The Kim Potter trial in Minnesota has focused special attention on the recurring incidence of police shootings of motorists after traffic stops. Potter, now an ex-cop, fatally shot Daunte Wright when he appeared to be preparing to flee the stop, because she mistakenly drew her gun and fired it instead of her taser. The news media, as usual, is pre-biased against the police, and its analyses have reflected that, despite the fact that stopping a car has frequently proven fatal for many police officers, and there is ample justification for heightened caution and suspicion when approaching a stopped vehicle. The Washington Post unhelpfully issued a fatuous editorial headlined, “Being pulled over for a broken taillight shouldn’t end in death. Too often, it does.” Yes, indeed it does, and this is virtually always because of a combination of uncooperative and alarming behavior by the motorist and a mistaken, excessive, or poor choice of a response by police in the split second the officer has to assess the situation and act.
One way to prevent what “should” never happen is for police to just allow infractions on the highway and never stop cars. That would work. It would also result in some highway deaths caused by the uninhibited law-breaker that “shouldn’t happen,” but there are prices for everything. This is where law enforcement policy will soon arrive if the anti-police lobby gets its way and police are fired and prosecuted every time a driver sets in motion a sequence that ends in his or her own death.