Officer Potter: Guilty!…of Enforcing Law

Meet Officer Kim Potter.

Meet Officer Potter’s Chief of Police.

Meet Daunte Wright, the criminal (who should have been in jail) that Officer Potter shot, by accident.

This case is a miscarriage of justice.

As a psychologist, with a specialty in police and first responder psychological assessment and treatment, I have provided psychotherapy to numerous police officers who have had to shoot in self-defense, or the defense of others, and other officers who have been shot and wounded. I have conducted therapy with officers who had been forced to shoot with lethal effect and others who had been stabbed and beaten. My police clients have also been fresh on the seen of horrific murders of fellow officers, and in one case a mass murder, triaging those he should try to help and others beyond hope of saving.

Given my experiences with police departments and their officers, I remain greatly impressed with the quality of work that they consistently do under the worst of circumstances.

Yes, there is a very small minority of “bad officers” (as there are a few bad performers in any profession). After working 25 years with police departments and their officers: Without question, until proven otherwise: I strongly support the police.

Here are the reasons I object to the jury finding Officer Potter guilty of Manslaughter 1 & 2, that could put her decades in prison. Decades in prison among prisoners, some of whom who would like to kill her.

As reliably reported, Daunte Wright violently resisted arrest in a way that directly threatened the life and limb of another officer who was half into Daunte’s car trying to prevent him from speeding away. Had Wright been able to flee from the police, as he was fighting to do, that officer could have been killed or maimed as a result.

I know through my work with police departments and officers that police are authorized to shoot perpetrators under these circumstances. I have seen this occur at least twice in my own region, and provided therapy with some of the officers involved.

The police were authorized to shoot Daunte Wright under the circumstances that he had perpetrated against the arresting officers. The Chief of police stated that this was the truth. When he was asked to fire Officer Potter for this shooting he refused to do so and resigned from his position. The Chief was a man of great integrity.

With the other officer hanging into the car, Officer Potter should have shot the perpetrator until he stopped trying to accelerate the car. Never mind that she though she was tasing him. Tasers are less reliable than a quality handgun. With a taser, two barbs must hit the person and penetrate clothing to embed in their flesh or the perpetrator will not be immobilized. Furthermore, the taser can only fire one time. In the case of a taser miss or penetration failure, precious seconds would pass before an officer could release the taser and then draw and fire their handgun. In a potentially lethal situation, such as Officer Potter faced, the result would then be more likely lead to the death, or serious injuries of officers and citizens.

The Chief of Police correctly defended officer Potter.

Finally, if the defense failed to discuss the physiology of high stress and resulting Autonomic Nervous System Arousal in a police officer in life and death struggles, they were incompetent in their defense of Officer Potter. I have not learned if they did, or did not do so. But, this defense would have been an honest and essential component of Officer Potter’s defense.

Traumatic events cause the “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” segment of our nervous systems to reflexively fire-up. This reflexive physiological response dumps adrenalin into our bodies, greatly increases the speed of our electrical impulses (our body is run by about 9 volts of chemo-electrical impulses), and causes our vision to “tunnel-vision”-focus upon the threat. Threatening vents then are often perceived to occur in “slow motion”. Fine muscle skills are impaired and larger muscles are super-charged. In this state, the most practiced muscle memories occur automatically, and hearing is dulled to the point that gun fire may not be heard (even by the shooter).

There is much more that happens during reflexive autonomic nervous system arousals, that Officer Potter was certain to experience. But, those physiological changes that I have mentioned can easily account for her accidently drawing her weapon and not immediately knowing that she shot the perpetrator. As a 26 year veteran, we can safely assume that she had practiced drawing and firing her handgun a great many more times and her taser (a more recent side-arm), much less often.

That Officer Potter thought she was firing a taser, is a mental error. But it is an irrelevant mental error. Shooting a criminal who was engaging in an illegal and potentially lethal automobile escape from apprehension was a perfectly legal and appropriate thing for any police officer to do.

Finally, and most egregiously, it appeared that many demonstrators waited outside the court house, clamoring for a guilty verdicts while a hung jury was ordered back into deliberation. This, at a time of their great fatigue and frustration, as well as the Christmas Holidays fast approaching.

Furthermore, any informed citizen would certainly know the terrible riot damages to cities in which police were accused of killing a black citizen and were not found guilty to a degree that satisfied those preferring revenge to justice! If fact there were riots in his city and elsewhere following this police shooting.

There are enough dispiriting and intimidating factors impacting the jury in the two paragraphs above to induce guilty verdicts.

According to widely accepted police protocol Officer Potter certainly was not guilty of two counts of Manslaughter.

Forgivable mental confusion about the taser or gun….or not: Officer Potter was only “guilty” of enforcing the law.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 12/28/21

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