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The 31st Instalment in the Murder Squad series.
Cops are no different to the general populace and the belief that to shoot dead another human being is morally reprehensible.
The vast majority of Cops would go through a long and illustrious career without the need to ever draw their service pistol, let alone having to shoot dead some-one. Highly improbable, though it is an important part of a Copper's training from the early induction days at the Police Academy in Goulburn.
Up until recently, it was accepted that the need to remove the handgun from its holster was a last resort action. Negotiation and the use of Capsicum Spray and Tasers were to be used well before a handgun was to ever be considered. This was a part of the training and a constant exercise practice regime that was a part of every Officer's curriculum right through their careers. So was Target Proficiency exercises.
It was seen that specialised units such as the Tactical Response Unit (more colloquially referred as the SWAT Team) and hand-picked specialised 'Shooters' would always be called in if the chances were of bullets flying. They were better trained and mentally more capable of making such decisions as taking another life.
That is, up until recently when an edict was issued by the Police Commissioner for “Shoot to Kill” practices to be adopted on terrorist related matters by all Officers.
Who was to determine the likelihood of an imminent terrorist attack, a suspected terrorist, an alleged terrorist or some-one acting suspiciously and looking remarkably like a Muslim radical. Dark beard. Eastern Mediterranean or even a Caucasian with a beard. An Officer on the “beat” would have to make a life and death decision in the blink of the eye in that regard.....and if his action to draw his service pistol proved to be the incorrect action, where did that leave the Officer in terms of legal responsibility and culpability under the present Laws of the State? And don't forget how the Media may view such an action by an Officer only attempting to do his duty as best he can. Right or wrong he could be either criticised or acclaimed.
The rank and file had trepidations about their new role even with more pragmatic training and target proficiency training.
Not the least Detective Grade Four Joseph Lind who early in his career as an undercover cop, had earned a reputation as a bit of a cowboy. Now? In middle age, Lind had misgivings on his reactions to a particular situation and whether he had the mental and moral fibre to make the right effective choice when it came down to a life and death situation.
His reactions after the event only helped to undermine his confidence as a Cop and he began to question the very reasons for his chosen career.
I was rather pleased with the grouping.
"Not bad." The Instructor murmured. "A nice grouping with four of the shots...but what happened to the remainder? They're nowhere to be seen! Looking at this result, you may have shot a couple of bystanders. More practise, Joe, a lot more before you are considered worthy for your Firearm Proficiency Medallion!"
I had always considered myself as somewhat of a hot-shot. Like in the old days when I had a bit of a reputation as a bloody cowboy.
Unfounded, I might add! Though the incidents of those days may be somewhat shrouded misty memories now kept alive by the rumour-mongers and gossipers over that Morning Tea table where legends are born and assassinated in as many words.
Though there was a certain amount of buzz felt whenever some-one referred to the bad old days and my name came up.
Now, things were different, especially inside my head.
It always seemed wrong to me somehow to be awarded a Proficiency Medallion for being able to group all your shots into the torso of a Target silhouette.
It could well be a living soul, the way I thought now!
I took down the TT after bringing it the length of the target range. Replacing it with a clean skin silhouette and sliding it back to the ten-metre aiming length....TT was lingo for 'Target Torso'.
A silhouette of a male head, neck and torso. The bulls-eye dead centre of the chest. You always aimed for where the bulk was. The chest. Nowhere else! Which kind of makes all those thousands of Western Movies and a lot of the Mobster ones seem rather fake. To shoot a gun from your adversary’s hand at one hundred paces with your .45 seemed to be a cool thing to do…unfortunately, there wasn’t an ounce of truth in the scene.
Deadwood Dick. Hopalong Cassidy. The Lone Ranger. They were all good at it! John Wayne. Jean Audrey. They could do it with their eyes closed…almost. So it seemed!
I checked that my fire-arm was not primed, clicked the safety on, dropped the clip out and checked that the breach was clear. I slipped off my ear-muffs and turned to the rear of the firing position to disassemble my handgun. A clean and an oil of all moving parts and a quick reassemble...without any fumbles!
The Instructor stood beside me watching my every move.
You are supposed to be able to break down and then reassemble your gun with your eyes closed. That's what the SAS guys practise.
