I bring up examples like this not to claim that police officers usually or routinely don’t show this level of situational awareness and restraint. They do. Through training, courage, and instinct most officers understand each and every truth I’ve outlined above. It’s one reason why, even though cops routinely engage in tense confrontations, we don’t have more problematic shootings.

But when the police do fail, and they shoot a man who was, in actuality, no threat at all, it is no answer to criticism to stampede to the minimum legal standards of conduct, spin out all the things that “could” have gone wrong if the facts were different, and finally circle your wagons around “officer safety.”

A person can be concerned about officer safety and realize the truth that officer safety isn’t the mission. A person can believe blue lives matter and understand that accepting sometimes extraordinary risk is part of the job. A person can support the police and still demand a very high level of tactical and strategic awareness even from the youngest officers. To put them on the street is to declare to the public that they are up to the job.