Massive Police Shootout in Cleveland Despite Lack of Criminals
This is an amazing story. I urge you to read the whole thing, but here’s the basics:
A November car chase ended in a “full blown-out” firefight, with glass and bullets flying, according to Cleveland police officers who described for investigators the chaotic scene at the end of the deadly 25-minute pursuit.
But when the smoky haze—caused by rapid fire of nearly 140 bullets in less than 30 seconds—dissipated, it soon became clear that more than a dozen officers had been firing at one another across a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland.
At the end of the scene, both unarmed—and presumably innocent—people in the car were dead.
There’s a lot that can be said here, but I don’t feel qualified to say it. There’s a whole body of research on decision making under stress—police, firefighters, soldiers—and how easy it is to get caught up in the heat of the moment. I have read one book on that subject, Sources of Power, but that was years ago.
What interests me right now is how this whole situation was colored by what “society” is talking about and afraid of, which became the preconceptions the officers brought to the event. School shootings are in the news, so as soon as the car drove into a school parking lot, the police assumed the worst. Firefights with dangerous criminals are what we see on TV, so that’s not unexpected, either. When you read the story, it’s clear how many of the elements that the officers believed—police cars being rammed, for example—are right out of television violence. This would have turned out very differently if the officers had assumed that, as is almost always true, the two people in the car were just two people in a car.
I’m also curious as to how much technology contributed to this. Reports on the radio brought more and more officers to the scene, and misinformation was broadcast over the radio.
Again, I’m not really qualified to write about any of this. But it’s what I’ve been thinking about.