By Aryanna Berringer
Pittsburgh Current Political Columnist
When soldiers are deployed to a war zone, we are trained in the rules of engagement. This strict set of rules informs those of us heading into combat when and how we should engage in de-escalation and deadly force.
We must not only have positive identification of our enemies, but we must wait for clear, hostile intent before engaging in any kind of deadly force. No matter what anyone tells you, there is always time to make an assessment; it’s what we are trained to do. And a lot of soldiers are trained to do this at 18-years-old.
But apparently, police officers don’t have to adhere to any specific rules while patrolling at home. In the United States of America we are not in an active combat zone. Well, unless you are black.
Last month, a jury acquitted former police officer Michael Rosfeld of homicide charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose. Rosfeld shot the unarmed teen in the back as he and another teen ran away from a traffic stop last year. Rosfeld pulled over the vehicle they were riding in because he thought it might have been used in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld said he felt “threatened” and decided to fire.
Let’s apply the rules of engagement to the facts of what happened on June 19, 2018.
- Officer Rosfeld failed to establish positive identification of the vehicle as being the same vehicle that was reported as used in the drive-by shooting incident.
- Officer Rosfeld failed to positively identify the presence of a weapon.
- Officer Rosfeld failed to engage in de-escalation techniques when the children ran.
- When he pulled the car over, Rosfeld failed to give proper instructions to the youths by not telling them to stay in the car.
- Officer Rosfeld failed by using deadly force, firing three shots to the back of an unarmed, non-threatening, civilian child.
On May 6, 2016, Stephen Mader, a combat Marine Corp veteran and rookie cop in Weirton, W.VA, faced a 23-year-old black man with a gun, and because of his military training, followed the rules of engagement and did not shoot. (‘Just shoot me,’ an armed man told a cop. The officer didn’t — and was fired, his lawsuit claimed.) When Mader’s backup arrived, they escalated the situation and Ronald “R.J.” Williams was shot and killed by police.
Mader was later wrongfully fired from the police force for following the de-escalation techniques he learned in Afghanistan and has since been awarded a settlement with the city for $175,000 as a result.
I think more officers should be trained in the standards of the military. In fact, if we apply the rules of engagement to the shooting of Antwon Rose II, it is clear to see that Officer Rosfeld did in fact murder Rose. Had Rosfeld committed his acts while in the military he would have received a court-martial and sent to prison.
If we can expect 18 year-old-men and women to make split-second decisions in an active war zone in countries where they do not speak or understand the language, we can certainly have the same level of expectation for those who we charge to protect and serve here at home.