law enforcement officers deserve respect and deference with respect to their job performance. law enforcement positions require both training and ongoing training. this training can be physically demanding. frequently officers sustain injuries while training. officers, as part of their training, practice with their law enforcement lethal and non-lethal weapons.
there was recently a high profile conviction of police officer kim potter. she reportedly pulled and discharged her pistol. she had believed, at the time, that she had reached for her non-lethal taser. as a result of this mistake, an individual was killed.
carrying and operating multiple weapons is not easy. pistols and tasers carry specific physical and mental requirements. grabbing the wrong weapon is something that happens. it will happen. a law enforcement’s goal is to reduce these occurrences. this is done through training and procedures.
long before officer potter’s shooting, fatal mistaken pistol employment have occurred. in 2009, in the bay area of california, there was one that occurred at a train station. a movie “fruitvale station” dramatized the incident.
at the kim potter trial, she was cross examined. the district attorney did an amazing low key job hammering down one important point. officers were required to test their taser on a regular basis. on cross-examination, officer potter had admitted that she was not compliant with this testing obligation. prior to the fatal shooting, she admitted to non-compliance.
weapon’s testing creates muscle memory. the constant reaching and touching of a weapon brings familiarity. this tactile event increases the likelihood that the weapon will be used properly. arguably, ms. potter’s moral failure was her lack of commitment to the department procedures that worked to maintaining muscle memory.
in a juror interview, it was noted that a ” big turning point in deliberations came when the jurors themselves handled potter’s gun and her taser and felt the differences. the gun was about twice as heavy, and the two weapons had several differences in how they are un-holstered and fired. “the taser kind of feels like a mouse click whereas the trigger has some trigger draw weight. that was a key turning point,” the juror said. kare11.com
muscle memory plays a role in our moral memory. in religious school, to teach children the act of giving, we have them place money into charity boxes. there are many physical acts which can give rise to moral acts. the torah specifically noted that “and it shall be to you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes, in order that the law of the lord shall be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the lord took you out of egypt.” exodus 13:9. thus, the placing on tefillin is another example of the muscle memory giving rise to moral memory.
in sum, had officer potter religiously practiced department policy, there is a likelihood that a fatality may not have occurred. further, had her testimony been that she was completely compliant with the testing procedure, there may have been the seeds of reasonable doubt within the jury. in the end, her story is one upon which all may learn.
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