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Killer Cops Aren't Heroes: We Need Police Who Think Like Firefighters, Not Like Soldiers in a War Zone

The tragic slaying of troubled eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez in Brownsville, Texas by trigger-happy local police illustrates the sad an dangerous state we have arrived at as we turn our local police forces into SWAT team soldiers up-armed with assault rifles, black facemasks and stun grenades.

The reason Gonzalez, who had no hostages and was just armed with a pellet gun, was killed by police bullets was because the primary concern of the officers confronting him was to eliminate the threat to themselves, not to rescue a troubled kid.

To analyze this situation, we need to step back and consider firefighters, that other group of uniformed public employees (or often volunteers!) who also have to rescue people and whom we simply expect to face life-and-death situations on our behalf. As my cousin, a retired urban police officer, once pointed out to me, police don't face anywhere near the risk that firefighters face. As he explained, police officers in truth rarely face life-and-death situations on the job, and when they do, they generally have the upper hand, given their guns and their training. Firefighters, on the other hand, know that they could die every time they respond to an alarm.

When a firefighter arrives at a burning building, her or his first thought is whether there might be someone trapped inside, or unconscious inside from smoke inhalation. If there is any possibility that this might be the case, they just rush into the burning building, obviously as safely as possible, but always aware that the whole thing could come down on them at any moment.

 a firefighter going into a wall of flame to rescue someone or an up-armed SWAT kill team in their armored car?Who is the hero: a firefighter going into a wall of flame to rescue someone or an up-armed SWAT kill team in their armored car?

I've actually witnessed this kind of selfless heroism. When I lived in a large apartment building in New York City, years ago, there was a fire in another apartment several floors down. The building was considered "fire proof," in that each unit was all surrounded by concrete--the walls, the ceilings and the floors -- so theoretically the fire in this apartment, which was sending angry flames and smoke billowing out of the windows, could have safely been allowed to burn itself out. But instead, what I saw when I went down to the hall that the apartment was on, was two NYFD firefighters rush up the stairs and walk up to the door, which was so hot the paint was blistering out on it like melting lava. Then, incredibly, without even stopping to cross themselves or say a little silent prayer, they just kicked in the door. As the flames rushed out towards them, to my astonishment, they just walked into the inferno!

I talked to one of them afterwards. As it turns out there was nobody in the apartment, but he said they had rushed in right away because they were concerned that someone might have been trapped inside.

Now that is selfless heroism, yet they just saw it as all in a day's work.



story | by Dr. Radut