The Flip Side

//The Flip Side

The Flip Side

So, last week in A Dissociated State, I used Lavish Reynolds’ video of the shooting of Philando Castile as an example. Why? Because it was in reference to Reynolds that I first heard the term used. Further research reveals that Reynolds – who also goes by the first name Diamond – is what my mom would have called a “piss poor” example of this behaviour.

Her story had a lot of discrepancies, one being that they hadn’t been pulled over for a broken taillight, but because Castile matched the description of a gas station robbery suspect. And many pieces of evidence tie the two of them to this crime. Two days prior to the shooting, Reynolds shot another video from her car, this one showing her mothering skills as not so great. She smokes pot, while Castile sits in the passenger seat and her four-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna sits in the back, at one point holding up a giant box of fireworks. It was July 4th. (Who buys their four-year-old a giant box of fireworks?)

Upon further review of the shooting video footage, it looks as though Castile has a gun in his lap. Ample reason for him to have been shot. Quite likely it’s Dae’Anna, who also witnessed the shooting death of her mom’s boyfriend from the back seat, who has spent much of her life in a dissociated state due to her mom’s social media addiction and lust for living on the edge.

This does provide an opportunity, though, to look at the flip side of this event. The law enforcement side. I mean, when Reynolds posted her horrifying video to Facebook, it added to outrage against law enforcement as it was the second black man – Alton Sterling, had just been shot the day before in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – killed by police in the US in two days. Five innocent law enforcement officers were shot by a sniper in Dallas the next day, then three more were killed in Baton Rouge the following week.

“Excessive force” are the two words often used when police officers shoot, kill – the same words used against Const. James Forcillo, sentenced to six years for attempted murder in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim in a streetcar in Toronto. But, what is happening, physiologically, to a police officer in a life-threatening situation? As spectators, perhaps because of the prevalence of shooting scenes in TV and movies, we think we know how they should react and it sometimes differs from how they do.

In an article by Michael A. Knox in, the results of a survey by Artwohl and Christensen (1997) of 72 police officers who had been involved in a shooting, and their experience of it, are listed:

  1. Diminished Sound 88% – gunfire, shouting, sirens either weren’t heard or had “an unusual distant, muffled quality”
  2. Tunnel Vision 82% – focused on threat, peripheral vision gone or diminished
  3. Automatic Pilot 78% – responded “automatically to the perceived threat, giving little or no conscious thought” to actions
  4. Heightened Visual Clarity 65% – were able to “see some details or actions with unusually vivid clarity or detail”
  5. Slow Motion Time 63% – “events seemed to be taking place in slow motion and seemed to take longer to happen than they really did”
  6. Memory Loss for Parts of the Event 61% – parts they could not remember
  7. Memory Loss for Actions 60% – forgot some of their own reactions

What is interesting is that along with the “diminished sound” comes the phenomenon that officers often can’t accurately recall the number of shots fired. “The more shots fired,” writes Knox, “the more likely the officer would not recall the number of shots fired correctly.” As for “slow motion time”, also referred to as “space-time distortion”, my scary source (it sounds like a call to arms) says, “if you think you shot only three rounds, multiply it by three . . . 3 x 3 = 9”. How many shots in the Yatim/Forcillo case? Nine.

This explains why anyone expecting to be in a combat situation must train, a lot. But real life situations don’t usually play out like what has been trained for. And now, there is the added issue of video clips from various angles, but do they all encompass the entire context of a situation? I haven’t watched the ones from the Yatim/Forcillo case, but I do know from reading up on it that Forcillo was faced with the real threat of a crazed, knife-wielding man escaping that streetcar and injuring, or killing, innocent people on crowded Toronto streets. He had seconds to react. And I understand his conviction, for attempted murder, was attached to the second volley of shots – there were three, then another six – but knowing what was going on, physiologically, to Forcillo in this life-threatening situation, can you see how Forcillo may have thought Yatim was still a threat after the first three shots? Which Forcillo may have perceived as just one?

For sure, there are bad cops out there. But the majority put their life – and their credibility – on the line on a daily basis. There is a touching YouTube video, from KMBC News, of a woman bringing food and water to a police officer in Des Moines, Iowa following the racially motivated shooting of two police officers early last month. “This is the only thing I know is how to feed,” she says as she hands him a case of bottled water. “I just want you guys to be hydrated. And I want you to go home to your family.” She hugs him and the words get muffled. They’re both crying. “Because I want my dad to come home to me. And I want my friends to come home to me. I’m sorry and I’m here for you all.”




  1. Glenda James December 7, 2016 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Thank you Rita for bringing light on the difficult job officers face.

    • Rita Hartley December 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting Glenda. It is one challenging career choice, for sure!

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