Every day in America, a police officer draws a gun and takes aim. What comes next is a decision of extraordinary power and responsibility.
The wrong choice could end a life. Even the right decision could cause the officer a lifetime of doubt and regret. The implications are moral, political, and often racial.
In the August issue of STATE, we explore the most consequential decision an officer has to make: whether or not to pull the trigger.
CNN Senior Writer Thomas Lake, the author of “Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything,” makes his debut in the magazine this month. In a three-part series, he interviewed dozens of officers and law enforcement experts to better understand what goes through a cop’s mind when they’re weighing whether to shoot.
In “The Endless Death of Kyle Dinkheller,” Lake examines the 1998 traffic stop on a country road in Georgia that is used to this day as a warning to officers against being too cautious. In “Ferguson, Affected,” he revisits the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer that sparked a national discussion on race and policing. And in “City of Good Neighbors,” Lake looks at how the Buffalo Police Department avoided fatal shootings for 1,613 consecutive days.
The national debate over the use of deadly force won’t end anytime soon. As Lake’s reporting wound down, headlines about fatal police shootings continued to stack up with disturbing frequency. Buffalo’s streak fending off a fatal shooting ended in May. In June, Seattle was shaken when Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, was shot and killed by police after authorities said she confronted officers with a knife. In July, an officer in Minneapolis shot and killed an Australian woman, Justine Ruszczyk, after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.
All the while, President Donald Trump had a request for law enforcement officials during a recent speech: “Please don’t be too nice” to suspected criminals as they’re being arrested. Those comments were roundly criticized from law enforcement officials around the country.
This series doesn’t answer every question about policing. It doesn’t detail every obstacle police face in their effort to protect communities. And it doesn’t highlight every person who has had a negative, threatening or even deadly encounter with police. But we do hope it will inform this very important debate.
We end this issue in an entirely different direction. CNN National Political Reporter Maeve Reston will spend much of the next year diving into the congressional districts that could determine whether Republicans hold onto the House in next year’s election. Her first dispatch is from suburban Denver, where she tests the toll Trump’s constant controversies are taking on the embattled GOP incumbent.
Animation by Min Liu.
Thanks to Meredith Artley, Natalie Austin, Wendy Brundige, Olivia Camerini, Stephany Cardet, Nitya Chambers, Ashley Codianni, Joe Coleman, Shane Csontos-Popko, Cullen Daly, Padraic Driscoll, Renee Ernst, Dianna Heitz, Vanessa Meza, Andrew Morse, Ed O'Keefe, Damian Prado, Jonathan Reyes, Brett Roegiers, Meshach Rojas, Rachel Smolkin, Manav Tanneeru, Bernadette Tuazon, Ben Werschkul, Jan Winburn, Z. Byron Wolf.