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  • Question regarding the actions of Seattle Officer Ian Birk

    Hello all,

    I don't know how much national exposure this story is getting, but its been all over the local news here in western Washington and I was interested in getting your opinions on it.

    For an extremely short version of the story, Seattle police Officer Ian Birk saw a man, John T. Williams, carrying a knife and a piece of wood walking down the sidewalk last summer. He got out of his patrol car and approached the man (from behind), ordering him to drop the knife. At which time, Birk claimed the individual turned towards him in a threatening posture. The man did not drop the knife, and Birk said he believed he was about to attack so he shot him four times.

    A court inquest is currently taking place regarding the incident. A few weeks ago, the dashboard footage was released. The video linked to this story shows Birk testifying in court about the man's posture. Additional footage of Birk testifying can be seen from yesterday's article at this link.

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    Warning: The rest of this post is my first reaction I had to the video. I fully expect my opinion to change as I read the responses that you guys post. I know there are a lot of things I am ignorantly not taking into consideration that may seem like common sense to a police officer that has spent years in the field.
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    In my non-professional opinion, I find it odd that Birk could not of maintained a more appropriate distance as he approached Williams from behind. He clearly saw that the man had a knife since it was the whole reason he was stopping Williams in the first place. The only thing I can think of that might explain why the officer was so close is if Williams wasn't responding to his, "HEY HEY HEY" shout, and Birk thought he was ignoring him on purpose (I believe I remember reading Williams was hard of hearing). Despite that possibility, I still don't think it was smart of him to get close enough to Williams where the only reasonable solution was to fire in that situation.

    Another thing that leads me to believe this was an unjustified shooting is just looking at how the man was walking down the street. He doesn't necessarily strike me as the type of guy who would have the agility to be able to lunge forward with cat-like reflexes and cause harm to an officer standing within reasonable distance. Perhaps someone could argue that Birk feared the man was going to throw the knife at him, but he has not said that anywhere in his testimony. In addition, the fact that Williams was out in a busy public setting (nobody around him seemed intimidated by him) carrying the knife in a relatively non-threatening manner seems to indicate Officer Birk thought the man was a greater potential danger than he actually was.

    Anyways, perhaps you will tell me I am dead wrong...I was curious about what your opinions were. I'm just a university student who is hoping to get into law enforcement once I graduate so all I can really do is read books and look at these types of situations to try to learn from. I hate seeing these events because I'm sure the officer did not have any aspirations to kill him, but made a perception error that turned into a bang-bang situation... and now the all of the police brutality people come crawling out of their holes and try to make this sound like Birk is Satan himself.
    Last edited by Josh9; 01-12-2011, 11:51 PM.

  • #2
    This isn't going to go well.
    sigpic

    I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

    Comment


    • #3
      You are DEAD WRONG and apparently so was the suspect. Google the 21 foot rule and you will know why.
      Last edited by Curly Bill; 01-12-2011, 09:05 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Go study something else instead of trying to **** cops off with your second guessing. Since you haven't been in our shoes, don't start telling us how you feel and think. You are not entitled to an opinion.

        You ****ing Lop.
        Free Deke O'Mally!!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you guys for the quick replies, however I was mainly asking to get your opinions on the videos that I posted. The only reason I included my own thoughts on the subject was because in previous threads I've read police officers asking the original poster to state their own opinion (even if that opinion is uneducated or incorrect).

          If this is the case and this whole situation is really a no-brainer, why would the Seattle Police Chief come out and say in September that this case has "a lot more questions than answers.".... or why would the Police Department find it to be unjustified in a preliminary review?

          Comment


          • #6
            Because it's preliminary.
            I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

            Comment


            • #7
              So, based on your years of experience and knowledge as an Officer you've concluded that the Officer in question acted improperly. The Constitution gives you the right to your opinion, but does not require that you know what you're talking about. You don't, and your rush to judgment proves it. Fortunately for both the Officer and the public he serves, professionals will determine whether or not his actions were proper or improper. I'm far more inclined to respect the opinion(s) and findings which will emerge from a proper investigation of the incident than I am
              in the opinion of a student. Sounds a little tough on you, I know, but why not simply sit back (you can do that) and let the Department do it's job.

              Comment


              • #8
                For those of you asking, this is the quote from a police officer in another thread that was the basis for me posting my uneducated opinion.

                Originally posted by BigDog4907 View Post
                people are always asking if the officer should have or shouldn't have done this or that. I simply want to know what YOU think he should have done.
                Last edited by Josh9; 01-12-2011, 10:35 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Josh9 View Post
                  For those of you asking, this is the quote from a police officer in another thread that was the basis for me posting my uneducated opinion.
                  And YOU rose to the occasion and posted the B.S. which you did. Take the heat for your own actions Josh, and simply be man enough to say YOU posted what you did. We'll still you call you on the B.S. but at least acknowledge that you posted it on your own, and not because some one told you to. F Y I Josh, the question was rather rhetorical in nature, and no doubt based on the inane garbage you threw out in your original post. YOU don't have the foggiest notion of what you'd have done, as you've never been in the situation the Officer was. His actions will be thoroughly investigated, and professionals who know what they're doing will determine whether or not his actions were within the law and agency policy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The whole main point of this thread was to get your impressions about what happened on the dashboard camera footage.... not my amateur, uneducated impressions on it. You guys are the professionals, you've been doing this for years, and I came to this forum to learn from you (hence the forum name "Ask a Cop"). I can't learn much when the only feedback I get is that I'm full of BS and garbage.
                    Last edited by Josh9; 01-12-2011, 11:04 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just watching the video up to the point that the man was shot, does not give any indication as to the posture Williams was taking as the officer was telling him to drop the knife. Just not enough information, BUT I have to give the officer the benefit of being there and making a split second decision.

