By Wayne William Cipriano
I watched in hypnotic disbelief as that tracked robotic vehicle was maneuvered into that building carrying a bomb that was purposely detonated to effect the end of a standoff between the police and an armed individual who had holed-up inside. Even after I saw the story several times I just could not rationally process what had happened let alone consider the potential implications.
I heard command personnel explaining the “necessity” of the response and the assurances that, given similar circumstances, the same response would be replicated. Too much police attention was being monopolized, they explained. Too many police resources were being expended at this one scene.
Police time wasted? When a guy with a gun barricades himself in a building and 35 police cars surround the location, 55 police officers train their service weapons in the general direction of the suspect, SWAT arrives, command, control, and communications are established, and every criminal in the city knows there is no better time to rob the local candy store, who can disagree that this is waste?
Police resources squandered? What does one of those robots cost? How much robot is left after the explosion? Sure, the robot was probably a gift from the Federal Government, but still, couldn’t it be better employed in a lot of future intelligence gathering situations where officer safety or fatigue might be issues? And what about the costs of training and practicing that an officer or several officers went through now useless because the robot has gone bye-bye?
But put such concerns aside. I heard that the robotic surprise was necessary because this suspect posed a significant threat to innocent citizens should the situation con-tinue. Do these “experts” not under-stand the absolute indiscriminate nature of detonations, as “shaped” as “controlled” as one might label them? Do they not watch the news when even the most “surgically” applied explosive devices, delivered by highly trained, massively experienced, humanely cautious military officers in combat so often results in the collateral damage of dead and maimed innocent civilians?
What I found most notable, however, was the almost complete lack of criticism by anyone, of this novel “crime-fighting” tool; this blowing up a structure because there was an armed suspect within who would not come out, so the only remedy was lethal explosive detona-tion.
Why not wait? Just wait. How many officers are really necessary to control such a situation? What about turning off the water, electricity, air condition in the summer, the heat in the winter. What about trading soporific-laden pizza slices for bullets? Beer for hostages? Why not let the negotiators have some real time – not a few hours, but a couple of days? If the idea is, as we have so often been told, to limit the danger to the area, citizens, officers, and the suspect, why not concentrate on defusing the situation and just waiting?
Is it better to send explosive-bearing robots to destroy the building and hopefully the suspect (who might, probably not, but just might, have a legitimate reason for his recalcitrance)? Are we that sure there is no quiet baby, no gagged hostage, no innocent hiding in a closet unknown to everyone, suspect and police alike?
What is next? Rocket-propelled grenades so much cheaper than robot delivery? Precision mortars? Smart bombs?
In warfare you got to do what you got to do. Innocent civilians go down all the time. That most regrettable fact is one of the reasons we avoid warfare so diligently. But, urban policing is not warfare. When those in charge refuse to recognize this it is time for them to go, and take their explosive devices with them.