It Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Everyone else’s job, the job that you and I are not doing, always seems easy.

There probably are relatively easy jobs but there are not very many of them. I started out delivering magazines and selling flower seeds door to door, later I delivered newspapers. After that, through the years, I washed dishes, delivered flowers, worked as a lifeguard, then as a swim instructor. Later I washed towels. After that I was a radio announcer. In between radio jobs I was a caregiver. I shelved books in a library, drove a cab for the state, went to college and seminary, became a pastor, and finally a professor.

Each of those jobs has had its own challenges but none of my jobs has required me to

  • Receive a fragmentary radio report of people with knives trying to stab other people;
  • Get out of a car to find several people fighting and falling, where at least one person was armed with a knife and attempting to murder another person and all this within a few seconds;
  • Make a split-second decision, in the midst of the chaos, to use deadly force to save a victim from being stabbed to death.

Yet, this is what the Columbus police officer faced when he got out of his car. From the moment he got out of his car until he fired his weapon the time elapsed was 11.48 seconds. It was 6.8 seconds between the time the officer got out of his car and saw someone pushed down in front of him. He had just asked, “What’s going on?” when he saw an person armed with a knife beginning to attack an unarmed person. He warned the attacker twice in the next four seconds before firing his weapon at the attacker.

In short, he encountered a chaotic, violent scene and had make a very quick decision to stop a determined attacker, who was already on top of her intended victim. He did a remarkably good job of stopping a murder without hurting the victim.

We have all seen cops on television do heroic, amazing, magical things (e.g., shooting knives out of people’s hands etc). That is television. It is not real life. In real life being a police officer is much more difficult than it seems on television or in movies. On TV they cannot show the surge of adrenaline which causes tunnel vision and which makes the officer’s pulse race and his hands shake. They do not show all the noise, chaos, and suddenness with which violence happens in real life. On television, because drama is of the essence of keeping our attention (through the commercials), there are long, slow negotiations. The heroic police officer holsters her weapon and talks the violent criminal into surrendering peacefully. Real life rarely waits for commercial breaks. In real life, cops have to identify and deal with a violent threat within seconds. In real life, if an attacker refused to obey a lawful order he or she is liable to be shot.

To make matters worse, because of the Chauvin case and the possibility of riots, most big-city cops are on heightened alert, on 12-hour shifts, with no days off. They are already over-worked and under-staffed. The number of American police officers killed so far this year (it is only April 22) is up 20% over last year and last year was up more than 100% over the year before. So far 17 officers have been shot to death and 21 have been killed by autos. Covid also continues to take a heavy toll on law enforcement and corrections officers across the country. These facts are not reported because they do not serve the agenda of the media, which is outrage, clicks, revenue, and revolution. Thus, the national media portrays the Columbus shooting not as an officer saving an unarmed victim but as if an officer shot an unarmed victim.

On average about 150 police officers commit suicide annually. The stress they are experiencing has never been higher. “Defund the Police” is up and recruitment, retention, and morale is down. Would you want to be a cop in Seattle, Portland, or Minneapolis? On a bad day you might be criticized by your boss but you probably will not have 1,000 people outside your office calling for your job or even your life.

Christian, pray for your Romans 13 ministers.

©R. Scott Clark


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  1. I just saw a comment from a state legislator in my home state of Nebraska, referring to the attacker as a “sweet little girl.” Perhaps she was, but she had a knife in her hand and she was about to stab another person with it.

    • “Sweet little girl.” How many times have I heard comments like that at trials or sentencing hearings from the family members of people who were convicted of murder or of felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury? Too many to count. The capacity of the human heart for self-delusion is infinite when we fail to understand that total depravity really is total. People who seem “sweet,” given the wrong circumstances, can do very “un-sweet” things.

      I’ve seen photos shown in open court of what some of those “sweet” family members did. Gaping stab wounds. Chests blown open by bullets. Coroner’s photos of blood running out of people’s heads for yards down the street. Victims with videotaped testimony recorded on their hospital beds, played on video screens at their assailant’s trial because the victim couldn’t physically get to court.

      Those who have never looked down the business end of a gun barrel (yes, it happened to me when I lived in a city where laws at that time years ago said I couldn’t carry), or had a knife pulled on them, or walked into a situation where they needed to try to stop someone else from using a gun, knife, or other form of deadly force, need to think long and hard before they criticize those who have been in such situations.

      That goes double for people who want to criticize police, whose gun and badge REQUIRE them to make split second choices. My “duty uniform” is a camera and a pen, so I can choose not to act or to run if I see something horrible happening in front of me, or happening to me. An officer can’t choose not to act without being (correctly) regarded as a coward and likely being fired. Even if the officer didn’t act for whatever reason, the uniform makes the officer a target. The minute an officer shows up at the scene of a violent crime in progress, he or she WILL engage, or be engaged, or have to decide whether to pursue a fleeing person.

