Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Tale of Two Police Stories

by Annette Dashofy

It’s happened again. A Pittsburgh area community is burying a police officer killed in the line of duty.

Michael Crawshaw, a Penn Hills police officer was gunned down while sitting in his vehicle waiting for backup to arrive in response to a 911 call from Danyal Morton. Morton reported that a gunman had entered his house. That gunman, Ronald Robinson, killed Morton and then walked outside and opened fire on Officer Crawshaw with an AK-47.

Here in Washington County, roughly 30 some miles from Pittsburgh, we have a different news story unfolding with regards to our local police. A few weeks back, a 49 year old Washington man died after being tased by police. Lots of folks around here read only that part of the story and rage against the police department, calling for disciplinary actions and the outlawing of tasers. But read further and you learn that this man, although suffering from a seizure, was not only combative, but was trying to walk into traffic, putting himself and innocent motorists in jeopardy. He refused orders to sit down. He charged and even bit the officers. He was tased more than once and continued to fight for several minutes AFTER being tased and before collapsing.

Are all tasing incidents handled properly? Of course not. This one, however, was by the book.

I’m not writing this to get into an argument about whether tasers should continue to be a tool for police officers. Those who believe they should be illegal will not change their minds because of anything I can say.

My only point is that being a cop is dangerous and largely thankless work. Sometimes an officer does everything by the book and the public comes down on them, shouting claims of brutality.

Sometimes an officer does everything by the book and ends up dead.

I’m proud of my Washington County community as a whole, because the letters to the editor in the local paper have been overwhelmingly supportive of the police handing this particular call. It’s dreadful that a man died in this case. But the police were trying to do their job.

And Michael Crawshaw was trying to do his.

Rest in Peace, Officer Crawshaw. Rest in Peace.


Joyce said...

Good post, Annette.

I hate when people spout off without knowing all the facts. I guess they'd prefer the officers to have shot the guy instead. No? Wait. They'd probably rather have the guy beat the crap out of the cops instead. I've come to the conclusion that no matter what a police officer does, some idiot will make an issue out of it.

Annette said...

So true, Joyce.

Cops have to make snap decisions every day and the outcome too often is judged by people who have no clue what was really going on. Plus, cops put on uniforms and step out into a world where they can't always tell the good guys from the bad guys, but the bad guys see that uniform as a target.

Jennie Bentley said...

"I've come to the conclusion that no matter what a police officer does, some idiot will make an issue out of it."

Well, sure. If the police hadn't tasered the guy, he'd have walked into traffic and caused an accident. And guess whose fault that would have been?

I'm not saying that there aren't bad cops out there, because I'm sure there are a few, just like in every other profession. But overwhelmingly, the people who are willing to take their lives in their hands every day by going out there to protect the rest of us, deserve our respect.

Donnell said...

Heartbreaking information, Annette, thanks for sharing. I don't think it's any secret what side of the line I'm on in this conversation. It shouldn't even be a debate. Every time an officer puts on that uniform he faces risk. Unbelievable how much it's escalating these days. Just as in any occupation, I believe the honest cop far outweighs the bad ones out there.

Annette said...

I didn't touch on the case of the four officers gunned down in the coffee shop. But I saw clips of the memorial service on the news this morning and it brought back our own memorial service here in Pittsburgh this past April.

Madness. Sheer madness.

Anonymous said...

This is a layperson's POV, but Tasers seem like a viable option between an officer having to go hands-on a person, or having to shoot a person. Keeping distance seems much safer. I think a cop should be able to do, within the law and guidelines of course, whatever it takes to get home safely. Sadly, that seems to be getting harder and harder.

Very moving post, Annette.


Dana King said...

The polarization of this country shows up in these kinds of cases, too. Too many people are quick to either blame the police, or say the police did what they had to do, without bothering with facts either way. (You didn't do this; I'm just pointing it out in reference to the responses to each event in their respective communities.)

We don't seem to be willing to wait for the facts to come in before deciding what to think. Cops have dangerous, often thankless jobs; that doesn't make them perfect anymore than it means they should be presumed to be wrong.

Gina said...

And that, Dana, is the problem with life. There are never easy answers. The police are neither always right nor always wrong. In fact, I'm betting they spend most of their time between those extremes. The traditional alternative to Tasers is the billy club; I'd have to opt for modern technology myself. It seems much more humane to immobilize someone with a taser than by beating them over the head. However, it seems that many of the taser deaths I've heard about involve multiple taser-ings (is that a word?). Perhaps some research should be done on alternative methods to be used when someone doesn't go down after being tasered once.

Annette said...


Patg said...

Your taser incident sounds exactly like one here in Portland OR, and the city is still paying his family hundreds of thousands even though they admitted the man was violent.
And I'm sure you've heard by now about the 4 police officers gunned down in a coffee shop up in Renton Washington state. The one that managed to get outside and wound the gunman was a woman, but she died of her wounds. Their funeral yesterday drew officers from around the country. I'm sure someone from Pittsburgh was there.
What horrors!
And you'll notice few complainers are ever willing to do drive alongs to see what's really out there.