“Sometimes Peace is Purchased with Violence”
Oct. 23, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — That statement was made by Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Wilder, that “Sometimes peace is purchased with violence. . . .” As a former soldier, I believe that is very true. My father helped purchase peace with violence in Germany during World War II. But that doesn’t work in civil society, as one Twitterer said: “You can’t purchase peace with violence, nor can you compel love.”
On Monday, September 22, 2008, in Farmington, Utah, police officers and sheriff deputies killed local firefighter Brian Wood, who had been involved in a 12-hour standoff with police after he had a domestic dispute with his wife. Brian reportedly fired a shot into a garbage can, prompting a police response.
The number of police grew to over 100, including 46 SWAT officers from Farmington and from the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. Wood refused to exit his vehicle so the police used tear-gas to force him out. He then continued the standoff, at times holding a gun to his own head.
So the police used rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray pellets, flash bangs, and a taser to knock Wood to a prone position on the ground. That is where Wood was when Deputy Joshua Boucher fired a single shot from a .308 caliber rifle into him. The bullet entered Wood’s left cheek, traversed through his spine and exited just above his right shoulder blade. Police state that Wood pointed a gun at officers from his prone position.
So far this is an all too ordinary occurrence in the United States. Someone gets involved in a domestic disturbance, a standoff ensues, the suspect points a gun at the police, and the police kill the suspect. And for occasions where a suspect points a gun at the police, that is an appropriate response.
The issue is not, therefore, the shooting, but how we got there. Which is where the rest of the story comes in. Wood was the son-in-law of retired Davis County Sheriff William “Dub” Lawrence. Lawrence had come to the scene and had arrived within seven minutes of the 911 call by Wood to the police. At the time, there were just two officers present.
Lawrence and friends of Wood asked to be able to talk to him, believing that they could talk him into ending the confrontation peacefully. The police refused those requests. And when Wood was killed, Lawrence was horrified. He was elected as the Davis County Sheriff in 1974 and founded the SWAT team in 1975, some 33 years earlier, intending that it be used to de-escalate high-risk situations. Here, Lawrence watched in disbelief as the SWAT team took actions that escalated the situation instead of calming things down.
So after everything was over, Lawrence conducted a quiet investigation and believes that the police were too quick to use force. He also believes that this is not limited to the situation with his son-in-law, but systemic in a society where the use of SWAT has increased 1,500 percent between 1980 and 2000. Most of the SWAT raids involve drugs, and where there is a shooting, police inevitably get a pass, even when the raid is of the wrong address and of innocent people, such as a mayor’s house, also in 2008.
Lawrence took a different approach. He decided to make a film about the subject, even though he didn’t have the money to do so. Lawrence found Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber to make the documentary, and they went to Kickstarter, raising over $50,000.
They made the film. It’s called Peace Officer. At the film festival portion of this year’s South by Southwest, it won the Grand Jury and Audience awards. The film has drawn good reviews from a multitude of sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Guys, this is how we change things, by putting these issues in front of the public. We do it by showing the public what has happened to policing in America, by taking what Radley Balko and others have said and publicizing it. We appeal to the public with facts, presented in a media that the public understands and has come to expect. We push for change from the outside, from public pressure on politicians, because the police on the inside just don’t see it.
In the film, you’ll see various interviews, Balko, Wilder, and others. Wilder claims that the police are not becoming militarized—even as his agency uses an armored car, and as he makes the inane statement that “sometimes peace is purchased by violence” (at 2:37 of the trailer).
Someone needs to tell him that is not an acceptable outlook.
You can get more information on the film at www.peaceofficerfilm.com.