First off I'll just say that for me to write this post I have to be brutally honest about a side of the job that most non-police don't even know that much about, the police-adjacent characters that play a pretty significant role in the career of the average police officer. NO not fireman and EMS. I'm talking about the other people that if you work the street you get to know by name because you see them that often. They are the medical examiners, the tow truck drivers, and yes at times the Security Types. Security types come in basically two flavors; bouncer types and security guard types.
Security Guard Types:
If you've gone to the calls and done the job you know dudes like this. You usually meet them pretty early on in your career and you get used to them, they can be clingy at times. As you gain experience you learn what they do well and what they don't. Most of the time the whole precinct knows who they are. They will work security at an apartment complex or a gated community. In my case I worked a pretty rough side of Atlanta so there were no gated communities there, only apartments, and trust me the apartments that had gates were the roughest of all. These security guard types usually know all the neighborhood "stuff". They know (or purport to know) who sells the drugs and who is breaking in houses. They definitely know about the noise complaints and the unruly kids. The teens smoking weed. Most of the time they wan't you to run some dope-boy off or break up the couple having sex in the parking lot. Or maybe they are in over their head with a thug that they have talked a little to sassy too and they have been told they are going to get beat up or worse. Sometimes they do get beat up and worse. There is a place for people like this. They should be respected for what they do. But they should always respect what role they play and even more than that the limits of their authority.
In my experience this person gets in over their head a lot. There seems to be this struggle between what they perceive as their authority and what they know is their responsibility. As a cop they can make your life easier if they just keep the little stuff tamped down, (i.e. kids running at the pool, loud music complaints). But When you drive up and the security guard hands you a 27 ounce bag of weed that they just "confiscated" from someone in a car that is now unoccupied, the occupant of which has since run into a now locked apartment that Mr security just happens to have the key to, and they are begging you to enter (with no warrant), so that they can "help you apprehend the perp", well I think you get the picture. Every single day police officers have to make decisions like this. All are trained, some better than others. Security officer's choose to make these decisions without the training.
The Bouncer Types:
I can't lie, I've worked off duty at night clubs and been thankful for the security there. I have been in bar fights so massively bad that they looked like a scene from brave heart. When you are alone and the music is loud and everybody is yelling and screaming and running its hard to get backup so the only thing that has saved my ass a few times was the folks in security until the cavalry got there. Some of these folks are top notch, some are ex-pro athletes and martial artists. Some are even models and actors so you get a healthy mix. Many a night standing in the cold waiting on my shift to end I've talked to these guys about their dreams and some I've thought would be some really excellent police officers and I've told them so. I've encouraged them in the process, called friends in the department that were recruiters, even given personal references for them. So I definitely appreciate and respect what they do. At times I've worked with security that were more professional than some of the sworn officers that I worked the streets with. But then of course you've got the real knuckle-dragger's that just love to beat people up and then bring them to you looking like a grapefruit expecting you to look the other way. They are just clowns through and through and most likely sociopaths. Some of them may be doing drugs on the job but if they are real turds they may be the ones selling the drugs in the same club they work in. It's a dirty business. But they probably only make up a small part of the population.
In both groups, a lot of these guys probably work security because they have a desire at some level to be a police officer. I always took that as a compliment not with disdain. Law enforcement is an honorable profession and people do good work. But like any other job you have to have good people to do the good work. I've always believed that it is the combination of intelligence, integrity and courage that makes an average police officer a good officer, but I believe it is empathy that comes with experience that makes a good officer great. It is the same dynamic for security officers. The vast majority of these people are hard working folks that are very good at what they do. They are a true asset to law enforcement as long as they stay in their lane and do what they are supposed to do. I'm no longer a police officer I'm actually a counselor now. We have this term in the mental health field that we use that's called "scope of practice". If you are a mental health counselor, practicing outside of your scope will get your ass in trouble and your license revoked. Practicing outside your scope of practice in law enforcement will get your certification revoked and your ass prosecuted and put in prison. But what happens if you are a security guard and you "work outside of your scope of practice"? Well it looks like you can shoot somebody and walk free.
George fits into a special category that we will just term the perpetual wanna-be. He loves guns, he loves MMA, he watches cops. He fancies himself a criminal investigator in the making. He patrols in his personal vehicle, keeps a police scanner and thinks that he has a direct line into dispatch. The dispatchers on night shift probably do know him by name only because he shows up on caller ID so much. On the night in question he probably sees Trayvon and for some tragic reason made his mind up that this sneaky perp wasn't going to get away from him this time. His GUN makes him do things that he shouldn't do because he is basically a coward. He follows, attacks, then is bested in a ground fight by a 17 year old boy that he outweighed by several pounds that he then decides to shoot at point blank range. Even the fight scene that played out in Zimmermans mind was written like an urban contemporary movie with Trayvon's last words saying "you got me". (really?) As a police officer you are trained to use the necessary force to subdue the threat but if there is no longer a deadly threat, deadly force is no longer necessary or approved. Translation = Had this been a real police officer, his ass would be in deep shit. The local police knew he was a cheese ball. That's why they never hired him. They probably knew him by name.
I think what we have in George Zimmerman is a person who very likely has tried to be a police officer many, many, many times but couldn't for some very good reasons. He has probably tried to apply to police departments and could not pass the entry requirements. Now from the surface you would say this is because of his size. You may surmise that he probably couldn't meet the weight or fitness standard. But I disagree. I would wager that Mr. Zimmerman has probably never gotten past the psyche evaluation. I'm sure laws prohibit the release of applicant information but I would bet that he has applied to at least 2 or more sheriff or police departments in the area and has been declined. You see even in a big city it's a relatively small community. Once you begin applying and fail a polygraph or fail a psych, that follows you. Chances are he's failed a few and has likely been blacklisted. Judging from his demeanor and some of the witness statements he may have some delusions as well. As many voter purges as FL has done it is amazing that this man was able to purchase a weapon after an altercation with police and a DV but I assume that is what having a father in law enforcement will get you. Just from the 30,000 foot view Zimmerman probably never should have been able to purchase a gun. Zimmerman never should have held the job that he did. And Zimmerman never should have been able to get away with murder but he did.
That is what is so infuriating and confusing about this case. Good police officers that I know personally very well, that I have policed with, bled with, have taken sides on this case that are completely contrary to everything they have ever demonstrated in their entire professional lives. People that would be pulling their eye teeth out with pliers if they had to deal with a guy like Zimmerman on their beat are cheering his acquittal. People that supervise officers. If this scenario had played out with one of their subordinates shooting an unarmed teen after pursuing them under these circumstances they would have recommended termination at the least and gone all in on an Internal Affairs Investigation are saying the prosecution never had a case. I am sure that my old department would not have hesitated a moment to prosecute any off duty police officer if they had done the same thing that George Zimmerman did. But for some reason this case triggered some sort of collective fugue state that has clouded every bodies mind. At some point this became a basketball game for them, our team versus their team. Now we've got defense lawyers doing victory laps, cops cheering prosecutors losing a case and 60% of the country feeling like a guilty man is going free.