                      While Williams posture is not especially alarming as he walks in front of the patrol car these things change within milliseconds. There are other people in the area. Does the officer wait until this guy attacks someone? http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/...n/7377702.html

                      A guy in a McDonalds stabbed a 12 yer old and ran out the door. SO what is an officer to do? Allow the guy to walk down the street until he does decide to stab someone.

                      "why would the Seattle Police Chief come out and say in September that this case has "a lot more questions than answers."

                      Because Chiefs are political animals and very rarely say anything that will bite them politically. It is easier not to make a stand, why fade the heat from all the people that will be screaming for his job?

                      You do have an "unprofessional" opinion, and it is OK that you express your opinion, but it really would be like me offering an opinion on what went wrong during a neurosurgery procedure. How many doctors would not look at me and say, "You don't know what you are talking about."

                      Josh, you just don't know what you don't know.
                      Ut humiliter opinor

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        So YOU don't like all of the police brutality people coming out, but YOU, yourself have already determined that this is an "unjustified shooting." Really, and is that from reading books?

                        Yeah, I said I wanted to know what he thought the officer should have done in an earlier post. I see that you want to use that as your defense. Only one problem....you didn't bother to tell us how you would have handled it. So entertain me. Be warned that I'm kind of slow, so use simple words so that I can get a clear picture of how in your rich experience of handling knife wielding subjects you would have done this. And please, don't let your total lack of any type of law enforcement experience hinder you.

                        So leave the police work to the professionals, go back to your dorm room and take another hit from the bong, you ding dong.
                        Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Josh9 View Post
                          The whole main point of this thread was to get your impressions about what happened on the dashboard camera footage.... not my amateur, uneducated impressions on it. You guys are the professionals, you've been doing this for years, and I came to this foAnotherrum to learn from you (hence the forum name "Ask a Cop"). I can't learn much when the only feedback I get is that I'm full of BS and garbage.
                          Another BS toss to ya Josh. Typical of so many of today's young people, you post total crap, typified by abysmal ignorance, and want a pat on the back for your lack of knowledge. Had you really desired to solicit our opinions, all you had to do was ask the question. Instead, you inserted your own heavy dose of ignorance and expected this forum to buy it. The BS and garbage you refer to were (are) honest replies, you're just not astute enough to fathom that. You can begin your maturity process ( a need of so many students) by listening to the replies which have been given you in good faith. Instead, you'll probably walk away with hurt feelings and a badly bruised ego. Your problem Pal. Don't sit there and tell this forum you want to learn when you already have your mind made up. Finally, young Josh, when you come to this forum, you can ask questions. You cannot however, dictate the manner in which your questions are answered, or your assertions responded to. We do that. Don't like it, go elsewhere.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A note to non LEOs. This would be a much better way of posting a question regarding a situation involving a LEO, especially when it is a situation that most would never be involved in...ie, a shooting.

                            Hi. There has been an incident that has been on the news lately involving an officer from dept XXX. Then give the short version of the story (not your opinion) and add any links that you want of video or media coverage. Anyway, I really don't understand any of this and was just wondering if you guys would be willing to offer any insight as to why this or that is done a particular way.

                            See, there is no opinion or accusation made. Simply stating that you don't know sh*t and was just wondering how something was done. And if one of us wants to know what you would have done we would ask you. As I did in another post. My point was made by his response. Sitting in front of his computer, with no stress what-so-ever, all the time in the world to think about it....and he couldn't even determine how he would have handled it, but everyone wants cops to be able to act in a split second and then have us on this site second guess their actions. Get my point??
                            Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I will offer two thoughts here. First, the video shows nothing relevant. All pertinant activity takes place off screen. We cannot see the suspect or the officer, We cannot see how far they are apart from each other, the actions of either, their reactions to each other or most importantly, the reactions of the suspect in relation to the officer when he gives commands, As a result, trying to make a meaningful judgment from the video is pointless.

                              Now, let's look at the 21 foot rule. Over 25 years ago I attended training where we were taught that if anyone with an edged weapon got closer to us that 21 feet before we could draw and fire our weapon, they could successfully stab us. We all laughed our butts off. Then they had the fastest draw in the class unload his revolver and face off against the slowest, fattest out of shape guy in the class who was armed with a rubber knife and stationed 21 feet away. No matter how quick he was, the sure shot could not draw and pull the trigger fast enough to hit the slow running fat guy before he got stabbed with a rubber knife.

                              We all tried it and even if we backed up as the suspect ran at us, it was impossible to avoid being stabbed before we could fire.

                              With this in mind, no one here is going to speculate based solely on the sound track from a video that fails to show what actually happened.
                              Last edited by L-1; 01-13-2011, 03:03 AM.
                              Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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