We are not crack SAS soldiers and it seems bloody ridiculous for a Grade 4 Murder Detective to be able to empty the entire 17 round clip of my Glock into the torso of some errant felon. I could hear that thwump as the slug hits the human body and tears flesh and tendon...then you are expected to empty your magazine on the poor sod like some scene out of a Hollywood Movie starring Bruce Willis!
We'd only just recently been re-equipped with these newer 17-round Glocks. They felt much the same as the older Glock. Maybe a little heavier, though the balance had been improved, so I thought.
Loosing 17 rounds into some poor bastard wasn't anywhere near what a crack, Grade Four Murder Detective is supposed to do as far as I was concerned. I never felt comfortable in drawing my handgun from my belt holster and aiming it at another human being, no matter what the circumstance!
Sure, I had shot felons and possible criminals...a long time ago while I was an undercover Narcs Officer and Barry 'Gazza' Holt was my partner. But as I got older and watched my son mature into a fine young man who was now talking about kids of his own, that desire...that want to fire as many slugs as I could into a fleeing human being was not high on my agenda! In fact, it was something that I was bloody scared of ever doing, if the truth be known!
"Joe...this time squeeze the trigger as you have always done. Slow and gently. For three shots. Then take a breath before repeating the process. It's not a competition on who can fire off the quickest six rounds. OK? The Gunfight at the OK Corral was just a Movie."
"It was based on fact, Frank. Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp...jeez, I can't remember the rest...they were up against a couple of brothers from memory."
Frank Bright shook his head. Grimaced.
"Joe? Keep your mind on what you are doing. Nothing else. Clear your mind, Wyatt."
I nodded my head and went through the exercise.
We were only permitted to load six bullets into the clip during these exercises.
That was all that the NSW Government could afford!
Again, three shots were nicely grouped on the TT. The other three? Who knows where.
"Joe, I see your problem. You are fine with the first three but then you close your eyes...you can't do that, Joe."
"I don't want to see all the damage I've caused...and the noise...the report of the gun..."
"Christ...that's all I need this morning! A caring Cop... what next! Joe? This could be the difference between life and death, hear me? Your life or your death. Understand?" An anger in his voice as the volume turned up several notches. Thank Christ I still had my ear plugs and muffs on.
"Frank, I've been a Murder Dee for nigh on eleven years now. Not once have I aimed my handgun at another human being in all that time as far as I can remember...a dog, yes...and…arrh…the side of a house. That’s all! Okay. So take a breather, my friend before you bust a poople valve."
"You shot a dog?" He replied incredulously, as though the life or death of a dog was far more important than that of a human being! I have to re-prioritise my outlook on life, I thought as I seemed to be out of sync with just about everyone else. He looked at me as though I had just placed a tiara on my head! Brushed down my ball gown!
"Yes...he was in mid-air and heading for my partner's throat...this new impetus on gun proficiency and the 'shoot to kill'policy...it's not why I joined the Murder Squad."
He seemed more effected by the dead dog piece of information then in knowing we were training 'up' to be able to shoot accurately, fellow human beings! To kill them with a nice grouping dead centre of their chest so that fellow Officers may ooh and arrh over the perfect grouping.
Something was all wrong with that, I thought to myself.
This was a recent Policy change announced only weeks ago.
In the week following Black Friday and the terrorist attacks in Paris.
A stern looking Police Commissioner, the State Premier and the Leader of the Opposition fronting the cameras. One could assume that it was announced to the Media at that time to lessen any backlash from the Civil Liberties and Conservative members of Parliament and within the general populace as the slaughter in Paris was still a nightly event on the early News Broadcasts.
Surely such an important and incendiary Policy shift would be more acceptable under those circumstances?
But then, I'm known for my cynicism!
"Joe, times have changed. Things are different. Us Cops have become the new front-line for home grown Terrorists...we are their targets! Just look at what happened in Melbourne earlier this year and at our building here in Parramatta."
"Mmm...I guess that is some-one's opinion on current trends, but it isn't necessarily mine."
"Joe, be very careful where you voice that opinion. You could be black-marked...or worse, looked upon as some sort of greenie, pacifist! You know? One of them!"
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: