Opinion Column

Cops don't have time to reflect

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

Police who are being attacked must defend themselves. (QMI AGENCY)

Police who are being attacked must defend themselves. (QMI AGENCY)

A B.C. Coroners Service inquest convened Monday into the shooting death of Ryan Jacob by Burnaby RCMP Cpl. Bill Wark. While I would not presume to pre-judge the outcome, according to Wark’s own testimony, things seem fairly clear.

Wark testified that Jacob came at him with two large knives and ignored commands to drop the weapons. He then charged at Wark brandishing the knives. Wark warned him to drop the knives or he would be shot, something one would think was patently obvious.

But Jacob kept running at Wark, who fired three times. He had no choice.

There will be other witnesses and some may indeed try to cloud an otherwise cut-and-dried situation. But for Wark, the reality is he was challenged by a man with two large knives. He gave him the opportunity to stop and drop the weapons. When the man with the knives charged, he used lethal force to neutralize the threat.

Many criticize the police in instances like this. Why couldn’t the officer just shoot to wound? Why did they have to kill him?

The Monday-morning quarterbacks discuss these sorts of situations ad infinitum. But really, it isn’t complicated. Whatever may cause someone to come at a cop holding a weapon, be it a knife, a gun, an axe or whatever, police officers will react by defending themselves. As would you.

The officer doesn’t have the time to reflect on why the person may be doing this. It doesn’t matter if the attacker is off their meds, had a troubled childhood or wasn’t breastfed as a child.

No cop leaves home thinking that he or she will kill someone that day, but they all recognize it is a possibility when they put on the uniform. Their job requires that they confront dangerous situations on a regular basis and the possibility of having to use lethal force is always there. It goes with the territory.

When something like this happens it is, of course, a tragedy. I feel for Jacob’s family. But I also feel for Wark, who was forced to do the one thing every cop hopes they’ll never have to do.

It’s impossible to come out unscathed after using lethal force. Psychologically, a police officers re-lives those moments over and over. Demons come visiting in your sleep. And you question yourself.

It is a job like no other.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.  

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