What are you prepared to do?Written by Bob Frantz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The bullets might have come from the barrel of a London cop’s pistol, but make no mistake about it – they were delivered by Islamic terrorists. And before you go passing judgment on overzealous officers and a police policy that seems inhumane, try to imagine yourself in their shoes.
Or just wait a few weeks – when you are in their shoes.
Sooner or later, the terrorist bombings that have gripped London in a state of fear and anxiety will move further west, and it will be one of our own cities that faces a lethal decision on how to best protect its citizens. London police commissioner Sir Ian Blair has made his decision: ”Shoot to kill in order to protect.”
And despite a tragic mistake on a metropolitan tube train, the people of Great Britain support him.
I’ve struggled mightily with this issue since the failed July 21 attacks on London and the shooting of a suspected suicide bomber the day after. My first reaction to the news that a would-be bomber had been killed was one of strong support for the police. I applauded their heroism as they were quickly able to assess the threat of yet another suicide bomber and eliminate it before any more innocent lives were lost.
But my second reaction was different.
What if he wasn’t a terrorist? I wondered. What if he was running to catch a train, and not from the police? What if his thick winter coat on a hot summer day simply made him weird – instead of wired?
Friday became Saturday, and Saturday was Sunday before I finally heard the news. And each time I looked for it, I hoped to God I’d learn that the detectives had saved the lives of dozens of passengers, rather than taking one from an innocent civilian. When the truth was known, it was like a kick in the gut.
It’s sometimes easy to disconnect ourselves from a tragic story like this, because we’re not in London and we don’t know any Brazilian electricians who have been shot. It’s not in our backyard yet, so we don’t have to make the decision on what’s right, what’s wrong, and what goes too far when it comes to securing ourselves.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that London isn’t the terrorists’ final target.
There will come a time when it’s an American city, be it Washington D.C. or New York or Philadelphia or wherever. Bombs will explode and terrorists will be sought, and we’ll ask our police to find them and stop them. And when that time comes, we will all be forced to answer a difficult question.
The question was delivered by Sean Connery to Kevin Costner in ”The Untouchables,” as Connery’s grizzled cop lay dying, imploring Elliot Ness to finish the job against Al Capone.
”What … are … you … prepared … to do?” he spits through his final breath.
Well? What are you prepared to do? Are you prepared to support the use of deadly force against bombing suspects, the consequences of a tragic mistake be damned?
Or will you demand due process and civil rights, hoping against hope that one brave cop is able to tackle and disarm a would-be bomber before he detonates?
What are you prepared to do?
The image of an innocent American citizen lying in a subway car with a heavy coat on his body and five bullets in his head, guilty of nothing more than running from large men with guns who may or may not be policemen, is abhorrent. It’s hard to imagine the anger and frustration we would feel toward the men and women in blue who mistakenly pulled their triggers.
But the image of dozens of mangled, bloody bodies among the twisted wreckage of a train or bus is even more grotesque, and it’s hard to imagine the anger and frustration we would feel toward the men and women in blue who hesitated at the moment of truth and did not pull their triggers.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we have to trust that those in our government and in our uniforms will make the right decisions for all of us. There would be no greater tragedy than to see a preventable act of mass murder carried out because public opinion made a good cop flinch.
What are you prepared to do?
Bob Frantz hosts ”Bob Frantz and the Morning News” each weekday on WSPD 1370 AM. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.