Another police shooting, more questions remain

Yesterday, 29-year-old Charles Smith was arrested by the Savannah Police Department in Savannah, Georgia.  Before the incident was done, Smith was dead, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

The incident occurred shortly after 11 a.m. in the historic coastal city, according to Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Julie Tolbert. Tolbert has asked that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation look into the shooting.

The GBI, based on its preliminary investigation, says officers arrested 29-year-old Charles Smith on outstanding warrants and handcuffed him behind his back.

Smith was put into a police car, where he managed to move his hands to the front of his body and kicked out one of the vehicle’s windows.

“The officers said, as Smith attempted to exit the patrol car, they saw that he had a firearm,” the GBI said in its statement. “This encounter resulted in Smith being shot and killed at the scene.”

A firearm was later found under Smith’s body, the GBI reported.

Source: CNN

I’ve decided that I would not openly discuss my line of employment here to safeguard my career and protect the integrity of both myself and my employer.  I will say, however, that incidents, such as this one, can be mitigated to a minimum if everything is done by the book and officers don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.

Handcuffing a suspect is done for the safety of both the suspect and the officer(s) who come in contact with him.  Whenever a person is handcuffed for safety reasons, the officer has to ensure the safety of all involved by doing a thorough and complete search for weapons or anything that could aid escape and/or acquisition of a weapon.  Even the most innocent of things has to be checked to ensure safety.  The perfect example of this can be seen in the following video.

If you look at the video, the handcuffed guy named Lawrence Wallace Jr reaches for his necklace around the 10 second mark.  The necklace itself appears completely harmless, but it has a hidden purpose.  When he comes out the door, the pendant is a four-sided pendant shaped like a diamond.  After he releases the pendant, it has become a triangle.  At the time of his apprehension, nobody noticed that change, and that change was the reason he would soon escape, kill  Mobile Police Officer Steven Green, and end up killed in a shoot-out with police later on.  A three-inch knife, which was used to kill Officer Green, was found in the police car, and a handcuff key was later found in Wallace’s shoe.  That necklace wasn’t large enough to hide a knife that size, but a handcuff key could easily be hidden in that manner.  A Google search for hidden handcuff keys will lead you to all kinds of wearable items that appear benign but can also hide a handcuff key.

Once that person is handcuffed, they need to be searched well to ensure they’re not hiding a weapon.  Some people are limber enough to move handcuffed hands from behind them to in front of them, so any and all areas should be searched well before putting that person in the car.  In addition, the car should be searched well to ensure there is absolutely nothing that can be used to aid escape or be used as a weapon.

If this is done well, there’s no way a person can get their hands on a gun while in the back of a police car.  I’m not going to accuse Savannah Police of anything at this point.  GBI needs to do a thorough investigation of all aspects of this case.  The Savannah community should keep pressing GBI to investigate everything to find out what went wrong.  Only by knowing where things went wrong in this case can changes be made to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

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10 thoughts on “Another police shooting, more questions remain

  1. Considering what seems to be a small epidemic lately of handcuffed men somehow coming up with weapons while in the back seat of some police cruiser, it looks to me as though police urgently need training on this subject.

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    • These skills, like any other, will suffer if you don’t practice and train.

      The best advice I’ve ever received on practice and training came from the band director of my college band. He addressed the saying, “Practice makes perfect”, and said that notion was incorrect. If you practice something wrong over and over, you will do it wrong when the time comes for you to perform that action. Instead of “practice makes perfect”, he instilled into us that “perfect practice makes perfect”. To this day, that’s something I keep in mind when I go about my daily routine.

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      • Brosephus, I don’t have an e-mail address for you, so feel free to delete this comment.

        There was a nice human interest story on NPR’s All Things Considered this morning about EW&F’s “September.” Might be worth a read and maybe even a post, since “the 21st night of September” is this coming Sunday.

        http://www.npr.org/2014/09/19/349621429/the-song-that-never-ends-why-earth-wind-fires-september-sustains

        Regards and apologies in advance for the threadjack, sir.

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        • No to step into y’alls conversation but I went to that link and it was pretty interesting. In my opinion, that song has what all great songs have, a strong hook. In this case, the hook is melodic.

          In the article they were talking about the “never ending chorus”. I did a little quick research into the song and found that the chorus is all dominant chords. Hopefully not to get boring here but dominant chords naturally look for a place to resolve. Moving from dominant chord to dominant chord sort of pushes things along as it doesn’t finally resolve until the Gmaj7 at the end of the chorus. (A maj7 chord, the natural 7 rather than the flat 7 of the dominant, is often used as a substitute for a straight major in jazz and jazz influenced music).

          The great ones often do things like this on pure instinct, without even realizing what they’re doing; they just know it sounds good. So whether EWF did this intentionally or not, it’s pretty danged clever, either way.

          This would be my EWF pick (since nobody asked 😆 ):

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          • Thanks for the music lesson. As a percussionist, I’m not well versed in chords and chord progression. Patterns and rhythms, on the other hand, is where I learned my craft.

            I keep talking about learning to play the guitar, but that would require me to get my hands on one first. That may end up being something that I do with my girls.

            Not a bad pick for an EW&F song. If I didn’t like EW&F growing up, I would have learned to love them in college as every Black College band has a selection of their songs that they can play and play well.

            If we’re going to pick, then this would be mine…

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  2. From the brief report I saw on this, there were supposed to be cameras that recorded this incident, so that should hopefully show what happened, as well as maybe point out any procedural flaws that might exist.

    People can never be too careful in these types of situations but all humans have a tendency to let their guard down from time to time, especially when doing something they’ve done many times.

    I’ve always tried to tell young people that when trouble occurs, it usually occurs so fast that you can’t do anything about it. The best way to keep that from happening is to stay out of places and situations where trouble occurs. Of course, law enforcement can’t always do that, so they have to be hyper alert. A split second misstep and things can be past the point of no return.

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    • I read that as well about the cameras being present. Hopefully, everything was recorded to show exactly what happened.

      You’re dead right about things going fast when trouble shows its head. Any reaction almost has to be instinctual at that point because there’s likely going to be very little thinking going on for a while. I’ve done well to avoid getting caught in bad situations since I graduated college. I’m hoping to extend that streak far beyond my retirement date.

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