      I understand why family members sometimes defend indefensible actions by blood relatives, even if those relatives drew blood. Same for friends. What I don’t understand is why otherwise uninvolved elected officials choose to involve themselves in such matters.

      Maybe that state legislator who thinks this attacker was a “sweet little girl” has direct personal experience with violent crime. Maybe that legislator is a former police officer, or has family who are officers or crime victims. Or maybe that legislator has personal experience with police abuse. People with badges sometimes do bad things and that can’t be denied.

      Unless that legislator has personal experience with such things, or personally knows those who have, the legislator is likely speaking from ignorance and making matters worse.

      I hope the voters take that into account in the next election.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I know a lot of police and retired police. And there is so much consternation among them that it is driving the working ones to retire early, and making the already retired feel unwarranted shame.

    But when the Lord Judges we should not be surprised at this. He is still in control, and He is not surprised nor frustrated by the affairs of men. “Is a trumpet blown in the city and the people not be afraid, shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

    • I have a lot of friends in law enforcement. Either they’re local police or deputies. Uniformly they think we’re not going to have effective policing very soon. Most are afraid of being prosecuted. Some have said it will look like the wild West. It already does in many of these big cities.

      Anyone who has had to defend themselves feels immediate sympathy with responding officers. It’s very difficult to make a perfect decision in life-or-death situations which is why officers are given qualified immunity. They’re trying to remove this in big metropolitan police departments. These guys have families too and the job simply isn’t worth the risk of being locked in prison as an officer for making the wrong decision when your superiors expect you to respond. The other thing is, the people getting shot by police in violent encounters are never the pillars of the community they’re made out to be on TV. A friend was one of the guys that shot this rapper. WHile the press made it sound like the cops showed up and blasted a sleeping pillar of the community, it turned out that the deceased had been arrested for child trafficking and kidnapping before and had a gun in his lap. Now my friend is being sued. Will he later be prosecuted?

      Pray not only for law enforcement but also for those of us who will have to live with the fallout of more decades of “hug a thug” like 1969-1989. This time, we’ll have to do it without firearms. It’s going to look like Brazil.

  3. It is my understanding from people with enforcement experience that one shoots to stop the assailant. A wounded bur still functioning assailant can still be lethal. Francis Schaeffer showed us years ago, in How Should We Then Live?, what manipulative and duplicitous reporting does to the truth.

    • It’s true. All cops are trained to shoot for “center mass.” Discharging a firearm is loud (and therefore naturally startling) and more difficult than it seems on television. It is even more difficult under stress, for example, in combat or in self-defense. Accuracy is diminished in these cases by 50%. The goal of defensive gun use Is to stop the threat. The notion that a skilled shooter can or should shoot someone in an extremity is complete fantasy. It does not happen very often in real life (I have seen it once) and it is not taught and it is not a good or safe practice. For example, someone shot in the upper leg may well sustain not justAnd injury and an injury but possibly a fatal injury if the femoral artery is struck. An arm Is a much smaller target than a chest. What happens if the round misses the arm? Where will it go? Whom will it hit? What damage will it do? People who advise this sort of thing, shooting a criminal in a hand, leg, arm, etc are invariably those who know nothing about firearms or self-defense or law enforcement. everyone who discharges a round from a firearm is legally and morally responsible for whatever damage that round does.

    • Dr. Clark wrote: “People who advise this sort of thing, shooting a criminal in a hand, leg, arm, etc are invariably those who know nothing about firearms or self-defense or law enforcement.”


      Add methamphetamine to the mixture and it gets worse. I have heard of officers who inflicted a critical injury on a violent assailant that normally would take the assailant out of commission due to extreme physical pain, but that person, in the 30 to 60 to 90 seconds he (yes, it’s almost always a “he” in violent crime) had left before he lost too much blood to remain conscious and functional, crossed the room with a knife in his hand and tried to kill the officer who shot him, or tried to kill someone else.

      When I began my career back in the 1980s, I knew what to expect from people who were drunk, stoned, or using heroin or some other drug. In most cases it was simply an exaggerated form of the person’s sober behavior, combined with being slow, not thinking clearly, and generally making poor choices. A drunk assailant is usually easier to handle than a sober attacker who can carefully plan the attack and choose a time when the intended victim isn’t paying attention. A person on heroin is more likely to fall asleep and die than he is to harm someone else. Granted, crack cocaine can cause wild mood swings, but meth is multiple orders of magnitude worse.

      Nobody knows what a person on meth will do. His behavior is likely to be wildly unpredictable, and sometimes that behavior is combined with what can best be described as superhuman strength and tolerance for what should be incapacitating pain. Plus, who knows what other drugs might be in his system or what their interaction with the meth might produce?

