Good Cop Fails to Kill Innocent Man, Gets Fired
Police abuse is a real issue. Not because all police officers are corrupt, but because government institutions and its members respond to incentives. Just like us.
If an officer is given blanket authority to act only with his best interest in mind while under the guise of public security, personal responsibility is no longer part of the job. Without personal responsibility at play, individuals are no longer worried about the consequences of their actions.
While the cases of misbehavior among officers are often more popular in the media, cases of officers actually acting responsibly seldom make it to the front pages. But a story on The Washington Post has just changed this picture.
According to the publication, the police chief in Weirton, West Virginia has fired an officer for not killing someone.
The report originally comes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And according to the original news story, the incident that led to the officer’s employment termination happened on May 6th.
Then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was called to respond to a domestic incident. While attempting to handle the situation responsibly, Mader found that the man he was confronting was armed. Mader, who had been trained as a Marine, made the decision to look at the “whole person” in order to decide what to do next. Instead of shooting, Mader decided to use a calmer tone, noticing that the armed man was not pointing his gun at him.
The officer then proceeded to ask the man to put his gun down, but instead of doing so, the man answered by saying: “Just shoot me.” When the officer said “I am not going to shoot you, brother,” the man started flicking his wrist. According to the officer, he thinks he did that to get him to react.
He knew then that the man didn’t want to hurt anyone. Instead, he wanted to commit suicide.
When responding to the call, Mader learned that the man’s girlfriend had reached to the police, claiming that the man was attempting to kill himself.
According to Radley Balko, the writer of the Washington Post article, Mader’s reaction was “a lot braver course of action than simply opening fire when the suspect doesn’t immediately disarm.” When in crisis, he added, this is the type of attitude you expect to see coming from an officer. The trigger-happy trend, after all, is not the type of attitude that comes from a person who is thinking about the consequences of their actions.
In his article, Balko stated that what Mader did is exactly the type of work officers claim to experience on a daily basis: Putting their lives in danger to save lives.
And yet, as Mader was handling the situation safely, two other officers showed up at the scene, and ended up shooting the man dead as a result.
After the tragic killing, officers found that the victim’s gun wasn’t loaded. And while officers were not able to know that for a fact before the shooting, it proved that Mader had done the right thing by using what he learned from his training. The victim hadn’t been a threat to anybody, except himself. The situation Mader encountered was, indeed, a suicide-by-cop situation, but instead of following Mader’s lead, the other officers didn’t think twice before putting an end to the man’s life.
Once it was all said and done, the Weirton police department put an investigator to look into the shooting. According to Mader, when he tried to return to work on May 17 after following protocol and taking some time off due to his involvement in the shooting, he was asked to talk to Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander. But instead of being honored for his efforts, Alexander told him that he would be placed on administrative leave.
The reason why? He had put two other officers in danger, despite the fact that he had assessed the situation correctly, unlike his colleagues.
On June 7, he received a termination letter that stated that the fact he had failed to shoot the victim meant he had “failed to eliminate a threat.” That was why he was being let go.
Unfortunately for Mader, he won’t be getting his pension, even though he didn’t hurt anybody. Meanwhile, countless others who are under investigation for actually killing innocents continue to receive their pensions, even after being dismissed from the force.
After looking for legal help, he noticed that his fight against the city wouldn’t produce any desirable outcomes, since he was a probationary employe in an “at-will” state, meaning that he could be fired for any given reason.
While many officers who are considered “bad apples” are able to quickly find work at other agencies, Mader hasn’t been able to find employment in his area. The Afghanistan veteran has two small sons and is now studying to get a commercial truck driving license to support his family. He told reporters that he would still take a job in law enforcement, the problem is that nobody seems to want to hire him.