This article first appeared in the Platte County Landmark on October 12, 2016
Close your eyes and count backwards from ten. The period of time you just spent can easily be considered “almost immediately.”>
On the morning of October 6, Officer Blake Snyder pulled up to a home responding to a disturbance call. It was like many others Officer Snyder had responded to in his four years as a member of the St. Louis County PD. Snyder asked to see the hands of the person behind the wheel. Seconds later, Officer Snyder was dead.
Police Chief Jon Belmar said that the time that passed was “almost immediately.” Now count back from ten again.
Snyder leaves a young wife and a two year old child. Full disclosure, Officer Snyder is my wife’s cousin.
The man who was arrested reportedly suffered from a mental illness and had a long history with drug addiction. Posts from his social media account indicated that one of his few life goals was to kill a police officer.
There is a fair and valuable debate to be had about the escalation of force by police officers. That debate is going to make police officers better. Add to the debate the technology that can be used to protect the civil rights of citizens and the lives of officers. They’re going to get additional training on de-escalating situations, using non-lethal force, and reaching out to the public before issues happen. And there is also a great and important conversation to be had about the role of police officers in an evolving community, racial tolerance and just being better at the difficult jobs that police officers do.But there was nothing that Officer Snyder could have done differently Thursday morning to save his life. The perpetrator acted quickly and with surprise and ambushed Snyder. But when you live in a world where you can be shot and killed almost immediately, there is no level of vigilance you can carry that makes you completely at calm at any time you put on your badge.
Officers are on edge because these stories have now become commonplace. Officer Snyder’s death didn’t even hit the national news. His death comes just one day after Los Angeles Officer Steve Owen was shot and killed responding to a burglary call. And only three days before two Palm Springs officers were killed in a shootout with police.
That was just last week.
There are positive changes that can be made to our police force. There are important discussions to be had.
But I will not be at all offended if an officer comes in hot to a situation expecting trouble because that officer’s life can quite simply be over almost immediately.
Financial support and condolences can be made in Officer Snyder, Officer Owen’s or any fallen officer’s name to the organization Backstoppers at backstoppers.org. Their organization supports the families of fallen officers by helping to pay bills, funeral expenses, and other support when the end of watch comes for a fallen police officer.
[Featured Image from St. Louis Post Dispatch]