It will not shock many that following the officer-involved shooting of Elijah Smith, age 20, by the West Valley City (Utah) Police Department, the protesters are calling the shooting excessive and questioning the use of deadly force in the incident.
Some are depicting the shooting of an “unarmed black man” for just putting his hands up,
It is oddly similar to a recent case in Sacramento where a suspect ran from police after a series of car burglaries and formed a shooting stance towards officers. Those officers shot and killed the subject but unlike the Utah Incident, protests have been going on for weeks and the California Legislature has introduced a bill that would place further restrictions on law enforcement including removing the “reasonable” standard from United States Supreme Court Case Law (Graham v. Connor).
Both cases involved a black/male that was suspected of theft and both men ran from law enforcement. One suspect ran into a backyard of a residence to hide while in Utah, Smith ran into a home and hid in the garage.
Police shot and killed both men for simulating the pointing of a weapon and there is body camera footage in both instances.
So why has the Sacramento Case drawn international attention and few have heard about the Utah Case?
In my humble opinion, there is one reason and that is Courageous Leadership versus the lack of Leadership.
Following the release of the Utah Incident Video, Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said. “I am sad for his loss. It is an unfortunate incident that Mr. Smith lost his life in this incident. He did not lose his life because of his race.”
It was short, definitive and sent a clear message as the leader of the agency. There was no back peddling and waiting for the completion of the investigation. There was no bowing down to political correctness or the calling in of an outside entity. More importantly, there was not any silence.
The video, situation and context was clear and the Chief did not mix words. Yes, it is tragic that Smith lost his life but blaming law enforcement for the actions of criminals has got to stop and stopping it lies at the feet of our leaders.
Whether Chief Jacobs knew it or not, she did exactly what is advocated with the Courageous Leadership Institute. She made a statement quickly and she gave an assessment of the incident. It set the tone for the media, the activists and for the officers that heard it.
For Courageous Leaders, making quick, accurate and factual statements will not stop those that hate cops from acting out but it does set the stage for the general public to understand the incident. For far too long, law enforcement has ignored the general audience and placated to the very small audience that makes scenes in public and talks tough online.
The actions of Chief Jacobs are rare today and I applaud her for what she did. Not because she blindly supported cops in a deadly force incident to hide wrongdoing (because she didn’t). Because the cops did nothing wrong and she stated that implicitly and quickly.
That is Courageous Leadership!
Travis Yates is the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute
Find out how to become a Courageous Leader here.
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Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates is a current Doctoral Student in Strategic Leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for Law Officer (www.lawofficer.com) and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (www.courageousleader.org), providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.