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Various Authors 4:09 p.m., May 27
Police officers need to become more attuned to a rarely considered threat: their fellow officers, says an editorial on PoliceOne, a site aimed at law enforcement professionals.
In addition to a growing number of police impersonators, there have been several incidents so far this year where actual officers have been shot by their comrades, including one in January where a Santa Maria, CA officer was shot and killed by fellow officers attempting to arrest him at a DUI checkpoint. One SWAT officer was reportedly shot twice by friendly fire in two different incidents six months apart.
But such activities aren’t entirely new, PoliceOne writer Ken Hardesty shares. He tells a precautionary tale from 1983, when the teenage son of a San Diego Police Department officer stole his father’s uniform, gun, and patrol car while his parents were away and picked his friends up for a joy ride.
After Officer Kirk Johnson observed the individual in uniform in a park with what turned out to be his two friends, he went to provide backup, thinking a confrontation was ongoing. Instead, fearing the repercussions from getting caught, the teen shot and killed Johnson with his father’s police issue weapon. An investigation continued for a month under the presumption Johnson had been murdered by a fellow officer until a witness provided the clues that led back to the teen.
Hardesty urges commanders to spend more time discussing such risks with officers during meetings, a practice he says has faded in an attempt to avoid damaging morale.