Lessons Learned from Killing Ed Randolph

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Contrary to popular belief (at least according to many major media sources), not every police officer is looking for any excuse to kill you. Read up. Mad Duo

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Edward Randolph stabbed police officer Dennis Azevedo on a warm summer evening in Los Angeles in 1981. Officer David Klinger then killed Randolph. For years Klinger blamed himself for Randolph’s death because he felt he’d failed to maintain his grip on Randolph’s wrists in the struggle to subdue him. It took Klinger a very long time to accept that Randolph’s death was in fact predicated on Randolph’s own actions. Interestingly, the fact that Klinger is white and Randolph was black appears to have played no part in how he (Klinger) reacted to the experience of killing a man.

“It’s been nearly three-and-a-half decades since I killed Edward Randolph, but when I fix my mind on those desperate seconds from the time he thrust the butcher’s knife he clasped with both his hands into my partner Dennis Azevedo’s chest and the moment I shot him flush in his own, it can seem like yesterday.”

Klinger - author and former officer

That may sound pretty clear cut, but to Klinger (and other men and women who’ve had to put someone down, with complete justification) it’s not something so easy to readily accept, even if it’s correctness is intellectually obvious. Yes, some people absolutely need killin’, but for most of us (thankfully) actually killing people is a little harder than talking about it.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from Klinger’s story, particularly when read through the lens of the ‘trigger-happy cop’ hype tossed around by a ratings-hungry (and poorly informed) media.

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In an article recently published by The Politico, Klinger addressed that very thing.

Into the Kill ZoneSays Klinger,

The national debate that has broken out since Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has been frustrating to watch because so few of the participants understand the true nature of deadly force in American police work. The complexity of many situations in which officers fire, how officers think, what they feel and how they perceive things during incidents in which they discharge their guns, the emotional toll that a shooting can take on an officer, and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that police officers could use deadly force much more often than they do. [Emphasis added.]

I know about all of this not just because I was involved in a shooting many years ago, but also because I have spent a good bit of time since I left police work studying various aspects of deadly force. I’ve conducted formal interviews with scores of police officers who all faced the same terrible choice that I faced, and I’ve talked informally with scores more. None of them wanted to take a life. But sometimes they had to. [Emphasis added.]

Read the article in its entirety here on Politico.com.

Klinger is now a professor of criminology and the author of Inside the Kill Zone: A Cop’s Eye View of Deadly Force.

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