Saturday, June 19, 2010

Seattle Police Confrontation - A matter of perspective?

See the video here

I hesitated to comment on this video for a while. It is stirring up so much emotion and debate that I wasn't sure I wanted to discuss it on this blog. Then again, spirited debate can often be a valuable source for some self reflection. It also provides an opportunity to consider other perspectives.

Perspective is an interesting thing. It drastically affects the way you see events and the world around you. It is shaped by your life experiences and is formed in no small way by your pre-conceived ideas about a variety of topics.

I've read comments and opinions ranging from people applauding the officer's actions and commending his self control to those that have demonized him, saying he is all that is bad in the world and law enforcement.

I read one comment that basically said that the officer was nothing but a power hungry bully who liked to beat people up, especially women, and likely only took the job to do so. I also read some comments that under no circumstances whatsoever was any officer justified of these actions in a situation such as this.

I have difficulty with absolutes.

For those that feel this way, I ask you to consider the following:

If that officer had recently been attacked by two women and disarmed, would your perspective and opinion change?

If the jaywalker or the woman who was struck was male, would your perspective or opinion change?

If both the jaywalker and the second party were male, would your perspective or opinion change?

What if any or all of the above was true but the officer was female. Would your perspective or opinion change?

I bet they would, at least somewhat.

I don't ask these questions to try to convince people one way or the other. You should hold dear the things you believe passionately about. What I do ask is that people try to look at things from different perspectives before making those beliefs.

I once had an interesting lesson in perspective. A colleague took a piece of paper and folded it so that when you turned it on it's edge, it had 3 sides of a square, one side showing forward, and one to each side, left and right. 3 people sat at a table, one directly across from it, one directly to the left and one to the right. Each side of the paper was then labelled A,B and C. When the people at the table were asked what they saw, each said a different letter. They were each looking at the same item, but they all saw something different.

We must always strive to look at all angles or perspectives, whether it be a video on YouTube, a technique we're trying or another martial art or artist. Once we have a complete picture, we can form our opinions with a greater degree of conviction.

I encourage everyone to arrive at their own conclusions on the video. I also encourage them to put themselves in the officer's shoes. What would you have done? I will mention that I respected the fact that Chris at Martial Development challenged various people to demonstrate what they would have done with multiple attackers to deal with the situations.

No matter what your position on the officer or the video, this challenge encourages people to really look at the situation. What could the officer have done better? What are the challenges with more than one person? What would you have done? Have you ever tried techniques on someone that was truly resisting?

Right or wrong, we should all strive to learn from this type of event.

This video and the issues it raises will likely result in some future posts discussing more law enforcement related topics, and some of the reasons I study the martial arts.

Always challenge yourself and keep an open mind.

Be safe.

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