      That’s not saying alcoholics are easy to handle. I’ve watched a drunk motorcyclist try to break free of two law enforcement personnel when they were trying to restrain him and keep him from attacking me while I photographed the remnants of his motorcycle on which he’d chosen to drive drunk, nearly killed his wife riding with him, and severely damaged the oncoming car he hit after crossing into the oncoming traffic lane.

      Even so, I was glad the motorcyclist was drunk and not high on meth. Two people had trouble restraining him. If he’d been on meth, he would likely have been able to break free and attack me, and then the police would have to decide whether to shoot him as he was racing toward me, or after he engaged me.

      That’s a real-life example of what people face on crime scenes.

      I didn’t happen to be carrying that day, which was years ago. Today, I would not go to a crime scene without carrying. It’s just simply too risky, especially when there’s a crowd of onlookers and police may have only five or ten seconds to stop someone in the crowd from deciding to attack. Around here, the working assumption of police is that everybody they meet is carrying, so me carrying on a scene is not an issue. But in a larger city where firearms aren’t common, or in a state or community where local laws aren’t gun-friendly, I wouldn’t have that option because police would want their crime scenes to be “no gun zones.” I understand why, but in those situations I’d have to rely on police for protection on crime scenes where they, quite frankly, have better and more important things to do than protect the reporter. That turns into police departments having to detail at least one officer, and sometimes more than one, to be the de-facto bodyguards of reporters who show up at a crime scene or even a major demonstration.

      Side point, Dr. Clark — with a background like this, I think you can tell why dealing with Christian Reformed liberals didn’t scare me. What’s the worst thing that can happen at a classis or synod meeting? I might get called a bad name by some Hollander who is a foot taller than me. A lot worse things than that can happen to me, and have happened, in the course of routine coverage of secular conflicts.

      Once in a blue moon I had to deal with a drunk Dutch Reformed minister who liked to lubricate himself after losing a vote at synod (yes, it did happen, and I knew the establishments where I could find liberals drowning their sorrows after certain synodical votes), but I never had to deal with a violently drunk minister.

      Dealing with drunks, both violent and otherwise, is an inherent hazard of reporting on crime and often a hazard of reporting on secular politics.

  4. Over the past 10+ years of reading various blogs (not necessarily this one) I have frequently seen push-back replies to posts to controversial posts such as this one to another poster who states something like, “…it’s the law..” that read “…@%&# the law!!..” This kind of behavior is lawlessness or anarchy, something that the younger generations have been taught to practice in preparation for forthcoming ‘revolutions.’

    It is interesting that when satan tempts Jesus during his fasting period (See Matthew), Jesus always replies to offers of territorial control, angelic rescue from falling off high places, or release from fasting by turning rocks to bread, he always answers by quoting from Deuteronomy, the place where the Law is given to the Israelites. In fact, the most significant of these is probably the rocks-to-bread temptation where Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8 about how man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (i.e. the Law).

    I am afraid that we’ve crossed the boundary marker where few in modern Western culture believe that anymore, therefore what one eats is what one acquires either by pay or by force and everyone else can simply get out of their way or else. That’s a return to what that ancient Judah culture did back when it was recorded in Judges when there was no king (an appointment of which God did not approve in the first place), “…everyone did what what right in his own eyes…” May God help us in these strange, awful, and trying times !!

  5. Dr. Clark as a “Romans 13 minister, I want to thank you for posting this message of support. I can tell you that I identify first as In Christ and that helps me navigate the very difficult times in which I and my fellow coworkers find ourselves in our current confusing and seemingly mind numbingly ignorant times. As a minority in my profession (a practicing Christian) I can tell you that most of my fellow officers do identify themselves first and foremost by this, their chosen profession. Though most all of them (the proverbial 95% are good ones) do their jobs well and respect and work to protect ALL people in the communities they live and work in, it has taken a toll on them in the form of becoming jaded and cynical in the performance of their duties. Morale is low and we are seeing people leave the profession in unprecedented numbers as well as historically low recruitment of good solid people. When you allow your job to identify you (any job) and that job is constantly run down and second guessed by professional pundits who don’t have the slightest clue as to what these men and women deal with on a daily basis, it takes a toll on their mental health, family life and the way they do their jobs. As a supervisor, I pray daily that I will keep a positive attitude ( I too sometimes get caught up in the “drama”) when I’m among my officers and this at times has elicited questions from them, which in turn allows me to explain why I can stay somewhat positive amid all of the confusion and darkness we face daily. So yes please pray for these officers. Pray for their salvation first, their families, their safety and protection, and pray for the peace of God in our increasingly lawless society. Thank you for all you do in your podcasts and your articles. You have been instrumental in opening up the Reformed Faith to me and I look forward to each new podcast and article you post.

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