Does race play a role in the murder of police officers? Much has been written about the role of race in enforcement activity. However, my research has revealed something interesting about the role of race in police murders in2011.
I have identified three separate incidents with these same factors: officers whose deaths were caused by offenders of the same race/ethnicity in or around a nightclub venue. Two of the officers were off-duty and one was in plainclothes. My germinating theory: law enforcement trainers who want to understand line of duty deaths must begin to examine the perception of the offenders who committed these murders.
For example, in one case: when an officer told a woman who was creating a disturbance outside a nightclub to leave, the offender, who I will call "SG" took notice of the officer's tone. It was undoubtedly direct and authoritative, a command voice. SG took offense and confronted the officer over his behavior while never recognizing he was a police officer. Unfortunately, this incident led to both men's deaths. During the interviews with witnesses that followed, all but one agreed that they thought the officer was 'just a regular guy' and not a cop.
Another case: an officer confronted a reckless driver and two passengers while working off-duty providing security at a nightclub. One of the passengers, "CL", got out of the vehicle and circled behind the officer as he spoke to the driver. CL opened fire, killing the officer. This incident also resulted in the death of both men.
My research indicates that the offenders in these cases did not necessarily recognize that the officers involved in these incidents were policemen. They instead perceived the officers to be ordinary men, whose behavior was subject to the scrutiny of their own cultural beliefs and mores. In 20/20 hindsight, it is clear that the behaviors of the officers were clearly oriented to keeping the peace and above reproach. Any of us-- if we were good police officers as they were-- would have done the same as these officers, if faced with their circumstances. However, the offenders saw them very differently and I believe part of this perception was based on the racial/ethnic match between the officer and the offender.
It is a basic quality of human nature to look for sameness in other human beings. In these cases, I believe the perception of sameness by the offenders contributed to their use of violence in the encounter. What are your thoughts on the issue of race and murder of police officers?