Treebranch 0417

He was walking on the yellow line in the middle of the road.  Something had to be done.  Henry pulled up his SUV next to the gentleman:

“Hey there.  How’s it going?”

JuWon stared back at him with suspicion.  “Fine, officer.”

“I couldn’t help but notice you’re out here in the middle of the road.  That could cause some problems with traffic.  Could you move over to the sidewalk?”

“I’m just going to the store at the end of the street,” JuWon said.  “I’ll move to the sidewalk when I get there.”

Henry took another look down the street. There was no traffic now, but still.

“I’m going to have to ask you to move to the sidewalk,” Henry said.

“I’m going to have to ask you to fuck off!

Henry tried to open the door, but with JuWon’s 300-plus pound body shoving against the SUV, Henry was making no progress in securing the situation. Then JuWon swung his fists inside the window. Henry pulled out his service weapon to shoot, but JuWon’s hand gripped the muzzle so tightly that it only produced the click-click as it jammed. While he was attempting to turn the point of the gun back toward Henry, JuWon said:

“You’re too much of a puppy to shoot.”

The classroom erupted in laughter.

Sergeant Fielder let out a sigh. “’Pussy’,” he said. “Mr. Henderson, the line is ‘You’re too much of a pussy to shoot.’”

JuWon let go of the mock pistol in Henry’s hand and picked up his script. After finding the right line, he said “Oh. Sorry.”

“’Oh sorry’? That’s all you have to say? Part of police work is paperwork, which means paying attention to detail, which means getting it right. ‘Oh sorry’ isn’t going to cut it when the Coalition shows up in the streets to say your shoot was bad. If that awful day ever comes, you’ll want to have documented where and when you did everything that day, all the way down to your piss breaks. ‘Oh sorry’ could cost you your job and your pension”

Sergeant Fielder approached Henry, still sitting in the would-be driver’s side seat (a straight-back chair borrowed from the adjoining classroom), and he motioned for JuWon to come back. “We’ll just walk through the rest of this Q&A style. Now, the subject has made aggressive moves toward the officer, and the officer has engaged with his weapon. It’s not the best move by the officer – he’s doing so from a close range and not in the best position. Can anyone think of alternative actions for the officer to take? Mr. Peters?”

Albert, who had raised his hand, said, “Urinate himself to make himself less attractive to the subject?”

Sergeant Fielder stopped for a moment to just look at him. In incredulity, he asked, “Mr. Peters, where did you get that idea from?”

“Sergeant Caldwell’s class on community outreach. It’s one of the defense moves sexual assault victims can do to stop the attack.”

“Well Sergeant Caldwell can keep that option. No officer trained by me will undermine the uniform by urinating himself or herself when engaging a hostile subject!”

He continued. “The next event is that the officer gets a shot off from his weapon. It hits the subject, but not directly enough to secure the situation. The subject,“ he turned JuWon around and walked him to where he was more than ten feet away from Henry, “flees the scene. Does the officer pursue?”

As soon as the question left his lips, the class members abandoned any semblance of comity and began debating furiously among each other:

“He just committed battery on a police officer and tried to kill him. Of course he has to pursue.”

“Won’t that just escalate the situation? After all, it was the officer who started the encounter.”

“If criminals think they can get away with abusing the police without punishment, they’ll only be empowered to commit more crime.”

“Police officers should be held to a higher standard than the public. They’re the ones with the guns, after all.”

“That’s the kind of thing a Coalition plant in the academy would say!”

Sergeant Fielder let the debate continue for a minute, then whistled through his teeth to pierce through the clamor. “Ladies and gentlemen, I understand that some of you still have some raw feelings about the vote of the rules committee, but what’s done is done: official procedure is that if a subject makes physically aggressive moves toward an officer…” He had to pick up a crib sheet from his desk to read the rest. “…whether or not the subject is suspected of committing the crime for which the officer has been dispatched, the officer may pursue the subject.”

He motioned for Henry to stand up. “The officer leaves the vehicle to pursue, and the subject stops and turns around.”

JuWon turned around. Henry pointed the gun at him.

“The officer calls for him to get on the ground. The subject does not comply. The subject begins walking toward the officer as if to charge him, and is twelve feet away from physical contact with the officer. Does the officer have the authority to use his weapon to secure the situation?”

“No,” they all said in unison, some with enthusiasm, some with reticence. After all, it was the “pursue/no pursue” fight that opponents had staked their claim. Everything after that was a foregone conclusion.

“The officer again calls for the subject to get on the ground. The subject does not comply. The subject resumes pursuit toward the officer, and is ten feet away from physical contact with the officer.”

JuWon took a few steps forward. Henry continued pointing the gun at him.

“Does the officer have the authority to use his weapon?”


“The officer calls one more time for the subject to get on the ground. The subject does not comply. The subject continues pursuit toward the officer, accelerating as if to charge him, and is seven feet away from physical contact with the officer.

“Does the officer have the authority to use his weapon?”

“Yes,” the class again said in unison. Henry jerked the gun forward to mimick shots fired. JuWon fell to the ground.

Lieutenant Garvey, who until now had sat in the back of the class observing with barely minimal attention, perked up after that last response from the class. As Sergeant Fielder explained to the class the details of filling out the Police Incident Report, the lieutenant peered closely at JuWon for an extended moment, and then approached the sergeant.

“Can I have a word with you?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Bring me the swatch.”

The Social Justice Swatch, a mandatory accessory now carried by members of the law enforcement community, was designed to filter out the good encounters from the bad ones. A 2×6 piece of cardboard supplied by GreenEven Painting Company, it provided a color of measurement. Darker skin than the swatch: Social Justice Rules applied. Lighter skin than the swatch: normal rules applied. Some on the force complained how the hell they were supposed to make that difference. That’s what the mandatory seminars on color differentiation – “Is this black man darker than the swatch?” – were designed to educate.

Sergeant Fielder retrieved the swatch from his desk drawer. “Here it is.” Sergeant Fielder held it up next to JuWon’s face. Then he read the back of the swatch.

“This is the one for last month,” the lieutenant said. “I need the swatch for this month.”

When the swatch was first proposed, there was a debate over how light of a skin would be entitled to the Social Justice Rules. Some among the Coalition said, “Even if he or she has a drop of Negro blood!” But when some in the police department pointed out the obvious difficulties with this, a compromise was reached: the color would change every month, depending on the “temperature of the community” (quotes curtsey of Coalition leader Wayne Carmichel).   As a result, the color of the skin entitled to the Social Justice Rules would change depending from month to month.

Sergeant Fielder motioned for one of the class members to go to the mailroom to retrieve the new swatch. It was delivered to Lieutenant Garvey, who shut one eye to get the best comparison of JuWon.

“The swatch is GreenEver’s Treebranch 0417. Mr. Henderson is more dark-skinned than that, so the Social Justice Rules apply: four charges, five feet, whichever comes first. Something different from the theatre I just witnessed.”

The lieutenant brought Sergeant Fielder over to a corner.  “We need to re-enact this.  I can’t have rumors floating to the Coalition that we’re conducting racist training sessions.”  He pointed to Albert Peters.  “Let’s use Mr. Peters in place of JuWon, and take it from the top.”

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