The Spectacle Blog

Officer Shot and Killed in Gunless Brooklyn

By on 12.12.11 | 10:27AM

It's a tragedy whenever it happens, but that it is allowed to happen is especially tragic:

Mr. Bloomberg said that Officer Figoski, who had worked for the Police Department for 22 years, and his partner, Glenn Estrada, had interrupted a home invasion where "two perpetrators were attacking the person who lived in the downstairs apartment, apparently looking for money."

The police had been summoned to the home by a 911 call of a possible burglary, according to the police. The owner of 25 Pine Street, who lives on the first and second floors, reported hearing what he was thought was a break-in in a basement apartment, where a 25-year-old man lived, according to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

There are two policy angles on this tragedy that come to my mind, both related to the fact that it is nearly impossible and very expensive to keep a gun locked up in your own home in New York City.

The first: Anti-gun policies have made these situations more perilous not only for residents, but for the police. Every time the police have to respond to an ongoing crime, the criminal has already gained the strategic upper hand of controling the scene. Things have been made all the more dangerous because once the police arrive, the criminals have been backed into a corner. Where earlier, they could have simply run away without the spoils of the crime, their only alternative for freedom is to shoot their way out.

Some departments have responded to this problem by beefing up the police armory. Radley Balko has already documented how this solution is worse than the problem, leading small town police departments to apply for Homeland Security grants to get SWAT training that they use to respond to small drug infractions, often even knocking the door down on the wrong house.

But the second policy angle is that while the criminals may simply want the cash, they have to take extra precautions to ensure that they get it. So they pose as police and break the door down. They pistolwhip their victim. They threaten and tear apart the home, inflicting even more damage that will cost money to repair. They shoot officers responding to a 9-1-1 call. You may have heard someone you know say that if someone were trying to rob them, they would simply give them the money rather than put up a fight. The victim who had been robbed probably felt the same way, but it didn't do much to keep him safe, let alone the cop who was shot. 

More to the point, the story describes what would be a nightmare to anyone. The officers "had interrupted a home invasion where two perpetrators were attacking the person who lived in the downstairs apartment, apparently looking for money." Imagine if the tenant were a woman even more slight? What scenario would follow this description:

The tenant of the basement apartment, according to Mr. Kelly, said he heard the two suspects pounding on his door and then going inside. The tenant said the two men claimed to be police officers and demanded money and jewelry. They knocked the tenant down, and one of the men hit him in the head with a gun.

Posing as police may be the oldest burglary trick in the book. Google "burglars posing as cops invasion." You'll find recent attempts in West Palm Beach, Los Angeles, La Quinta, and Fayette County (Georgia). Only one story provided insights as to what to do in such a situation:

People should keep doors locked and look through a peephole or window before opening the door for anyone, checking first for a uniform when someone says he or she is an officer, Huskey said.

"The uniform's No. 1," he said.

Residents can also ask for identification or call police to verify that a legitimate officer or deputy is at their home before opening the door, Huskey said.

Would criminals be so bold if they had reason to believe the person they were about to rob is armed?

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