Over the past few years there have been police shootings that have divided the United States (U.S). Contrary to the knight of shining armor theory, police have been negatively viewed as “pulling a quick trigger” in real life and death scenarios. The most recent example to illustrate this was the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri August 9, 2014. The brief background was Michael Brown was an unarmed African-American teenager and the Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson was white when the shooting occurred. In this circumstance, many citizens began looting stores and destroying businesses within their own community in expressing their anger over the shooting. As time has passed by, what measures were taken to assess Officer Wilson’s mortal combat situation of going through symbolic immortality. There is little documentation of what measures the Ferguson Police Department took to help Officer Wilson through his mortal combat situation in resigning in November 2014. In the same measure, it can’t be overlooked the pain and suffering the Brown Family enduring in losing their son regarding this tragedy.
On a personal and professional outlook, I will further discuss the mortal combat shooting regarding my co-worker at the Town of Ramapo Police Department (TORPD) in December 2008. My co-worker and best friend on TORPD was placed on administrative duty pending the grand jury investigation. Professor Vincent Henry affirms “These cops faced the authentic and genuine possibility of their own death in mortal combat with an armed adversary, they witness the death of another officer or partner, or they took a life in the performance of police duties (Henry, 2004, Pg. 240). Even though I was not present at the shooting, I professed my guilt to my friend in encouraging him to leave the NYPD for TORPD. In my own psychic numbing, I believed if he did not join TORPD he wouldn’t have been involved in a shooting. A mortal combat shooting can occur anyplace or anytime, regardless if it is New York City with a population of 12 million people or the Town of Ramapo with 130,000 people.
With my friend being assigned to the Detective Bureau, I had limited personal interaction with him. My friend’s behavior correlates with Henry’s statement” They (Police Survivors) experience substantially more formative impairment, significantly greater separation of cognition and emotion, and often some degree of physical and/or psychic immobility (Henry, 2004, Pg. 261). In my friend’s own personal pride, he would inform me “I’m ok” when I interacted with him on infrequent occasions. In regard to death imprint, my fellow officers overall interacted with him in a manner to show support but not discussing to recall the facts of the fatal shooting. Fellow officers copied the behavior Henry implies in death imprint” We saw the survivor is unable to escape this powerful image he feels changed and forever tainted by his death encounter, and that his tainted sense of being possessed by death is reinforced when others associate him with death and treat him differently because of it” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 269).
In the death guilt context, my co-worker was obviously saddened in taking someone’s life. Per HSMI policy, any officer would have shot a suspect charging at them with a large kitchen knife. Upon being cleared by a grand jury regarding the “clean shooting”, my co-worker was anointed the knight of shining armor status for his bravery in a domestic violence situation protecting himself, the suspect’s girlfriend, and a fellow officer. My co-worker’s words were prophetic to Henry’ statement “”I did what I had to do to protect my partner and myself” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 283). Furthermore, my-co-worker’ rational guilt was reduced with local media articles defining his shooting as a clean shoot. Even though it is 8.5 years after the fatal shooting, my co-worker feelings mirrored Henry’s analysis” Peer approbation and reassurance that they “did the right thing” , as well as positive media accounts, a thorough investigation, and an official determination that the event was a “clean shooting”, go a long way toward reducing rational guilt” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 283).
In regard to suspicion of counterfeit nurturance, the TORPD administration provided lukewarm support to my co-worker. After being cleared by the grand jury, my co-worker was reassigned to the patrol division. Being a community with a small city population, fellow co-workers and I felt this was a disservice to my co-worker in the possibility of having a bulls-eye on his back for the fatal shooting. The bulls-eye would not be from the law-abiding citizens of the community, but from the habitual criminals receiving turnstile justice. I affirm my co-worker went through the Henry analysis of “Like the classic hero of myth, the police survivor has actually or symbolically journeyed into the realm of death and returned bearing a special and sacral knowledge that changes him in ways that set him apart from others (Henry, 2004, Pg. 289). On a personal relationship realm, my co-worker is a fiercely independent personality before and after the shooting. My co-worker definitely embodies the principle of a cop’s cop so eloquently stated by Henry ”The survivor’s compelling need to reassert his integrity can also result in an unwillingness to compromise on matters of personal or professional principle” (Henry, 2004 Pg. 290).
In the quest of meaning aspect, my co-worker was thankful to be moving forward with his professional and personal life. The suspect’s surviving family sued TORPD and my co-worker which was dismissed by a judge. In retrospect, my co-worker had his own journey in the urge for justice to clear his own name in the being deemed noble for the performance of duty in protecting his life, a fellow officer, and the suspect’s girlfriend. The modes of symbolic immortality has empowered my co-worker in performing is police duties to this day. To survive a life and death experience and continue to perform his police duties 8.5 years after the fatal shooting speaks of the high character and will of my co-worker. In my own personal perspective, he is TORPD’s knight in shining armor.
Henry, Vincent E. (2003). Death Work: Police, Trauma, and the Psychology of Survival. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 8 Pgs. 239-301.