I was married to a cop for four years and due to events of recent weeks have been meditating on the prospect of being called in as a character witness if he found himself in court because he shot and killed someone in the line of duty.
My personal philosophy holds that until an suspect actually pulls the trigger he will always have the opportunity to decide not to. For the cop to shoot first, under the assumption that a trigger will always be pulled, the cop robs the suspect of the agency to decide to maintain his own integrity by not killing someone. (And if a white cowboy can be a "person of integrity" while carrying a gun, so too can a black kid from south-town).
When I had argued this point with my then-husband, he became uncomfortable at the idea that I might not back him without question as his wife if such an incident would occur. Since he knew he could not change my philosophy, and he knew I had a sound argument, he pleaded with me to basically say what I needed to say to him so he could put on his duty weapon and “do his job” with the confidence of a make-believe clear conscience. We never brought it up again, because within that conversation he explained to me:
If the cop does not shoot and is shot, the county/agency is required to pay death benefits to his family, and then must pay to train new bodies to replace him. And it's not one-for-one. For every veteran cop, at least three rookies are required to fill his shoes effectively; the more bodies in uniform, the higher probability that the county might have to pay more death benefits with taxpayer dollars.
Therefore, officers are trained to err on the side of keeping themselves alive. Their job is to “serve and protect” the taxpayers of the community--and that includes the county budget office.
That sounds like sound advice to the officer-in-training. Since most people highly value their own lives, they will trust any philosophy that is meant to protect their lives--even if they also know that that philosophy is grounded on a cost-benefit analysis and the bottom line.
However, what this argument implies, and what few people consider, is that the likelihood of the county having to pay more in litigation to the family of the suspect than death benefits to the family of the cop, is slim to none. Multiply in the factor of a weapon in the hand – or waistband – of the suspect and that probability drops to zero.
Therefore, the value of the life of the suspect, prior to trial and conviction, even when unarmed, even of noble integrity, even when just walking while black, has been weighed and measured by the Powers-that-be, and has been deemed of less value to the community than the life of the cop