James Smallwood Commentary: Following Vital Police Training Is Never a Crime

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by James Smallwood

 

This week, Americans showed their respect and support of local police by celebrating National Law Enforcement Appreciation day. Many government officials recognized this celebration by issuing proclamations, offering tributes, and declaring their admiration for the men and women who keep us safe. Here in Nashville, District Attorney Glenn Funk celebrated by comparing Metro police to Nazis.

While outrageous, that slur isn’t the worst of his actions toward police. His politically motivated decision to charge Metro Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke with a crime for doing precisely what he and every other police officer in Tennessee are trained to do is an attack on law enforcement itself.

Sadly, Mr. Funk’s decision may result in more police officers being hurt and killed in the line of duty. Punishing – in this case prosecuting – an officer who follows official training guidelines leads to danger, even disaster.

In 2016, a female Chicago police officer was savagely beaten and had her face smashed repeatedly into the pavement by a man high on the drug PCP. While she believed she was going to die from the horrific beating, the officer ignored her training and didn’t shoot the man because “she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”

In 2018, a Massachusetts police officer approached a suspect brandishing a large rock. Although the officer drew his weapon, he refrained from firing. The suspect cruelly took advantage of that hesitation. He brutally beat the officer in the head with the rock. He then took the officer’s gun, stood over him, and coldly fired 10 rounds into the officer, killing him.

Other examples abound and the takeaway is unmistakable: politicians second-guessing police officers facing a deadly threat make every police officer less safe and, inevitably, compromise Nashville’s safety itself.

District Attorney Funk, so focused on the view through his political periscope, charged Officer Delke with murder for following his training when confronting an armed suspect who was pointing a gun at him.

Last year, Mr. Funk took the case to a magistrate, who refused to sign an arrest warrant because he didn’t see reason to believe a crime was committed. But that didn’t stop this district attorney. He shopped his warrant around until he finally found a judge to sign it.

The case against Officer Delke is as thin as watered-down soup. A convicted felon, armed with a loaded, military grade semiautomatic weapon was in a suspicious car and refused to stop when Officer Delke attempted to pull him over. After fleeing, this armed suspect parked his vehicle and fled on foot. Officer Delke gave chase and quickly used his radio to warn other officers that the fleeing suspect was wielding a gun. He repeatedly ordered the suspect to drop the weapon. The suspect refused.

That’s when the real danger occurred. The suspect looked over his shoulder, employing what self-defense experts call a “targeting glance.” And he pointed his semi-automatic weapon at Officer Delke. At that point, Officer Delke did as he was trained: he fired his weapon to stop the deadly threat.  

Police training is based on a terrifying but true foundational principle: officers who fail to act when a gun is pointed at them, may be mere moments away from death. That’s why Tennessee law empowers officers to use deadly force in the face of a deadly threat. And that’s just what Andrew Delke did.

As a result, a politician who shamefully compares police to Nazis now wants to send an officer to prison. By putting his personal politics before Nashville’s public safety, Glenn Funk owes police – and our entire community – an apology.

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James Smallwood is President of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police.

Editors Note:

Nashville Attorney General Glen Funk said in his closing statement to the Court in seeking indictment of Officer Delke: “Andrew Delke was ‘following his training’ — same defense that Himmler used at Nuremberg, that Lt. Calley used in Vietnam, and now Andrew Delke is propounding to this court.”

A defense attorney for Delke, Davi Raybin has claimed that Funk’s statement is a declaration of “war on our police” and compares them to Nazis, as the Smallwood commentary says as well.

Funk, however, says nothing could be “further from the truth.” In a written statement Funk’s spokesman noted that his point during the preliminary hearing was that “individuals are accountable for their actions and cannot assign blame to their superiors or the department as a whole.”

Attached is the Order Binding the Case of the State of Tennessee vs. Andrew Delke over to the grand jury:

Judge Melissa Blackburn Decision (State of Tenn v Delke-GS 869169)

Photo “Glen Funk” by Vanderbilt University Law School. 
Background Photo “Metro Nashville Cop Car” by Josh Beasley. CC BY 2.0.

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6 Thoughts to “James Smallwood Commentary: Following Vital Police Training Is Never a Crime”

  1. vickie

    never mind, i shouldn’t say what i’m thinking, but for all of you police haters, in the unfortunate event that you need an office to pull your butt out of a sling, who do you think might do that for ya. Ignorance is driving this country to hell, a little every day, by idiots like you FUNK

  2. Rob Dickson

    When did shooting a fleeing suspect become police policy

    1. Kate

      When the police officer had a loaded weapon pointed at him by a felon. That’s when.

      1. Tom

        Tennessee vs Garner AND when they point any firearm, loaded or not at them or others.

    2. Justice

      When the perp points a gun at the officer or decides to run around a blind corner that your wife or daughter could be standing at.

  3. Proud Nashvillian

    What did we expect? Funk defended drug dealers most of his career. Just like the one who got shot.

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