Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cigarettes May Be Hazardous To Your Health

They were certainly hazardous to 60-year-old Roy Middleton's health.  At 2:30 AM or so on Saturday morning down in Warrington, FL, Mr. Middleton was rummaging around in his mother's car looking for loose smokes.  A neighbor reported suspicious activity to the police who responded to the scene and ordered the man from the vehicle. 

Middleton was surprised but attempted to comply with the order.  He says he got out with his hands raised.  The officers' version is somewhat different:

Morgan said the deputies reported that, after they'd made multiple commands to Middleton to show his hands, he eventually lunged out of the car and spun toward them, causing them to "fear for their safety."
The officers saw "something metallic" in Middleton's hand -- which was, of course, the car keys.  As far as "lunging", Roy Middleton and I are about the same age.  Almost any change of position involves what might be perceived as lunging. 

While, as they say, nothing good happens after 1:00 AM, it rather sounds like Roy may  have been getting off work or at least not doing anything unusual:  “He was just coming home like he usually does. I don’t understand why they had to use so much force under the situation,” Middleton’s mother, Ceola Walker, told Fox 10. (Quoted at this IBT link)

A cousin on my father's side of the family was county sheriff in our county for many years back in the '50s and early '60s.  Like the fictional sheriff of Mayberry, Andy Taylor, he never carried a sidearm. Things were a lot different in those days and that part of the country is still a place where most people don't worry too much about gunfights. 

I don't want police officers to be injured or lose their lives on the job, but, frankly, the hazards of police work are somewhat over-rated.  Police officers suffer 18 fatalities per 100,000.  In 2010, there were 134 deaths of police officers on the job -- 56% of which were a result of traffic accidents -- only 2 of the accidents were part of high-speed pursuits.  Thus nationwide, fewer than 60 police officers were killed in gunfights or similar violent incidents -- too many in any case. 

Police work makes the top ten of hazardous occupations, at number 10.  The most dangerous job is fisherman which has fatality rate of 116 per 100,000 and an annual average salary of $27,000 compared to $55,000 for police officers.  Mining machine operators more than double the rate of  the police at 39 per 100,000 while making only $39,000 per year.  Farmers and airplane pilots rank at 5th place (41/100,000) and 4th place (71/100,000) respectively and are the only occupations in the top ten with a higher pay rate than the police ($65,000 for farmers which sound optimistic and $115,000 for pilots). 

The safety of police officers is very important but not more important than the safety of the citizens these officers are paid to serve and protect.

Reports differ but there were between 15 and 17 shots fired at Roy Middleton.  The car was shot up and he was struck once in the leg.  Fortunately, the two deputies involved are lousy shots.  They opened fire while acknowledging that they did not see a weapon pointed at them.  Even accepting that they might have perceived the keys and light in Middleton's hand as a firearm, it was being held above his head in a non-threatening position.  They had no reason to shoot. 

I hope Roy Middleton and his mother own the Escambia County Sheriff's department.

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