Porter: Train cops in martial arts Stephen Vest could have been disarmed with "mediocre" skills

by A.P. Porter
guest commentary

On October 14, 2020, carefully courageous officers of the Chico Police Department executed Stephen Vest in front of Petco, on King Drive in south Chico. Vest had been harassing people and, they said, scratching cars with a knife, which apparently are now capital crimes.

The consensus seems to be that Chico’s finest had pepper spray, truncheons, stun guns, pistols, and a three-to-one advantage; and this one guy had a knife. One peace officer tased Vest to no effect. The other two confronted this disturbed and miserable man with a knife, and their collective decades of experience and all their savvy and education and intuition and upbringing and extensive professional training and ego, combined, said, “Kill him.”

They meant to kill him. If I were trying to render some nut null-and-void I’d at least see how he reacted before I shot him again. What did the thoroughly trained professionals with a three-to-one advantage do when their sincere efforts to commune with Stephen were for nought, when their patient, heart-felt overtures were spurned? They tried to shoot him over and over, and he died as expected. I suppose he dropped the knife, though.

Of course, Stephen had damaged some nearby vehicles, too, which may carry the death penalty. I haven’t checked.

In addition to regular therapy to help with the insidious and permanent stress of being a cop, we should add mandatory martial arts training to cops’ compensation package. Any even mediocre martial artist could have taken the knife away from him. Thirty years ago I could’ve disarmed him.

So, our beleaguered protectors of property earned themselves a paid vacation. I think they can get counseling for their presumed trauma, although they first have to realize that they need it, a long shot in a society as macho as theirs.

There’s something out of whack about policing in Chico and evidently the rest of the nation. The notion that cops should be guardians instead of warriors might hint at the problem, although I’ve yet to hear what cops ought to be guarding us from.

I’d like to know what kind of people want to be a police officer, and then which ones make it through the academy. Who gets culled? Where are the officers who are too lenient, too benevolent, too patient to join the club? Does the hiring process weed out compassion?

An interesting attitude surfaced at a meeting of the Chico Silly Council Policing Review Ad Hoc Committee, when Chief Madden said that he didn’t agree with outsiders telling the police what to do. Maybe he thinks the rest of us should just butt out and leave everything to him and his blue gang. Is that in the city charter? If Chico’s gonna be a police state, let’s at least vote on it.

Anthony Peyton Porter describes himself with zappai (modern haiku):
fifty-seven jobs
bicycle mechanic and
essayist, mostly