officers ordered him to drop it; he didn’t. The police responded by firing at him, killing him. But some seem to have missed the full picture, and were outraged that the police would shoot an eighth-grader.

A lot of the time, people can read a story about a police shooting, or police using force to remove protesters who are not complying or do not have the proper permits, and automatically cry foul. While there are some occasions in which the police or others in power do abuse that power, it is important to make sure that all facts have been gathered and presented before conclusions are drawn.

In the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes gives valuable wisdom when it comes to making conclusions. He says, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

A good example of that can be seen in a picture that circulated around the Internet a few months ago of a California police officer pepper-spraying what seemed to be peaceful students protesting on campus.

At first glance, it appeared that the officer had greatly abused his power. It looked like the protesters were simply sitting in a line, and he blasted them with pepper spray. But after a few weeks, more videos came out and a better understanding of the situation could be seen.

In a video posted on You Tube, the police could clearly be heard announcing that the protesters needed to leave the area. Many warnings were given, and then the officers began arresting some who wouldn’t leave. After they had made their arrests, the students formed a ring around the police, blocking them in, and began to chant threatening things.

The students yelled at the police and told them, “If you let them go, we won’t hurt you, and will let you leave.” Once again, the police gave the students multiple warnings, even approaching individual students and telling them that, if they didn’t move, force would be used.

The students continued to block the officers’ path and, after even more warnings, they pepper-sprayed them.

From the full video, it was clear the officers were within their rights. The protesters had been given many changes and warnings before pepper spray was used. This is a clear example that people shouldn’t jump to conclusions without knowing the full story.

While what happened to Gonzalez was unfortunate and tragic, the officers responded to what appeared to be a real threat in a manner they felt was appropriate. Some have undoubtedly been angry with the fact that he was shot, but, by examining all the facts, we can gain a better outlook of what really happened.